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THE GREAT TOTE GRAIN RUN CONTROVERSY

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Forum topic by Emma Walker posted 01-25-2013 04:17 PM 1035 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Emma Walker

560 posts in 800 days


01-25-2013 04:17 PM

I’ve noticed that most, if not all, totes feature grain that runs parallel to the sole of the plane which is perpendicular to the length of the tote. For maximum strength, should the grain not run with the length (height) of the handle? Or is it a moot point because the bolt that runs through the tote provides all the strength necessary, and the grain direction is strictly aesthetic?

I have noted that stanley planes have a long, narrow “toe” at the bottom front of the tote through which a small bolt is driven to prevent the tote from spinning, and running the grain vertically would create a short-grained situation along this piece, so probably not a good idea. The Veritas planes do not have this “toe”, yet the grain still runs horizontally.

What others had to say in my google searches:

You can run the grain either way with a tote …. however there is a trade-off – always a trade off! If the grain runs horizontal, the danger is that the tote will shear across the width. We see this often. However, with the grain in that direction, one can add long horns at the top (for a grip) and a screwed base to resist twist. If the grain runs vertically, which is the ideal direction, we end up with a strong tote, but one with short grain in a base extension and horns. So on those totes that do use vertical grain, you will find that the extensions are mere stumps. The Veritas totes gain extra strength and resist twist by using twin central bolts, rather than the single bolt as used by Stanley and LN.
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
I’ve always wondered why makers of fine planes don’t make totes out of two or three pieces, dovetailed together prior to final shaping, so the grain strength is properly oriented for each section. Ain’t they gots no prides in werkmanships? ;-)
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
How about a laminated tote, with the grain following the shape of every part of the tote? I’d bet you could make a pretty cool-looking (hollow?) knob to go with that.
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
One thought leads to another… How about first fabricating the entire tote with either vertical or 45 grain. Then – at the top horn, cut a horizontal ‘keyway’ for a spline – like you sometimes see on mitered boxes. Insert the spline with grain parallel to the sole. Do the same on the bottom front screw projection. Or alternately on the bottom, hollow it out underneath so another reinforcing spline – with the same parallel to sole grain direction – is inset with epoxy. This way its totally invisible when attached. Taking this another way – with an existing tote with horizontal grain, run a vertical slot both on the front of the tote, and a second along the back of the tote. This time, insert splines with vertical grain. In all cases – pick a nice dark but strong tight grained contrasting wood for the splines. Flush the splines to the tote completely smooth. Refinish tote. other wise known as emma’s dilemma.

I’ve noticed that most, if not all, totes feature grain that runs parallel to the sole of the plane which is perpendicular to the length of the tote. For maximum strength, should the grain not run with the length (height) of the handle? Or is it a moot point because the bolt that runs through the tote provides all the strength necessary, and the grain direction is strictly aesthetic?

I have noted that stanley planes have a long, narrow “toe” at the bottom front of the tote through which a small bolt is driven to prevent the tote from spinning, and running the grain vertically would create a short-grained situation along this piece, so probably not a good idea. The Veritas planes do not have this “toe”, yet the grain still runs horizontally.

What others had to say in my google searches:*

You can run the grain either way with a tote …. however there is a trade-off – always a trade off! If the grain runs horizontal, the danger is that the tote will shear across the width. We see this often. However, with the grain in that direction, one can add long horns at the top (for a grip) and a screwed base to resist twist. If the grain runs vertically, which is the ideal direction, we end up with a strong tote, but one with short grain in a base extension and horns. So on those totes that do use vertical grain, you will find that the extensions are mere stumps. The Veritas totes gain extra strength and resist twist by using twin central bolts, rather than the single bolt as used by Stanley and LN.
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
I’ve always wondered why makers of fine planes don’t make totes out of two or three pieces, dovetailed together prior to final shaping, so the grain strength is properly oriented for each section. Ain’t they gots no prides in werkmanships? ;-)
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
How about a laminated tote, with the grain following the shape of every part of the tote? I’d bet you could make a pretty cool-looking (hollow?) knob to go with that.
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
One thought leads to another… How about first fabricating the entire tote with either vertical or 45 grain. Then – at the top horn, cut a horizontal ‘keyway’ for a spline – like you sometimes see on mitered boxes. Insert the spline with grain parallel to the sole. Do the same on the bottom front screw projection. Or alternately on the bottom, hollow it out underneath so another reinforcing spline – with the same parallel to sole grain direction – is inset with epoxy. This way its totally invisible when attached. Taking this another way – with an existing tote with horizontal grain, run a vertical slot both on the front of the tote, and a second along the back of the tote. This time, insert splines with vertical grain. In all cases – pick a nice dark but strong tight grained contrasting wood for the splines. Flush the splines to the tote completely smooth. Refinish tote.

-- I'm a twisted 2x4 in a pile of straight lumber.


9 replies so far

View b2rtch's profile

b2rtch

4342 posts in 1738 days


#1 posted 01-25-2013 05:24 PM

Good observation, it seems that vertical would be better.

-- Bert

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

7154 posts in 1373 days


#2 posted 01-25-2013 05:32 PM

One has to remember where the stress is being applied on a tote. Most of the totes I’ve made ( to replace broken ones) I have had the grain at a 27 degree angle. From the back of the tote, the grain runs downhill at 27 degrees. So far, so good.

Here is a blank being drilled, before I cut the blank out. Look at the bottom of the pattern. Bottom runs “uphill” here, when cut out, and the bottom of the tote is flat on the base, grain will slope downhill.

This way, the end grain is in the palm of your hand, pushing the tote along, all the pressure will just follow the grain.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View LeChuck's profile

LeChuck

418 posts in 1752 days


#3 posted 01-25-2013 05:33 PM

I think that’s mentioned in there but running the grain vertically would probably make the extension at the top of the handle pretty fragile, and also less resistance to twist breakage on the bottom toe…

-- David - Tucson, AZ

View crank49's profile

crank49

3458 posts in 1660 days


#4 posted 01-25-2013 05:59 PM

I would humbly suggest someone try making a tote out of black gum.
That wood has such twisted, interwoven grain it’s nearly impossible to split.

Or, if you want to get creative, briar burl, like smoking pipes are made of. Probably a product with falling demand in need of new customers.

-- Michael :-{| “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” ― A H

View shampeon's profile (online now)

shampeon

1378 posts in 873 days


#5 posted 01-25-2013 06:16 PM

The first response is correct: there’s always a trade-off. A laminated tote would probably be the strongest, but it’s not traditional, so they’re rare. Vertical grain would prevent the tote from breaking at the waist, but the toe would almost certainly break, due to the forces being applied while planing. Bandit’s picture shows why a 27ish degree angle works best: it splits the difference between horizontal and vertical grain, with the bonus of being easier to make due to the angled hole for the screw.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View grfrazee's profile

grfrazee

334 posts in 829 days


#6 posted 01-25-2013 07:36 PM

@crank49 – I’d be interested to see a briar tote. I’ve been a member of a pipe making forum for a while, and some of the pipes I’ve seen the members make are simply stunning. By the way, demand for briar is still plenty high, judging from the prices I’ve seen.

When I get some time, I plan to make a laminated tote and knob to replace the junk ones on my No. 8. It will probably have walnut sandwiched between two pieces of (hopefully birdseye) maple. I would have the walnut grain parallel to the length of the tote and the maple parallel with the bed of the plane.

-- -=Pride is not a sin=-

View Don W's profile

Don W

15245 posts in 1257 days


#7 posted 01-25-2013 07:50 PM

Think about the stress when you push on the tote. It changes through the process. In vintage stanleys, the bolt is often bent to make the angle just right. This help move the stress to the bolt. When you push forward on the tote, the bolt tightens, thus pushing the head of the bolt down to counter act the stress causing the horizontal split. This action does also drive the head into the tote and drives the tote into the bolt acting to split horizontally. With the grain horizontally, the risk of that split would be much greater, especially considering you have nothing counter acting on it.

the manufacturing process has gotten better, which allows a more consistent angle of the bolt, so the toe becomes less important.

that’s how I see it. Clear in my fuzzy mind.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View Don W's profile

Don W

15245 posts in 1257 days


#8 posted 01-25-2013 07:53 PM

Oh, and I agree a laminated tote would be strongest, and I’m a bit surprised manufacturers like Lee Valley who are not afraid to buck traditional styles haven’t moved to them. But then, who has seen a LV or LN with a broken tote.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View Richard's profile

Richard

400 posts in 1381 days


#9 posted 01-25-2013 09:31 PM

crank49 – the market for briar for pipes has actually increased in recent years due to a growing number of artisans making pipes for what is admittedly a niche market. Contrasted with the fact that not many people harvest briar suitable for pipes anymore; apparently it is somewhat physically demanding.

An interesting idea, but could be dreadfully expensive.

-- "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

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