Make a Tote Part 2


A pair of tote templates made from high pressure laminate.

In part one (August 2012) we determined the angle of our new tote. We also made a drawing of the tote stud centerline and its angle to the base of the tote and using this we designed a new tote shape and made a template. Be sure you have the tote centerline accurately drawn on your tote template. This entire process is worked from this centerline.

In this part we will make the tote blank, perform the first drilling operation, cut the angle, and perform the final drilling operation. Let’s get started!

Here is how the blank size is determined.

Using a copy, that we previously made, of your tote drawing, place your tote template on it lining up the template centerline and the template base with the drawing centerline and baseline. Now trace the profile of your tote on the copy of your tote drawing. Use this drawing to determine the size for your tote blank. Draw a line parallel to the stud centerline clearing the tote toe and another clearing the tote heel. Now draw a line perpendicular to the lines you just drew clearing the top of the tote and finally one clearing the bottom of the tote. These four lines you just drew define the minimum size of your tote blank. Add at least an eighth inch all around to these measurements and you have the dimensions for your tote blank.

Square the left side to the bottom.

Now you need to decide how thick you want your tote to be. Almost every tote that I have checked is 31/32″ (0.968″) thick. I like them a little thicker than that so I make mine 1 3/32″ (1.093″) thick. Select a piece of wood, mill it to thickness and cut it to the size that you previously determined. Carefully check the squareness of the bottom to the left side- (the side of the blank on your left as you face the blank)- of your blank. Handplane this if necessary until it is as close to perfect as you can get it. These two surfaces will be used to locate the blank for all drilling operations.  Also the top needs to be parallel to the bottom.

On the drawing used to determine the size of your blank measure from the line representing the actual bottom of your blank up the left side to the point where the angle begins and mark this and draw the angle from this point. Next using this same drawing measure from the left side to the centerline and mark this on your tote blank. Now use a square registered to the bottom of the blank to draw the centerline from the bottom to the top. Next place the base of your template on the angle drawn on your blank and line up the template centerline with the centerline on the blank and trace the template form on your tote blank.


Here you see the layout for the barrel nut that secures the tote to the plane. The horizontal line is the depth of the barrel nut counterbore.

This next layout sequence will determine the depth of the counterbore in the top of the tote that will accept the barrel nut that holds the tote to the plane. Because most totes slope downward from the rear of the plane to the front you need to find the lowest point on the counterbore for the nut so you can make sure all of the nut is below the top surface of the tote. Assuming you have laid out your tote with the toe pointing to your left the top of the tote will slope to your left. Measure half of the diameter of your nut from the centerline to the left and put a mark here. Now use a square registered from the bottom of the tote blank to draw a line through this mark through the line marking the top of the tote. From the point where this line intersects the top of the tote measure down the length of  your nut plus 1/32″. This is the mark you will use to set your drill depth.


This is a small angle iron and clamps used to hold the blank perfectly vertical for drilling the stud and barrel nut holes. Note the offcut used to properly position the blank to drill the bottom holes.

Now carry the centerline across the top and bottom of your blank. Next mark the centerline of your blanks thickness on the top and bottom. You are now ready to begin the first drilling operation. The hole for the nut and stud should be parallel to the faces of the blank so it would be best to locate one face of the blank against a tall fence or a wood or metal angle plate for the drilling. First you will drill the hole for the nut to the depth you determined in the previous layout, then drill the smaller hole for the stud. Drill the stud hole allowing plenty of clearance for the stud. For a #12 stud I drill a 5/16″ diameter hole. If there is no counterbore in the bottom of your tote then drill the stud hole about half way from top and the bottom. If there is a counterbore at the bottom of your tote then drill the stud hole as deep as you can from the top for now. The first drilling operation is done.

This is the fixture that I use to cut the bottom angle of the tote. As you can see this cut is too dangerous to be done using a miter gauge.

The next operation is to cut the angle (the angle that was determined in “Make a Tote Part 1”) for the bottom of your tote. Using a miter gauge on your table saw for this operation is much too dangerous! The tote blank is too small to make this kind of cut safely. Above is a picture of the holding fixtures that I use, but making a fixture like this is too much work if you are only making one or two totes. A much quicker way would be to drill two holes in your blank in waste areas and screw the blank to a longer piece of wood that can be safely held to your miter gauge. Save the offcut from this operation.

The last operation for part 2 is to drill any holes needed in the bottom of your tote. You will need whatever angle plate (shop made wood or cast metal) that you used in the drilling of the barrel nut and stud holes. After laying out the location of any holes needed in the bottom of the blank position it bottom up on your angle plate and use the offcut from the angle cutting operation to bring the bottom of the blank parallel to the drill press table. This can be seen in the picture of the angle plate and clamps above. Clamp the blank to the angle plate for drilling.

The holes needed on the bottom of a tote are usually a large hole for a boss where the stud screws into the plane base, as found on Stanley #3 and #4, and many other planes. This size plane also has a smaller boss towards the front of the tote that fit’s a hole that does not go through the tote toe. This prevents the tote from moving side to side. On larger sized planes there is a through hole nearer the toe that accepts a screw that prevents sideways movement and helps hold the tote to the plane base more securely.

Here you see drilling the large counterbore for the boss on the plane base. This is a fixture that I use, but you can use the angle plate that you previously used and the offcut from the angle cut to position the blank for this operation. You also can see the layout for the front drilling operation.

This is enough information for one session. There is a lot to digest here.

Part 3 will be the final installment. In it we will saw out the profile and do all the shaping needed to perfect your tote and get it ready for the finish of your choice. Until then happy woodworking.

As always thank you for stopping by and please feel free to leave a comment.









Professional furniture maker and restorer. Dealer and collector of vintage and antique woodworking tools.
This entry was posted in Woodworking Hand Tools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Make a Tote Part 2

  1. This would make a good video, if you have you resources.

  2. Crowbar says:

    Is part 3 far away please?

    • There appeared to be no interest in this serie of articles so it was abandoned. However, I will do my best to get part 3 posted by early next week. Thank you for your interest and please accept my appologies for not posting the final article.

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