Repairing a Broken Plane Tote

A few years ago, I bought a used Sargent jointer plane from Lynn Dowd, a used tool dealer in Garland, TX.  The tote was broken, so I got it for a good price, figuring I could repair the tote easily enough.

It was an old break in an otherwise fine rosewood tote, which was held together by the tote screw and a lot of masking tape.  There was no gluing the break back together.  I would have to saw it out.

I stuck a chopstick through the screw hole to keep everything aligned.  Then I eyeballed two parallel cuts with a back saw.  It was critical that the cuts were parallel, otherwise the replacement wood wouldn’t line up with the rest.

The question was, what wood to use as filler?  I had no extra rosewood on hand, and no wood that I could easily make imitate rosewood. I decided that if I couldn’t match the colors, I would go for broke on contrast.

I decided on hard maple.  I knew I could sand the maple almost as smooth as the rosewood.  This repair had to be easy on my hands, whatever my eyes said.

I dug out a block of hard maple, planed each side down, and glued the block to the bottom of the tote.  Regular wood glues don’t work very well on rosewood because of the high oil content, so I used JB Weld epoxy.  Yes, it left a thin, gray line, but the tote won’t come apart.

Once the glue set, I used a bit brace to bore a new hole through the maple block, using the original hole as a guide.  This will allow me to clamp the top on using the screw itself. If you have ever tried to clamp a broken tote back together, you know why this is important. Enough clamping pressure to make a good glue joint can be enough to snap the horn off.

The spacer block was actually a little thicker than what I sawed out, so the tote is now a hair higher than it was originally.  However, it fits under the lateral adjuster, and the screw engages, so there’s no problem.

I got everything lined up and tested the fit, of course.  I put masking tape on the screw, so as to keep any squeezed-out glue from sticking to it.  (I guess I could have just waxed it, come to think of it.)  I put glue on each surface, tightened down the screw, and let it set up overnight.

Shaping the spacer block was the really fun part.

I used a coping saw to knock off the corners of the spacer block, and then used a rasp and file to refine the shape.  It didn’t take long at all.

I sanded down the entire tote, removing the original finish.  I rubbed on a couple coats of Danish oil, and let it dry.

At first the contrast looked funny to my eye, almost as if the tote were still held together by masking tape. But I’ve become accustomed to it. I just call it a racing stripe now.

Several years, the repair is still solid.

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5 Responses to Repairing a Broken Plane Tote

  1. Rob says:

    The repaired tote looks great – one to remember if I see a similar plane on offer.

  2. Of course, I neglected to mention that buying a new tote is also an option. The Best Things has them here, for reasonable prices: http://www.thebestthings.com/newtools/bailey_totes.htm

  3. Steve Massie says:

    Steve a nice save and I don’t think it looks bad either. Let’s face it these are older tools and IMO are not suppose to look like new anyway.

    I am also another one who likes contrast and adds character to the piece. I suppose you could have dyed the handle to get fairly close but this looks fine. Someday I want to try one of Marv Weiner’s trick and that is to use Leather / Shoe dye and then put finish on it.

    Great job and thanks for sharing.

    Steve

  4. Marv Werner says:

    I think I would have seriously considered a nice glossy finish of John Deere green.

    As an alternative…..
    As Steve mentioned, a dark brown shoe leather dye works great and will make the whole thing pretty close to the same color. You could still try it. Just sand the whole thing so the dye will take evenly, then give it a few coats of spray on clear Lacquer. You would have to give the light wood extra coats of dye so it would be as dark as the Rosewood. When the dye dries, which it does in only a few minutes, it looks kind of weird, but once it has a couple coats of Lacquer, it changes color and looks really nice. Lacquer is quite wear resistant and last a long time. When it does get dull, just give it another quick coat and steel wool it with 0000 and then a good rub down with paste wax.

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