Of all the bench planes (bevel-down) I have acquired, the Veritas ones have been by far the easiest to adjust and for that, I love them. Blade adjustments have always been responsive and predictable; I could set the mouth to let through only a sliver of light quicker than you can read the upcoming quote, all without using any tools.
However, I never found their bubinga totes very comfortable. To me, they felt too flat, too upright, too narrow, and the sharp horn made it uncomfortable to brace against my stomach (as I do when drawing small pieces of wood across the plane’s sole). Rob Lee, president of Lee Valley Tools Ltd. (Veritas is the manufacturing arm of Lee Valley Tools Ltd.), once made this comment:
“You all should be modifying all of your tool handles to suit your own handle preferences in the first place. Any single design will only suit a part or the population in the first place.”
(Find this quote, among many others, on my page titled Quotables.)
I have made custom totes and matching knobs for most of my tools but a few have only seen minor modifications such as a touch with a rasp or the removal of the shiny plastic finish with a spokeshave or coarse sandpaper. Shiny handles suck!
Three years ago, I made a new tote and knob for my Veritas #4 which is my favourite bench plane. I used some really unique dogwood and the result was not only comfortable and non-fatiguing, but also beautiful.
Last Sunday, I had some free time in the afternoon so I decided to make a better tote and knob for my newest Veritas bench plane, the #5-1/4. For Veritas bench plane totes, the recesses and bores were a little more complicated to make than with others, but all it took was some careful layout and a little creative jigging.
Making the knob was simple in comparison.
I tried to find cherry with some character but was disappointed, especially so for the tote. Once I was done, I noticed that the light-coloured grips reminded me of Lie-Nielsen planes. Does anybody else agree with me?
I documented my progress live on Twitter using hashtag #FlairWW (follow me @FlairWoodworks) which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed. I compiled the photos and Tweets into a video (duration – 5:50).