The elusive #5 ½ T11 finally finds a home-Part 2

In the last post, I completed the cleaning and tuning of the #5 ½. In this, Part 2, I cover three common repairs to the mangled tote.


Most tote repairs are straight forward. However, I’ve found that replacing a beavertail is very tedious, exacting and time-consuming work. That’s why I’ve described it in detail below. Still, by bother? I have four reasons.

1. I’m a woodworker and there’s a deep satisfaction that comes from repairing my own tools.
2. It can take a while to find a vintage replacement tote. And when I do, they are usually expensive.
3. I get blisters in the web of my thumb when I use totes that are missing beavers. So I find it necessary to repair them to make them users.
4. The main reason I fix totes, however, is because I want to keep as many of the original parts on my planes as I can. In so doing, my repair becomes a part of the tool’s history for some future craftsperson to enjoy. I am after all, only a custodian of these tools for they will surely outlive me.

Repair #1: Fixing the break
After removing the tote, I looked at the broken halves. The edges showed signs of wear, meaning that they were slightly rounded. That suggests to me that it got a lot of use after the break. So I used a wire brush to remove any gunk and dirt that may have seeped onto the surfaces over time.

Then I drilled 1/8” wide by 1/8” deep holes in each half to receive epoxy, and glued/clamped the two halves. There were two repairs yet to complete, so I waited until they were all done before sanding everything smooth. After sanding and staining, the glue lines were barely noticeable.

Repair #2: Filling the nail holes
To fill the nail entry/exit holes, I jammed rosewood sawdust into the cavities followed by some CA glue. Yes, you can see them in the final pictures if you look for them. But after being sanded flush, I don’t feel them at all.

Repair #3: Adding a beaver tail

Step #1: Prepare tote to accept replacement blank

The roughened break at the top of the tote doesn’t offer an acceptable gluing surface.


It needs to be flat so that it can bond concrete-tight with the replacement blank. It also needs to be parallel to the tote bottom so that a clamp can hold the glued pieces without squirting out the glue-covered blank like a watermelon seed.

I have found that the most accurate, and blood-free way do this is with a shooting board.


I clamped a combination square to the fence so that the tote bottom could register square to the sole of the shooting plane. Then I placed a shim between the fence and tip of the tote and took light passes so as not to break anything. With that done, I turned my attention to the blank.

Step #2: Prepare & glue the blank

My shorts pile included a block of East Indian rosewood that I got from Rockler. I believe it’s worth spending the money to get rosewood because the grain blends in quite well with the original tote after staining it. But before cutting it up, I needed to figure out what size to make it.

That I did by “superimposing” my beaverless-tote over a #5 tote template from Lee Valley.  It wasn’t an exact match, nor did I expect it to be because of variations in tote manufacture over the decades. Still, all I did was align the tote’s leading edge with the template and mark the location of the break.

Using that as a baseline, I drew parallel and perpendicular lines to form a rectangle around the template beavertail.

PT-02-Tote template-layout

It is oversized, allowing for 3/16” excess to the left, right and top. That gives me sufficient stock to work with during the critical shaping, smoothing and blending operations to follow. The end of the tail looked too short so I modified the template to be longer.

From the rectangle, I computed the blank’s dimensions. To determine the blank’s thickness, I measured the thickness of the tote at the break and added 6/16” (3/16” to either side.)

After cutting the blank to size, I took passes with a smoother until the blank seated perfectly flat against the tote’s prepared surface. Then, I secured the tote in a bench vise and drilled 1/8” wide by 1/8” deep holes in both it, and the blank, so that five-minute epoxy could make a strong bond. A bar clamp fit between the vise jaws to secure the blank to the tote. It held firm with no slipping due to the opposing pressure being applied in parallel between the top of the blank and the tote bottom.

Step #3: Rough-shape glued blank
Next I cut out and glued the template to the side of the blank.

PT-03-Tote template-glued-to-block

A backsaw quickly removed a lot of excess material.

PT-04-Tote template-blank-material-removal-backsaw

While some rough shaping with a coping saw produced this.

PT-05-Tote template-blank-material-removal-coping-saw

Step #4: Drill tote bolt hole and nut recess

At this stage, I like to drill through the top of the blank so that any tearout will disappear during the shaping process.

I use an extended-length, ¼” bit mounted in a brace to carry the bolt channel through the tote from the bottom.

PT-06-Tote template-blank-drilling-through-blank

That’s followed by drilling the nut recess with a 7/16” drill bit.

PT-07-Tote template-blank-drilling-nut-recess

The bit didn’t cut well, so I had to clean up the recess with sandpaper wrapper around a dowel. Once the nut seated properly it was on to finish shaping the beaver tail.

Step #5: Mid- and final-beavertail shaping

A four-in-one rasp roughed out the beavertail shape. Then a drill-press-mounted drum sander helped shape the design further. That was followed by finer rasps, then sandpaper (60, 120, 220, 330,400 grits,) and finally, a polishing on the buffing wheel (no compound.)

PT-08-Tote-beavertail-ready-for-finishing PT-12-Finished Tote-ready-for-finishing-full-shot

Step #6: Finishing

The baby-smooth surface received a coat of Minwax Jacobean stain. After drying overnight, I added two coats of amber shellac, using 0000 steel wool between coats.

PT-09-Finished Tote-ready-for-mounting PT-10-Finished Tote-mounted PT-11-Finished Tote-mounted-closeup

The final product is both functional and pleasing to the eye. Not bad for a mangled tote.


© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.


About The Write Biz

By day, I'm a mild-mannered copywriter who harnesses frontal-lobe creativity (right brain) to help B2B marketers generate leads and sales. By night I pick up hand tools to create wooden masterpieces...and give my black lab Bella the "red dot" laser to chase after.
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2 Responses to The elusive #5 ½ T11 finally finds a home-Part 2

  1. Jim says:

    Very nice job. How many 1/8 by 1/8 holes do you typically drill in the mating surfaces?

    • Jim I usually haphazardly drill the 1/8 holes so that they cover the available surface while keeping about 3/16 from the edge and between each hole. My gut tells me that fewer holes would work just fine, 6-10 total perhaps.

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