Monday, April 23, 2018

What wood should I use on my Stanley hand plane tote?

One of the most common questions I get is "what wood should I use on my Stanley hand plane tote"? I'm going to cover this for the Stanley planes from type 10 to around type 17, this covers 1910 to around 1960.

I usually answer with a question: do you want to match the original or not?

If the goal is to come as close as possible to the original "furniture" on your Stanley hand plane then cocobolo, bar none, is the best choice. That's what Stanley used "back in the day" however that brings an issue with it: cost. Cocobolo is a rosewood (a Dalbergia species) and as of January 2017 all Dalbergias are on the CITES II list which means import/export is restricted. As a result of this, plus the huge demand for it in China, the price has skyrocketed. This puts Coco almost on par with some of the ebonies out there. So, if cost is not an issue, by all means use Cocobolo.

If however cost is an issue, which to many of us it is, then there are a few options. I have found the species Chechen, AKA Caribbean rosewood, to be a very suitable replacement. Despite the common name carrying the word "rosewood", it's not a Dalbergia and not on the CITES list. It doesn't have quite the deep warmth that Coco does nor are the rings as tight or wild but it's also 1/3 the cost of Coco. After it ages it comes out a really nice brown color that's close to the original. However, if you're trying to match an existing knob with a new tote they won't match for several years to come. Staining Chechen is an option but typically we just recommend replacing the knob with a Chechen tote at the same time, they're strikingly beautiful as is and closely resembles freshly worked Cocobolo.

Another option in the "similar to original" category would be Padauk. It comes out a red coloe after working but after it ages and oxidizes (especially in the sun) it turns a deep rich brown. The grain doesn't exhibit the same rosewood type waves like Chechen does but it's a fine replacement.

If you prefer an option native to the US then walnut is certainly a good choice. As it ages it develops a deep warm brown tone though not quite as striking as cocobolo. The upside is that it's MUCH lower cost just about anywhere in the US, the downside is that it's not quite as heavy and feels a bit different when used. Generally though I find this to be an excellent option.

Lastly, down the "similar to original" path would be Bubinga. Despite it being on the same CITES II list as Dalbergia I have not seen the price increases as have occurred with Cocobolo. I personally don't care for working Bubinga, it tears very easily and is really (really) hard, but after it ages it is quite beautiful. It's not my first choice though. Or second. Or thirds.... ;-)

Now, if you're not looking to match the original on the plane then there are many fine options. We offer American beech, hard maple, purple heart and many other species. Note that for a period during WW2 beech was actually used on many Stanley planes due to Cocobolo not being imported. If you have one of these types then life is actually easy, buy beech!

No comments:

Post a Comment