I reach for the hand plane I made the handle for and it’s sized to my hand and to the task for which I use it perfectly. I reach for another that looks identical because I made the handle for that plane too. Both totes and knobs were made by hand, by me and without a lathe or power router. Both handles fit me, suit me but are different in that one handle is handled slightly larger. How much? The diameter of the tote is but 5mm (about 1/4″) in diameter different around. The two different front knobs are identical in diameter, even though they’re both carved and not lathe-turned, but one is taller than the other by 5mm.
It’s a strange thing that both handles fit my hand like a well-worn glove, but the greater significance for me is that the feel tells me exactly which plane I have in my hand as soon as my hand slides around the handle, something I never could tell with plastic or the mass-made wooden original plane handles. Does such a thing really matter? Well, to me, here at the bench, yes, it does! These two planes have two purposes though they both plane wood. I switch between the two according to task and by this, I have defined what they do. The most customised of the two is my Stanley #4 smoothing plane. By that, I mean that I spent more time on shaping the handle and fitting it both to my hands and to the tasks I expect of it. It is the most perfect fit with its finely shaped tote and knob. On this plane, the tote is refined and defined to flip and flex in use. Its slender profile is comfortable to me and I can and do work with it all day long. The second Stanley #4 is the one I use as a scrub plane and the main difference is that I have refined the whole plane by changes around the cap iron and the cutting iron which is now shaped with a radius to remove rough or heavy material from a surface more quickly. You can watch the video on woodworking masterclasses for free here and also get the downloadable pdf for the handle shape and also for on YT here.
Though really only modestly larger, the handle lends itself to more aggressive use of the plane. This plane has the taller knob too. A combination of both gives me greater power without increasing the weight by any noticeable amount at all.
I reshaped and defined my relatively new Spear & Jackson handsaw two years back and what a difference it made to the saw. This too fits my hand perfectly and seems somehow to empower me more than you might think. These simple refinements are well worth an afternoon’s work.
Changing things is best done when you are young because you have the benefit of a lifetime’s use, but you are never to old to do this, either.