I got curious and found this 1883 reference in The Imperial dictionary, on the basis of Webster’s English dictionary, Volume 3; by John Ogilvie.
- Toat: A joiner’s name for the handle of a plane.
Knight’s American mechanical dictionary, 1882.
- The bottom of the stock is the sole. The toat is the handle.
Toat is an English variation of tote.
Joseph Moxon used the term “tote” and if you look at the illustrations in Mechanic Exercises (1678), the plane totes look like carrying handles.
Roubo’s planes also had carry handles.
So by my reckoning, they were called totes because they were used for toting around hand planes. I supposed that's equally true of today's planes although that wooden (or plastic) thing on the back looks more like a handle than a tote but who am I to argue with history.
What do you think toats, totes, or handles?