A Momentary Lapse of Anarchy
Just when I thought I had this old tool habit kicked, via the ATC, I happened upon a Craig’s List ad for an old Craftsman miter box for $18. (Ok, so I guess I hadn’t totally kicked it as I was searching CL for miter boxes at the time… and if I type in “ww” into my web browser address bar, the first thing to come up is “www.ebay.com”.) The box itself didn’t catch my attention (right away), but the crisp handle on the backsaw that came with it did.
After the wife and son went down for their afternoon naps, I made a quick phone call and got some driving instructions, hopped into the car, and drove 45 minutes to see a man about a box. When I got there, it was everything I’d hoped it was, so I gave the elderly man a twenty dollar bill and made my way back home.
In the basement, I extracted the saw from the miter box and gave it a quick look-over. As previously mentioned, the tote was in near perfect shape, structurally. It didn’t have so much as a chip or crack to speak of. But it was covered in grease and oil and only some of the original film finish. It was a Disston, and the medallion came from the 1896-1917 era. The shape of the tote backs up the medallion, so it all appears to be original. The only physical fault is that it was missing one half of one of the saw nuts (the slotted half). It wasn’t broken; just missing. The 14″ backsaw has about 3 1/2″ of depth left under the back, so there is plenty of life left in it. I’m in the process of cleaning it up; I’ll post more pictures when it is done.
On to the miter box…
I set the saw aside and turned my attention to the miter box. As the plate in the front says, it is a Craftsman 3646 Miter Box. Apparently my Google-Fu is rusty, because I couldn’t find much at all on this model on the interwebz. It is similar in style to the Stanley 150 in that it guides the saw by clamping the blade into position. Height is adjusted by loosening the bracket at the end of the clamp arm and raising or lowering the clamping mechanism.
I have two miter boxes in the basement already, so one wonders why I needed a third one. I’ll tell you. The first one, a Stanley 358A, is the one I currently use. It is in OK condition and the saw is sharp. But it is somewhat newer (per the tote shape and medallion – I should look those up for a specific range some time) and not the most pleasing to my discerning eye (so I’m a tool snob; sue me). The other is a Millers Falls Langdon Acme Miter Box, Size 2, No. 73, with the original saw with a nice apple wood tote. That’s more my style, but it needs some restoration work before I can put it to use. My biggest hang-up with these two boxes is the hydraulic mechanism that maintains the saw height. I just don’t know what I should or shouldn’t do to clean them up and make them run more smoothly, and they both need work on this specific part.
My solution to this is a non-selfish one. Our local woodworking guild is always looking for new mini workshop ideas – things that just a few guild members can do on a Saturday and/or Sunday at a minimal cost. I figured I could donate the Stanley to the guild workshop for everyone to use and see if one of the guild members would be willing to teach a mini workshop on restoring that style of miter box. Surely there are a few guild members who have one of these that could use some tuning up!
Anyway, when I saw a miter box that was styled more like the old Stanley 150, I thought it might be a chance to get a miter box on the cheap that I could fix up on my own and put right to work.
After I removed the sacrificial deck and gave it a quick once-over, I realized it really wasn’t in bad condition. Originally, I’d been thinking I would have to have it sandblasted to bare metal and then repaint it. But it had more than 85% of the japanning left on it, so I felt a gentle cleaning would be the prudent choice.
I grabbed a cardboard flat (really, the lid to a paper box from work) and started taking pictures and dismantling the miter box, putting any small pieces in the flat. After it was mostly broken down (I left the arm that holds the saw guide attached because it worked smoothly – why mess with a good thing?), I soaked everything in degreaser and attacked it with green Scotchbright pads. Then I took a wire wheel to the bare metal parts to remove difficult grime and rust. Finally, it all (bare metal and japanned metal) got a nice coat of Renaissance Wax before re-assembly.
By the way… the saw was definitely not original to the box; I don’t believe this miter box came with a saw, in fact. So the old Disston backsaw is just a bonus. But that meant I needed a miter saw to go with this. This seems like a good way to spend some of the money I got from selling that Escher hone the other week…
Enter Mark Harrell, owner of Bad Axe Tool Works.
Mark is going to put together for me a vrry nice 20” Bad Axe miter saw. And, since I have discerning tool tastes and a flair for the dramatic, I have a little surprise for the tote. I don’t want to say more now, so I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. I will guarantee it is something you’ve not seen before, but I think it will look nice.
(A quick thanks to my new interfriend, Alan, over in the UK, for his help on this last part.)
Oh, and I just realized I never got the chance to get down into the shop this weekend and work up a new sacrificial board for it. I’ll try to get that done this week, once I decide which species to use. I have some nice quartersawn oak scrap a friend of mine had left over from a flooring job; I was thinking that might look nice, but it would take a little work to plane the underside to remove the grooves and make it the desired 1/2″ thickness. Or I could more easily use a small off-cut of mahogany from my last box project. It is nice to find a good use for those short pieces you have a hard time throwing away…