Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 3-Finding a suitable vintage saw

In my last post, we talked about the restoration of my Goodell Manufacturing Co. miterbox. I also detailed the fabrication of missing parts, as well as the process of mounting the whole affair to a base. Next, I’m going to share with you my six-month journey to find a suitable soul-mate for my miterbox—a backsaw.

Boy. You’d think that tracking down a Disston miter saw stamped with a “Made Expressly for Goodell Manufacturing, Co.” etching would be a simple task, (***heavy sarcasm***.)

P29-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miterbox-Ideal Saw with etching

Well, that was my dream anyway. After six months of “no-dice” searching, it dawned on me that my hopes to pair the box with a reasonably-priced, era- and model-appropriate backsaw was too pie-in-the-sky-ish.

During those months I implemented Plan A by combing Ebay and tool-dealer sites for my prize. Plan B failed. Apparently miter saws with 5” under the spine aren’t as plentiful, nor being put up for sale as often, as they were 85 years ago.

Hmmm. Time for Plan B. Lie-Nielsen offers custom miterbox saws for the paltry sum of $195.

P30-cust_miter_box_sm-Lie-Nielsen

Well, it would be paltry if I was married to Kim Kardashian. But I’m not. So while I’d love the quality, beauty and performance of their saw, I was in no mood to pony up that ransom. Nor could I quite shake the fading hope of keeping the whole restoration vintage.

So I turned to Plan C…which was thinking a lot about what to do next. Odd. Now that I think of it, Plan C didn’t work too well either.

The stork delivers a bouncing, baby 28” x 5”, named Disston
After Plan C fell flat on its face, I was consoling myself by reading the positiverake.com woodworking blog. On it, I came across an article about Mike Semple, a renowned saw collector/chronicler and member of the MWTA. And that gave birth to Plan D-network with fellow woodworkers.

So I emailed Mike and asked him if he, or someone he knew, could point me in the direction of finding a 28” x 5” vintage miterbox saw with a “Made Expressly for Goodell Manufacturing, Co.” etching. And do you know what he said!!!

Nope. Don’t have an etching like that. But he did have a Disston 28” x 4 7/8” miter saw with a Millers Falls Langdon Miterbox etching on it he’d be willing to part with. And for what I thought was a very reasonable price. God bless Mike. Not only did he send a high-quality vintage saw my way, he did it before I could put a check in the mail to him. The man truly is a class act.

Less than a week later I was admiring this, perched atop my workbench.

P8-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Disston Miter saw as foundP9-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Disston Miter saw as found-Millers Falls Etching

The medallion dates the saw to between 1897-1917. That means that it predates my miter box by about 5-10 years. But that’s ok by me.

Here’s a bit of the saw’s history that he shared with me by email.

“I’m glad you like the saw. It is a nice example and those five inchers are not common. I think I had it about fifteen years and only used it once, when my son and I installed 6″ crown molding in my living room.”

With the saw getting used to its new home, it was time to spiff her up for use. And that’s what we’ll talk about in my next post.

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Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 2-Restoration, fabrication of parts and mounting to a base

In my last post, I talked a bit about acquiring my Goodell Manufacturing Co. miterbox and researching its history. In this post, I’ll detail the restoration I did of it.

The restoration
When I was a kid, I was great at taking things apart—radios, kitchen appliances and such. But I wasn’t so good at putting them back together. Just ask my parents.

So before removing so much as a single bolt, I broke out my Canon PowerShot and snapped oodles of photos. That was my insurance policy against ending up with a useless doorstop.

Disassembly
My disassembly strategy was simple: That which could easily be taken off, was. Everything else stayed where it was.

I didn’t want to break anything, nor lose tiny pins or nuts nor itsy parts that might “appear” as inner workings of sub-assemblies exposed during the break down. Basically, that meant removing the saw guides, end slide hardware (clamps and thumb screws) and back panels.

P28-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miterbox-disassembled parts

Sanding
The saw guide posts got the royal treatment because they get a lot of up and down motion in their housings. That meant sanding them through 220-600 grits then polishing the steel on my grinder buffing wheel until they gleamed. The back panels got 150-400 grits while bolts and hardware got the wire brush. The bottom steel latticework enjoyed the dremel treatment. So did the left and right, grooved bed panels.

Masking & Painting
After preparing the surfaces, I masked the angle degree scale and anything else that I wanted to remain paint free.

The latticework supports, back panels and saw guide housings all received three coats of Rust-oleum semi-gloss black paint. The red accent trim was painted using Rust-oleum Sunrise Red. That’s the same stuff I used in the restoration of my Goodell-Pratt hand drill here.

The Reveal
After about 10 hours of effort, this is what my still-tacky-to-the-touch miter box looked like.

P10a-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring Full shotP10ba-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring overhead shotP10c-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring with saw shotP14-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring Collage

Accessorizing parts long since lost
This miterbox originally came standard with two accessory slides. To facilitate various angles when cutting moldings, a vertical post was attached to a slide that moves to and fro along the left-hand side groove. The right-hand groove accommodates a length gauge. Both of these were missing by the time I acquired it.

My idea is to track down a reasonably-priced machinist to fabricate these pieces. So far, I’ve collected the parts’ specifications from a post to a forum I did here. And I’ve made prototype slides out of wood and priced out steel online. But to really do this right, I’m going to need a specialist who works magic in metal. So that will wait for now.

P22-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-slide dimensionsP23-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-length gauge

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To hold the slides in place, the box came with a clamp, affixed by a knurled knob.

P12-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Original knurled knob hardware

The left-hand slide groove was missing both the clamp and knob. So I purchased a knob and crafted a clamp myself from steel bar stock.

P13-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Replacement knob and bracket hardware

Mounting the miterbox for use
Using a miterbox entails all sorts of force, back and forth, not to mention the side-to-side shear that can be generated. So to prevent sliding I mounted it to a base.

But how should I do this? And what base is best?

For those answers, I queried the Lumberjocks “Miterbox of your dreams” thread. The collected responses set forth three potential options.

  1. Mount the box to a bench or tabletop. While solid, this would essentially create a dedicated work station. And since I already have my Ingersoll-Rand miterbox bolted to the top of an assembly table, I decided against this.
  2. Mount to ¾” plywood and add a cleat to secure it into a bench face vise. An intriguing option, but this approach limits the mobility and use of the box to a benchtop. Strike two.
  3. Mount to ¾” plywood. A good solid option whatever the century.

A quick trip to the big-box store revealed that plywood is relatively expensive. So instead, I brought home a $3.00, 4’ x 1’ particle board shelf. From that, I extracted a base of about 1’ W x 2’ L. Rather than centering the box on the base, I moved it a bit forward. There’s still room to clamp it to whatever, but I get an additional few inches of clearance by doing this so the saw tip doesn’t hit anything in use.

Next, I countersunk holes in the bottom to accommodate the bolt heads and washers and mounted the whole assembly to the base.

P10-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-After Restoring Full shot

To further guard against slippage, I affixed cupboard shelf paper (the rubbery kind available inexpensively at Walmart) to the bottom with a staple gun.

P11-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-Mounted with cupboard liner on bottom

The shelf paper is so sticky that I can almost get away without having to clamp the box to my bench top. Almost.

Next up, I’ll detail the saga of finding a proper saw for the miterbox.

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Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 1-Acquisition

During a rust-hunting expedition last summer, I picked up six saws and a miterbox. I didn’t really “need” it because I already had two sitting on shelves at home. Still, this one had all the earmarks of an industrial-age tool—definitely the early part of the 20th century.

It spoke to me.

I could hear the whispers of craftsmen, shadows of an age long since passed, calling to me. I could feel them working grueling 14-hour days to eke out an existence in depression-era America. I was in a trance. The only thing I liked more than the history oozing from its patinaed steel was the $7.00 price tag. “You’re coming with me,” I muttered.

Once I had it home, I took a closer look.

P2-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-As Found backP1-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-As Found front

P3-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-As Found top

 

P4-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-as found bottom

P5-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-as found detail collage

A brand new 20th-century manufacturer…to me at least.

When I first inspected the box, I couldn’t discern its pedigree. But after some initial rust removal, a maker’s mark emerged.

P6-Goodell Manufacturing Co Miter Box-as found detail-TWO collage

Goodell Manufacturing Co. Hmm. I’ve heard of Goodell-Pratt, but what’s this other company?

From what little I could glean from online sources, Goodell Manufacturing Co. was established in 1902 by Henry Goodell along with his son-in-law, Perley Fay. The humble affair manufactured miter boxes and drill chucks in a quaint one-building factory.

P17-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory

After Goodell’s death in 1923, William Pratt, the president of Goodell-Pratt, assumed the presidency of Goodell Manufacturing Co. Seven years later, the company passed into history with its acquisition by Goodell-Pratt in 1930.

Dating my miterbox
The front saw guide has an inscription “PATD. FEB. 9, 1904.” That tells me this specimen rolled out off the assembly line at least two years after the company was formed.

However, the 1904 patent illustrates sliding bar grooves that have flat bottoms.

P18-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-Flat-bottomed slides

P19-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-Flat-bottomed slide patent

My miterbox, by contrast, features a V-shaped sliding bar groove.

P21-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-V-bottomed slide picture

P20-Goodell Manufacturing Co Factory Miter box-V-bottomed slide patent

That’s consistent with Patent, 1,517,706 originally filed, January 27, 1923. So I would date my box to between 1922-1930.

Having determined its age, I turned my attention to making it a good user. So given the rusty, grungy condition of it, I decided to restore it.

And that is the topic of the next post.

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Rehabbing a Coffin Smoother For Use In My Shop

History, curiosity, performance. Those are the three things that motivated me to add a coffin smoother to my tool kit.

I got this plane at an antique mall in Scottsdale last summer. It had air conditioning and I reasoned that it was a great place to escape Arizona’s 113-degree oven.

One booth caught my eye and soon I held the smoother, noting the New York Tool, CO. maker’s mark plus the Auburn Tools Thistle Brand iron. At first, I was put off that the iron didn’t seat fully nor the wedge. Later, I would attribute this to shrinkage after 150 years, but at the time I was concerned that this was a defect that I couldn’t correct.

Still, I was drawn back to it because of its superb condition. Its surface sported nary a check, crack nor overly nasty ding. Sure it was dirty, but I was optimistic about bringing out the beech grain. The price read $25, but the ill-fitting wedge/iron combination allowed me to haggle the booth owner down to $20.00 via a call from the antique-mall operator. The moment I stepped back into the Arizona sauna, sweat began to bead on my…well everywhere for Pete’s sake.

But you wouldn’t know that from the smile on my face. No doubt it belied the delicious blend of anticipation and excitement I was feeling. A state of emotional intoxication that only woodworking tool restorers and children on Christmas morning can fully comprehend.

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Isn’t she sexy?

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Nice figure huh?

History-The plot thickens-New York Tool, CO.
As it turns out, the New York Took, CO. name was a trade name of Auburn Tool, Co. out of Auburn New York. The parent company operated between 1864-1893, ending its life like so many other fine tool makers when it merged with the Ohio Tool Company of Columbus Ohio.

From what I can tell, Auburn used labor from the local Auburn NY prison in 1864-1865, losing their contract in 1866 to a competitor. They won the contract back circa 1875-1876.

Apparently, there’s an 1867 Catalogue and Price List of Planes, Plane Irons, Rules, Gauges, Hand Screws &c. Manufactured and Sold by Auburn Tool Company, but I’ve had no luck tracking down an electronic copy.

So all I can really say is that this plane was manufactured between 1864-1893. It’s possible that it was made by convicts but given that they were used during only four years of their 29-year run, I’d say it’s statistically unlikely.

Rehabbing the coffin
Being new to rehabbing wood planes, I did a bit of research. Among the best resources were:

–Lumberjock superdav721. A fantastic two-part video series chronicling the steps Dave took to rehab his own coffin smoother.

–Lumberjock legend Don W, who details his transitional plane restoration process here.

–Lumberjock Dan, who showcases restoration finesse with methods on re-soling a wood plane and inserting an inlay to tighten the throat.

Overall, I’ve found that rehabbing woodies is straightforward. However it does require greater attention to detail at critical junctures. For example, flattening the sole is pretty easy, just sand it on a flat surface or run it over a jointer, or run your jointer over the sole.

Still, I’ve found that you have to be meticulously careful to remove only the absolute minimum necessary to make it a user. Otherwise, you risk widening the mouth so much that you have to either resole the bottom or inlay a piece to tighten up the mouth.

Cleaning
I seem to remember reading that Bob Rozaieski of Logan Cabinet Shoppe is a minimalist when it comes to cleaning beech planes. He uses soap and water.

That’s a good idea I think if you’ve got a plane in nice shape. Also, sometimes planes have stuff written on them in the hands of the shop keepers and merchants of the 19th and early 20th century. I’d suggest leaving those historic scribbles alone.

My smoother was pretty dirty, and there was no handwriting that I could see. So I queried some Lumberjocks as to their cleaning techniques and many of them combine beeswax with turpentine, then rub it into the wood using steel wool. Apparently the wax fills the pores while the turpentine removes dirt and grime.

I was too anxious to get started to track down some beeswax, so I cleaned the wood with denatured alcohol, then soaked the plane twice in BLO, letting it sit for 15 minutes each time before wiping it off and letting it dry over night. After that, I waxed the surface. I’m happy with the results because the plane has maintained a lot of the age and patina while showing off the beech grain.

Mouth adjustments
I read somewhere to use an auger bit file to dress the sides of the mouth. This worked very well because the shape of the file easily gets into the tight confines of the side grooves that the iron moves in. There was a bump in the groove near the mouth for some reason. The file took this out along with over a century’s worth of dirt. Note that I used a light hand during this operation, taking off the minimum necessary because I didn’t want to have to put it back on.

Iron and Cap
After a night in Evaporust, I scrubbed off the remaining rust then sanded the surfaces from 220-320 grits. Next, I flattened the iron bottom to a mirror finish through 2000 grit and reestablished a consistent 25 degree bevel. I polished the bevel too, to 2000, and then stropped the bevel and back a few times on bare leather (no compound).

Then I flattened the underside of the cap iron to 400 grit to mate tightly with the iron. After affixing the cap iron to the iron I noticed that the sides of both did not line up fully. The cap iron was hanging over one side about 32nd of an inch and was shy of the other side of the iron by the same amount. Using a file, I filed off the excess (cap iron on one side and excess iron on the other) so that the cap and irons were flush. The edges were still a bit rough so I sanded the side edges together on the 150, 220, 320 grits affixed to marble slabs.

Flattening the sole
To finish the rehab, I drew a crosshatch pattern on the bottom of the sole with chalk and then sanded it on 150 grit paper affixed to marble. After about 20 total strokes, the sole was pretty flat according to my steel ruler. Then I finished with a few strokes on 220, and 320 followed by some paste wax.

The reveal

Here’s the after restoration shots.

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Setting the iron
OK. I’ll be up front here. I had trouble getting a feel for this. In fact, I’m still learning the nuances of getting that iron tight, at the correct depth and at a perpendicular angle. But I have the new hickory plane mallet that I built to help me.

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Here’s what I’ve figured out so far.

Figured-out Item #1: To advance the iron a very little, I tap the top of the wood wedge. This tightens the wedge-iron grip against the bed while simultaneously deepening the iron ever so slightly.

Figured-out Item #2: To advance the iron more, I tap the iron directly.

Figured-out Item #3: To back out the iron, I tap the heel of the plane

Figured-out Item #4: It’s easy for me to muck up the above adjustments and have to back out the iron and start all over.

Curiosity-How does it feel?
The coffin smoother fills my hands making for a beefy/stocky feel to my grip. It also feels quite secure without worries about slipping.

Performance-How does it finish?
This smoother definitely takes some nice shavings.

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But will it replace my others? Probably not. At least, not yet. I’m going to have to fettle with it some more before I approach the glassy finish my LN #4 can sheer on cherry, or the gossamer, cloud-like shavings my SB #3 floats out. Those are my two, go-to smoothers. The LN for first passes and light planing work, then the SB (set for very-fine shavings) for the final goings-over.

Still, when it comes to history, those two fade in comparison to the rich life this 19th-century plane has lived. Welcome to the family my Auburn Thistle Lady!

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Posted in Hand planes, Rehab, Tools, Uncategorized, vintage tools | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

How I finally got a handle on tanged tools.

When I first got into sharpening my own saws, I crafted file handles out of wood scraps. The unshaped, rectangle wood pieces dug into my hand and didn’t allow for much filing finesse.

P4-Handle-Square Block

Next I tried making handles out of thick lengths of oak dowel rods.

P5-Handle-Dowel

Better, but it didn’t feel comfy in my hand. So next, I applied my drawknife, spokeshave, rasps, files and sandpaper to a large circular piece of wood (a former curtain rod), down to a handle-looking thingy.

P6-Handle-Shaped from Curtain Rod

That worked ok, but files didn’t stay put in the hole I drilled to accommodate them. Nor were the handles perfectly round either. Then I tried the Skrooz-on-type handles.

P7-Handle-Skrewz-on

They have metal threads to accept the file tang and retain it. But I’ve had mixed results with files staying put. The handles are very comfortable and come in varying sizes. And no doubt, I’m not versed on which sized tang fits into which sized handle. (Order a #2 handle for 4” files, #3 for 5” files and so on.) But, as you’ll see, why should I be? Why is that something I should trouble myself to know?

Fast forward to a sunny, autumn Saturday in Denver. I opened the front door to find a box of vintage tools on the porch. A friend (God bless you Kay!) had picked them up at a garage sale and left them there to delight me. Among the various mini-saws and files was this.

P1-Craftsman File and Tool Handle Patent No 2,479,661

A Craftsman File & Tool Handle, Pat. No. 2,479,661. It has a wood handle with metal pieces for the vise jaws, ferrule and screw cap.

Specs:

  • 4 3/4″ overall length, 1 1/8″ diameter.
  • Holds tanged tools.
  • Steel, parallel clamping jaws to grip the entire length of the inserted tang.
  • A knurled knob to adjust clamping pressure.

Here are some closups of the handle.

P2-Craftsman File and Tool Handle-Detail Shots

To use it, simply place the file tang in the jaws, aligning the “v” portions of the tang into the mating notches in the jaws. Then simply rotate the end cap to tighten the jaws. This approach easily handles various tang sizes from regular taper to double extra-slim taper.

Note that I don’t have to know the tang “size” of the file. Nor do I need to know what “size” the threaded inserts on my Skrooz-on handles are. All I have to know is how to operate the end cap to tighten and loosen the jaws. Very nice.

P9-Accomodates different tang sizes

And the vise works quite well. You can cinch it down tightly so that the file stays put. No moving around, nor falling out. And when I apply pressure to the handle in use (sharpening a saw, for example) it moves with the file as a single, secure unit. Moreover, the round handle allows me to make nuanced adjustments for rake.

P12-Filing Disston D-8 Thumbhole Saw

The only beef I have with the handle is that it isn’t as ergonomic in my hand as the Skrooz-on handles.

I like the thumbhold near the end of the handle with an upward flare.

P8-Skrewz-on closeup with thumbhold

Still, the Craftsman is comfy enough to get the job done.

Overall, you only need one or a few of these puppies to supply all your file handle needs. At the least, it’s perfect for your saw filing as you’ll be trading out many different sized files to sharpen backsaws, handsaws and panel saws of various points per inch.

And while my Ebay searches haven’t turned up a lot of vintage samples, you’re lucky enough to enjoy its 21-century granddaughter. She’s available from Midway USA by a new manufacturer, General.

P13-General Tool Handle at Midway USA

Note the very same patent number as the one that appears on my Craftsman handle? On this model, however, the handle looks to be made of rubber or hard plastic. On the plus side, the jaws are still made of steel. And at $5.59 + shipping, it’s worth trying at least one.

Pros:
–Convenience (one handle fits most all your dang tanged tools).

–Ease-of-use (just fit the tang into the handle and adjust the tightening cap).

–Secure fit (thanks to the handle vise jaws).

Cons:
–Handle not as ergonomic as Skrooz-on-type alternatives.

–Modern iteration sports a rubber/plastic handle (from what I can tell).

All told, the pros combine to make this nifty tool handle a welcome addition to my shop.

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Spicing up your handtool life with unusual planes

When I first got into hand planes, I focused on picking up bench planes for use in my shop. Then I started adding specialty planes, like a scrub plane to dimension wood. After that it was joinery planes (plow, rabbet & shoulder).

Today, any time I see an unusual plane, and it’s reasonably priced and it’s in decent shape, I buy it.

And so it was with this Stanley No. 194.

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Not that this plane will be a user for me. Read Patrick’s Blood & Gore description of the plane below and you’ll see what I mean.

#194 Fibre board beveler plane, 8 3/8″L, the width of a razor blade, 1 1/2lbs, 1936 – 1958

“Oh joy, another plane for fiber board, but this one is special (can you say special?). It cuts a chamfer up to 3/8″W on fiber board. One woulda thought world peace was at hand with the introduction of this marvelous piece of technology, where folks worldwide would busy themselves with beveling fiber board all day. But, no, we had two wars to suffer through during its production. Hmmm, is there a cause and effect here, somewhere? “

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I have one question.

This one came with a razor blade, so I either need to purchase a vintage blade or craft my own. Does anyone have a #194 blade they can spare (i.e. sell me)? And if not, would you provide the dimensions of the OEM blade? I could craft one from an old saw plate I’m thinking.

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Flea Market Tool Finds-Something I’ve never seen-13-01-27

Here are the latest cool items I picked up at my favorite flea-market booth dedicated exclusively to vintage tools.

First, a Bit Brace Extension, a Millers Falls No. 35. It’s in fantastic shape. I didn’t even know these existed until I picked it up. Anyone know what types of jobs they were used for in days gone by?

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And some closeups.

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Forstner bits being highly expensive as they are, I’ve taken to picking them up at estate sales and flea markets. Got a really nice 2″ one (for my drill press) at an estate sale. And this 5/8″ brace bit at the same flea market.

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I followed a fellow woodworker’s advice on how to sharpen auger bits and now this puppy cuts a really nice hole.

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