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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About The Write Biz

By day, I'm a mild-mannered copywriter who harnesses frontal-lobe creativity (right brain) to help B2B marketers generate leads and sales. By night I pick up hand tools to create wooden masterpieces...and give my black lab Bella the "red dot" laser to chase after.
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9 Responses to Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 2-Restoration, fabrication of parts and mounting to a base

  1. Larry says:

    I just bought one of these and was very well pleased to find your artical, great job, I will learn from this.

  2. john says:

    On mounting one, skip the flat board on four feet. Rather, screw the two front feet into a narrower board and chuck it in your vise. Like a rock.

  3. Pingback: Picking Up a Miter Box | The Reverend's Woodshop

  4. Hi I just came across your post – and Ive gotten hold of the very same miter box. Ive got a question for you : do you find that the pull pin to tighter the box for additional angles works tightly? Mine seems a bit floppy…

    • Hi Sam. The pull-pin on my miter box tightens snugly with no play or movement. Keep in mind that these tools were made 80-100 years ago. So I wouldn’t worry about it unless the setting becomes dislodged in use. In that case, you may wish to noodle how to go about tightening up the pull pin mechanism.

  5. mga911 says:

    Are you ever going to make the missing sliding bars? I could use two!

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