Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 4-Restoring, sharpening and testing the saw

In the last post, you read about how I finally tracked down a soul-mate for my Goodell Manufacturing Co. miterbox. Next it was time to clean it up, sharpen it, test its cutting ability and add it to my tool kit.

Clean saw plate
The blade was in pretty good shape overall. I progressed through the grits 220-600 followed by a coat of paste wax. To preserve the etching, I only used sanding-block mounted grits 320-600.


Clean handle and saw nuts
I loved the aged patina of the handle and elected to keep it rather than sand it off. This got a good cleaning with alcohol followed by a wiping down with Howard Feed-N-Wax wood polish & conditioner.

Since I maintained the aged appearance of the handle, I decided not to polish the nuts and kept the 80+-decades of patina intact.


While the saw cut ok as I received it I wanted to give it a good jointing and filing of my own.

A query to the collected wisdom on the Lumberjocks “Saws, using collecting, cleaning and buying,” forum helped me settle on these sharpening specifications.

Rake: 25°, Fleam: 30°, Slope: 0°

A jointing was followed by shaping of the teeth. Then another light jointing followed by the fleam-imparting sharpening. A quick test showed that I didn’t need to add any set.


Test cut
The 28” x 5” Disston has some serious heft to it. It’s nice because the weight generates momentum to propel the teeth through the cut.

The length of the saw is perfect too because I can take a full back stroke without unseating it from the saw guide. Not so for my Ingersoll Rand miter saw which is about 23” long. It used to slip out of the saw guide repeatedly until I figured out that the hole in the top tip of the saw was to house a cotter pin to prevent this very thing.



My two-foot-deep workbench sits flush against the garage wall. I wanted to be sure that the saw didn’t bump into the wall at its full extension, which it didn’t. The unimpeded clearance gives me liberty to take full-fledged stroke and enlist a large percentage of the saw’s teeth to make a cut.

I was in the middle of making a peg-board clamp holder. The three-piece lamination had dried and it was time to cut the ends to a consistent width. Sounds like a perfect test of my sharpening job.


Very nice! The 96 year-old saw slid silky-soft along the guide posts and left a baby-smooth finish.


And most importantly, the cut was square.


All in all, I’m quite happy with my miterbox, its restoration and the acquisition of a great saw to go with it. I have an excellent user that will serve my miter-cut needs for the rest of my life.

I think that a part of me will pass to it, just as the artisans of years gone by have added some essence of themselves. So that 50 years from now, a future lumberjock will wonder into my estate sale and hear a Goodell Manufacturing Co. miterbox whisper to them, recounting projects long-since done. And they’ll say to them self, “You’re coming home with me.”

And thus, the circle of woodworking life will be renewed.



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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2 Responses to Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for a 21st-century workshop: Part 4-Restoring, sharpening and testing the saw

  1. gblogswild says:

    You won’t believe what I picked up just today off of craigslist. This miter box…with original saw.

  2. chad says:

    I picked one up as well, with the saw. i am restoring it, and this is a great guide.I have agonized over what should be painted.
    I am surprised about the red color. I guess the color on mine was faded to orange.

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