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

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Blog entry by Brad posted 02-27-2013 03:27 AM 3474 reads 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for 21st-century workshop series Part 2: Restoration, parts fabrication and mounting to a base »

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.


-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

8 comments so far

View ksSlim's profile


1290 posts in 3128 days

#1 posted 02-27-2013 04:19 AM

Excellent research.
Looking forward to the restore/rehab.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View Don W's profile

Don W

19045 posts in 2805 days

#2 posted 02-27-2013 12:13 PM

looking good Brad.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brit's profile


7605 posts in 3080 days

#3 posted 02-27-2013 10:33 PM

See Brad, you get some bargains too. $7.00 That’s like £4.60.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Brad's profile


1140 posts in 2978 days

#4 posted 02-27-2013 11:38 PM

Well Andy, you’d have to add in the price of the saw plus shipping (ouch!). So the whole affair would be at $52.00, plus the cost of paint, sandpaper, time…But you know that all too well don’t you :) Which puts us at £34.31.

But I do agree with you. We’ve each had some sun shine on our tool foraging outings. So have Don, Dan, Smitty and others. I enjoy that shared experience.

This project has captivated me more than other restores. Maybe it’s the short life of Goodell Manufacturing Co…or maybe it’s the time period (1902-1930)...or maybe it’s been the challenge of tracking down accoutrement specs…or taking six months to locate a decent saw at a reasonable price…or leveraging patents for the first time to inform myself on the tool…can’t quite figure it.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View Brit's profile


7605 posts in 3080 days

#5 posted 02-28-2013 12:01 AM

Yeah it is funny how some tools grab you like that. As for the shared experience, I totally agree. It is always nice to share in another scrounger’s purchases.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View schnable's profile


24 posts in 2319 days

#6 posted 03-01-2013 05:29 PM

Nice. Very similar to the one I cleaned-up a few months ago. I wrote about that on my local NC woodworker site:

In that article I identified my box as a 1306, but I think in fact that mine is a All Steel 1285. here is another nice site that talks about the Goodell boxes:

Good luck on your clean up. Hope you can find a nice long saw to go with it. The 28” monster that I got with mine sharpened up real nice and cuts fast and true.


-- Andrew

View laugerjr's profile


1 post in 2536 days

#7 posted 03-01-2013 05:36 PM

Sometimes the old tools are the best ones.

View Mauricio's profile


7150 posts in 3389 days

#8 posted 03-03-2013 02:23 PM

Great info Brad! Not a bad deal even with the shipping.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

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