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

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Blog entry by Brad posted 03-01-2013 03:55 PM 2345 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Part 1: Acquisition Part 2 of Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for 21st-century workshop series Part 3: Finding a suitable vintage saw »

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.


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

12 comments so far

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2474 days

#1 posted 03-01-2013 04:20 PM

Neat ! Already gave you kudos for the job, but the explanation of the steps adds a lot :-)

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Don W's profile

Don W

18367 posts in 2261 days

#2 posted 03-01-2013 08:38 PM


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

View theoldfart's profile


8798 posts in 2145 days

#3 posted 03-01-2013 09:55 PM

gotta ask, Diston or Simmonds on the saw? I lucked out with mine, it had the original length adjuster with it, but not the coping unit.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Brad's profile


1138 posts in 2434 days

#4 posted 03-01-2013 11:17 PM

TOF, the saw is a Disston that was originally paired with another miterbox. Stay tuned for the next part which details its acquisition.

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

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8421 posts in 1676 days

#5 posted 03-02-2013 02:54 AM

Pretty cool man. I haven’t gotten into these yet. But I’m sure the sickness will spread.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View Brit's profile


7093 posts in 2536 days

#6 posted 03-02-2013 01:37 PM

I’m not even going to look for a miterbox or the saw to go with it. I’m cured I tell you! CURED!

By the way, nce job on the restore Brad.

-- - "The hand speaks to the brain as surely as the brain speaks to the hand." Frank R. Wilson

View Brad's profile


1138 posts in 2434 days

#7 posted 03-02-2013 02:31 PM

BRK & Andy, ”...haven’t gotten into these yet…” “I’m cured!”.......uh huh. Right.

Your protestations aside, I caution you against going down the miterbox rat hole. I became as obsessed with it as I did with tuning my first SB #4 smoother. And my hyper-focus on this tool won’t abate until I’ve manufactured the two slides.

My suggestion would be to pick one up that speaks to you at a boot/garage sale (e.g. inexpensively), fix it up and use it. Shipping adds too darn much in my opinion to the price. So buy locally (which allows you to inspect it too-an absolute must). Even though I had to track down a saw in another state, I’m still into my vintage user for less than $50 total…which is amazing to me when I think that a current-day, plastic-handled, aluminum-framed miterbox cost me nearly twice that much.

A few caveats: a) only buy ones that appear to have all their parts. You can download manuals with exploded views of parts for some models to study/use as a reference. b) only buy ones that come with a great, usable saw. That’s the engine of a miterbox and it will take time and money to track it down separately.

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

View Brit's profile


7093 posts in 2536 days

#8 posted 03-02-2013 02:51 PM

Hey Brad – Remember I mentioned that saws that long don’t show up very often in the UK? Well this week one actually appeared on I won’t be bidding on it though as it wasn’t in good enough condition IMO.

I will probably just end up attaching a hand crank to my Dewalt.

-- - "The hand speaks to the brain as surely as the brain speaks to the hand." Frank R. Wilson

View theoldfart's profile


8798 posts in 2145 days

#9 posted 03-02-2013 03:44 PM

If you have the coping slides made , I would be interested in maybe purchasing one. I have a GP identical to yours

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Brad's profile


1138 posts in 2434 days

#10 posted 03-02-2013 05:21 PM

TOF, that’s good to know. That makes three of us so far…Me, Smitty and yourself.

Andy, I see what you mean. My heart sank when I spied the cracks in the handle. I know how you feel. Sounds like your prospects of finding a decent miter saw in the wild are about as good of me finding a boot-sale-priced brass-backed backsaw. I’m averaging about 1 decent backsaw in the wild per year total…let alone something like the brass beauties you’re finding.

In any event, are you just looking for the saw? What are the specs you seek?

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

View Brit's profile


7093 posts in 2536 days

#11 posted 03-02-2013 06:46 PM

To be honest Brad, I’m not really looking for one at present. I’ve got more than enough tools and projects in the pipeline to keep me busy for a long time to come.

-- - "The hand speaks to the brain as surely as the brain speaks to the hand." Frank R. Wilson

View Mauricio's profile


7127 posts in 2845 days

#12 posted 03-03-2013 02:42 PM

Its looking really nice Brad, great job on the restore.

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

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