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

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Blog entry by Brad posted 03-05-2013 11:07 PM 1727 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Finding a suitable vintage saw Part 4 of Restoring a depression-era Miterbox for 21st-century workshop series no next part

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.


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

3 comments so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2592 days

#1 posted 03-06-2013 12:01 AM

glad you got the set together.

I hope we’re setting up future generations to enjoy the pleasure we see in these tools and processes. I wonder if past craftsman had similar thoughts.

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

View theoldfart's profile


9740 posts in 2476 days

#2 posted 03-06-2013 10:23 PM

Glad you found the saw. I’ve been using mine quite heavily of late. One problem I have is that the cotter pin hole is not usable. Somewhere along the line the spine has slid down on the saw plate so holes don’t line up and I’ve been reluctant to try and move it back.
I do think about the previous owner as his initials are on the saw. It along with the mitre box were well taken care of. He must have been a true craftsman given the age of the equipment. Some day I hope one of my grandkids will want it for themselves.

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

View Brad's profile


1139 posts in 2764 days

#3 posted 03-08-2013 10:58 PM

Don, I suspect that as hand-tool traditions began to fade away, that craftsmen of the age worried about it. Yes, you can make amazing furniture and other items with power tools. But you also make a lot of noise, dust and danger. And I don’t feel nearly as close to our medium, the wood, when I use a power router, as I do when I use a molding plane.

I do think that between our acquisition and use of handtool skills, the restoration of handtools and a digital repository of our experiences here and elsewhere, that we’ll leave a nice legacy for future generations. The millennials seem more concerned about doing work that is satisfying than they do in pursuing Wall Street careers. So maybe that will translation into pursuing hobbies and passions like woodworking.

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

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