A New Tool I Didn’t Really Need…But Couldn’t Pass Up

I haven’t had a lot of time to work on projects in the shop in the last couple of weeks, but I have gotten in there for a few minutes at a time here and there. I also have sharpened a bunch of customer saws in the last couple weeks, and that has kept me busy during the evenings. I did run across something on Craigslist a few weeks ago though. While I certainly didn’t need it, at the asking price, I couldn’t pass it up, and I do have an intended use for it.

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The miter box is a Stanley No. 2358A. This is the biggest model Stanley made at the time this one was manufactured. The saw is, in a word, HUGE! It’s 26″ long at the tooth line and a full 5″ under the back. Amazingly, it looks like it has never been resharpened. The box has definitely been used, as it was full of sawdust when I got it, but I don’t think anyone ever bothered to sharpen the saw. This is pretty common among saws from this time period. People used them until they got dull, then hung them up. Their loss, my gain.

The other amazing thing about this saw and box is that it is 99% complete. The only one missing part is one guide bearing in one of the uprights. That is incredible in itself considering how many parts these things have. The saw works fine without it and is otherwise complete. It was, however, very cruddy. Lots of surface rust, grease, and caked on sawdust, as is so common with these tools. So I spent a few evenings doing some heavy cleaning. Once the box was cleaned up, I turned my attention to the saw.

While I have not sharpened it yet (this thing has a ton of teeth), I did clean the saw plate, back and bolts. I also did some serious work on the handle. These things are so uncomfortable and ugly as found. However, underneath the thick layer of cheap lacquer, is usually some very nice beech. With a little imagination, a rasp and some scrapers, and a little time, they can actually be made usable. Still ugly (though somewhat less now), but usable. Here’s what I started with.

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What we have is a very blocky, very squarish, very blister inducing machine made handle. You can see the guide lines I drew on it to attempt to give it some flair during the reshaping. So I scraped the lacquer off, attacked it with chisel, rasp, files and scrapers, and put on an oil and wax finish, which is my favorite finish for tool handles. I still need to sharpen the saw, but after adding a new wooden table, here’s what I have now.

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The handle is much more comfortable now, and while it is still somewhat ugly, at least it is less so, and won’t cause blisters now. The plate cleaned up really well too. I replaced the worn out wooden table with one made from pine. The original was soft maple I think. The pine will be easier on the teeth of the saw. I think I still want to screw on a wooden base, but that can be done later.

As I said before, I really didn’t need this tool. I have a shop made miter block, and in all honesty, I don’t see myself using this in the shop for furniture making all that often, if at all. However, where I do see myself using it is for household projects. I admittedly do own a powered 12″ compound miter saw that I use for carpentry projects around the house and yard. But I really don’t like it. It spews dust all over, it’s loud, it requires me to dig out and run extension cords, and it requires that I take my work outside, bring it in to check the fit, then bring it back outside if it needs trimming. Having this miter box now I think I’ll sell the miter saw as I can pop this baby up on a couple saw horses right in the room I’m working in and not have to take the work somewhere else. It will definitely see plenty of use for those types of projects, and I think it will excel at them.

Plus, for $15, how could I pass it up ;).

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29 thoughts on “A New Tool I Didn’t Really Need…But Couldn’t Pass Up

    • Chris,
      You know if it wasn’t for your posts on your box I’m not sure if I would have even thought of it at the time. I had thought about getting one plenty of times before, but I never really had a real need as I had always been able to make all the cuts I needed to freehand or with a shop made miter block. Just for giggles I searched Craigslist one day just to see what kind of prices they were bringing and found this one for $15. I figured the saw alone was worth more than that once cleaned and sharpened, so if anything I could just clean it all up and sell it. But I think I’ll sell the old 12″ screaming wheel of death instead. I can do pretty much all the general carpentry cutting I need to with this and a regular croscut hand saw.

  1. Is the missing bearing still available? I know that Stanley sometimes keeps a surprisingly deep inventory of parts, or maybe it’s a standard bearing size.

    • Wilbur,
      The bearings on these things are kind of weird. They’re actually part of the screw. It’s all one piece. I checked the Stanley parts page on their web site, but they don’t list it as available. I suppose I could call Lori (if she’s still even there), but it really does work fine without it so I’m really not very motivated to find a replacement. If one makes itself available, I’d likely pick it up just to complete the box, but I’m not really actively looking for it.

  2. $15? Wow! I have always been able to replace any bearing inexpensively at a local supply house as long as I had the old one. Perhaps you could find one in your area.

    The only thing that puzzles me is your statement that you will “pop this baby up on a couple saw horses right in the room I’m working in and not have to take the work somewhere else.” I showed this to my wife and she said not to get any ideas.

    • Andy,
      Like I said, these bearings are weird. I should try to take a picture of one. The big screw and the bearing are one piece, so it’s very unlikely that any bearing supplier is going to have one since it’s not just the bearing I need but the entire screw. It’s an odd little part that I’m betting Stanley designed just for these boxes.

      As for using it in the room I’m working in, my wife has learned to accept the fact that if I’m doing work in a particular room (baseboard, crown, etc.), there’s going to be some clean-up to do in there when I’m done. I just vac up after. Our whole first floor is wood & tile flooring anyway, so not such a big deal. On the carpet, it vacs up just fine. I usually put her to work though, so she gets it :).

  3. I recently found a Goodall-Pratt 1124A which is similar if not as fancy. But it came with a 25″ Disston. I’m having that sharpened locally. Who could have imagined that these cast iron wonders would remain so accurate after all these years?

  4. For $15, I think several people, myself included would have berated you for not buying it. If you sharpen the blade, and replace the bushing, you could probably sell it on the bay for over $100.

    Some times we buy tools, just because we can. 🙂

    • Dan,
      Yeah, that was my thought. The saw alone was worth more than that, so not a bad deal in my mind. I could easily get 10 times what I paid for it the way these things seem to be selling on ebay these days. It’s the Schwarz effect 🙂 (with some help from Ron Herman)

  5. Oh… that was just wrong to mention the price after all.

    The natural finish is certainly much better. Any idea what the origin of the original yellow finish was?

    • MD,
      I think the original finish was just a lacquer dip. It was thick, brittle and yellow. Lacquer gets like this over time, at least the old lacquer did. I have inherited my grandfather’s old dining room set, and the topcoat is lacquer, and it has chipped and yellowed similar to the saw handle, though the table looks much nicer since the lacquer is much thinner and the table was stained underneath.

  6. Bob, you suck! I have been looking all over for one of these and the prices keep climbing every since Pop Wood did that article. Locally, everything is in excess of $85-100 and I just can’t bring myself to do that yet. Congrats! I sold my own Compound Miter saw a couple years ago and haven’t missed it once and I don’t even have a miter box so I think you will do fine to get rid of it.

  7. That looks just like my dad’s miter box saw. Although I’m pretty sure it actually belonged to my granddad. It never got a lot of use around our house because my dad wasn’t into carpentry. The last time I saw it it was pretty rusty but probably could be saved. It would be a least 70 yrs old now.

  8. Bob nice find and I am sure you will be glad you bought it. And the price; well lets just say I never find deals like that. WOW !

    I really like what you did with the saw handle also, it looks fantastic it also cleaned up really nice. I just bought a Goodall – Pratt off of a fellow WoodNetter and looking forward to getting it. I may have to customize the handle. Some of those back saws have very uncomfortable handles for my big paws.

    Great find and enjoy.

  9. It’s funny, I just bought the Montgomery Wards version of this exact miter box and saw at a local antique store 3 weeks ago for $30. Unfortunately I’m missing three of the four bearings and with only one bearing there’s more slop and lateral movement than i would like. So far I’ve been unsuccessful trying to improvise alternate bearings. If I succeed in coming up with functional alternate bearings I’ll send you my single bearing so your saw can be complete.

  10. I have a Braunsdorf-Mueller Co. Elizabeth, N.J. type of miter saw that is round and can rotate the fences separately for coping, or different angles. It’s an amazing saw, that can rotate between two craftsman for separate use. It has stops and hold downs, and an immensely long Disston backsaw like yours has. It is apparently a very rare type of saw, I paid $45 for it. I’t VERY accurate at mitering. Very different from your typical mitre saw, date from the early 20’s I think, from magazine advertisements I’ve seen.

  11. I bought the exact same model miter box some time ago. I wanted to use it for making mitered corners for small boxes (jewelry boxes, etc.). My problem with the miter box was inaccuracy on the long vertical miters. The vertical line was off as much as 1/8″ in 4″. The fault seems to be looseness or wear in the saw guides when fully extended. There does not look to be a way to adjust the guides. I would be curious to find out what your results are. It might be just my miter box. You may recall that I sent you an e-mail asking advice on cutting miters without a miter box.

    • Bill,
      I do remember your email, and my advice is still the same. It’s not just your box. All of these miter boxes are the same, including mine. These boxes were never designed for fine furniture work. They are finish carpenter’s tools, which is where mine will see it’s primary use.

      I’ve never made a miter for a piece of furniture or other framed type project (box, picture frame, etc.) that was not adjusted with a hand plane, with or without a shooting board. For that matter, even when I used to use my power miter saw for woodworking (which long ago was dedicated to trim carpentry and construction), I still adjusted the fit with hand planes. No miter cut that I’ve ever seen from any tool, powered or otherwise, fits 100% perfect off the saw. If it’s a power saw, there is blade flex, if it’s a hand saw, there’s the inaccuracy of the hand or guides. While many hand cut joints can and do fit off the saw (dovetails, M&T, etc.) the miter is not one of them. It’s just a joint that always requires hand fitting to close perfectly tight.

      When I fit miters for small flat frames, I use my shop made miter block. I showed it in the workshop appliances episode of the podcast (Episode # 10). It’s good enough to get very close so I have to do minimal fitting after cutting. But I still have to plane and fit the miter. For large case moldings like the base of the entertainment center I’m working on now, or tall box sides, I don’t use any kind of guided miter box or block. I scribe the cut on all four sides of the board with square, miter square and knife, then freehand the cut using a bench hook or just in the bench vise. Then I plane to the scribe line and do the final fitting. It’s just the nature of the miter. It’s just a really finicky joint. I’d rather cut dovetails or chop M&T any day than make miters. Miters are just fussy.

  12. So I am a garage sale tool junky….

    Wifey just sighs….

    Question, you mentioned cleaning the plate, back and bolts… what techniques do you use for these tasks????

    PS I saw one like this at a gargage sale a couple of years ago and passed…then went back and it was gone….sigh

    • Bob,

      How I clean the saw’s parts depends on how bad it is. This one wasn’t terrible, so a few minutes in the garage with a soft wire wheel & Scotchbrite wheel chucked in the old drill press did the job. I really like the Scotchbrite style wheels for the drill press. They clean really well without over doing it. When it’s a small piece, I just use a Scotchbrite pad by hand. If it needs a lot of work, I’ll put some newspaper down on the workbench, spray with some WD40 and go at it with some 320 or 400 grit paper. This will clean up heavy grime and often times re-expose the etch.

  13. I have several types of the Stanley’s. I went to the factory in 1993 and watched them make it. I was like stepping back into 1910. That swing arm required 18 different drill and tap steps.

  14. I have a Stanley Mitre saw No.60. The lever at the bottom which releases from the common settings of 90, 45 degrees etc. has broken. I can move it by releasing the locking screw and manually adjusting to the degree that I want. Is there a replacement part for that lever?

    • Hi Ken,
      I couldn’t say for sure. Your best bet is to try contacting Stanley. They sometimes have old stock replacement parts. Other than that you’d have to make one yourself or cannibalize another miter box.

      • Hello Bob
        Thanks for your reply. I would like to cannibalize another one but it seems a No.60 is hard to find.

  15. I just purchased the exact same saw on craigslist appeared to have been in almost the same shape as yours. 99% complete, just missing one of the hold down bars, which could easily be made from rod stock. The rest seems perfect. Saw needs sharpened and the base needs cleaned from the gunk, but that’s about it. If you don’t mind me asking, what cleaning agent did you use to get it cleaned up? Did you just wire brush and respray the base to get rid of the rust or use a rust remover like electrolysis or evaporust? What did you use to relube the supports? Yours looks great!

    • If I recall, I just took everything apart and used a very soft wire wheel in my drill press to clean the surface rust and paint splatters off things. The old oil & grease was cleaned up with mineral spirits before wire brushing. I did not repaint anything, the paint was all pretty much intact. I don’t remember exactly what I used to relube the rotating carraige, but it was probably a little red automotive bearing grease as that is usually what I have on hand. The uprights that guide the saw were not lubricated at all. Maybe a little wax, but that’s it. I didn’t want dust sticking to them and getting things all gunked up again. The only thing I lubed were the parts underneath the table where there is a lot of iron on iron contact, and also the inside of the pivot area, where things are kind of sealed. Have fun!

  16. i found an old montgomery wards miter box saw in my basement and was wondering what its worth- looking to sell it.

    • Erik,
      I couldn’t say what it’s worth as I’m not a tool seller or appraiser. It depends on its condition, rarity, usability, etc. If you check ebay for similar saws it will give you an idea of what you might be able to get for it.

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