Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Some Answers and Final Touches (Stanley 358 Miter Box)

Almost two years ago I finished up an extensive rehab on a old Stanley 358 Miter Box. By far this was the biggest tool rehab job I've ever done, but it was well worth it. Though I dare say I could live without, its a welcome luxury for dependable and repeatable cuts.

By far and away I get more email questions and comments on this series of posts than I do about anything else I've written or built. I believe that's because there are thousands of documented "how to cut a dovetail" posts out there, but not a whole lot of documentation on restoring one of these babies.

As I finished up writing about the rehab ( I still had a few questions myself that I was unsure about. Mostly it had to do with this piece set up to make cuts at a repeatable length.

I had the metal threaded disk that I knew inset into the wooden bed of the saw bed (see part 109 below) But I didn't understand how the other pieces related to it.

In my mind I envisioned something much more complicated. I'm not even sure it's worth the time to describe it. I had it wrong.

Then I got an email from Jeff, He'd picked up a Stanley Miter Box himself and the threaded disk was still imbedded in the bed. He went back over the part list and had one of those light bulb moments. The parts for the arm are other pieces repurposed.

You have these guide arms, and the thumb screw and arm clamp from the back. It never occured to me this thumb screw would thread into the disk, but it does!

This morning I finally got around to installing the disk and completing the rehab.

A 1" forstner bit made a shallow recessed for the disk. I followed up this by drilling out the center with a 1/4" bit to make clearance for the thumb screw.  I located the spot by eye and by running my fingers underneath to make sure I didn't drill the post into a metal support. By eye it's very close to the original placement shown.

Without any steel flat head screws, I decided brass would be ok. #6 size screws were the right fir for the bevel and holes in the disk.

Then it was try the thumb screw, clamp, and stock guide. works perfect and again much simpler and straight forward from what I thought. Isn't that nearly always the way.

Along the way, Jeff also turned me on to a great little book available through Project Gutenberg. Because I get a lot of questions about the project I thought I'd include the text and pics related to the miter box below, but you should go check out the book for yourself. The section on mouldings is worth a read by itself.

"The "How To Do It" Books: Carpentry For Boys
By J.S. Zerbe (1914)
from Project Gutenberg

Miter Boxes.—The advantages of metal miter boxes is apparent, when accurate work is required.

The illustration, Fig. 267, shows a metal tool of this kind, in which the entire frame is in one solid casting. The saw guide uprights are clamped in tapered sockets in the swivel arm and can be adjusted to hold the saw without play, and this will also counteract a saw that runs out of true, due to improper setting or filing.

Fig. 267

A second socket in the swivel arm permits the use of a short saw or allows a much longer stroke with a standard or regular saw.

The swivel arm is provided with a tapering index pin which engages in holes placed on the under side of the base. The edge of the base is graduated in degrees, as plainly shown, and the swivel arm can be set and automatically fastened at any degree desired.

Fig. 268

The uprights, front and back are graduated in sixteenths of inches, and movable stops can be set, by means of thumb-screw to the depth of the cut desired.

Figure 268 shows the parts of the miter box, in which the numbers designate the various parts: 101 is the frame; 102 the frame board; 104 frame leg; 106 guide stock; 107 stock guide clamp; 109 stock guide plate; 110 swivel arm; 111 swivel arm bushing; 112 swivel bushing screw; 113 index clamping lever; 115 index clamping lever catch; 116 index clamping lever spring; 122 swivel complete; 123 T-base; 124½ uprights; 126 saw guide cap; 127 saw guide cap plate; 132 saw guide tie bar; 133 left saw guide stop and screw; 134 right side guide stop and screw; 135 saw guide stop spring; 136 saw guide cylinder; 137 saw guide cylinder plate; 138 trip lever (back); 139 trip lever (front); 141 leveling screw; 142 trip clamp and screw; 146 T-base clamp screw.

That's all for the miter saw box except a couple quick notes.

First, I did a lot of my own research on this miter box in old tool catalogues scanned in by Rose Tools. Unfortunately that site is no longer in existence, but Isaac Blackburn has done a good turn by taking over the hosting on his website. See a ton of old tool catalogues at his site: 

Second, if you're interested in revisiting (or discovering for the first time) my rehab of this miter box you can find all the articles collated here:  It's a quirk of the blog software to post the most recent post first, keep scrollling to see older posts.

Third, and most important. Jeff, buddy, I owe you a beer (or whatever's your pleasure) when I get a chance. Thanks for figuring out the answers!

Ratione et Passionis

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Beware Of All Enterprises. . ."

 "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and rather not a new wearer of clothes"  -Thoreau

Often you only hear the first part of this sentence from "Walden." Kurt Vonnegut had it painted on the top of the coffee table he sat at to write his stories.

A recreation of Vonnegut's writing space at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis
If you take just the first half of the sentence out of context, it interprets as a kind of paranoid statement against allowing yourself to experience new things or change, you can also take it as an affirming "stay true to yourself," thing.

Instead, if you read the statement as a whole, and the supporting text. It really means you should change yourself first, and the clothing, or accoutrements needed should follow. Decide what you're going to be, find out if it fits instead of jumping in feet first and wasting money on things you don't need, they when you have a basic idea, go ahead and purchase the new clothes you're going to require.

Now we've moved from paranoia to the sage-like advice of experience. The kind I'd give to anyone who was interested in taking up the yoke of transforming wood into usable stuff, works of art, or a combination of both and more.

I've had Thoreau's words on my mind lately as I've moved about town buying, literally, new clothes for a new venture. I feel blessed to be part of a small group of people who've been asked by Don Williams to help with the exhibit of the H.O. Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench. One of the most solemn duties I've been assigned is to take a shift as a docent on each of the three days.

This means I will be there to assist the viewers, make sure everyone is behaving, and, the coolest thing, provide answers to questions and context to the collection. It also meant I had to buy some new clothes to fit into the docent dress code.

In order to help me study so I have the answers to questions, I've been allowed to view a editorial proof of the final product!

No, I cannot tell you anything you haven't heard from the official sources of Don Williams and Lost Art Press. You can ask, you can offer, you can bribe, but why would I do such a thing and jeopardize my inclusion in this historical event.

I can tell you one thing, The combination of Don's words, research and interpretation and Narayan's photography all result in a powerfully informative record of this incredible and historical tool cabinet that stretches into the realm of a powerfully folkloric work of art.

Off the top of my head I can think of only a handful of complete and historic tool collections connected to a single maker. The Benjamin Seaton toolchest, The Duncan Phyfe toolchest, The Dominy family tools, benches, and workshop. and The Studley tool cabinet and workbench. Of those I would bravely assert the Studley cabinet is the only one to consistently surpass the consciousness of the relatively small community of woodworkers and enter into the mass awareness of the public at broad.

Not always as a tool cabinet or collection of woodworking tools, but as an object of complex beauty, obsessive attention to detail, a novelty of desire or a combination of all and more.

The Studley collection is owned by a single, private collector. It is not part of any museum collection or regular exhibition The cabinet and workbench have never been displayed together in public ever before and it's highly possible they will not resurface again for a long time, if ever.

The good news: The collection is well and thoroughly documented in "Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O Studley"

The better news: You can still get tickets and make the pilgrimage to see the collection. The groups will be kept small and you will get nearly an hour to commune with the pieces. During each group time Don will open up all the hinged places and show all the hidden recesses the poster on your shop wall only hinted at.

You'll get to see the cabinet and workbench up close (Sorry, you still won't be allowed touching privileges, those are reserved for Don's expert hands alone.)  However, Don has constructed a replica of Studley's workbench and on that platform he will hang a number of vintage vices equal to those hanging from the master's bench. Those you will have free reign to open, close, and inspect to your curiosity's delight.

I am very humbled to be a part of this event and hope everyone can and will take the time and visit. I cannot imagine anyone finding themselves disappointed to spend a little time around an object as mythical in proportion as this. Honestly, do yourself a favor. Just buy a ticket and go!

The Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench Exhibit will be in Cedar Rapids Iowa, May 15th - 17th for more information and to pre-purchase tickets (highly recommended) go to the website:

The exhibit is set to coincide with the second incarnation of Handworks, a near mythical gathering by itself, set to take place at the nearby Amana Colonies, register for this event and find more information at

Advance purchase "Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O Studley" through Lost Art Press and choose to pick it up at Handworks (before it even has a chance to hit the mail stream) here:

And last but not least, Check out all the exhibition preparations and so much more Don Williams has been up to at his barn:

I really do hope to see you there.

Ratione et Passionis

(Note: All photographs above with the exception of the reproduction Vonnegut coffee table were taken from the Lost Art Press sell webpage for the book "Virtuoso") 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

See It In Person

A while back. during a family vacation, I visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In one of the first galleries I found an original Greene and Greene dining set designed for the Charles Millard Pratt House. Darlings of the Arts and Crafts style, G&G furniture always grabs my attention. I own several books about them and have read many, many magazine articles written about original pieces, reproductions, and “inspired by” work. I have never had the opportunity to see any original in the flesh.

I hovered and studied the table and six chairs for more than a half hour. Moving around the peninsula dias to see all the angles and even setting off the proximity sensor alarms.


I’m not really interested in building a reproduction or “inspired by” piece, maybe I was once, but those days have passed. so that wasn't the intent of my scrutiny. I was trying to decipher the mystery of my attraction to the Greene brother’s designs and I found it in the subtle details I could never quite pick up on in photographs.

Whether it’s a Greene and Greene dining set or a Philadelphia Highboy, many woodworkers experience these pieces only through measured drawings, cut lists, or a Sketchup models. Isn’t it odd that in a three dimensional medium like furniture making, the majority of our knowledge is transferred in two measly dimensions? Catalogues that come full of pictures of fantastic furniture, isolated against sterile drop cloth backgrounds only tell, at best, half the story. These photos hold no regard for how a piece lives in space, how it can command or deflect attention in a room, or truly convey the subtle details and textures that act like punctuation in a well written sentence.

Museums are the flagships of the art world because they allow people to experience a masterpiece in person. As an art student years ago, I was encouraged to imitate the styles of the masters to learn from them and better imitation sprang from time put in studying a master’s work. It was a given that seeing a masterwork in person was a superior experience. Photos in books will never really show the texture and color found in a Van Gogh painting. The way a Rembrandt changes subtly depending on the angle you view from. Or the way a Picasso draws a visceral feeling from you as your mind takes in everything both familiar and alien.

Translating that experience into broadening your woodworking horizons is easy. All it requires is that you step out of the shop for a while and look for opportunities. Visit an antique dealer and open some drawers to look at the hand cut dovetails. Find a museum or historical home in your area and see what they have to offer, you may be surprised at the cross contamination of ideas that comes from looking at great works other than furniture. Better yet, volunteer and get the chance to spend extra quality time around those pieces. Make a pilgrimage to see great works: The Gamble House in Pasadena, Winterthur Museum in Delaware, The Museum of Southern Decorative Arts in North Carolina.

Get out and see the work that inspires you in person. I promise it will only inspire you more.

Ratione et Passionis

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Plugging My Inappropriate Holes.

One issue with the new workbench was the scars of it's past. Constructed of reclaimed barn beams scattered through the top were 7/8" inch diameter holes. They're related to the original joinery. The sad thing is my holdfasts are made for 3/4" holes and these holes just don't work.

I laid out and drilled a series of holdfast holes based on the "Patented Chris Schwarz Holdfast Plan" and my new holes became intermixed with the old holes (There's immature comic gold in that sentence) After working with mixed holes for a bit I became slightly fed up mistaking one for the other.

So I picked up some dowel and spent a little time today plugging my inappropriate holes.

I left them a little proud of the benchtop so once the glue sets up I can cut them off with a flush cut saw and plane them even to the benchtop.

Then I will no longer mistake one hole for the other.

Ratione et Passionis

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

So....Uhhhh....What's Going On?

Things have been quiet here on the Blog for a while, but the shop has been lightly bouncing along. I thought everyone deserved an update on the goings on round here.


The work on my book based on building the furniture depicted in the Morgan Bible. I submitted a query to one publishing company, Lost Art Press. The quality of their books and their expertise really made me want to work with them even more than my original ideas of self publishing.

Unfortunately, I was turned down by Chris and company, not because the either the concept or I lacked merit, if it were simply that I would have a green light, but more because at the moment they are bogged down in a mountain of projects. Enough to keep them busy for the next five plus years. That would put me on the back burner there for a while even if they said yes, and thats not something I'm completely comfortable with either.

So the plan at the moment is self publication, or as I'm calling it, "I'm gonna Konovaloff the sumavabitch." It may take longer, but the complete control of the entire process suits my personality flaws.

Chris has been kind enough to help fill some of my knowledge holes about the publication process and I do have an open invitation to resubmit it to LAP when I've finished. I'll make that decision when it's time, but until then,, it's time to apply foot to gas pedal. Whether that means you will see more or less of me here, I cannot tell for certain.

We will have to both be surprised.



I've been reading "Oak Furniture: The British Tradition" (V. Chinnery) and building an small arming chest of from white oak for a very good friend and fellow medieval enthusiast. A short passage in the book writes about how a lot of 17th and 18th century furniture was lined with wood block printed paper. My art education years (centuries ago) had included a decent amount of time doing printmaking.

There is no greater power than to give an imaginative teenage boy the skillset and materials required to make his own propaganda.

So I resurrected some of those skills and cut a couple 6x6 blocks to print with. From what I understand, historical printed papers were not carved in the same style as the outside of the chest, (two different craftsmen doing two separate jobs) and the ink was like Henry Ford's pallet choice.

"Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it is black."

Often my problem is that I cannot leave well enough alone.

Chess anyone?


The workshop. The weather has turned here in Wisconsin and the shop has migrated back out from the four season porch I dubbed "The Winter Shop" to the full sized shop that takes up our garage. The best part is through this spring cleaning and rearrangement I finally feel like I've gotten things arranged the right way and I've added a new area to the shop I've been wanting for a while.

We established my control issues earlier, Now I will be able to have more control of the steel and hardware that gets used in my work.

I have a forge.

Ratione et Passionis

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Forced to Rearrange The Shop.

All I need is one more distraction in my shop, but here I have happily stepped up to the plate to go about modifying my entire shop set up to make room for this.

It's a small forge (I'm told it's called a rivet forge) with a lever action blower.It needs a little clean up and a little TLC but everything is there or can be made. 

I've had this anvil for ages. It was given to me by my father in law. I've used it some as a hammering surface here and there, and when I put together a small soup can propane forge late 2013, (that experiment was more one and done as the forge deteriorated quickly after the first firing) but mostly it's been waiting to be paired with real fire.

I've done a decent amount of reading, as I always tend to do, and realize serious blacksmiths don't like these small forges. They're too small for a lot of work that can be done at a forge. The air bellows is inefficient and insufficient for quickly heating up large stock and the fire is more difficult to manage than on a full sized forge like the fantastic one in Master Tom Latane's shop

My response . . . duh. 

Would I love to work everyday out of a forge like that? Hell yes. 

But here's the thing. I don't want to spend my time as a blacksmith. I am a woodworker. I want to be a woodworker who has the access and ability to make his own hinges, nails, and possibly a tool from time to time and there by become less beholden to others. Less dependant on others and more self sufficient. 

Besides. living in a small city as I do, I think a large forge like Tom's may invalidate any homeowner's insurance and run into any number of city ordinances. This small forge in akin to a charcoal grill. In fact that's the fuel I intend to burn to forge with, hardwood pieces and lump charcoal. 

This past weekend I took some time and drove to Tom Latane's shop to take a little beginner's instruction on forging the simple things I'm after. Tom's been extremely generous with me and is fast becoming a very good friend. We finished a pair of gimlet hinges (aka snipe hinges) and a half a dozen nails. Mine need a lot more work, but it's satisfying work. 

First I have to make a couple exciting things. A nail heading tool and a cut off hardy tool. But first I have to finish piecing the forge together and get it up and working. Of course all this means changing the shop around to make a safe area for this new diversion. If you ask me that's a small price to pay.

Ratione et Passionis

Friday, February 20, 2015

Every Precious Little Thing

Not every project requires the precious precision of the persnickety.

I started woodworking in the late '90's, a carry over from buying a house and teaching myself to do some home DIY renovations. A little over a year later, after the passing of my wife's grandmother, I was told I could take whatever I wanted from her grandpa Setles's tool collection. (He had passed away several years before)

Anything I didn't take was to be sold at auction and so I grabbed many things, whether I knew how to use them or not.

Setles was not a woodworker, he was a tinkerer, a fixer, and a maker. The tools spanned from automotive to woodworking to blacksmithing. Tools weren't super precious or overly cared for, they were used and used hard and if they broke, you saved them to scavenge the parts from to fix something else. The man never threw away a screw or bolt if he didn't need to. and if he needed a shelf to store things on he didn't head down to Pier One Imports and buy one. He tore apart a pallet he picked up for free and built one.

One wall of his shop was lined with these pallet wood shelves. The wood still rough sawn and raw with no finish or paint save what was spilled or splattered. (There must have been a hell of an accident with some light green paint at one point, it was splattered around like a Jackson Pollack, including spots on a lot of the tools.) The shelves were well built. dovetailed corners and dadoed shelves.

I knew enough about woodworking to think I could pick out the mistakes he made. The big one I saw was the dovetailed corners were oriented wrong if you consider a hanging shelf. Set to hold the sides instead of resisting the forces of gravity.

A little while ago I decided I needed a shelf in the winter shop and I thought fondly about the shelves in Setles's garage. The spirit of Furniture Of Necessity. (Can't wait for Chris's upcoming book) With no collection of old pallets to draw from (they don't make those like they used to either) I picked up a couple standard grade pine 1x8 boards and proceeded to knock out the shelf in a quick evening in the shop.

Complete with dovetails facing the "wrong" direction and reinforced with wire finishing nails.

I shot some time lapse of the first half of the evening.

I owe Setles and his mismatch tool collection a huge debt. In the car full of tools I carted home was the saws and #5 Stanley that got me thinking "You know, I should figure out how to use those things." It took me a few years of looking at them to make that decision but look where I am now!

Now I have to decide whether to Jackson Pollack the shelf with paint of let that happen organically.

Ratione et Passionis