What Would John Wayne Do? (WWJWD)

John Wayne gets accredited with saying, "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway"

I don't know if I could say I was scared of the next stage in rehabbing an old Stanely Miter Box, but I was intimidated at least. I was down to the swinging arm and if I screwed this part up, then I might as well throw the whole thing in the scrap heap. The arm was the grimiest part of the whole works and there was a couple arms and a spring loaded pin to lock the arm in place on the dial. A ton of nooks and crannies and a couple of small parts.

I disasembled the arm as much as I dared and tried to remove as much of the course grime with a stiff brush.

The pin actuated with the lift arm, at first I thought I would take this mechanism apart as well. As I got to looking at it I decided against it, I was sure getting it back together would be horrible. But there was a ton of grime inside and I was worried that if I was able to get some Simple Green and Q-tips in there to clean it out then getting it dried up so it wouldn't rust from the inside out would be the next challenge.

I thought that if I did get it cleaned out it would probably ge best to fill the mechanism with some lithium grease to keep it running, to be honest after removing the cap on the side, it looks like that's how it was supposed to be maintained. So I took a quick run to my nearest auto parts store to get my hands on a small tube of white grease.

While I was standing in the aisle, perusing the winde variety of soap and oil emulsions availible, my eyes lit on what seemed like the perfect answer to all my nook and crannie issues. (well the ones related to the miter box arm anyway)

A can of brake cleaner, nothing says clean like pressurized solvent in a can.

I used a whole can on the arm, mostly because I had no reason to save it. It blew the crud away like yesterday's trash. I still followed it up by scrubbing it down to get the remaining rust off.

With a little bit of time I scrubbed the crap off the rest of the pieces. Altering a little trick I learned from my friend Mark Harrell over at Bad Axe Saws, I cleaned all the screws by chucking them into a drill press chuck and then holding the abrasive pad against the spinning friction. I've seen Mark make short work of shining up roughed up saw nuts by chucking them into a cordless drill and spinning them against a soft cloth charged with buffing compound.

Once cleaned I taped everything up for repainting.

and moved on to cleaning up the last parts of the box itself.

A little more taping and then some black lacquer spray paint

In the end the miter box went from this rusted boat anchor.

To this cleaned, painted, oiled, and waxed machine.

So what's left? Plenty. I have to clean up and sharpen the saw plate, cut out, shape and drill for a new replacement saw handle, make a new sacrificial board to attach to the base, and fabricate some pieces to replace missing parts. A lot of things to do yes, but all these things seem less intimidating than taking apart the mechanism for the swing arm. I'm not sure why that bugged me so much but I'm glad it worked and even happier it's in my rear view mirror.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. Hi Derek,
    Great result. I have recently rehab' a similar device and its great to see others spending the time to clean up old gear. You cannot beat cast gear for stability and smooth use. In New Zealand we do not a lot of old American tools but what we do get is well sought after an consequently quite expensive. Greast work and i thought you did well. Nice to see all the steps in the clean up. I guess it takes a lot of time.
    I follow a similar path to you (but without the carving) but do not have the courage, or time, to do a blog. I really enjoy your work and keep it up. Cheers from NZ. Mike

  2. Another trick I learned a long time ago was to use gun cleaning kit brass bore brushes to clean our internal threads. A little cleaner, WD40, or just dry, they can clean up internal threads and get into the nooks and crannies,

  3. Nice work. I had a problem cleaning and reassembling mine after the locking bar jammed. That little spring is strong.


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