Getting A Handle On The Situation.

I've been restoring a Stanley Miter Box for a little while now. It's been my "get me through the winter" project. I picked it up from an local Antique and Thrift Store, an odd combination I know, it's a thrift store with some area set aside for individual antique sales booths. We stop in every couple months and wade around. I'd seen the miter box sitting there for the better part of a year but I didn't look too close at it until the booth was having a 25% off sale.

It wasn't the price that made me walk past it for so long, I almost felt guilty buying it at 25% off, it was the saw handle someone had cobbed on to it that caused my snobbish smirk. So now that I'm hip deep in the restoration process,  there's no doubt the old handle must go. It seems serendipity that days after I found the right handle pattern, the cold weather broke enough to get me back into my shop.

After reclaiming the shop and doing a little clean up and put away, I got to work on the new handle. I found a nice piece of cherry off-cut, a full inch thick and I got the handle pattern to fit perfectly over it. A little spray adhesive and I was ready to rock.

First thing was to drill out the marked holes. Bring on the Forstner bits and the drill press.

Then I took the block over to the bandsaw and removed a ton of the waste around the handle. I thought I was done so I took the tension off the saw blade and covered it back up. I used a coping saw to cut out the finger hole. I started taking some progress pictures and realized I had missed cutting out a section with the bandsaw.

I hate putting something away just to drag it out again so I opted for a different style of stock removal. I made a quick series of crosscuts with my carcass saw . . .

 . . . and knocked the waste out of there with some chisel work. Now no one will ever be the wiser to my bonehead move, unless I write something about it online.

The I broke out my rasps and cleaned up all the saw cuts and chisel marks.

I made a point of turning the piece over regularly. I didn't want to get too fixated on the paint-by-number paper. I'm glad I had it as a guide, but I wanted to make sure I paid attention to the wood and the handle itself and make something that would be comfortable and fit me well over something that followed all the exact lines of the mark up.

Then it was time for more rasp work. A heavy cut rasp to remove most of the stock followed by a finer smoothing rasp to bring it down to that touchable feel.

I worked my way around the outside and then hit the inner curves of the grip. Every few minutes I would pull the tote from the vise and test the feel in my hand. Then reclamp it and refine the curves until I was happy.

The paper template was marked with four holes for the saw nuts. I knew there was no way my saw plate would line up perfectly with those marks. They were close but not right. I had to be careful here because I knew from listening to my buddy Mark Harrell the "hang angle" of the handle is very important a saw's function and usability. (It's saw-ability??).

Hang Angle is the relation between a saw's toothline and the handle. Different saw geeks (like me) have different feelings about this relationship. It can be like rating beer with your buddies. I prefer a Cream Ale while John likes a Stout and Cindy likes Bocks. You get the idea. Matt Cianci at "The Saw Blog" has a great article that describes a saw's hang better than I can, You can read it HERE.

Careful, you might find yourself falling down the same saw geek rabbit hole I have.

For my money I have always loved my Bad Axe Saws so I used my 12" carcass to help set the hang angle for the miter saw. I blocked it up so the plate rested on the handle and adjusted things until I was happy.

I marked out the location of the saw nut holes with a sharpie.

Then I set to drilling them both the through holes and the countersinks. The saw only came to me with one medallion saw nut and one regular one. A few years ago I picked up a couple of saw handles at a rummage sale. There was no saw plate attached, who knows what they did with that, but the nuts were there. One of those handles had three matching nuts that were brass like the medallion.

I had forgotten some of my reference material in the house and I couldn't remember which hole to use for the medallion. Instead of going in to get it, I used my iPhone for a quick image search of Disston miter saws and the first one I saw had the medallion in the lower back position. After I finished and came in the house I found my reference pictures had the medallion in the upper back position. So the saw is a little custom and a little different than standard. I guess I'm OK with that.

I know you might say, "Why don't you just switch them?" but the back has the holes countersunk for the screw heads and the medallion head is bigger than the other three. Functionally I could re-drill the upper one and put the smaller nut in the over-drilled lower hole and things would be fine. But the smaller nut with the oversize countersink would mess with my Feng Shui. I couldn't deal with that, so I'm happy to leave it as is. 

All the saw nuts have the same patina, tough decision to leave them alone or shine them up.

OK, who am I fooling, of course I'm going to shine them up.

The next step was to cut the kerf the saw plate would nestle into. I clamped the handle into my big wooden clamp and secured that to the benchtop.

I used a marking gauge from both sides to help make sure I set my saw line in the center of the handle.

Then it was just time to go to it with my small tenon saw.

Followed by some chisel and rasp work to clean a slot for the saw's back.

After test fitting the saw plate and refining the fit of the kerf and the back notch I used a bit of sandpaper and a random orbit sander to take off the remnants of the paper template, spray adhesive, and other grime, oil spots, and crap the handle picked up in the process.

I sanded 120 grit and followed with a 220. I also hit the curves with some 220 by hand.

I applied a simple oil finish I like to use on shop pieces, I've considered it for real pieces but it just seems like cheating to me.

After seeing the way the finish treated this cherry I might change my mind and "cheat" a little more often. Are you ready?

It's WD-40.

I spray it down heavy, (it's still wet in the pictures) wait a minute or two, then wipe off the excess. I wait a few more minutes then I spray the piece down with a aerosolized, bee's wax furniture polish and wipe that down.

Both products dry super fast and things are ready to handle almost right away. I've found the treatment to be very durable and it has a great "feel" to it.

I joined together the handle and the saw plate, shiny saw nuts in place, and I was a happy puppy.

I have to spend some time with the toothline now, jointing and sharpening like you would expect, but that is no big deal to accomplish.

What's left to finish this piece? Two big things. First remaking the wooden bed the stock "to be saw" rides on. That won't be a big deal. But the second thing is more challenging to me. There were several parts missing and instead of trying to buy them, or buy more older miter saws to get those parts, I've decided to fabricate them myself. I can bend wood to my will, and I've done some steel work before, but I always seem to run into some problem or frustration . We will see how it works out this time.

Until that time.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. Let me know if you need some metal help. Looking great. Better than new.

  2. never would of thought of using WD-40 before. that's a neat trick. might have to try that on something myself. good job.

  3. The saw is great, actually the entire project is great. I really want (need) a miter box. But got to figure out how to get one over here in Thailand.



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