A Real Man’s Miter-box

When I first started collecting hand tools almost fifteen years ago, I couldn’t figure out how I could afford a hand saw miter box. They were several hundred dollars and a tool that you didn’t have to have early on as you put together a kit of hand tools. But I sure wanted to find one. Super-accurate cuts, repeatability, and just downright cool kept me hunting one for years. Here’s one right now that’s ready to go, but also ready to drain your wallet!

Enter Art Abercrombie’s father. I never new Art (though my dad did) and never met his father either. But Art’s father was an old-time framer with hand tools, and when he got out of the business, he sold his tools to folks who knew him. My dad got a few things, and my Uncle Phil got Mr. Abercrombie’s Millers Falls Langdon Miter Box. I called my uncle several years ago to see if he still had the miter box and if he would want to get rid of it. My Uncle Phil still had the miter box and not only said he would give it to me, he was kind enough to bring it to me!

I immediately started disassembling it so I could clean all the rust off the parts, re-paint the box itself, restore the saw handle, and sharpen the saw. As I took the miter box apart I found one of the posts that holds the saw was bent. A little time with a torch and I had the part as good as new.

Now enter: life. Well, I don’t remember what got me off the restoration of the miter box, but months went by and it just sat in pieces in a cardboard box. Last winter, I tackled the rest of the restoration project.

Here are a few pictures of the finished project:

My first project for the miter-box was putting the shelf below my bench-top. I used some tongue and groove 8/4 Yellow Pine from the tack room that was here on the farm originally (that room is now where my mom pours up all the fresh Jersey milk!). I cut a 1 1/2″ by 3/4″ rabbet on the end of each board, and I used the miter-box to make the cross-cut, and it worked great! A little sweat in exchange for almost zero danger in use; the miter-box will be a great asset to my hand tools shop.

I love the juxtaposition that comes with using old hand tools in a world gone mad for speed. We use so many tools today, from electric chop saws to our vehicles that we zoom around in, that kill and maim a certain percentage of their users, year in and year out. Have we really progressed in a worthwhile direction to trade a little time and sweat operating a hand saw miter box for all the injuries the electric version causes each year? Don’t get me wrong, just like my Crosscut Saw Post, we’ve got a chop saw in our shop, too. But I hope that each year that goes by it will just collect more dust. Food for thought! Are you opting out of this rat race in any way?

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