Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday ToolFoolery - Monday Edition - Miterboxing Day

I was well pleased when my package of two saw plates arrived in the post last week, straight from the bench of Bob Rozaieski -- sharp, straight, and ready to be put back into service.  The first, a crosscut carcass saw, was ready to be a companion to my large-ish Wenzloff tenon saw.  All that was required was a quick reassemble and a new spot on the wall.

The second saw, is the dedicated miter saw for the Stanley 4460 miter box.  First, I want to say how quickly and professionally Bob handled these saws.  Just as important as how sharp they are, is that they have been given the correct fleam, rake and set for their purpose.  His price is very fair and the transaction is quite straightforward.

I decided to make a new handle for the miter saw in order to spruce it up a bit.  Those 1960's beech handles don't do to much for me and I have never made a saw handle from scratch.  After looking at a few saw designs in my shop, I just decided to freehand the changes -- it is easier than you think.  When I was done with the shape I cut out a template and transferred it to a piece of curly cherry.

A couple of holes (7/8" and 1") with a forstner bit marked the inside dimensions of grip and I cleared out the rest of the waste with a coping saw.  The external shape was cut on the bandsaw.  What followed was a great deal of rasping, spokeshaving, and sanding to get it to feel correct.  I didn't develop a system, I just kept removing material until I was happy.

It was here, to quote Fantastic Mr. Fox, that this threatened to become a "cluster cuss."

There is that moment, when a piece that you are creating has left your hand, but has not yet reached the floor, when you honestly believe that it won't break.  But very quickly you are proven wrong, it does break, and you are experiencing the first stage (Denial) of the five woodworking stages of grief. It is quickly followed by (Anger) "Ah, for #%$%& sake, how could I be so stupid.  To (Bargaining) "OK, just a hairline crack, fixed with glue, that would be good -- give it some character." Then (Depression) "Well, that just looks awful, four hours, down the drain."  Finally (Acceptance) "Well, it is a tool handle, if it works, then it is serving its purpose."  Happy Christmas.

Once repaired, I realized that it wasn't all that bad.  I slapped on a coat of boiled linseed oil.  this will be followed by some wax next week.

Cutting the slot for the saw plate and back was the trickiest part.  I started by duplicating the mortice from the old handle.  Using a marking gauge I marked this mortice on the new handle on both the top and front.  In this case I decided to drill 1/4" holes to remove the waste -- you could also use a mortice chisel.  A little bench chiseling turned the holes into a square mortice.  I cut the slot for the saw plate with a tenon saw.  After a bit of fiddling, the handle slid right on.

I marked the holes from the old handle for drilling, but drilled only one, to see how the would line up.  I then attached the saw plate (on the outside) by this one screw and remarked the rest of the holes.  After drilling the remaining holes, I slid things in place to see how they lined up.  The fit was OK. but I did need to use a file to "re-adjust" the holes in the saw plate.  After countersinking for the various saw nuts, I put everything together and tightened things down.

The last step was to readjust the guides on the miter box so that the saw teeth just brushed the surface of the new oak top.  A couple of test cuts confirmed the sharpness of the saw and its correct setup.  All-in-all a victory.  I think this will serve me well moving forward, and the total cost, including the box itself, the saw, the postage, and the sharpening was less than $100.

If you note a lack of enthusiasm in my tone it is because this "little" project took me a great deal longer to complete than I had budgeted.  In the future I'll be leaving saw handle making to the pros -- but I will be sending any of my vintage saws (handle intact) to Bob for sharpening.

On a positive note, I did receive a couple of neat woodworking-related gifts for Christmas, including a high-angle frog for my 4 1/2, a Ron Hock blade for my #12 scraper plane, and this most excellent book.

If you are not a Wallace and Gromit fan, I encourage you to become one at your earliest possible convenience.  They are, in a word, superb.  Cheers!


  1. You and I have something in common - projects that take longer than they should. Good looking saw and a bargin.

  2. Half your luck! My all time favourite Wallace and Gromit scene is when Gromit is using the electric drill while building the rocket in A Grand Day Out. Champion stuff!

  3. My favorite is when Wallace is making reference to the Knit-O-Matic (sheep to fitted jumper in one complete process!)and says "We tested this out on Gromit, didn't we lad?" The subtle, traumatized look on Gromit's face is priceless.

  4. Glad the saws worked out to your satisfaction! The miter box cleaned up nice and should prove very useful. Thanks for the mention on the sharpening as well!

  5. I like all the Wallace and Grommit sight gags. Grommit reading "Electronics for Dogs" or whilst in prison reading "Crime and Punishment" by "Fido Dogstoyovsky".

  6. I agree, Pablo. Just last night we watched the newish one (A Matter of Loaf and Death) and Grommit was reading "Electronic Surveillance for Dogs" by B. A. Lert.

    I also like his potential love interests -- Windowlene and Totty.

  7. thanks your sharing and thanks your post