Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday ToolFoolery - A Stanley Miter Box As Bench Accessory

You may remember, (from your county fair-going days) the old midway game where you roll a coin down a slot onto a platform.  A long bulldozer-like blade moves forward and, if you are lucky, your coin will force other coins (or valuable prizes like switchblades and naked lady bottle openers) off the other side and into a tray.

Keep this image in mind and you have a fairly accurate picture of my benchtop.  I start the day with the best of intentions, but as work proceeds, tools begin taking that short drop into the tray.  I knew my new Stanley Miter Box wouldn't stand a chance in this environment.  I would need it, there would be nowhere to put it, and I'd stop using it.

That tool tray, however, may be the answer to all my troubles.  In my hands it is simply a catch-all for tools, an amalgam of shavings, and tiny pieces of wood I "must keep."  But in an organized person's shop, it could serve as a kind of bedway for two sliding platforms to hold a miter box and a support/stop for longer work.

But before I begin, I need to thank a couple of very helpful folks who set me straight on my misguided thoughts about the "holdfasts."  Both David from the Yukon and Greg from Kentucky correctly noted that they are actually "stops" to help you create a compound angle for cutting crown moulding.  This makes much more sense and changes my approach to how they are secured.  Instead of the cam clamp, I will use thumbscrews on two stops.  Thanks for your insights.

Now back to the platforms. . .

I started by glueing up more oak to a width of around 11 inches.  After a quick scraping, I cut this into two pieces -- the first to hold the box, the second to hold the support.  A block on the back and a strip of oak along the underside created a channel to allow the platform to slide along the back rail of the bench.  An eyescrew through that back block secures it in place.

The platform for the box is very straightforward -- just place the box on top and secure with screws.  The support is a little more interesting.

I wanted something simple and robust.  The main objective was to have something that could serve as just a support, or as a support and a stop.  Here was my solution.  As a support. . .

And as a stop. . .

The height of the support box matches the height of the miter box top and the stop meets the box top at the fence line -- so that you can use it as a stop for the narrowest of material.  As you can see, the stop just pops in and out.

I even had some time to make a start on a new handle.  The original was beech, ugly, and machine made.  I also had to cut it two in order to remove the sawplate for sharpening.  My plan was to make a smaller handle, from walnut, to match my other hand saws.  Upon reflection, I realized that the size of the handle on the the sawplate needed to be the same as the old profile.  If not, the aging of the metal would form a shadow of the original.  Also, a smaller grip looked out of proportion with the full-sized front of the handle.

The new handle will be made of curly cherry (an offcut from Imperfection #1) and be a stylized version of the original.  Here it sits after the initial bandsawing and some rough rasp work.

I'll complete this handle, attach it to the newly-sharpened saw plate, and take the miter box for a test drive in the next edition.

Meanwhile. . . I have to share these photos.  We never get snow geese in our pond, so imagine my surprise when I looked out of the shop window this morning.

They spent the day parading through the yard and squabbling with the resident Canada geese. . .

And when dusk came, off they went . . .

Good luck, and happy holidays.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to make corrections!


  1. Beautiful photos of the snow geese. Looks like your miter saw is coming along nicely. Looking forward to the completed renovation.

  2. your photos very nice, I like I like and thanks your sharing