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  • #603511
    Ed
    Participant

    I can get an old Stanley miter box for about $50. That may include the saw. Is it worth the space? It’s not small.

    I’ve always used a miter block made from scrap, which works well for small stuff, and usually only need to cut 45 degree miters. Right now, my plan is to pass up the miter box but wanted to get your opinions. I didn’t write down the model number, but it is an older one, not a recent one. The saw may have been a 30″ saw. The previous owner (deceased) was a craftsman, no doubt. I can tell by the sharpness of his saws and a number of other telltales.

    #603571
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    Depends how many cuts you are making, of course. For a hobbiest, it’s a luxury. For somebody trying to feed his kids, some sort of miter box multiplies labor tremendously.

    If it is is decent usable shape, go for it. If its a rusty clunker with missing parts, let it go. Hand boxes last more than a couple lifetimes.

    If you don’t use it, part it out on Craig’s List or eBay. Just the saw, even a warranted superior saw, ( almost always made by Disston or Atkins) is worth that. If you are doing repetitive work and don’t want the noise of a chop saw, they aren’t much slower. It takes more time to measure than to saw.

    I used a Miller Falls box for 25 years and only went electric in the 1990’s because the company I worked for paid half, and the fellows I had to share my box with weren’t very careful. A circular saw blade is disposable and the boss paid for them.

    My box could go a couple more lifetimes, but I take care of it ( it has its own box). When I retired it was the electric tool I let go. A hand box will often cut larger trim. And at the end of my career people wanted lots of the big stuff. Most of the abuse the boxes took was on the ride home in the back of the pickup surrounded by shovels.

    I have a very nice 28”x 5” saw (tooth line) made for a Stanley box that I could be persuaded to part with if you are looking for a saw. It still has 4 3/4” left on the plate. It turns out Stanley saws use a thicker plate than Miller Falls provided, and changing over every time I want a sharp saw is not a simple task. It’s quicker to just sharpen the saw.

    And when you get it you can haul the saw out when people start bragging about their big dovetail or tenon saw.

    ( Stanley #4 for scale )

    Attachments:
    #603575
    Ed
    Participant

    So, there are actually two there. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down the model numbers. One has a clear scale, white on black, obviously marked in degrees. The other had large numbers (0, 24, 12,…) that were part of the casting. It had a product tag/plate. I’d guess this second one was older. Is that enough info to guide which of the two to choose? My impression was that the one with cast number moved better, but it wasn’t clear if you could set it to angles other than the listed ones where there were stops.

    Are these miter boxes good enough for mouldings and other cabinet work, or are they only precise enough for house trim?

    I already scare people. My “dovetail” saw is a 14″ Disston. Someone had a new fancy dovetail saw, light and precise, so I ran a cut with it, then pulled out my big honkin’ saw, and mine had just as fine a cut….but it cut about three times faster.

    I don’t know enough about these beasts to know if all the parts are there. Anything special to look for? I’d be relying somewhat on my sense that the previous owner was skilled and meticulous. The man has been dead for who knows how long and every saw I picked up was perfectly sharp. I found files he ground for lathe work and bought his ancient Thor grinder. When I spun it up, it hummed a perfect unwavering note and didn’t vibrate at all spinning up or spinning down.

    #603678
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    Don’t worry too much about the numbers. With Stanley boxes they mostly described the saw that came with it in depth and length.

    If the box has 6” posts, you need a 6” saw. I have both size posts for my box, but I never bought the 6” saw. I figured I could get one used if I needed to. Never did. THose saws are heavy beasts. The length of the saw mostly had to do with lots of cuts at a steep angle. A longer saw took fewer strokes. A sharp saw matters more.

    I think every pro miter box had stops at 5°,9°,22.5°, and 45° so you didn’t have to lock the frame. Some had 30° The small numbers were standard angles for door and window sills.
    They will cut any angle, though. It just requires you to lock the frame with a lever. The box with the numbers tell you what sided polygon miter the saw would cut at that angle. So for 4, you were cutting a 45° angle for a square cut to make a regular four sided polygon. Old timers went to work before they taught degrees … So yeah, that’s the older one. Transition boxes had both the numbers and degrees. Newer boxes had only degrees.

    I think that’s also why roof pitch is traditionally specified in inches rise per foot run.

    This fellow explains it here:

    He explains some of the things to look for by way of missing parts. I think the rods are 5/16” drill rod or something like that . I bought some for my box for longer cuts and made my own. You do need the stop castings for repetitive work or make one from hardwood and some thumbscrews. And the doohickey for the saw to drop is nice, but not essential. I used a Stanley box for a couple years before I knew such a thing existed.
    Look around the shop before you leave. I’m not an expert on Stanley boxes. I used em, but never owned one. The Miller Falls was a little lighter, would break down smaller for travel, and had very few settings that could go out of adjustment. It seems the Stanley guys were always adjusting their angle settings. ( hint, it’s an eccentric cam under the pivot point), either that, or they needed something to blame their open joints on. 😉

    And I think some Stanley boxes were extendable for width of cut, but don’t hold me to that. Some had wood tables and some didn’t. The wood tables need replacing once in a while. My box had a metal groove the saw dropped into below the table height. If you didn’t adjust it properly, you either didn’t saw all the way through the work, or you dulled your saw instantly. I usually set a folded business card in the groove and set to that. It gave just the right clearance. You have to change that setting each time you sharpen the saw.

    The Miller f alls box just required you to jiggle the saw with a flick of the wrist to drop it onto the cut. The Stanley box requires the thingy you clamp onto the saw. With both systems, you needed to play with the settings a little the first time you used it.

    I think he misspoke on the saw. It usually was the tooth line length that mattered. My Miller Falls saw is marked 26” and is 33” OA. The Stanley 28” saw is actually 35” long.

    My Box is actually like the Miller falls he has box except it had a different stop system. I bought mine in 1972 ($100 Brand new with saw! That was real money.) and I don’t think they still made the one he shows. I think production stopped shortly after I bought mine.

    And don’t worry about it cutting 60°. I almost never had to cut that and if you do, you just cut a 45° block to work against. Stanley boxes often had a hole in the thumbscrews you could put a nail in for leverage. The MF boxes had larger holes in the thumbscrews that a nail set would fit in. Almost every detail on those old boxes was well thought out. You just have to discover them.

    Here is a picture of my 26” saw for my Miller Falls, and the 28” Stanley model note the angle on the rear of the plate. Since it was behind the front post, teeth there make no sense on a miter box saw.

    Note also a hole at the front of the saw back on both saws. They didn’t come like that. Craftsmen drilled them and put a bent nail there so you couldn’t pull the saw past the rear post and ruin your work.
    I’ll bet your guy did that too.

    If he took care of his tools, I’d get every tool of his I could afford. Be fair to the heirs. Carpenters of that era weren’t very rich. I got a lot of my tools from guys just retiring. If you low balled them, everybody in town would give you the stink eye. I made sure I wasn’t put in that position.

    • This reply was modified 11 months, 1 week ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 11 months, 1 week ago by Larry Geib.
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    #603893
    Dave Ring
    Participant

    $50 is an OK price IF it comes with a good sharp saw and there are no major missing parts. These things tend to go cheap as there isn’t much demand for them and they are space hogs. Mine (a Millers Falls Acme) gets a lot of use.

    Dave

    #603963
    Ed
    Participant

    There was a 358 and a 2358 available. The 2358 seemed to have less slop, but it didn’t have the depth stops (not a big deal), and I don’t understand how the 2358 releases the saw from the lifted position. On the 358, you either hit the guide with the finger that clamps to the saw, or you flick it with your own finger. On the 2358 it seemed you needed to reach back and release a catch on the rear guide, then release a catch on the front guide. This seemed inconvenient, or there are missing parts. So, I skipped the 2358 and bought the 358.

    The 358 has nearly everything. The finger that mounts on the saw and the stock guides that clamp the stock to the fence are missing, but the thumb screw and clip that secures the stock guide were both there. It would be easy to make a new stock guide, but I can probably use any old clamp. The cutoff (length) stop, pointed feet, depth stop, and rigidity bar were all present.

    There’s a clamping lever under the swivel that is supposed to lock the movement, but either I don’t understand it, or it doesn’t work. It just looks like a piece of metal that swivels on a screw without connecting to anything.

    I could still go back and get the 2358. Can someone tell me how the saw release is supposed to work on that (the release to drop the saw down onto the work).

    By the way, the sloppiness in the 358 may simply be that the saw plate is thin for the setting of the uprights and they just need a slight twist. The sloppiness is small…I can wiggle things a bit, but it doesn’t really seem to matter (affect the angle). I just noticed there was zero of this wiggle in the 2358.

    It looks like the 358 did a fair bit of work and the 2358 was only used a little. Or, maybe he recently changed the wooden deck, but it just had a little bit of a cut at 90 and a scratch at left-45.

    #603966
    Ed
    Participant

    I figured out the clamping lever- It just holds the release up if squeeze the release and then flip the catch over.

    If you don’t squeeze the release on this miter box, you can still move swivel (change the angle). It’s sort of stiff, but for a bunch of repeat cuts, I’d be nervous. Is this normal? Is there a way to tighten things so that the release must be squeeze to move the angle?

    The only damage I’ve found so far is that the rear screw for the stiffening bar will not tighten. It is as if it is retained, but sheared off. I’ll need to take it apart and see what’s up.

    This is looking like a good find.

    #604017
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    On the 2358 it seemed you needed to reach back and release a catch on the rear guide, then release a catch on the front guide. This seemed inconvenient, or there are missing parts. So, I skipped the 2358 and bought the 358.

    Without a picture I don’t know which box is which, but if it’s a box that doesn’t have a rod connection between the front and rear post, the usual way you release the saw is to snatch up the saw at the front post and hit the lever on the front post with the saw back to release the saw near the handle, then drop your hand so the saw is pointing up towards the rear. That will make the saw back hit the rear lever to release the saw at the rear post. Then you lower the saw onto the work.

    You shouldn’t have to flip any lever with your hand with either style. The system is designed so you can load the work with both hands while the saw is up, then hold the work with one hand and work the saw with the other.

    As to the tension on the slide, there were two things I remember. Some saws had a hole that you could puta brad in a hole to prevent the tapered pawl from slipping into its notch if you were close to a predetermined angle but wanted to be just off it. And underneath that area was a screw to adjust the tension or drag on the swing arm. You could make it stiff or loose.

    And some boxes had a place you could put a screw in that locked the saw swing arm against the sector where the angles are shown if you are doing repeat cuts.

    It was all a little fiddle to me, and that’s another reason I went with the Langdon-Acme-Miller Falls product. You just turned a lever to lock the box anywhere, or you used the notches – either system independently.

    But once you figure it out you should have a good box.

    And here is some literature on the 2358 type

    https://archive.org/details/StanleyMitreBoxesNos224422462358/page/n1

    • This reply was modified 11 months, 1 week ago by Larry Geib.
    #604029
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    Ed-

    Looking at the 2358 again, it’s the Stanley box that best duplicates the release mechanism on the Langdon Acme box.

    It has a pawl on each post ( the fixed part) that can be adjusted with a thumb screw to either hold the saw up really firmly or so it just barely stays up. (Or not at all) I set the rear post fairly firml and the front post so it won’t hold the saw up if the rear post is disengaged. Not a hair trigger, but close.

    To release the saw, I snatch up on the saw handle using the front post as a fulcrum which releases the rear post. It will drop a little. Then I drop my hand and the saw down. The front post won’t prevent you from doing that if it is adjusted properly.

    It’s all a one-handed operation. It might sound complicated. It isn’t.

    #613667
    Ed
    Participant

    So, I’m finally playing with this Stanley 358 miter box. I see how to get the saw to release, but what I don’t see is how to keep the saw from falling down onto the work when it is released. In other words, it’s a long heavy saw and, when the 2nd catch lets go, it just thwacks down. I’m missing something simple…

    Meanwhile, I need to figure out two adjustments: Making the saw plate plumb (it’s out a touch), and the depth of cut (which is a little too shallow). I think both are in the Stanley owners guide that’s here someplace….yeah, here it is: https://archive.org/details/StanleyMitreBoxesInstructionsFormNoA265

    Stanley instructions

    #613714
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    i pulled my box out, and I notice when I do it I pull the handle a little to one side to control the drop. It’s not enough to bend the saw or anything. Just enough that it increases the friction on the posts. See if that helps.

    #613760
    Ed
    Participant

    That helped, although for me it turned out that twisting the handle worked even better than pulling to one side. Lubricating the rods also helped.

    I’m playing with mitering some little bracket feet for a box. Each is about 1″ tall and about 2″ long, so the miter runs along the 1″ dimension. It was easy to tune the miter box to give me plumb cuts and accurate miters, but I must say that I’m finding the saw heavy and awkward to control for this small work. Also, the kerf and roughness of the cut are a bit too much. The latter could be improved by changing the sharpening, but the overall sense of everything being too big for the finesse I’m after seems like it might be just how it is. In the past, I’d have made a miter board to guide my tenon saw. This gives zero clearance cuts and lots of control, but the miter guide board wears quickly. Still, I’m thinking of going back to making one for these bracket feet. Maybe with more time and experience the miter box will be the ticket???

    #614168
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    The Stanley box saws were thicker plates than the MF ones, as I recall. I bought one as a spare, but it won’t fit in the slots in my box. The MF plate is .035” and the Stanley is .057.
    They are thicker to make them stiff so they track accurately. And they should have an aggressive cross cut sharpening and not much set. Try stoning the sides with a fine diamond paddle or old stone. I put blue tape on Each side and hone to that.
    A well tuned saw gives a very smooth cut, and it should be the sharpest saw in your quiver. If you know a good sharpener, this is the saw to spend the money on, at least so you know the goal. for most of my career the company paid for my sharpening. 290 teeth is a lot of sharpening.

    Once you lower the saw, don’t try to lift it. Just let the saw and gravity do the work. Concentrate instead on keeping the work still.

    For lube, I found a Teflon dry lube works best and doesn’t attract dust that gums things up. Otherwise you have to be fussy about cleanliness. Sewing machine oil was in everybody’s kit before that. 3 in 1 is too thick.
    Just a drop or two of one of the bike lubes works great ( Finish Line or White Lightning). It won’t affect finishes. It should seem frictionless, which is why lots of the old saws have a hole for a nail at the end of the back so you don’t accidentally pull the saw off the rear post. The underside of the saw back that rides on the bearings should be polished, especially if your model has springs at the bottom that held the saw up at the end of cut.

    • This reply was modified 10 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 10 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 10 months ago by Larry Geib.
    #614372
    Ed
    Participant

    Are you saying you used blue tape as a spacer and stoned the set back to that?

    #614458
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    Are you saying you used blue tape as a spacer and stoned the set back to that?

    Yup. almost all saw sets put too much set in fine teeth even at the smallest setting. (My saw has 11 TPI) The 2” blue tape I use is about as thick as a sheet of typing paper (.1 mm or .00254 in). A standard set for sawing in dried wood is .003” or a little less each side, for a total set of about .005”. That’s plenty for a smooth saw in dried wood ( lubricated, of course). Since the saw is guided, you don’t have to allow set for bad technique.
    If your tape is thinner, use two strips on each side. There is no standard tape thickness, so you have to experiment a little.. you can oso use stoning to control how the saw cuts. If the saw drifts to one side, Stone a little more on that side. I usually use a worn out 600 grit diamond stone, but a diamond paddle also works well.

    An alternative is to wrap one or two sheets of paper around your sawteeth and squeezethem in a smooth jaw vice really hard. In that case, the paper is incompressible but lets the teeth break through for an even set. If you have a thick saw, I don’t know hor effective this would be.

    The thinner the set, the less wood you are removing. The limiting factor is friction in the cut. You don’t want that, but you do want the set even on all the teeth. And stoning removes any burrs left from sharpening. Before I started honing, I would only have the saw set every 3 or 4 sharpenings. The saw ran smoother on the 2nd or 3rd sharpening. So i honed My saws before I actually sharpened them myself. ( since I retired I sharpen them all myself)
    When I started in a joiners shop, the fellow who distributed paychecks every Friday would also sharpen whatever saws you handed him. Everybody always had a razor sharp saw. We had no idea how spoiled we were. he also went out to job sites and sharpened saws for those guys. This guy could do saws as fast as Paul does. his “ saw vise” was two boards clamped together and wedged in a door jamb.

    Keep in mind you only have to worry about the central 60% or so of the saw plate if you only use the saw in the box ( a good idea) you still have to joint and file the whole plate.
    A lot of your long saw never sees wood. Pull the saw all the way back, make a sharpie mark at the fence line, then push it forward and make a second mark in front of the post closest to you. You will see what I mean.
    If you want to use the saw outside the box, then worry about the whole plate.

    I used my saw once without the box as a dovetail saw to cut the pins and tails on the tail vise assembly of my workbench 45 years ago.those are 3”+ tails. It’s the only time I ever used the saw without the box. That was before I had a bandsaw- it’s actually what helped make me decide to buy a used bandsaw – LOL.
    Still have it- and the bench. They have travelled 3,000 miles from their origins with me.

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