After reading an article by Ron Herman in the Woodworking Magazine Blog, and the companion article in Popular Woodworking Magazine, I wanted a good miter box with its matching backsaw. Why? Because I can use it even when the power is off; because I don’t need dust collection for it; because…That’s what I kept telling myself, and it is also what I told Sandy. Of course, she understood what I meant: “…I need a miter box because they are cool, and because Ron Herman wrote that they are cool…” Really. They are cool. And they are also very accurate, as I later found out.
I advertised in the regional edition of a well-known online web site, and a few days later I received an e-mail that a man in the region had a Millers Falls miter box with saw, for $60. After some communication back and forth, we agreed on $40 for the miter box with its massive companion backsaw. I brought them home (about $20 in gas for the truck), cleaned up some of the grime on the box that accumulated in a basement for decades, and tried them out.
Everything works great; I had to use a little WD-40 to loosen machine screws, and to help with grime removal from the metal surfaces. Corrosion has done away with much of the nickel plating on the box, but a) it is complete, and b) everything works great. The bearing surfaces on the saw guides are perfect, and the elevator pins work perfectly (WD-40-assisted), effortlessly locking the saw in the raised position. The swing lever works smoothly, and the locking levers snap perfectly at each automatic indexing notch. Finally, the lever clamp locks the swinging lever such that it cannot be moved at all.
With everything working properly, I went about making several cuts. The first cut was on thin quarter sawn sycamore, and later on 7/8″ thick quarter sawn white oak. Although the saw worked flawlessly, it seemed just a bit slow for 11TPI. I suspect that sharpening by a competent person will speed up the cutting action. Note to self: Learn to sharpen saws! Let’s see: I need a good saw clamp; and some files; and a head-mounted magnifier; and…I am sure I forget some items.
This is the 1285C, ready to go to work:
The back saw is massive: the blade is 28 inches long; it is 5 inches wide under the back, and it has 11 TPI (teeth per inch); the back is steel. The handle is some sort of hardwood; it has some nicks and paint splatter, and a hand-carved symbol that resembles the emblem of Zorro, the legendary masked hero. All the screws are tight, and the medallion is perfect and grimy. It appears to be a Disston #4 backsaw, from the 1940s, according to some of the saw experts on the WoodNet woodworking forum:
The blade is not etched with the Disston logo; in fact, some research suggested that it was never etched — it might have been painted on the blade — or not. The back is cast steel:
I waited until a few experts on old saws provided feedback on the best way to clean the grime from the blade, as I did not want to remove the nice patina from the blade. I wanted to remove only as much grime as possible. I finally cleaned the blade as much as possible, and applied some Boeshield T-9 as corrosion protection and lubricant.
While doing all this I also shot a 7-minute video of my first use of this miter box. If you have any suggestions on what else I should do to this miter box and/or backsaw, please leave me a Comment in the section below.
Millers Falls 1285 at Sandal Woods
Duration: 7:20 minutes
I learned the terminology for the miter box from the excellent manual Instructions and Parts List for Mitre Boxes by Millers Falls Co.; it is available available as a free download at WKfinetools.com .
— Al Navas