Langdon Mitre Box

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One of the nice things about my job is the autonomy I get when I travel through my sales territory calling on Lowe’s and Home Depot’s in Cincinnati, Dayton and Indianapolis. Often during lunch, I’ll stop by a nearby antique mall and look for old tools. Yesterday I was in an antique mall near Dayton when I stumbled upon this beast. I’ve been buying antique tools for over twenty-five years and have never seen a miter box like this at any tool auction, tool collectors convention or even eBay.

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It’s a huge Langdon Mitre Box with a Disston Miter Saw. On the front it has the patent date of Nov 15th 1864 and was made in Millers Falls, Mass. The front and the wood are painted green, but have no idea whether or not if it’s original paint.

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The saw’s blade is an incredible 7 1/2″ deep and still straight. The etching is barely visible and may be able to pop out with a little bit of restoration. This behemoth must be something they used to install the crown molding at The Biltmore Estate.

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The previous owner flipped the board upside down for some reason. I guess they felt it was nearly all used up so they wanted a fresh surface to cut on. I’m just glad they didn’t throw it away as it looks to be the original board.

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It’s a Disston Saw with an apple handle, but is marked Langdon Mitre Box on the spine. The main saw nut is dirty, but it’s stamped Disston and Sons. I think Langdon Mitre Boxes eventually became part of the Millers Falls Tool Company, but I’m not entirely sure.

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The saw has split nuts on the back which gives a clue as to how old it is. The problem is that I don’t know enough about saws to be able to date it, other than the 1864 patent date on the box. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was built during that time.

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Since I’m not too familiar with miter boxes, I was hoping you might be able to help me out.

1) Does anyone know anything more about this miter box? How rare is it?

2) How old is it considering it has split saw nuts?

3) Is the green paint original to the miter box?

Any information would be greatly appreciated!

UPDATE 6/22/14: It was recommended by Trevor that I contact “The Langdon Mitre Box Guy” John Leyden and see if he could give me any more information on the miter box. After I sent John an email, he was nice enough to respond and send me this link. http://oldtoolheaven.com/miter-boxes/northampton-langdon.html. The miter box and saw appear to be the same one I own.

Mid-West Tool Collectors Association

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Last Saturday morning I drove up to Columbus to attend the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association’s annual meeting. I left my house at 7:00 and arrived around 9:00am. The schedule they sent me said the tool room would be open from 6:30 -12:30 so I figured I had plenty of time to browse around. Well sure enough, as soon as I walked in the door, some of the dealers were already packing up and heading home.

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I wasn’t expecting to buy a lot anyway. I went just to meet and greet some of the fellows in the organization. I ended up meeting a fellow named Don from Wisconsin who told me that he owns 1900 molding planes. I was shocked! This guy was my hero. He pulled out a binder about four inches thick where he drew the molding’s profile and maker of each plane he has ever bought on a piece of paper. He said he would be selling off his collection in a couple of years so I gave him my card.

I asked a couple of dealers how the turn out was. They told me that over 300 people came to the show which was a little bit more than when it was in Springfield, MO last time. I zoomed around the room as fast as I could so I wouldn’t miss anything. I was able to take a few pictures of the displays before everything was packed up. By 10:30 the room was nearly empty.

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There were plenty of planes for sale, however the prices the dealers were asking were high. Coming to these conventions are fun, but don’t expect to walk out with deals. These guys know what their tools are worth. The main fun is seeing all the rare planes that you’d never spot in the wild.

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I was able to find a couple of deals. I bought two eggbeater drills for $20.00 each and an Ohio Tool Co No 8 Corrugated Plane for $15.00. The plane was repainted and had a Stanley No 8 blade in it. I’ll eventually part it out and sell the parts on eBay once I remove all the over sprayed paint from the plane.

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In the back of the room there were several displays set up to demonstrate certain tools and the year they were made. This display was of Stanley fiber board planes and the different styles they came in. I have no idea what fiber board planes do, but I think they were used on the exterior siding of houses. I guess I should have read the display. I probably would have learned something.

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If you ever have a chance to attend one of these meetings, I strongly suggest you get there on Friday. Saturday is the day they pack up and head home. From what the dealers were telling me, everyone set up in the parking lot Thursday night and all the heavy selling was done the next day. I have to work, so Friday’s don’t work too well for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Serving Tray

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My wife wanted me to make a serving tray with splayed sides for her. She had a similar one she bought, but wanted to know if whipping up another one for her was doable. I didn’t think it would take too long so I accepted the challenge. I thought all I had to do was cut four boards with 15 degree angles on each end, attach them together and lay some slats down the middle. Boy was I wrong!

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I started by milling up the stock by ripping a 2 x 8 lengthways in half on the table saw and planed the wood to 1/2″ with my surface planer. After the stock was milled, I left them alone for a few days to let them acclimate in my shop.

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The toughest part about making a serving tray with splayed sides is calculating the compound angles of the sides. When I first looked at the tray, it seemed like if I simply cut a couple of boards at 90 degrees with a 15 degree angle on each end, it would work, but it won’t. I’m no math teacher so I can’t technically explain the geometry that is at work here, but when the sides are splayed to 15 degrees, it changes the end cut by just a few degrees. If I took my bevel and laid it on the outside of the tray and compared it to my try square, you can see the slight difference. I guess another way to look at the geometry is if you cut a cone in half at 15 degrees then look down at the part that had just been cut off, the shape wouldn’t be a circle, but a slight ellipse.

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Trying to find the correct compound angle to cut the sides is simple if you know the trick. It starts with a piece of scrap wood with 15 degree angles cut on one side and one end. This piece will now be a jig to use to set up the miter gauge and saw blade.

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With the jig on it’s face, place it against the saw blade and swing the blade to match up with the other 15 degree angle. Now take your miter gauge and set it to the angle of the wood. Presto, there’s your compound angle.

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When cutting the parts you need to do like Roy Underhill and “keep your mind clear of impure thoughts.” It can get quite complicated figuring out which side of the blade you need cut your part on so that the two sides of the tray line up to 90 degrees. Testing on scrap pieces until you get the right cut is highly recommended. It took me nearly 30-45 minutes to figure it out.

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Ah, the pieces fit nicely and are square to one another.

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After the sides were cut I needed to cut a couple of handle holes which was no big deal. I used 3/4″ forstner bit and drilled five holes. Then I cleaned up between the holes with a paring chisel and rasps. Then I routed the top of the four sides with a 1/4″ round over bit.

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I glued and pinned the sides together with pneumatic nails. Then I attached thin strips to the sides so that I could attach the slats.

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I milled up sixteen slats 1 1/2″ wide with 15 degree angles cut on both ends. The two slats at each end of the tray had a 15 degree angle cut down one side to fit snuggly against the side. After lying all the slats to one side, I measured the gap that was left. The total was 11 1/4″. With fifteen spaces between the slats, that would give me 3/4″ of space between each slat.

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After a dry fit, everything looked nice.

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The dry fit worked well so now it’s time for the finish. I finished all the slats before attaching them to the tray because it would be a lot easier to apply finish that way. I started by dying the parts with walnut wood dye. This gave the wood an even darker tone and took a lot of the yellow coloring out of the pine.

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Next, I painted the parts with grey milk paint and let it dry for a few hours.

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After the milk paint dried, I mixed up a batch of paste wax. I used an Ebony colored wax, mixed it with a Clear wax so the color wouldn’t be so strong and applied a coat to all the parts. When I wiped off the excess, I glued and nailed the slats into place completing the tray. The wax colored the wood so dark that the pine looks like walnut now. My wife loves it! This tray could be used as a center piece on a dining room table or even hung on the wall in a kitchen as a piece of art.

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Restoring a Potting Table

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I bought this table last year at a flea market for $4.00. Missing the drawer, the guy selling it considered throwing the table away as he thought it wasn’t worth much. At the last minute, he decided to bring it to the flea market and see if anyone would buy it. Well I guess I was the sucker because I whipped open my wallet and handed him four crisp one dollar bills for it.

I’m not quite sure if the table was built with the two bins in it or if it was retrofitted later on with them. In any event, I decided to keep them and see if I could bring the table back to life.

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Other than missing a drawer, the real big problem with the table was that there was a piece missing off the front near the leg where the dowel joints failed. I shaved away the roughness of the front with a rasp so that I could attach a new piece of wood to it.

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Once I carved out a new piece out of poplar, I glued everything together. I’m by no means a carver, but I was satisfied with the end result. I knew the table would eventually be painted so it wasn’t a big deal if the moldings didn’t match up perfectly.

Next I had to make a new drawer. I grabbed some more poplar and traced out the front of drawer by mirroring the shape of the back of the table. I also had to shape the contour of the front to match the curve of the front of the table. I did everything on the band saw and smoothed the wood with rasps and sandpaper.

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Back to more carving. I used my carving chisels and scooped out the front to match the curvature of the molding. I then used my Dremel and carved a 1/16″ groove down the front to match the groove of the molding. It took about an hour to do all the carving.

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Deciding how to attach the drawer front to the sides of the drawer, I opted to simply use a stopped rabbet joint and pin the sides to the front. I considered using a router bit and my router table to cut the stopped rabbets, but I figured I could cut them by hand just a s quick. I used my marking knife and scored the fibers of the wood where I wanted the rabbet to be. Then I very carefully pared away the wood with a chisel. Once I got so deep, it became easier to remove the waste without damaging the drawer front. It was very similar to chopping out the waste on the side of a tenon.

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The drawer was built using 1/2″ poplar and 1/4″ plywood for the bottom. The biggest deal with making a drawer is making sure the thing is square. Having a drawer shaped like a rhombus is just asking for trouble.

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The running stick was still in the table so I had to make a new runner for it. Whipping one up on the table saw and fastening to the table was no big deal. In order for the drawer to run properly, I used double stick tape and fastened to the runner to make sure it was in the right spot. Once the drawer fitted perfectly, I glued the runner to the bottom of the drawer.

A few hours in the shop and the new drawer fits nicely in the table.

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The table had some water damage to the top which caused the veneer to chip and break away. Making a new top for the table didn’t appeal to me, so I tried and out-of-the-box approach. I mixed up a batch of auto body filler and spread it over the top where it was missing the veneer and left it to dry.

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I did this step outside because the body filler stinks to high heaven. After the Bondo dried, I sanded the high spots with 80 and 150 grit sandpaper.

Here’s the finished table with a few coats of paint. My wife Anita painted it and sanded through the coats to give the table a worn look. I don’t think the table turned out too shabby considering I only paid $4.00 for it.

Why my Wife Hates Woodworking Magazines

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I received the latest issue of a major woodworking magazine a few days ago and my wife Anita was flipping through it. She came across an article about making a cabinet that hid a high end mixer and in disgust, threw the magazine down and said “why would anyone make this piece of shit?” For years she’s been telling me that the projects in these woodworking magazines I subscribe to often have articles with outdated projects that were only popular in the 1980’s. I never really thought about it until she said that.

She does have a point. The writer of the article wrote that the “appliance garage acts like a cabinet effectively cloaking an unsightly blender.” I don’t know about anyone else, but my wife prizes her Kitchen Aid mixer. She would never even think about hiding it on her countertop. If anything, she would highlight it.

Don’t get me wrong, not all the projects in the woodworking magazines I get are outdated, but it does seem sometimes the furniture that are featured would look nice in my Grandma’s house. So much so, that when I look for designs of furniture that hip and popular, I often look at design magazines. Below is the latest issue of Country Living. When flipping through it, I came across several pieces of furniture that would appeal to a younger generation and would be fun to build.

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Here’s a nice deck lounge chair that looks like it would fit nicely on a cruise ship. The chair would be made out of weather resistant wood and would be a challenge to build with all the hinging and sculpted parts. This chair would look real nice on the cover of a woodworking magazine.

Here’s a simple bench made from reclaimed wood. These types of benches are real hot right now in the marketplace. In fact, anything made from reclaimed wood is hot. It’s hard to even find old barn wood on Craigslist in my area and when I do, the owner wants a premium for the wood. A project like this could be tackled in a weekend and would be a real hit with young women.

The real nice piece for me in the magazine is this architect’s desk that these ladies are sitting at. The wood looks to be made from stained maple or birch and apparently has some wrought iron hardware on it. It would be hard to draw a plan from this little photo, but it could be done. If a woodworking magazine featured this desk on their cover I bet it would be a hit.

These are just a few examples of the many furniture that are in these design magazines. If you have time, go to your local bookstore, grab a cup of coffee and browse through some of them looking for ideas. You may be surprised what inspires you. By the way, take a look at what is on the counter in the background on the cover of the Country Living magazine.

PS Wood Machines 21″ Scroll Saw

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A few weeks ago my wife and I went down to Louisville, KY for the day. There’s a new antique mall where we live called the Peddler’s Mall and noticed that there were several more of them in Louisville. So we figured we’d make a day of it and check out the malls down there. Well, the trip was nearly a waste of time as most of the stuff that was for sale in all of the Peddler’s Mall were junk. Nearly every booth was a bunch of yard sale crap where people would try to sell things like Scooby Doo drinking glasses for a buck.

Near the end of the day, I strolled down the aisle and caught my eye on an old scroll saw for $99.00. The saw was sitting on its stand in the back of the booth and had duct tape wrapped around it. I checked it over for a second and looked at Anita. She looked back at me and asked “what are you going to do with that thing?” I didn’t have an answer as I wasn’t in the market for a new scroll saw. So we left the mall and drove back home.

On my way back home I couldn’t get the saw out of my mind. I really didn’t need a new scroll saw as I don’t do all that much scrolling, but I have always longed to own a Hegner. Out of curiosity, I pulled up eBay on my phone and typed in “PS Wood 21″ scroll saw” and saw that used ones sell for $400. Ugh, I should have bought it!

A couple of weeks go by and my boss asked to do some market research in Louisville. The rep for Louisville, knew I was coming down to help him out with the research, so he asked if I wanted to have lunch with him at his favorite Chinese buffet. It sounded good to me, so he gave me the address. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot of the buffet, low and behold, the Peddler’s Mall with the scroll saw was right across the street. I told myself that after lunch that I was going back in to see if the saw was still there.

I walked into the store and went back to the booth. Luckily it was still sitting there for $99.00. I checked over the saw again and it seemed like everything was there. The only thing that it needed was a new diaphragm for the blower and a new belt. I asked a worker if there was anyway I could plug it in to see if the motor worked. She told me that there was an outlet up by the registers, so I picked up the saw and carried it all the way to the front of the store. I had to unwrap the duct tape that was holding the arms down so that they could move. As soon as I turned the switch on the saw worked just fine. Happily, I bought the saw and shoved it into my car.

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After cleaning the saw up a little bit, it worked fine. I bought the new blower and belt along with a selection of scroll saw blades to make the saw perform better. Now I wanted to snazz it up a little bit by adding a light to it so I could see what I was cutting. I ended up buying a cheap clamp-on light from Ikea for $15.00.

I needed a way for the light to hold onto the saw. I tapped the two holes on the left side arm and threaded a couple of screws into them to hold a wooden arm.

I wanted the light to have a cleaner look rather than just have it clamp onto a wooden arm. I drilled a hole through the top of the arm to be able to feed the wire of the light through.

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I carefully removed the clamp portion of the light and spliced the wire to feed it through the hole. I used electrical tape to re-attach the wires and hold everything onto the arm. I guess I could have painted the arm black for style points, but no one will probably see the saw other than me.

The light turned out well as it’s a much better scrolling with proper lighting. I’ll be using this saw for decades and loving it.

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What Do You Think of this Style of Furniture?

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Having a woodworking blog, I know that a lot of people who follow me are also woodworkers. And if I know woodworkers, it is that they love wood grain. So much so, that the whole idea of painting a piece of furniture that they make is often considered sacrilegious. However, I also know that many women who usually buy furniture for their home would rather have a piece of furniture that goes with their décor. Beautiful wood grain is something many of them don’t even think about when picking out a piece. So I decided to do a little nonscientific poll to see what people think of the following piece of furniture.

This is a buffet my wife bought at an auction. She wanted to paint the base, but leave the top a natural wood tone. She sanded the top and oiled it with hemp oil. Some people call this type of furniture restyle Shabby Chic. I’m not sure if this is technically Shabby Chic or French Country or whatever. My wife calls it Elegant Farm House style.

Below you can see some of the detail of the wood after it’s been painted. To me, the architectural details of the moldings stick out a little more and are not muddled in the wood grain when the piece has been distressed. But what do you think?

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Please feel free to Share this post. The more people who see it and vote, the better.

Making a Farm House Table

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My wife Anita was getting ready for a design show she was doing called Over the Moon in Lawrenceburg, IN. She asked me to make a farm house table from basic 2 x 8’s I bought from Lowe’s. So I bought the wood and laid out the boards on the floor to see how big of a table she wanted. We ended up deciding on a table that was around 3′ x 5′.

When I bought the lumber, I chose boards with the straightest grain possible with very little or no knots. However, most of the boards I chose were still high in moisture content so I had to let them acclimate in my shop so they could dry out a little bit.

After milling the boards to one inch thick, I stickered them on the floor and placed a fan near them to help the boards dry out a bit. I placed weights on the top board just to prevent it from cupping. The paper towel underneath the weight is to prevent the iron of the weight staining the wood.

After about a week, the boards were down to a workable moisture content. You wouldn’t think that simply laying boards down for a week would change the moisture content that much, but it did.

Anita already bought legs at an antique show back in the fall for about $10.00. All I had to do was make the frame and top and assemble it all together. I used a 3/8″ beading molding plane to put a bead on the sides of the table to give it a bit of detail.

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. I used pocket screws to attach everything together. The idea of a farm table is keep the joinery simple.

Anita stained the top with gel stain and painted the base with chalk paint. The table was too wide to get through my basement door so I had to finish it in the living room.

I asked Anita if she wanted me to attach the boards from the bottom so the fasteners wouldn’t show. She told me no. She said “just screw down the boards and fill in the holes with plugs”. So I did just that leaving about a 1/8″ gap between the boards for expansion and contraction of the wood. After I was done, Anita sanded the top again with 220 grit sand paper and reapplied some more stain.

This is how the table looked when it was done and ready for the show. Anita applied a dark wax to the paint to highlight the details of the legs. She also waxed the top to give it some luster.

You can see some of the dark wax detail here.

Anita posted this picture of the table on her Facebook account right before the show started. One of her followers saw the picture and private messaged her asking Anita to hold the table, however Anita never saw her message. When the show opened, the young woman ran to her booth and asked if the table was still available. Anita said it was and the woman bought it right on the spot. It’s nice to know someone likes my work. haha.

My 100th Post

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Well this is my 100th post on my blog. I just want to thank all of you who find what I write interesting enough to subscribe to my blog. It was just six months ago when I told everyone that I had 100 followers. Today I have 175 and growing.

I started this blog because for years I’ve always wanted to write a book about restoring antique tools similar to Michael Dunbar’s book Cleaning, Restoring and Tuning Classic Woodworking Tools. It’s been out of print for years and I felt that the it was a side of woodworking that wasn’t paid enough attention to. However, sitting down and writing a book is for the birds as I don’t have the patience for that. I could however take a bunch of pictures of tools I was cleaning up, write about the processes and throw them on a blog. That’s why a lot of my posts are about old tools. I don’t know if I’ll ever write the book about restoring old tools though. I just found out a couple of weeks ago that Popular Woodworking is working on a second edition of Dunbar’s book.

I never thought I would ever get anything out of this blog. I mean sure it would be nice to have some advertising on the side of the page and make a little bit of money off of it. Hell, I’d use the money to pay for my golf league or take my wife out to dinner. But I’m not doing this trying to make a living or make a name for myself. For the most part, no one even knows who I am. I’ve never been mentioned on any other woodworking blogs like Chris Shwarz’s blog or The Wood Whisperer. So the fact that I have 175 followers after a couple of years isn’t half bad.

I did get a call from American Woodworker magazine editor Glen Huey a couple of weeks ago. As you may know, F+W Media which owns Popular Woodworking bought New Track Media a few months ago which owns American Woodworker. With the change over, Glen was appointed to be the editor of Am Wood. He contacted me asking if I would be interested in writing a few articles about making furniture from construction grade material like 2 x 8’s or cheap hardwood like poplar. He has read my blog and was impressed with some of the stuff I’ve been able to make with it and thought it might make a good article for the magazine. I jumped at the chance as writing for woodworking magazines has been a dream of mine ever since I was 11 years old when I bought issue #3 of Wood magazine. I ran down to the corporate office in Blue Ash, OH last week and met with Glen for about an hour. I’m in talks with him right now about some ideas of furniture I could make so, hopefully I’ll have a couple of articles under my belt by the end of the year.

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