It has been quite a few years now since becoming disillusioned with the DeWalt radial arm saw that used to belong to my father. I used to think that it is the best thing since cream cheese, but realise more and more as time went on how inaccurate and dangerous the thing is. It takes ages of fiddling around and making copious test cuts to get it to saw square in two different planes. Then you might get two descent cuts and before you know it the blade grabs the stock and the setting is lost again. It also tends to burn the incredibly hard African timber I work with.
So I decided to look for an alternative solution. My research into the topic of mitre saw boxes confirmed that the Langdon ACME no. 75 would be my first choice. Some of the literature on the Old Tool Haven website suggests that “the Langdon Acme miter box represented the zenith of the Langdon Mitre Box Company’s achievements“.
After waiting patiently for the desired mitre box to become available, I finally bought a Langdon ACME from Jim Bode. Kathryn who is my usual contact person at Jim Bode Tools, was so kind as to send the Simonds saw (that came with it) to Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Tool Works for a sharpening.
Mark had the following to say about the mitre box/saw combination: “NICE score on the Millers Falls No. 75 miter box setup. I have the exact same large miter box and saw here at the shop. The saw’s manufacture happened at some point BEFORE 1928, when Simonds abruptly ceased making hand and backsaws. There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding that, because they were competing quite nicely against Disston. My theory is some sort of dope deal transpired between the two manufacturers. I do know that of all Disston’s competitors (that they couldn’t either drive out of business or buy out), Simonds’ quality and marketing ran toe-to-toe against Disston. In any event, they quite surprisingly quit making hand and back saws in 1928—so, your saw pre-dates that.”
I tried to zoom in on Mark’s dating by looking at the mitre box. From looking at the Old Tool Haven write-ups the saw box was made after 1906 when Millers Falls bought the Langdon Mitre Box Company as mine has the Miller’s Falls brand name on it. Further more it has a 1909 patent date on it, thus after 1909 then. The pictures below show how the plate looked like before the Miller’s Falls takeover and what the mitre box in question looks like.
The following picture from the MF 1939 catalogue show a slightly more evolved mitre box, so mine should be older than that.
I then had a look at the saw to see if that can help us to zoom in on the date of manufacture. I already knew it pre-dates 1928 from Mark Harrell’s information. According to the Saw Nuts website this medallion was used between 1922-1926. Thus this setup was probably manufactured during the early to mid 1920’s.
As a result of making a detour via Bad Axe Tools, the Simonds saw arrived a month later. Mark did an absolutely brilliant job of sharpening this beast, it is lethal.
I noticed that although I took every precaution to set it up perfectly, the saw drifted ever so slightly to the right. Luckily my personal tool historian/magician Bob Demers (The Valley Woodworker) mentioned to me last year that it might well do something like that. I therefore asked him how to fix the problem. This was his advise:
After making sure that the box is mechanically “tuned” to cut 90 degrees and the saw sharpened correctly. Having been done by no less than Harrell, you bet it is,
then comes the fine tuning of the saw set.
Unless the saw sharpener has the box with him, it is impossible for him to know witch way to tweak the saw set.
You see if the saw want to naturally favour one side or the other (Not following a straight line) it is because there is a tad more saw set on the offending side and it is compound by the small mechanical errors introduced by the box mechanisms .
The set being slightly more on that one side the saw is cutting an asymmetrical kerf and want to drift toward that side.
Think of two guys paddling a canoe. If one guy is paddling a tad stronger on one side, the canoe will drift toward that side.
We are not talking of much of a difference so go easy….
The way to fix that is by GENTLY running a mill file (no handle) with NO pressure or a oil stone (must be flat, and never a waterstone, too soft) on the side the saw is drifting toward
That action will just abrade the tip of the offending saw tooth set. Go easy, you do not need much to teak it.
Re check the action after each pass, often 1 or 2 pass is all that is needed.
You will probably hear or feel the file when it catch the offending proud saw tooth.
So if that is all, why don’t the saw filer do that themselves?
Because even if the saw was perfectly tuned to go straight, there is still some minutes mechanical things in the box itself which could force it ever so slightly left or right
What we are doing in effect, is tweaking THAT saw for THAT mitre box
Hence why you must ensure first to eliminate all gross errors in the box mechanism and ensure that the saw is travelling true.
Once that is done, it is simply a matter of tweaking the set of the saw to achieve a true cut.
To test how true the saw is cutting, flip over one cut piece and put it back against the other fresh cut. They should lay flat and straight.
The error you see is TWICE the actual error that way
NEVER force the saw to correct a wandering cut. ALWAYS let the saw cut the way it wants.
As we often says: Get out of the way, let the saw cut. It want to cut straight that way, let it
Once the saw AND the box are adjusted to each other, it is possible that a check with a square will reveal a small error, but the saw will still cut square.
It is adjusted to that box…
At this point it is a wise idea to some how identify THAT saw goes with THAT box… Just saying, especially if you have a “few” 🙂
Once you get it as close as you can get it, just remember that other ultimate weapon at our disposal: A shooting board and a freshly sharpen heavy plane 🙂
Hope this answer your question.
It is faster and easier to tweak it than to write about it 🙂
NEVER used a long mitre saw (23 to 28 in long), free hand outside its box. It will bend
The spine is not strong enough to resist bending forces, it is designed to be restrained by the saw box guides.
Now if that is not a master on this topic then I do not know who is!! Thanks Bob!
So that was exactly what I did and true as Bob (pun intended) it took two light touched with the mill file and it was humming to a perfect 90 degree with every single cut.
I know Patrick Leach often speak of the “tool model”. I mean no offence to Patrick, but I think this is the tool supermodel of the woodworking blogosphere. I might be slightly biased, but what the heck.
As you can see here the cut is sublime, all credit to Mark Harrell.