Category Archives: Handtools

Accurate sawing, off the grid – Miller’s Falls Langdon mitre box no. 75


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.

MF 1939 catalogue

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.


The mitre box finally arrived on the above date.



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.


The Wiktor Kuc experience


The first I heard of Wiktor Kuc was on a DVD by Chris Schwarz’s were he showed a North Brothers drill that Wiktor restored. I first got into contact with Wiktor Kuc via e-mail on 5/11/2014. He specialises in the restoration of various boring tools and in particular eggbeater-type hand drills. Wiktor was extremely helpful in terms of discussing the different models of handrills made by North Brothers, Goodell Pratt and Miller’s Falls that would potentially suite my needs. After quite a bit of that we decided on a Miller’s Falls no. 2 (ca 1938) as a general allrounder.

I managed to raise the dough by March 2015, which got me onto the waiting list. As you can see from the screenshot below, Wiktor sent my precious drill to me on the 10th of September. In other words, it takes some time, but believe me it is worth the wait.

I included the drill’s travel itinerary as it is quite amazing how it almost circumnavigated the entire globe to find me in Namibia. Another interesting thing to note is that it took only 11 days to go from Albuquerque to LA, LA to New York, New York to Washington, and Washington to Amsterdam. It then took a whole month from Amsterdam to Namibia!! They probably sent it with a long distance camel via the Sahara desert (or alternatively it might just have something to do with that old saying that goes “This is Africa”).


Anyway, the drill I received after all of this is poetry to say the least. I have to agree with Christopher Schwarz, that Wiktor restores these babies to a condition that is far better than when they were new in the mid 20th century. I have found that it can struggle a bit with the extremely hard native woods I work with predominantly, but it takes no prisoners in slightly softer species. For the real hard stuff I found a Goodell Prat no. 5½B from Jim Bode that has two speeds, but it has not arrived yet. I will report on that in a future post.


Wiktor is already working on a North Brothers no. 1530 for me to take care of smaller drilling jobs. I can highly recommend his work and customer service. Thank you Wiktor!

… because I want to be like David Charlesworth


Stanley no. 5 1/2 C (ca 1902-1907) rehab

I bought this plane from Jim Bode in August of 2015. It is my 4th no. 5 and 5th Jack plane (if I include my shop made wooden Jack plane). Why, … because I want to be like David Charlesworth, that is why! It is more than an adequate reason to buy another Jack plane in my book. David is such an icon to me, I just love his meticulous and cerebral approach to the craft.

In the interest of woodworking ethics/morality, I should probably say to the beginners out there (who wants to be like me … did I say that out loud?), that you do not need 5 Jack planes. In fact ,you do not need any other bench plane than a single no. 5. The problem is that I like the tools of the trade as much as the trade itself.

This plane seems to be David Charlesworth’s favourite as it is never far from his reach in those famous Lie-Nielsen DVDs. The no. 5½ was made between 1898 – 1958 and this particular specimen is a Type 9, which were made between 1902 – 1907. The pictures below are those taken by Jim, before it traveled to Sub-Sahara Africa.


Kenny at the Prop Shop did the usual bead blasting for me.


I actually prefer the Type 8’s frog receiver to these, but they are still pretty good. Stanley changed the frog receiver in 1902 as indicated by the patent dates in the main casting. They did this to cut the time and cost of production, not as an improvement in function. The slippery slide towards poorer quality at a higher price is probably what led to the emergence of so called ‘tool shaped objects’ that we are so familiar with in the 21st century.This particular plane does not have the frog adjusting screw, which was added to the Bailey series from 1907 onwards.


One of the reasons I like this plane so much is that it does not have anything cast into the area of the main casting behind the frog. I find the smooth surface much more comfortable when putting firm thumb pressure in this area, … you’ve guessed it … ala Charlesworth.


Rust converter.


Anti-rust undercoat.


High gloss truck enamel paint.



This past weekend I managed to assemble the plane.


Sorry for the poor quality of this picture, but you should be able to see that I did some work to flatten the area where the blade beds down …


… as well as the frog receiver area.


David Charlesworth eat your heart out.


I have already done some work with this plane and it is an absolute gem.

Disston back saw (ca1887)


I bought this beautiful saw from Jim Bode Tools in June and organised for them to first send it to Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Tool Works for a proper sharpening.

Mark had the following to say when he received the saw: “It’s a VERY nice 1887 saw from the PHILAD’A era (1887-1896) in impeccable condition. The only thing that needs to be done to it is to retooth the asymmetrical toothline”. 



I received it together with another saw Mark sharpened for me on the above date packaged as illustrated below. I will write a separate post on the mystery saw in future.


OK you can have a sneak preview of the mystery saw to wet your appetite.


Didi got stuck into testing it out before I could even remove the Bad Axe Business card.


I have to say that Mark did a sterling job of sharpening this saw as it cuts exceptionally well. I have no hesitation in recommending Mark to anyone who wants to get a saw sharpened to absolute perfection.

My new Disston also fits my hand like a glove and therefore became my favourite saw within days. It was already used on several tasks while finishing my most recent bench.


Shaw’s Patent rehab

July 2014

I bought this plane back in July 2014 from Patrick Leach. It is a Sargent no. 14C Jack plane. This is Sargent’s equivalent of a Stanley no. 5. It is known as a Shaw’s Patent, after it’s inventor who was assigned the patent for this plane’s adjustable frog on the 3rd of July 1906. If you want to know more you can go here and read Patrick Leach’s so called “Blood and Gore”.

From what I can deduct they were only made between 1910 and 1918. What is confusing though, is that I also found a type study on these planes that dates the different appearances of the trademark on the lever cap. According to that, this plane is a type 4, and is dated as 1919-1942. So maybe that means that the main casting dates back to 1910-1918 and the levercap from a bit later, not sure.

In the picture below it is the plane at the top. It was taken prior to it’s trans-Atlantic journey. The plane actually traveled in two different shipments. I received the frog, blade, chip breaker, tote, knob and levercap in October 2014. The main casting only arrived in February of this year.



Unfortunately, I did not take a picture after bead blasting, but my usual sequence of steps are well documented in previous posts on this topic. Simply click “Rehabilitation of old tools” category on my website’s side bar for a selection of posts on the topic.


The picture below illustrate the frog’s mating surface on the main casting. It runs parallel to the sole of the plane, which is helpful in that the set of the blade does not change when the frog is shifted forwards or backwards. My only gripe with Sargent planes is that the machining on the two planes I have is pretty poor compared to Stanleys. You might actually notice it in the picture below.


Here I am busy flattening the frog’s mating surface and again the poor quality machining is quite obvious. To be fair, I must also say that the levercap appears to be similar to much earlier Stanley models in the quality (in other words quite elegant) of machining. The frog was plated with cadmium as a rust prevention treatment and aesthetic enhancer.


The horn of the tote needed repair as well. It is the tote on the left in the second picture.


I did this rehab at the same time as that of the Stanley no. 8 pictured with the Shaw’s Patent below.



I sharpened the blade with a fairly aggressive camber as this will become my aggressive Jack plane used in tandem with a shop made scrub plane. You will notice that the levercap also received the cadmium plating.


The plane’s first job turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. It worked really well, but it was the amount of work that caused the trauma. You can read more about that here.


I have to say that this is a very good plane after a bit of tuning. The design of the adjustable frog gives it a bit of an edge over similar Stanleys. However, everything has it’s pros and cons.

Stanley no. 8 Jointer (ca 1899-1902) rehab


I bought this Stanley no. 8 from Patrick Leach way back in September 2014. I usually get him to hold on to tools I buy until we have enough merchandise to justify a fixed price shipment. The plane therefore only set foot on Namibian wood (so to speak) by end of October 2014.

It seems to be a so called Type 8, made between 1899-1902. Patrick thought it was a Type 7 as he had it down as ca 1896. He is the expert, but as far as I can tell from my research, it is a Type 8 for having a B casting mark at the bottom of the frog. The Type 7 is supposed to have a S casting mark according to my reading.


Anyway, that is all quite boring and of purely academic interest, although I must admit I find it riveting. Yes I know … loser!

In the picture below you can see it hanging with some other tools in Ashby MA USA. I bought it at a cheaper price (certainly not cheap for you American boys, who can probably buy it at a quarter of the price at a flea market) due to the fact that it has a hole drilled at the heal of the main casting. Tradesmen used to do this in order to hang the plane on the wall. Apparently this atrocious violation of the plane’s integrity renders it as worthless to a collector. I am so very happy that collectors hold this view as it meant that I was able to afford one of the best planes in my working collection.


Here are a few pictures after it arrived at my shop.


In my opinion the frog’s bedding area on the main casting is one of the two design elements of these planes that make them so good. It is parallel to the sole and relatively large compare to later offerings.


As per usual by now, I took the plane apart and divided the parts into two plastic bags. One for bead blasting only and the other for the aforementioned as well as cadmium plating. Once again I have to warn you that philistine practices such as radical restoration would induce an epileptic seizure in your average collector and significantly reduce the value of the plane to him/her once they regain consciousness postictally. I seem to be immune to this particular ailment.


Back from Kenny at the Prop Shop.


I usually treat the raw metal with rust converter first. I have no idea whether this is a good idea, but it seems to create a very nice grippy surface for the layers of paint to follow. That is followed by a layer of anti-rust paint (not pictured) that is orange in colour. Finally followed by three layers of what is called high gloss truck enamel paint.



As you can see from the date above, this project then went into hibernation for some time. The tote on the right is this plane’s. It received a Woodock treatment after these pictures were taken to make the repair less obvious.


Next came the key mating surfaces. I flattened these carefully with a range of different techniques. What I realise is that the machining on these planes are significantly superior to the later models I have reconditioned. That saying about things that used to be better back in the day rings true in this particular case. You can also appreciate what cadmium plating looks like as the frog received such treatment.


This next picture illustrate the second reason why these planes are so much better than later models. Just look at the large flat areas that supports the back of the blade. As you can see, I did some extra work to ensure that it is super flat.


One reconditioned granddad looking like the business at the ripe old age of 115.


The Bad Axe experience


In this post I would like to highlight what it is like  to deal with Mark Harrell from Bad Axe. The short answer is that it is the best customer service I have ever encountered, but I am sure you want to know a smidgen more.

I first e-mailed Mark on the 13th of April 2015, with some questions regarding the process of getting a custom saw built. He replied the same day and explained the process. We then went into an e-mail discussion where I told him what I want to do with the saw and he advised me what would work best for that purpose.

I ended up ordering two saws. One for my cousin in Cape Town and one for me. I asked Mark to send both saws to Cape Town to save a bit on shipment cost. The picture below show the saws in the Bad Axe workshop before leaving on it’s journey to SA. It is a Roubo Beast Master (Filing: Hybrid-Cut , Pitch: 9 ppi, .0315-Gauge Plate , Back: Copper-Plated Steel , Species: Texas Honey Mesquite , Fasteners: Black-Oxided/Gun-Blued Steel Slotted-Nuts , Size: regular ) and a 12″ Hybrid Dovetail/Small Tenon Saw  (Filing: Hybrid-Cut , Pitch: 14 ppi , Gauge: .02 , Sawback: Copper-Plated Steel , Handle Type: Open Disston Pattern , Species: Wisconsin Black Walnut , Fasteners: Black-Oxided/Gun-Blued Steel Slotted-Nuts , Size: large)


Here they are after the arduous journey at my cousin’s practice in Cape Town on June the 16th. He is a Urologist, but promised that he would not use it in theatre. It might cause damage where it is not needed.

Sae by Jogy

… and finally in my shop in Windhoek. I picked mine up during a recent trip to SA.


My monster is absolutely sublime. It compares very well with my Disston no. 12’s. I need to cut some massive tenons in the next few weeks and will sure post on that experience, but for now I can only say that the whole experience of dealing with Mark Harrell and Bad Axe Tool Works has been a pleasure.

Thank you Mark, you are a legend!

Stanley no. 66 beadingtool rehab


This is a pre-1900 Stanley no. 66 beader that I bought from Patrick Leach. If you consult the appropriate chapter of his epic work entitled “Patricks Blood and Gore”, you will find that pre-1900 beaders were japanned and later models were nickel plated. I got it bead-blasted to remove all the old japanning before redoing it with my usual sequence of potions. I wrote extensively about this in previous posts concerned with this topic so I will not repeat all that here. The Jack plane in the background is a so called Shaw’s Patent by Sargent, which I am also working on at the moment. I will write a post on that process in due coarse.


I bought a set of beading tool blades from Lie-Nielsen some time ago and they fit this Granddad perfectly. For US$ 45 and a bit of elbow grease I have a new and highly respected classic tool. Those of you who (undoubtedly) thinking to yourself well I can buy one of those for $5 at a garage sale, shame on you. This is just another example of how lucky you are. To me here in the sticks, this is a very cheap option and it does not even include the arm and a leg it cost me to get it here from the US.


In the pictures below you can see where it found a home on my so called Hovering Skeleton Chest.


Shop made Fidgenian frame saw – part 3


I had the pleasure of finishing this Tom Fidgen inspired frame saw over the weekend. If you missed the first two posts in this series, click these links:

Part 1

Part 2

I treated the Kershout with Tung Oil followed by a coat of Woodoc.



One last foto pre-assembly.




My righthand man Connor (my son’s best mate) had the honour of first handling the assembled saw. As you can see it came out pretty nice.  Kershout is really one of the most beautiful wood species from this part of the world.




Unfortunately, I have not been able to weigh it yet, but will post the weight as soon as I have it.  However it felt reasonable during a test cut, but I will have to report on how it feels after a few heavy re-sawing cuts. Before I can do that I need to build a kerfing plane. I have an idea which departs significantly from Tom Fidgen’s model, but you will have to wait with me to see if it works, otherwise we will revert to his version.

Shop made Fidgenian frame saw – part 2


Finally the next chapter in this fascinating series arrive to ease the eager anticipation of the woodworking proletariat.  If you missed part one, simply click the link. Since part one of this story I’ve realised that it is a lot more work than the previous two saws I’ve built.

In the pictures below you can see how I started to shape some of the parts. The Kershout is so freaking dense and heavy that I really had to remove as much timber as possible to reduce the weight.


I first tried to use my vintage Witherby drawknife to remove material from these long sections (not sure what the correct term is for these parts), but the wood is simply too hard. Then I tried the bow saw I built recently, followed by a Veritas spoke shave and it worked much better.


I reassembled the saw to check that the chosen shapes work aesthetically.


As you can see, I did not do myself any favours in terms of reducing weight with the dimensions of the steel I chose for the hardware. That is because I usually use the bits of scrap (that I collect religiously) lying around the shop rather than to go and buy stuff.


This piece of steel is meant to protect the wood from potential damage by the tensioning bolt.


Then followed the careful shaping and smoothing phase. You will notice the range of tools used sitting on my bench.


This is a picture I was reluctant to share, but decided that it would be silly not to. What I needed to do here was to fill quite a few wood borer holes with epoxy. It must be borer that did it’s damage while the tree was still alive or at the very least still green, as the wood is simply too hard for borer now. Looking at the stuff I had to dig out of the holes they had severe constipation even at that stage. I knew about these imperfections from the start. It is a fairly frequent obstacle I face while working with the feral woods of the Knysna Forest.

It simply serves as a reminder to all of you out there who can walk into a lumberyard and choose from board after board of perfect wood that you are very lucky. So remember that.


… and finally a brief preview of what’s to follow in part 3.