Chris Schwarz's Blog

About the Prices of Miter Boxes

Since Ron Herman’s excellent story on miter boxes appeared in the November 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, the price of these tools has gone through the roof, according to some tool collectors and sellers.

Carl
Bilderback, a semi-retired carpenter in Indiana, has been tracking the
prices on eBay and called me last night to report that one miter box
recently sold for almost $400. Plus the supply of these tools has been
growing on eBay now that these tools are fetching more than $20 (plus
shipping, which was usually more than the tool itself cost).

Now I
know that I’m an American, and I’m not supposed to ever use the word
“irony” correctly. (See also, Alanis Morrisette’s song “Ironic”). But here goes.

One
night after answering a bunch of e-mails from readers about where to
find a miter box saw (at any price), my youngest daughter dragged me
outside to practice volleyball with her. After a particularly vicious
return, the volleyball rolled into the neighbor’s yard.

Now I
hope my neighbors don’t read my blog. Especially this next line: Their
side yard is definitely decorated “Kentucky Style.” Two rusted
lawnmowers. A broken plastic swimming pool. Overturned gas cans. Rope.

So
I trod carefully down the tetanus trench to fetch the ball. And
clang. My foot hit something metal in the leaves. Yup – a miter box.
Somehow the saw wasn’t too rusted and the thing actually had all its
parts.

Maybe it’s just me, but that seemed ironic.

So here’s my advice:
Don’t try to buy a miter box on the Internet. That’s not where they are.
They are at almost every auction, garage sale and swap meet. Since that
article appeared I’ve acquired three miter boxes in fantastic condition
for the grand sum of about $40. All of them I bought in person. (No, I
won’t sell them to you. I’m cleaning them up as gifts to woodworkers who
haven’t been mean to me this year.)

Today I was reminded of how
awesome these tools are. I cut some moulding for a wall cabinet and the
miters fit seamlessly right from the saw.

So get off your
kiester and start looking for your miter box with your feet instead of
your fingers. It’ll come. Stanley and Millers Falls made millions of the
tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

Need Kool-Aid?
If you don’t have the November 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine and need to drink the miter box Kool-Aid, you can get it here.

25 thoughts on “About the Prices of Miter Boxes

  1. Paul

    To Chester Field: We have Rush here also in the States. Only I like the Canadian Rush better than the blowhard Limbaugh. Say hey to Tom Sawyer. Paul

  2. Randy Goodhew

    I bought a Stanley #150 Mitre Box for $4 at a collectibles show in Northern Kentucky, at an undisclosed location.
    I use it with Japanese pull-saws – Dozuki madness.

  3. Gary Hays

    Enjoyed your post except for the "Kentucky style" comment.I’m certain there are other states that "decorate" their front yards that way. Your comment assumes a stereotype that we Kentuckians have been fighting for years.

  4. Chester Field

    Man does it SUCK to live in Canada when it comes to these kind of things.

    There is no WAY there would be any of those particular mitre boxes at garage sales/auctions here.

    Oh well.

    At least we have Rush.

    LOL!

  5. David Chidester

    You’re absolutely right, that they’re around us and we just have to look for them. A few days after I received the November issue, I went to help my dad do some cleaning up in his garage. Now my father is the youngest of 6 brothers, so his older siblings usually got their hands on my grandpa’s tools first.(Including his chest full of woodworking hand tools, many of which he’d had since before the depression. That went to my uncle Jim who is the oldest.) But my dad did get the lathe, and on this particular day i noticed an old looking miter box located underneath it. It turns out that none of my dads siblings wanted it. And though he didn’t have much interest in it himself, he couldn’t bear to let it get tossed. So he’s held onto it all these years. I was excited to learn that it’s a Langdon miter box, which wouldn’t have meant anything to me if I hadn’t read Ron Herman’s well written article. We also have the saw for it, which I’d never noticed before. My dad says that he remembers my grandpa using it extensively when he rebuilt their house, after a fire back in the fifties. So I’m extremely excited to find this saw, and look forward to using it. Not just because I have a new appreciation for this tool, but also because of the history it has with my family.

  6. Gordon

    Chris,
    Nice box. Nice saw too. Looks like a LN. Wish I knew you needed a new saw as I have 2 for sale. One is a nice clean Disston 11 PPI 4X26, with a Richarson Bros. medallion, made for Langdon Mitre Box Company by the National Saw Company (Owned by Disston) between 1863 and 1917. The other is a Disston 11PPI 5X24 made before 1927. Both have been checked out on the Disstonion Institute and need a touch up with a file. I have and use a Stanley 60’s vintage blue miter box with a Disston 4X26 saw with all pieces except one hold down. Tried to sell it for two years at $30 with no takers. Now I won’t sell it as I prefer hand tools over powewr tools.

  7. Brian

    What about the theory that Chris finds or builds up a cache of a certain tool and then blogs about it and makes a million on E-bay? Genius!

    I just hope he doesn’t get nabbed for insider "trading".

    Brian
    Jericho, VT

  8. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawk3ARqWmfqTUthoejzLb3wcGZDIxkPvFG8

    It goes to figure. A year or two ago, in one of your posts you mentioned a recessed metal planing stop someone had given or sold to you. I was in the planning stages of my Roubo bench, so "Baahhh" like a good sheep, I immediately jumped on EBay to get me one. I found a more than a few. Most of them were mislabeled, rusty and going for chicken-scratch. The properly labeled ones, on the other hand, were going for upwards of $50 each regardless of their condition. Screw it, I had to have one so I bid on all the mislabeled ones. Evidently I wasn’t the only one with super-human-long-forgotten-and-mislabeled-on-EBay, woodworking tool finding capabilities and was soon outbid. Eh, life goes on.

    After reading Mr. Herman’s article though, that old urge took hold and I found myself doing the same thing. I was on EBay eagerly searching for the great white whale. With PayPal info in hand, ready to click the "BUY NOW" button on a minty vintage Millers Falls unit, my father-in-law walked in and saved me from the flock. Well, sort of.

    Turns out that my Father-in-law had a late ‘60s or early ‘70s Craftsman miter box and back-saw sitting in his shop taking up precious storage space. I say he "had" one because he gave it to me then and there making sure I understood one thing; "They made chop saws so you don’t have to use these damn things anymore." Thank God for old guys who think us Generation-Xers are harebrained, wishy-washy meatheads who have to do everything the hard way.

    The saw had a bit of surface rust on it, but is still very sharp and the miter-box is near perfect with the exception of the missing hold-downs (at least that’s what I think went into the vertical sleeves on the back of the fence). A little rust removal, a little cleaning and adjustment and the thing is dead accurate.
    Easily my top vote for tool of 2010.

    Now please, on with shepherding the flock.

    Baaahhh,
    Pete

  9. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnSLRJYtcJtXCB3mOvuO-94Ec4nHK2kpXQ

    I’ve said this before. For those who need a saw made to fit their mitre box, I cannot recommend Mike Wenzloff enough. I live in S. Africa and cannot source a mitre box at all here. Mike bought 3, picked the best one, and cleaned it up before making a saw to fit. And he didn’t even make a profit off the mitre box. I generally get excellent service from companies in the US & Canada, but this is exceptional and worth the mention.
    Paul

  10. nathan

    I had a friend who used to scream at the radio every time that song played "THATS NOT IRONIC, ITS UNFORTUNATE. PICK UP A FLIPPIN DICTIONARY EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE."

  11. Mark Singleton

    I guess I will go out to the shop and hug my Langdon Acme Millers Falls. Just out of dumb luck, I bought it off ebay two months before the article came out and prices shot up. And Chris you are right, I paid more for shipping it. What a sweet machine though. I have learned so much on this site, and in my new subscription. Not to mention a couple books I found by a certain blogger….

  12. Tony Zaffuto

    Chris,

    How about some details on the saw in your little Millers Falls (I’m assuming) miter box? I have a similar box and saw in my accumulation of miter saws. My saw is a Disston, but is filed rip for some reason and I never changed it.

    Miter boxes are addictive because of the cheapness – I have at least 15 hanging on the walls of my shop, but only regularly use a Langdon made, but Sears Craftsman tagged box. It is very much a top of the line box, with some chrome bling!

    Tony Z.

  13. Mike

    Chris,

    Not to leave the topic of miter boxes (or be mean), but Alanis Morrissette is Canadian and only naturalized American. And had quite a turn on "You Can’t Do That on Television." Yes, I grew up not far from the northern border.

    Perhaps now would be a good time for the Bob & Doug McKenzie version of the 12 Days of Christmas?

    Mike T.

  14. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmfMxarUhnhpC0yAuLhFnccVXKNzLDK3_4

    I’ve been using a Jorgensen mitre box, the kind that comes with a funky frame saw, that I bought years ago before I knew anything about anything, but I have always loved the results from that. In general, now that I know something, I love the old tools better than the new ones; but are any of the newer mitre boxes any good? Perhaps this is answered in the article… I need to get down to the newstand, I guess. (I subscribe to the "other" woodworking magazine [an annual gift from the wife the last few years] . . . but the last couple of weeks I’ve just stumbled across your folks world, and I’m quite impressed!)

  15. DW

    Ditto that. I just had the same experience, not that I didn’t have a miter box before, but just that I wanted a larger one to fit a large saw I found for free. I chose to waffle for a few months and then all of the sudden there was that infamous magazine article…

    A Want ad in craigslist works also, if you are not the type who can get to public sales and swap meets due to work or wife or kids.

    It took me a day to find someone local with one. I did see a gigantic newer 75 size millers falls in an antique shop in palmyra PA for $50 last year, barely used with no rust and walked past it like an idiot.

Comments are closed.