Chris Schwarz's Blog

Precision Gizmo: Langdon Mitre Boxes

Of all the power tools I own, I think my scariest, oops-I-crapped-my-pants moments have been with a power miter saw.

When knocking down rough stock, miter saws have a tendency to “armadillo” , or leap straight out of the cut, sometimes kicking your work around. This happens when the stock pinches on the blade, which can occur for a variety of reasons (some of which are impossible to control).

Also, when mitering small pieces, the waste piece can be shot around like a bullet, even with all the safety equipment engaged.

While I still use my Makita miter saw, I do so sparingly. Nowadays I rough out my stock using handsaws and sawbenches. I have yet to have a handsaw kick back at me.

And for mitering, I turn to my No. 16-1/2 Langdon Mitre Box, which I bought about five years ago for $125. I overpaid, but I don’t care. This saw in some cases replaces even my table saw to crosscut small parts.

The box cuts more than 4″-wide at 90Ã?°. And it will miter a 3″-wide piece. As a result, making face frames and doors is a snap with this tool. And the quality of its cut is tremendous. It’s not as glass smooth as that from a table saw, but it’s good enough for a tight joint.

I also like the saw because it’s safe enough for my daughter Katy to use it.

In fact, I’ve used this tool so much that the 16″ backsaw that came with it (made by Simonds) is now filed too short to work with the miter box. It’s used up. (Right now I have a 14″ English carcase saw in the box. I need to replace that because 14″ is too short.)

The good news is that you can replace the saw with another vintage saw, or even a new one from Lie-Nielsen or Adria or another manufacturer. As long as the saw’s back is no thicker than 3/8″ you’ll be OK.

These mitre boxes can be tough to buy on eBay. Essential parts are missing. They might be ragged out. They cost a bunch to ship. I’ve found the best place to buy them is at tool swaps, such as those run by the Mid-West Tool Collector’s Association. Or from tool dealers.

- Christopher Schwarz

23 thoughts on “Precision Gizmo: Langdon Mitre Boxes

  1. Shannon Brown

    While I agree that power miter boxes are a pain, but I replaced mine with a 10" radial arm saw. I honestly feel RAS are one of the most under rated tools ever. I love mine. Ok love is a bit much, but I really like it.

    I do own a modern miter box. It’s good, but I liked the old ones better. The thin blades on the new ones tend to bend and deflect too much.

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