Refurbish 1909 Millers Falls Miter Box

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Blog entry by bch posted 01-04-2015 03:36 AM 3111 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A friend of mine was most kind and gifted me a 1909 Millers Falls Miter Box, Size 2 1/2, No. 74. It was in terrific shape excepting the rust that had developed over the last 100+ years, and a welded repair (which I’ve read online is quite common on these miter boxes). I decided to refurbish it to like-new condition and put it in service rather than keep it as a collectible.

It started in this condition (sorry for the poor quality of this photo):

You can see the extent of corrosion better here:

Like so many of these, according to blogs I read online about these, this one has the very common break, and was welded back together. This doesn’t bother me as I intend to use it rather than collect it.

Then came dis-assembly, and the application of Naval Jelly to remove the rust. I am not sure that the naval jelly was necessary at all. I might have gone right to the wire-wheel and saved some time and smelly off-gassing. Perhaps it was helpful in neutralizing the rust in small crevices I could not reach with the wire-wheel.

I took a piece to the wire wheel and it turned out fabulous! The quality of steel they used in those days is terrific. I cannot imagine a contemporary tool cleaning up this well.

So more followed.

After cleaning up the parts I did a test and found that the forward saw support sled would not slide to the full extent intended. This was due to the weld adding a bump on the rail. After trying to file this down with a bastard file and failing, I got out the Dremel and the repair was done in just a couple minutes. I had restored the saw to original functionality.

Prior to painting, I did some research and while most MF Miter Boxes have red-painted beds, especially all later models, like this one:

I could see that my bed had metallic paint left on it in spots:

Like this one that I found online:

So I presume that the metallic paint is an older original color and that mine is of that older vintage. I decided to paint it as original. I also coated the stainless parts with a rust inhibitor.

Looking at photos online of other MF miter boxes, it appears after painting they ground the rear support wall perfectly flat. I imagine they did this to remove flaws in the casting. This removed the paint from the raised framework on the rear support wall. So after painting the body I ground off the paint from the raised framework first using a wire wheel and then a razor blade to get into the corners.

It was time to work on the saw. The saw is quite pitted, but, I imagine once sharpened it will suit my needs just fine. I put one of my helpers to work using water-displacement oil and 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper.

It came out nicely.

I just wiped the handle down with a little mineral spirits and decided it was good enough and any more fiddling might make things worse and remove the label that was still attached.

Finally, reassembly:

At first the spring loaded mechanism that locks the miter arm in at common angles (45 degrees, 22.5 degrees, etc.) was jammed and no longer moved, but a little penetrating oil solved this problem immediately. It works perfectly! I am most pleased with this new addition to my shop.

-- --bch

6 comments so far

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 3834 days

#1 posted 01-04-2015 10:31 AM

That’s a beauty bch !

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View punk's profile


181 posts in 3469 days

#2 posted 01-04-2015 12:48 PM

looks better then it did new, a great job of restoring you have some thing to be proud of

-- Punk in PA

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1466 posts in 2687 days

#3 posted 01-04-2015 04:27 PM

BTW next time you need to strip paint, try boiling it in a solution of TSP and Water.
I did this to my 1940 southbend metal lathe. The lead dust was flying everywhere so I boiled it off, got a big pot at a garage sale and made a mount for a camping stove.

The paint comes off in sheets. Also cleans the gunk off to some extend, when it comes out hit is with fresh water, then coat with mineral spirits or paint thinner to prevent rust flashing.

Nice work.

-- Jeff NJ

View Lynn Bradford.'s profile

Lynn Bradford.

71 posts in 2915 days

#4 posted 01-04-2015 09:07 PM

Nice job. A great user.


-- Lynn Bradford | Indiana | A poor excuse is better than none.

View Brad's profile


1147 posts in 3793 days

#5 posted 01-04-2015 10:36 PM

Excellent job ACH. The part where you matched the original paint was really cool. We’re as much experiential archaeologists as we are woodworkers :)

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View bch's profile


303 posts in 3742 days

#6 posted 01-05-2015 01:32 AM

Thanks all for the kind words.
woodchuckerNJ: Boiling in TSP… sounds great! I’ll give that a try.

-- --bch

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