Stanley’s Open-Front Miter Box, No. 150

Stanley’s Open-Front Miter Box, No. 150

Jacob, Walter W

Luman W Jacobs resided in the little town of Warren in south central Massachusetts. But there was nothing small town about the patent that he filed on February 21, 1889 (Figures Ia and Ib). Jacobs’s patent for a miter box made significant new and useful improvements over what was then on the market.

Jacobs’s miter box was designed to support the saw vertically while having the front open. The box was adaptable, and it could be used with most of the saws that carpenters would commonly have in their tool boxes. The uniqueness of this patent, which was granted on November 5, 1889 (patent no. 414,544), was that not only did the carpenter have at his disposal a miter box that would saw miters at any angle from 90 degrees to 45 degrees, but he could use a common handsaw or a backsaw in the miter box (Figure 2). He could saw boards with wider widths because of the open front. When using the miter box with a backsaw-a saw with a stiff, rolled-metal bar across the top of the saw-the carpenter could control or gauge the depth of cut, for example when making dado cuts or halving, by simply adjusting the saw yoke (Figure 3). Another innovation of Jacobs’s miter box was the small wooden roller located on the yoke arm at the rear of the slot which prevented the saw from cutting into the table (Figure 4).

Jacobs had designed the box so that the saw yoke could also be reversed, that is turned upside down, thereby making the miter box a convenient saw vise for filing or sharpening a saw. This feature, however, was apparently not too efficient, perhaps due to the rigidness of the saw yoke, and was dropped early in production, eliminating the need to mill one surface on the yoke to make the reversal possible.

Luman Jacobs relocated thirty-two miles south, to the village of Willington, Connecticut, to set up the manufacture of miter boxes under the name of Jacobs Mitre Box Works (Figure 5). This miter box is known in at least two sizes: the 4-inch (Figure 2), which had a 14-inch long cast back rest, and the 5-inch (Figure 6), which had a 19 ½-inch long cast back rest. (The 4-inch and 5-inch notations refer to the maximum thickness of wood that could be cut).

Hammacher, Schlemmer & Co, located in New York City, sold Jacobs’s miter boxes in 1891, and listed them in its catalog for that year (September 1, 1891). The catalog touted the miter box, noting that “It could be instantly adjusted in the most perfect manner to any saw, keeping it perfectly straight and allowing it to move freely, unencumbered [sic] by weight or spring; is readily adjusted to saw at any required angle or for an undercut or draft on pattern work.”1 These miter boxes were also sold by William P. Walters & Sons, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and are shown in the Walters and Sons 1910 (no. 20) catalog.

I have found no references about the operations of the Jacobs Miter Box Co., after 1910, but curiously enough, Stanley introduced its no. 150 miter box (Figure 7) in 1923, which is without question the same design as the 4-inch size Jacobs patent miter box. The frame casting is different, but essentially the same design remains, with minor changes. (Figure 8 shows the underside that can be compared with Figure 5.) There were other differences as well. Stanley cast the model number-“No. 150”-on the front frame (Figure 9) and cast “MADE IN USA,” on the rear side of the saw yoke (Figure 10). The angle adjustment latch spring was changed from a leaf spring to a coil spring, and an adjustable length stop was added to the right side (Figure 11). The frame board was painted orange. I have found no records, however, describing the circumstances of how Luman W Jacobs’s miter box became part of Stanley’s line.

With the next model 150 Stanley produced, type 2, the company cast “STANLEY,” in orange paint on the front side of the saw yoke and “MADE IN U.S.A.” on the rest of the saw yoke. This model was kept in production until 1950, when Stanley again made changes. The 1950 version (type 3) of Stanley’s no. 150 miter box had both the model number and the company name cast on the top of the saw yoke; the “STANLEY,” however was highlighted in orange (Figure 12). Where the “No. 150” had previously been cast on the frame, there were on the type 3 a series of marks on both the top and bottom “0” for 90 degrees, “22 ½” for eight sides, “30” for six sides, and “45” for four sides. Type 3 remained in production until 1962, at which time Stanley introduced type 4 (Figures 13, 14 and 15), which had a new color scheme, blue japanning with yellow trim, instead of black japanning, and a natural finished frame board rather than the orange. The no. 150 series miter boxes were sold without a saw but many are seen with a Disston Keystone K1 backsaw in the 3- × 12-inch length size (see Figure 12). Stanley discontinued the no. 150 miter box in 1969.


1. Hammacher, Schlemmer & Co. Catalog, (September 1, 1891), 24.

Walter Jacob writes a regular column on Stanley tools for The Chronicle.

Copyright Early American Industries Association Jun 2007

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