A recent post of mine seems to have sparked some interest in my file box. So, I thought I would pause my current project, taking the time to write a bit about this handy little contrivance. I first learned of the file box from my grandfather. It wasn’t until, 1984 when Aldren A. Watson and Theodora A. Poulos wrote Furniture Making Plain and Simple, that I learned it was also called a lathe box. I will, however, stick to calling it a file box, given its use in conjunction with files and rasps. I apologize for any confusion I may have caused along the way!
I have two file boxes, one for workpieces up to 3-1/2″ square and 34″ long, and a smaller version made especially for my mini-Roman bench used exclusively for cross-pieces of ratcheting book stands. The larger of these two devices came in quite handy while making split barley twist spindles on a Reformation Era prie-dieu. You can read more about that in my e-book An Ambitious Endeavor if you’d like.
Ultimately, this workholding device consists of two finish nails driven into either end of a workpiece secured between a headblock and moveable puppet. You rotate the workpiece horizontally with one hand while shaping it with a file or rasp in the other. Rather simple. This method is somewhat time-consuming, but without electricity or access to a traditional lathe, the results are just as pleasing. My shop is devoid of electricity, yet I do have a spring-pole lathe. Small pieces are somewhat difficult to turn due to their lightness. In this case, the file box is just what the doctor ordered.
Please stay tuned for more on the mini-Roman workbench version of the file box as I continue my ratcheting book stand.