My File Box

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.

12 thoughts on “My File Box

  1. Aaron Tobul

    Thanks for the additional details, sir. I bought a copy of “The Pilgrims go to Rome” on Monday and ordered a used copy of “Furniture Making Plain and Simple” yesterday. I think your very versatile low bench would make a good winter project and allow me to enjoy the yard more next summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joe

    Thank you very much for this post. It’s on the list of things to make. Without a lathe (and not much need for one) this would be perfect for me. Don’t get me wrong, a lathe would be handy to have but then I’d have to find a place to put it, etc, etc. For now, this would work perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Andrew

    Very cool! Thank you for sharing. I really like the simplicity of it. I noticed you’re using wooden threads to adjust the puppet. I’m curious what you’ve used to cut the threads and tap the inside threads? I’ve been looking around for awhile for a non-‘lectrical way of making threads for things like Vises, Clamps, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rufus carswell Sr.

    Having made number of tools from scratch, I take pains to carefully write somewhere on the tool my name and the date. I have a special “dip” pen and India ink for the job. Hopefully a future relative will appreciate my work.

    Liked by 1 person


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