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Jul 05 2012

Shooting Boards: Our Features and Specifications

A well-made shooting board, built from quality materials is a tool that is capable of providing top quality results in the hands of any woodworker. Additionally, it can help develop a woodworker’s skill as well as improve outcomes for many woodworking tasks.

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In it’s most basic form, a shooting board is a jig that fixtures a work piece and guides a plane so that the ends and edges of a board can be trimmed, but it doesn’t have to stop there. It’s one of the most important woodworking tools. The definition of trimming itself becomes a list of desirable outcomes from a shooting board, and with a sharp iron in a plane, it can allow woodworking tolerances to 0.001-inch accuracy.

Jigs are a huge part of woodworking, and many are single purpose built. Given the small shops that many woodworkers work in, it is valuable to have some tools and jigs that will help perform a wide range of tasks, and take a minimal amount of space for storage.

Over these past several years, I have received many questions about shooting boards from woodworkers who are very interested in the quality of their work. Wood for projects can become expensive, and many skills are earned with practice. Many woodworkers desire tooling that will help give them the best quality results possible.

While we make a range of shooting board models with different shooting outcomes in mind, there are some features and specifications we apply to all our shooting boards to help assure they will provide the best finish results possible, provide high accuracy, and compensate for wood movement as much as possible, no matter where in the world they may be. We custom make them here in shop for each woodworker as ordered, using a combination of hand and power tools, guided by hand and eye. No CNC, no work is sublet to others.

For our shooting boards and associated wood tooling, we select B/BB and BB/BB grade Baltic Birch Plywood of either Russian or Finnish origin. It is 100% Birch, 1.4 millimeters thickness per ply. We spec 12 and 18 millimeter Baltic Birch for most of our tooling, with 9-13 ply’s respectively. These thicknesses relate nominally to 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick.

It is a very strong, dense and durable product, often used in things like speaker enclosures, furniture, as well as in woodworking jigs, and heavy-duty industrial applications that include flooring. It leaves the mill between 7-12% Moisture Content. At 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 65% humidity, (relatively high humidity) the equilibrium moisture content of Baltic Birch Plywood is around 12%.

The wood movement stability of Baltic Birch Plywood is very good. Laminations always total an odd number and are laid in at 90 degrees to each other. The top veneers are always similarly oriented, and have few solid birch patches. I further grade for this as I select the best sheets for use from our supplier.

Dimensional Variations in and across the face grain direction averages 0.015% dimensional increase per 1% increase of moisture level, and thickness changes of 0.3% dimensional increase over 1% increase of moisture level, over a range of 10-27% MC. This translates to actual changes of 0.0018 inches per foot across face grain, and 0.0003 inches per inch in thickness per 1% change in MC.

When compared to the wood movement in hardwoods in general, which is seasonally considered to be 1/8th inch, or .125 inch across the grain on average, Baltic Birch is a very stable wood product, and maintains dimensional accuracy very well for shooting board applications. It makes for a stout, durable, and accurate shooting board.

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The chute on our shooting boards measure 2-3/4 inches wide, made to work with any plane. It is sawn straight to within 0.001 inch straightness during the manufacturing process, which creates an accurate running surface for the sole of the shooting plane to register against.

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During the creation of the chute, we cut a 1/8th x 1/8th dust groove along the inside edge of the chute. Dust and debris that commonly fouls the chute from the end grain cut can affect shooting accuracy, by lifting the plane out of squareness to your work. This groove helps keep plane shavings and dust from affecting shooting accuracy.

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Shooting your work to obtain perfectly squared or mitered ends matters on more than one geometrical plane; top to bottom as well as fore and aft. Our boards are quality checked and corrected so the plane rides the chute, coplanar to the board lift or platform. This helps assure that the plane shoots square to the board end in any fence position. While it is true that wood can move, Baltic Birch Plywood moves almost imperceptibly in this dimension. Every shooting board leaves here giving your plane’s lateral adjustability the maximum chances for any needed corrections.

Finally the chute is then precision finish sanded to 400 grit smoothness. It is a polished surface that is waxed and buffed to a high gloss. It offers as smooth and accurate a surface to the plane sole as possible.

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Most shooting boards are of the bench hook design and ours are no exception. The stresses of shooting are all transferred to the cleat that “hooks” over the edge of the bench, or is clamped in the bench vise. To assure this cleat can keep up with the way you work, it’s held on by four 1/4-20 flat head cap screws, tapped deeply into the wood and torqued directly to the base of the board. The cleats are removable and replaceable. We also offer an upgrade cleat to make our shooting boards and bench hook style tooling a better fit when used on the Festool MFT/3 work tables. Replacement Cleats are available to keep our shooting boards up and running over the long run.

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The relationship between the fence and the chute is the heart of any shooting board. Our fence designs approach the alignment task a bit differently. They are not permanently mounted to the base, and include the ability to be calibrated quickly. The fences are all based on a pivot design, some with multi-angle capability and have a slot in the far end for precision calibration. This means that while seasonal movement happens, our shooting boards have the capability to calibrate for this and remove any angular error between the chute and fence every time, no matter what climate the shooting board is located in, any season of the year. These calibrations are possible with something as accurate, yet inexpensive as plastic drafting triangles.

The Standard Fence is shown here, and currently there is also a ‘Double High’ model available, that is 1-7/16ths of an inch high. This style of fence has two working sides, one side for shooting 90 degrees, the other side comes standard for shooting 45 degrees, and other angle fences are available for order. We also have fence models available on some of our shooting boards that offer a fixed or sliding, yet removable high face. All working fence faces and bases are sanded flat to 0.001-inch flatness on certified granite surface plates, to 150 grit surface smoothness.

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The fence pivot point, and angle adjustment points are steel reinforced threads set into precision located counter bores. Each point takes three separate drilling operations, and has a steel threaded insert press fit into a bed of epoxy for a very strong and permanent connection to the base. Thread depth is 9/16ths of an inch deep, creating a solid connection for the fence.

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Our thumbscrews are custom made from 1/4-20 threaded 316 stainless steel and brass. This combination offers corrosion resistance, is attractive, and is knurled for a good grip. Hand tightening is all that is recommended or generally required. We offer thumbscrews in 2 different lengths, Standard and Double High. The Standard size being 1-5/8 OAL, 1-3/32 threaded. The Double High size being 3 inches OAL and 2-1/4 threaded. A brass washer is included with the thumbscrew to help keep the fence in good condition under heavy use.

Our shooting boards measure 14-3/4 inches square. Single chute models have a lift platform that provides nearly a square foot of support for your work with the fence set to 90 degrees. Twin chute models offer a platform nominally 9-1/4 wide. The lift and bases are finish sanded to a 150 grit surface smoothness to help offer some skid resistance under working conditions. We finish our wood tooling with Watco Teak Oil, an “in the wood” marine grade finish, for use in above the waterline applications that offers excellent wear, and high moisture resistance. It is an easily repairable finish, should it need to be refreshed for any reason.

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Our design and quality standards provide the woodworker a shooting board capable of transferring high accuracy from instruments as fine as machinist quality squares, or protractors, even drafting triangles quickly, or using the tooling you have. It is a wooden tool, so we must accept some wood movement, but we do our best to assure a consistent tool, and hope it is treated with care going forward. Quality assurance for the accuracy that is most susceptible to movement is available each time it is used, because the woodworker calibrates the shooting board with their instrument. This means our shooting boards work in ensemble with your shooting plane to transfer that calibrated accuracy to your woodwork.

It’s all about delivering the quality you work hard to achieve for your projects, the workflow you enjoy, developing your skills and abilities, and providing for a lot of creativity in the process. The beauty of our shooting boards is in what they help create for you! Our shooting boards are a great value, worth having, and we hope you’ll agree.

We make a number of high quality tools and jigs for both hand and power tool woodworking. All are made with the same care, precision and attention to detail as our shooting boards are.

Please see us in the Evenfall Studios Woodworks Store for model descriptions, ordering and further details.

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© Copyright 2012 by Rob Hanson for evenfallstudios.com All Rights Reserved.

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