May 21 2013
Recently, a woodworker emailed us looking for a solution to a problem he was having with the alignment and fitment of boxes, drawers and carcass work such as blanket chests, bookcases and chests of drawers, using dovetails for the case and drawer joinery. He also mentioned his interests in small box making and again, enjoys dovetail joinery for those as well.
The Long Grain Shooter, shown in left hand.
The alignment and fitment issue was, that once the casework was assembled, his carcass or boxes were not square from top to bottom, and the joinery would either bind, go together under extreme stress, sometimes fracturing pins or would not sit square on a flat surface when the box or casework was placed on the edges, even though the dimensional widths of the boards were perfectly the same. All this was due to mis-alignment from un-square ends on the dovetailed boards.
He also wanted to make small boxes and trays that use compound dovetail joinery, so as to create tapered sides and ends, but again could not get the angles consistently precise enough for the box to sit flat on the table once assembled, if it would align once assembled. This is a situation that reveals itself during assembly, and exposes the fact that angles are not matching and complimentary to squareness. The last joint will expose the cumulative error if we are off even a little.
This process can be deceiving, because each joint when examined separately will assemble and look like it should. The problem comes to light as the box comes together and the last joint will not align. This is all very disheartening, and what makes it worse is that the dovetails themselves are not responsible for this kind of misalignment, nor can they correct it. It is all about having the required matching angles on each end of the board in the first place, and this is necessary before before the joinery is laid out or cut.
His questions were, would a shooting board help this, Did we make shooting boards that will address this issue in scale to the size of each project, and is there a fence that can handle angled tapers with repeatability?
The answers are Yes, Yes, and Yes.
With dovetail Joinery, either perfect squareness or the correct angle needed has to be precisely in place on each end of every board prior to dovetail lay out or cutting. Shooting each board’s end to the correct angle first is essential.
The Ultra Shooter, shown in right hand.
Our standard sized shooting board line from Basic through Ultra Shooter, and our molding style boards will handle this squaring task out to about 11 inch board widths. For Carcass sized work which only rarely exceeds 18 – 24 inches, our Long Grain Shooter is the go to shooting board. With it you can easily shoot wide end grain in the 24 inch width range and likely to 26 inches with care. Precision joinery on casework is not a problem with the Long Grain Shooter in your tool arsenal.
the Any Angle Fence.
For shooting tapered or compound dovetails, we have an accessory fence called the Any Angle Fence. It is a three piece fence that will bolt directly to any mounting point on our Basic through Ultra Shooter Style boards, as well as the Long Grain Shooter and Kanna Shooter style boards.
What the Any Angle Fence makes possible is the ability to shoot any angle in between the shooting boards standard mount points and it is simply fixtured to the shooting board by the pivot point on the chute end, and to the board and bench on the swing side with an F clamp. The fence comes with a low 1-inch face, and a tall 1-23/32 inch face which allow for shooting thin or thick stock to the full capacity of a 2 inch plane iron on our boards.
Each fence face and base are flattened to 0.001 inch, and the fence faces free float between the work piece and the fence base and zero on the chute of the board so as to reduce blowout on the work piece. This fence can be set repeatably and accurately using quality angle measuring tools.
Another handy benefit is that the shooting board is also an excellent platform for trimming the proud pins and tails without blow out as well.
So whether you are dovetailing for square or tapered sides, on large or small boxes, including casework – remember shooting the ends accurately is key to precision dovetail layout and fitment. Almost all joinery can be improved with the use of a shooting board. A good shooting board that provides the capability to be adjusted accurately, any season or day of the year, can provide total repeatability. Accurate tooling plays a successful part of any project. Our shooting boards are precision tools that have you covered, as accurately as your angle setting tooling can set them.
If you haven’t ordered from us before, please see our full line of shooting boards in our online store. If you have ordered from us before, I’d like to invite you to look again, see what is new, and what can accessorize your shooting board to help do even more precision woodworking!
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