Aug 18 2014
Over the past several years I have received many inquiries regarding woodworking methods that are difficult to make safe. Believe me, being very fond of my fingers and their daily health is always in the forefront of my mind as a full time toolmaker.
Some of the most common questions have been regarding working with short lengths of stock, and thin stock. Both of these sizes of wood not only commonly put our fingers in the near vicinity of rotating cutters on many different power tools and shop machines, but are also such that the power tool or shop machine can grab them and remove control from the operator.
Short pieces are difficult on any saw with a rotating blade. There is a lot of horsepower and momentum being transferred from the blade to the wood. Sometimes the friction of moving the wood into the blade is a factor as well. With the fingers in close proximity to the blade it’s difficult to be safe when working with small material.
Routers share many of the same difficulties regardless of the shape of the bit. All it takes is for friction or the cutter to overcome your grip on the stock and danger can become immediate.
Accuracy can be a factor here as well. It is difficult to get accurate cuts on small pieces because of the difficulty in controlling them under the cutter. Cutter harmonics and oscillations can also affect accurate cuts, and on work that requires close inspection, this is more often than not less than desirable.
Jointers and planers also have difficulty with short or thin stock. Rotating cutter heads can get traction on the work piece and pull it from your fingers leaving your fingers in close proximity to the blades. Other times the stock is too thin to dampen vibrations caused by the cutter, leaving a chattered surface. On short pieces there’s not enough stock to bridge the cutter in the first place, and this is true not only between jointer tables but a problem between the rollers of the planer head as well.
Thin and short stock is commonly used in a number of different woodworking projects. Consider jewelry boxes, veneering, parquetry, framing and other molding work just to name a few. So what’s the safest way to work with small wood pieces that will consistently bring the best results? In our mind it’s a shooting board.
We offer a number of solutions for this problem depending on the requirement. Many of our shooting boards offer from two to eight fully calibratable angles for truing end or long grain. We also offer longer shooting boards such as our Wide Board, Or Long Grain Shooter for jointing edges around the 18 to 24 inch range.
For molding applications, we offer shooting boards with twin chutes to address different angles on either side of a molding as based on its application.
Accuracy isn’t an issue here. The chutes are straight and coplanar to the top to within 0.001 inch. The fence is made just as straight and square, and can be user zeroed to the perfect angle ± 3° at every mounting point. This holds true for any season, and compensates for any wood movement, for accuracy 24/7/365. Similar angular accuracy can be set using our Any Angle Fence, at any usable angle between zero and 90°, so true creativity can be brought to bear.
The planing stop accessory can be exchanged for the fence that provides the capability to thickness stock between the 1/16th and 1/8 inch range, without fear of damage to the plane iron.
Safety is inherent in the system. While the plane iron must be extremely sharp, it is housed in the body of the plane and protrudes no more than 0.001-2 inch. And the woodworker supplies the power behind the cut, assuring control over the process, and the safety of the operator.
No matter the size of stock, the shooting board offers the highest level of accuracy and cut quality provided by woodworking tools. The added safety of using one is inherent in every cut made.
Whether you work wood as a professional or amateur, year-round or seasonally, A shooting board can dramatically increase production, quality and safety while providing the desired results. Safety and more of it is something we all can use in our shop every day!
You gotta love a shooting board. It’s a gateway tool that brings both perfection, machinist-like accuracy and safety to every endeavor. It can take a lot of difficult tasks and make them easy. It can take a lot of unsafe tasks attempted on machines and render them safe. It’s a tool that will make you good, and if you’re good it will make you better. They have application in all aspects of board-prep, layout, joinery, finish and artistry.
They’re quiet, and help prevent wasting expensive woods. You can use it with a simple block plane, or a top-of-the-line shooting board plane, and nearly any other bench plane in between. They are easy to use with a little practice, and it’s a great tool to use if you’re new to woodworking or with young people, because it provides excellent results that we can learn from and become better. Everybody loves the feel-good feeling of success.
If there are woodworking projects you have considered but shy away from due to difficulty or safety concerns, consider trying them with a shooting board. Most any handplane you have will probably work suitably, and all it needs is a sharp iron.
When it’s absolutely got to be right, you might want to reach for the shooting board. If you find yourself considering a shooting board and accessories for your shop, please follow this link to the Woodworks Store.
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