Jan 21 2015

Shooting Board Questions and Answers Volume One

I get questions about our shooting boards from time to time, so I thought I’d help out by sharing the Q&A stream with you.

Q: Why do we use shooting boards?

A: Shooting boards have been pretty common in woodworking for the last 200 years and were widely taught for use in Educational Sloyd. Shooting devices certainly predate 200 years ago, but were less common when furniture was less complex. They are tools that help reduce the workmanship of risk, reduce the complexity of difficult work such as specific needs for straightness and angles, and help enhance woodworker safety, particularly on small parts.

Making anything from wood means working to the lines and begins with layout lines on accurate boards. Lines are then sawn closely on the waste side and finished to the line, smooth with planes to remove the saw marks. When the need for a line is to fit parts precisely with other parts, that line is planed with a shooting board. The shooting board and a sharp plane can improve upon any sawn line whether it was cut by hand or machine, removing all the tearout and leaving a crisp edge and smooth surface. It also reduces risk to work the further a project progresses. Shooting boards offer a great deal of surety in the work.

Q: Why offer Shooting Boards as a tool, Don’t people make those from scraps around the shop?

A: A shooting board is a device that can offer accuracy to woodworkers that rivals machinist accuracy. This is really handy for fine work in woodworking. Historically, as the woodworker has acquired tooling of higher precision, the appearance of their work has reflected it. To make a tool capable of this precision with repeatability in accuracy and durability requires a specialized manufacturing process. The shooting board has to be more accurate than the things it will be used to make.

Many scraps of wood and quick build methods for making any shooting tool usually result in short term accuracy, or a jig that doesn’t last. We found we could offer woodworkers a very versatile shooting board, that is multiple angle capable, and able to calibrate one-thousandth inch (0.001) accuracy while compensating for seasonal wood movement.

While anyone is welcome to make their own shooting board, we specialize in making them to a high degree of lasting precision. Many people expressed to us that making tools for high accuracy isn’t easy, and others would rather save their time for making projects that are not shop tools. We understand. Quality, accuracy and precision are key to a fine appearance and helpful to accomplishing everyone’s finest work. Time is elusive. Some timbers, moldings, veneers and flitches are expensive and irreplaceable. Our shooting boards are here to help!

Q: Which Shooting Board type is the best overall?

A: Just about everyone will use their strong hand to push the hand plane on the chute, will have a need to shoot stock that is fully square or rectangular and will find having the 45 degree and 90 degree angles very handy. Every Shooting Board Model we offer except the Long Grain Shooters will provide these capabilities. If you need capabilities beyond these, we offer those too, so think about the future and what you would like to make.

The best shooting board for a job may be quite specialized for that job, but there are also boards that will handle a great deal of general work, and they are well worth having on hand. We specialize in shooting boards that will cover a lot of woodworking situations.

Q: Shooting Boards are known for making accurate angles, but what about matching something that isn’t exactly accurate?

A: A shooting board with a nailed and glued in fence will likely suffer from wood movement and the resultant inaccuracy. We spec woods that are highly stable for tools of accuracy, and design +/- 3 degrees of adjustment into the angle calibration of our fences to compensate for most of the slight inaccuracy that can happen with wood and its movement. We also offer the “Any Angle Fence” to adjust for any angle you have or need. If the angle you need is a little off, our fences can usually adjust and adapt. If you need angles that are more than a little off common angles, we have a fence for that too!

Q: Why Shooting Boards that offer more than one or two angles?

A: We offer shooting boards that allow woodworkers precision in any project the imagine. Bookmatch joins, and for angles that will help join up to 12 sided objects. We want to leave a lot of capability in the hands of imagination and think that is good! We also offer a fence that allows figuring at any arbitrary angle, so you can make whatever you want with full precision accuracy. It’s mostly about value added empowerment that doesn’t impose on shop space, and building all that you can dream and imagine.

Q: What keeps my plane from cutting into the shooting board, and ruining it’s accuracy?

A: If you look at the sole of a standard bench plane, you’ll see there is about 1/8th to 3/16’ths inch from the side plate of the plane to the mouth. Then there is usually another 1/16th-ish gap between the mouth and the blade. The plane rides in the chute on the side plate and the mouth position never reaches the base of the chute. This space rides the accurate edge we put on the chute and is never cut away. We don’t recommend using Rabbet or Shoulder Planes on our shooting boards.

Q: My shooting board fence does not seem to reach the edge of the chute. How does this happen?

A: How it happens is from having a setting on the shooting plane that is for a too thick shaving. Shooting is most commonly done in end grain wood fibers. Its a difficult cut cross cutting grain with a plane iron, the most difficult cuts the plane and iron must achieve. End grain cuts – even angular ones are across the grain, and require both sharp irons and thin iron settings to get the best quality.

We recommend setting the plane iron for no more than a 0.002 inch cut thickness with the 0.001 thickness preferred for the best finish. Leave room for a thin shaving on the final pass for the nicest work. Never take a run at the work piece. This can bruise the workpiece and will surely speed the dulling of your iron. If the iron is sharp as it should be for this difficult work, it will slice and leave a nice finish by bringing the iron up to the wood gently and pushing through. Best results will provide you with shavings. Dust is an indication of a dull iron.

With an iron setting of 0.001-2 inch, as outlined above, the plane will never wear the shooting board’s fence beyond this depth of cut.

Q: What does “Calibrating” the Shooting Board mean?

A: It means setting the angle for the fence accurately. Our boards offer a great deal of options when it comes to the angles you can shoot. When it comes to high levels of accuracy, it may surprise you, but many materials experience movement from heat or humidity, so to be angularly accurate, it is best to confirm the accuracy of the angle we need before we shoot. It’s easy, and can be done with many different angle setting tools, we like using drafting squares. Calibration means you can have an accurate shooting board from a quick calibration process for the first shot on any day of the year.

Q: What is important to shooting board accuracy ?

A: Quality Assurance is as important to us as our tool accuracy. We employ tooling from Starrett, Mitutoyo and certified granite surface plates to help create and confirm this.

There are actually four dimensions to accurize per cut. Top to bottom and side to side. Our part in creating this accuracy for the tool happens during the making of each shooting board. We cut and confirm that the chute edge is straight to 0.001 inch over it’s length, then we test, adjust and confirm that the chute has become coplanar with the top, also to 0.001 inch tolerances. The fence is flat on each edge to 0.001 straight, and square to the same standard. Accuracy like that helps assure you of the angles you set. We want your craftsmanship to shine.

Q: Do we really need accuracy in woodworking?

A: It depends on what is being made and who the maker is. Our best work comes from the highest accuracy and precision. This is not completely about measuring., but it is all about the fit and finish. Joinery fitments are everything to the joint and often beyond. So are decorative fitments like moldings, veneering or parquetry. Pieces that fit together with perfection are accurately laid out and accurately made. This also lends itself to the exact replication of multiple parts. The best fitment we can make will be lasting fitment, and it will look as good as we made it for years. When you can make to that level, there is never a need to apologize for skills or tools. the proof in in the making. We offer a tool that simply and directly helps you make as good as you want.

The nicer you want to make anything, the more important all this will become.

Q: Who can use this tool?

A: Any one, most any age, and any skill level. A second hand block plane is priced well for entry level and will work to 4/4 thicknesses easily. Any plane that is sharp can play. Any plane you have can shoot. The shooting board will help you fight above your weight if you are developing skills, and no matter who you are, it can help you look really good!

We custom make these tools to order for woodworkers world wide. Are you ready to take your making capabilities to a higher level? It’s easy! We offer a wide range of shooting boards to fit the woodworking you do, and the woodworking you have imagined. Check them out in our Woodworks Store, Order when you discover the tool that best fits your work.

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© Copyright 2015 by Rob Hanson for evenfallstudios.com All Rights Reserved.

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