Sep 16 2015

Shooting Board Versatility

Published by at 3:36 pm under Shooting boards,Thoughts & Musings,Woodworks Store

We get many questions about shooting boards, there is a lot they can help you do. There are many woodworking parts and operations that benefit from using a shooting board to true our work, and we can apply it in more ways that traditionally imagined. The tool in and of itself is capable of providing machinist level accuracy to woodwork, and better suited to be thought as similar to a series of different saws or bench planes. It isn’t a one size fits all tool, and it depends on your application(s). The shooting board is much more than a one trick pony.

The use of the shooting board is both thought of traditionally, but can also be thought of untraditionally. We have tried to support the untraditional use of shooting boards, because we offer more ways than ever to put them to use. We have also tried to create a tool that has a lot of capability in one tool, and I think we achieved that.

Traditionally a shooting board was set up to true the endgrain of boards to 90 degrees. Often another board was set up to shoot 45 degree miters. This is still a top use for a shooting board, and the ones we offer perform this process and even more. Our designs offer boards that are made of very stable Baltic Birch plywood, and the ability to calibrate the fence to perfect accuracy over a wide range of angles to suit the work you’re doing. The fence pivots and can be set at both specific and arbitrary angles as accurately as you need and the boards come in three different widths to help accomodate the work you do.

What about the Ramped Shooting Board? We have nothing against it, but we don’t offer one for several reasons. The main reason is that it can be a big limitation to what the shooting board can do. A ramp is not quite enough angle to offer skew, but can ease the blades entry into the work. Depending on the way the ramp is angled to the work, it can actually de-skew a Chute Board Plane with a skew blade. Finally, We advocate that end grain is a difficult cut, so we prefer a sharp blade and a thin shaving setting for the highest quality cuts. We find that the thin 0.001 setting provides an easy shot and the cleanest cuts possible.

Our boards which are made to have the chute accurately coplanar to the top and work offer the ability to shoot from 11-1/2 to 26 inch lengths or widths on three different models. In practical use the Ramped Shooting Board will limit the shootable length to 6-7 inches, and this will vary towards shorter on the thickness of the board being shot. It can also limit the overall thickness of the board being shot. The ramp also requires more labor to manufacture and is more difficult to accurize for coplanarity, so we choose to make tools we feel can be more accurate and versatile.

This isn’t meant to denounce a ramped board, it is just that you have to choose a style for your preferred usage, A ramp will limit a lot of versatility, and can have issues with accuracy. Since we can’t physically provide maximized versatility with easy to assure accuracy and a ramped chute at the same time, we chose to maximize versatility and accuracy, so that the shooting board as a tool can do more for the woodworker, and is why we don’t offer a ramped model.

When can you use a shooting board? You can use it throughout a project from beginning to end. In the early stages of stock preparation it can be very helpful for use in squaring up edges and ends of boards. High quality edges and ends are the perfect surfaces that layout tools require to provide their highest precision. Saws simply dont provide the same smooth square surface.

The chute of our shooting board is made straight and coplanar to 0.001 tolerances, and we QA this on each board. The fence is made to the same tolerances, and can be calibrated to the required angle with the most accurate protractors available, a vintage tri square or even drafting triangles. The level of accuracy is up to you. The sharp iron of the hand plane is capable of creating surface qualities that rival 600 grit sandpaper, so in a few passes you have created finish quality surfaces with very high accuracy over a wide range of board sizes, and nearly any kind of bench plane can be used to perform this.

There are also plane like tools for shooting boards called shooting sanders that allow you to sand while shooting instead of planing, and this can open up the ability to shoot accurate surfaces onto different materials other than wood.

Our shooting boards even offer a planing stop accessory that can help you thickness stock down to about 1/8 inch thick if you want. This is super handy for thin and short stock which is difficult if not unsafe to prepare on shop machines. Why risk your finger or damage to the small parts you are making for boxes or inlays, parquetry, segments for turning and whatever your imagination directs you to make? Our shooting boards are a tool meant to help you fixture the work and jig the plane so you can control the variables and just make things as directly as possible.

Once you have the stock prep done, the shooting board can be used to square up top to bottom, and end to end while removing saw marks from work that is cut to nearly any angle. So edges, ends, sides, miters and general cuts can all be brought to a finish grade surface through the non traditional capabilities our shooting boards offer.

One of the places our shooting boards depart with traditional manufacture and usage is in the fence system. Traditionally a shooting board is commonly made from scraps of hard or softwood, and the fence is nail or screwed and glued in place. occasionally the fence is made to sit in a dado. There are many issues with this design and have good reasons why we choose to avoid it.

Hard and softwoods move seasonally, and on average this amounts to plus or minus 1/8th inch per foot of width, tangentially or across the grain per year. Hard mounting of a cross grain fence on the top of the board limits this movement while the bottom is allowed to move. This causes the chute to swing out of accuracy with the fence, and while you can try and accurize the board, you have to accept it is in constant movement in either direction. It is inaccurate most of the year.

Our Shooting boards are made from Baltic Birch plywood which is very stable. I have been monitoring the movement of Baltic Birch for over a decade now, and while it does move seasonally it moves very uniformly and only a few thousandths of an inch seasonally. Our chutes and fences have been routinely checked for flatness and straightness on certified granite, Starrett and Mitutoyo tooling and found to remain within 0.001 tolerances, within the important parameters, seasonally for years. The marine grade finish we use help keep Baltic Birch even more stable. With the calibratable angle setting of our fence design, you can set the fence for perfect accuracy right now, and it taks 45 seconds to a minute to do this 24/7/365. If making accurate work is important to you, a tool like this can be super helpful to your woodworking.

The Ultra Plus Shooter
The Ultra Plus Shooter.

It looks and appears deceptively simple. We would love to give you a tool covered with brass and cocobolo or rosewood, but the simple facts are that if we did, these tools would be a great looking inaccurate tools. I felt it was important to put the tool into top condition for making accuracy, so you, the maker can make all the beautiful things with beautiful woods, where once it is fitted together the fit and finish that matters most stays that way.

The deception is built in – a sleeper if you will, not different than a plain looking car with a supercharged engine and performance suspension. It looks like a shooting board. Rectilinear, kinda plain, but it is a highly massaged precision tool made for the long haul. I’ve already mentioned the precision surfaces worked to high tolerances, but other parts of the construction involve stop drilled and tapped blind holes for mounting parts and accessories, and well as precision located, multi-step counterbores that house epoxied in steel threads that secure the fence in accurate positions for precision shooting.

In all, the three sizes of shooting board we offer can do a lot. Our Standard sized boards offer up to eight fixturable angles, our Wide Board models offer up to five. Our Long Grain models offer a 90 degree fence, and the Accessory Caul allows you to position any shape or angle arbitrarily so you can get a straight shot on any thing, even curved work. All offer the same high precision accuracy that you can calibrate to the perfect angle for you every day of the year.

Do you need this much precision? It depends on what you make. You’ll never be sorry for having accurate tools that help you make. Another question might be, what are you waiting to make for the lack of accurate and versatile tools? The better the fit, the better the finish in any project no matter the style, period, or genre of work you do. Our shooting boards are made to provide the best results a sharp plane can cut on nearly any kind of project, and I can attest, as a toolmaker, some of my projects are similar to the work of patternmaking and the shooting board has been a go to tool in our shop for many things. If you make outside of the norms, it’s ok, our shooting board will likely help you with what you are trying to make. It’s there to help enable you. Are you ready for a tool that can help you take your work from good to great?

If you like, there are other articles about our shooting boards here on our blog which are easy to find from the index above.

There is a lot of information and easy ordering in the Shooting Board Section of our Online Store. It’s easy to learn about our boards and choose one that best fits the way you work.

As always if you have questions about our shooting boards and how they can help you work wood, or if there is anything you need help getting your mind around about our tools and how to use them, please drop us an email.

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