Dec 16 2015

Our Shooting Boards Make A Difference

When it comes to shooting boards, Traditional designs come with limitations that have to be accepted. The downside to this is that these limitations become part of the mental lexicon that woodworkers carry in their mind when they consider the capabilities of the shooting board. I’d like to take a moment or two and address how our shooting boards help overcome many of these limitations.

A Versatile Shooting Board

Woodworking Accuracy; the big and the small of it.

When it comes to high accuracy, the difference can be as small as one-thousandths of an inch. But when it comes to making, the sum of many parts can amplify an error into something glaring. Some people would argue that 0.001 inch in woodworking is unnecessary. In our view, It depends on several things.

Straight Chute Shooter.jpg
Chute’s Straight.

Remember that the thickness of a hair is just 0.003, and that is an error that we can both see with our eyes and feel with our hands. This means when mitering, a tiny error of 0.001 will multiply itself four times when closing a square. Small errors often add up to big problems as a project comes together. There are many areas in different woodworking projects where good fitment between the pieces is important. This is a difference we can see and feel.

Reducing or eliminating this sort of error can really improve fine woodworking outcomes. There is nothing better than when a plan comes together as well as we hope. This is why we strive to make our clients a durable and accurate tool they can count on.

Designs Considerations.

Traditional design in shooting boards often has us using softwoods and hardwoods that allow a great deal of seasonal movement. Generally speaking we can see 1/8th inch movement per foot, Seasonally. Depending on the species this can vary but that’s a nice average. Next we fixture a fence to the board with dadoes, Glues, Screws or nails and we bind the shooting board at one end. Since this is a permanent installation, we now have to accept the inaccuracy we get. It doesn’t have to be that way.

angular accuracy_450
Want Starrett Accuracy in your work?

Other concerns that have been expressed by woodworkers are in regards to adjustability. While it is wonderful to be able to have a perfect angle, accurately set to shoot, this is not always what is needed or desired. sometimes a too perfect tool isn’t what is needed. Sometimes things are imperfect to begin with and the biggest desire would be able to do what it takes to match an angle we already have appropriately. In other words, we don’t want a tool to lock us in to something specific, When we need it to help provide us flexibility so we can address the situation we have.

Accuracy and Stability.

When I designed our shooting boards, these were all things I kept in mind. I selected Baltic Birch plywood for the parts used on our boards, because it’s extremely stable and durable. Not only is it widely used as a durable flooring – often used in warehouses where forklifts are driven on it, and as cabinetry material.

We have heard for years that Baltic Birch is a very stable material. I contacted the USDA Forest Products Lab about this and since this product is not sourced in the US, they have no data. I researched further and the Finnish Government does have data available in english. The data looked very promising, but I wanted to see it perform under the specifics I am most interested in.

mitutoyo caliper
Mitutoyo. Accuracy to 0.0005.

In shrinkage and swell testing performed with a Mitutoyo Caliper with 0.0005 resolution, our observances have shown that seasonal movement in this material runs +/- 0.003 on average, yearly. Most of this is observed in the thickness on the laminates which is tangential movement. Radial movement has been observed at half that of the tangential as expected.

We also have some very early examples of our tools available for testing. Most of our test equipment can resolve square, straight and flat within the 0.001-0.0001 range. In my test observations, the aforementioned movement is very uniform, and doesn’t usually affect squareness or straightness. This is minute and uniform expansion and contraction that I have monitored and observed over the course of seven seasons.

Our Approaches to the Tool

We pivot mounted the fence to provide it the capability of being adjustable. This not only is convenient for multiple angle work, adding a lot of versatility to a tool that was formerly only good for one or sometimes two angles, but it also allows for accuracy adjustments in small increments so that when you do need to adjust a fence slightly off angle to compensate for something that isn’t square in the first place, you can!

Our Stylized Standard Fence
Our Stylized Standard Fence.

Our Fences have a pivot hole on one end that is a tight clearance fit, located so as to restrict cantilever like forces when in use. The opposite end of the fence has a slot that allows approximately +/- 4 degrees of adjustment. By mounting the fence in this way we avoid the inaccuracy created by seasonal wood movement that a permanently fixtured fence has to accept without choice – the case with a shooting board of traditional design. We can zero out the seasonal errors and compensate for small inaccuracies with this design. Then we up ante by making it possible to fixture up to eight angles on our shooting boards, with all of the adjustable accuracy on each angle, and created a fence that would allow you to fixture it at any angle you want between zero and 90 degrees. Bottom line, our shooting board has the ability to provide you precision for the angle you need right now.

Our shooting board is not made from metal. Metal doesn’t actually equal better in the case of a tool like this. We could make one from metal but there would be few who could afford it in this day and age and it would come with it’s own set of conundrums. We chose to work with Baltic Birch for several reasons. We wanted to help woodworkers take their work to a higher level. We wanted it to be available and obtainable for people. Baltic Birch allows us the ability to create retainable accuracy into the tool with much less effort that it would take in steel or aluminum.

Chute Coplanarity
We QA Chute Coplanarity.

We build in compensation for several different types of accuracy error. Our quality assurance process corrects coplanarity issues, chute straightness issues, fence angle, straightness, and squareness issues. We add steel threaded inserts in locations where repetitive and high stress loadings will create wear and inaccuracy Baltic Birch surfaces allow for a smooth and tunable, accurate surface finish that wears well, causes no undue wear to hand planes and can be lubricated easily with Paste Wax. Keeping things simple and directly usable is productive and good!

Any end-user of our tool can simply place a sharp plane in the chute, set the angles as accurately as they need, advance the iron for a thin cut and produce workpieces with four-square accuracy. There need be no concern for seasonal movement, because you can accurize our shooting boards anywhere in the world in under 60 seconds with something as simple as a drafting square. Accuracy in the rain forests of Vancouver Island in the winter, or Death Valley in the summer.

What’s in it for you.

Clearly these are not a shop jig made in 10 minutes from shop scraps. Why would we offer a tool you could make from your scraps? These are a well thought out and engineered tool design, Built to last with precision from the best materials, custom made to order for the woodworker, by someone who understands craftsmanship. What you wind up with is a tool that can go right to work with the tools you already own, be as accurate as Starrett angle setting tools can make it, as flexible as you can imagine the need for, and as tough as a well-made floor. It can work with virtually any hand plane made available in the last century or so, from a block plane up through a number eight jointer, wooden planes, including Japanese style Kanna.

One of the joys of woodworking is making things right. Having parts fit together like a glove, and culminating in a completed project that looks awesome. Wood is expensive when you consider the board feet that go into any project. Is a tool that can help prevent inaccuracy worth having? We’ve had a number of clients comment down through the years that have shared with us that having an accurate shooting board was a tool that helped take their work from good to great. Wouldn’t you love to have that capability in your shop? Not a tool you have to build from scraps, then throw away because it has become inaccurate, remaking it over and over again, but a tool that you can reach for, calibrate and make great work happen in a timely manner, with high expectations for good outcomes and satisfaction.

Wide Board Shooter
Shooting Larger Work with Accuracy.

Power tool woodworkers enjoy having a table saw and other equipment with guides that help it run accurately. They set the fence and the cut that comes off the saw is often near ready to use. Hand tool woodworkers cannot often enjoy high accuracy and high surface quality directly off the saw, but with a shooting board like ours, you can expect and enjoy all of the accuracy that a table saw can provide. Even more because the plane itself can take thin shavings in the 0.001 inch range and leaves a surface quality that surpasses that of any sawblade. In fact, a shooting board is a great finishing and accurizing tool for use following any wood cutting tool, hand or powered.

We offer a wide range of shooting board models that are targeted at being the right fit for most any kind of woodworking, no matter what kind of woodworking you do. Please feel free to look through our store and order the shooting board that is the best fit for your style, and your shop!

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