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Monday Woodworking 101- Simple Small Shooting Board

author-gravatar joelav May 09, 2016

A shooting board is essential for squaring up the end grain edges of boards, but can be used for many more things. I have a few , but am going to demonstrate making a small shooting board I use with my #4 plane for box sized parts. 

This is a simple, small shooting board. I have much larger ones used with larger planes, but find them cumbersome when working with smaller and thinner materials. I made this one to be used with my No4 .

My usual "Caution - I am left handed" warning still applies, but this design can be used on either side.    

Here I am shooting a piece of cherry with the number 4. Any plane works well for shooting, but some work better than others. The lower the cutting angle the better, and may prefer the mass of larger planes. A Low angle jack is ideal - however a standard bench plane with a razor sharp iron does the trick for me.

*A note about squareness of the plane*

I have yet to find a vintage plane where the cheeks and sole are square. New planes are usually pretty good. However don't let this be a deal breaker, and don't spend coundless hours lapping the cheeks of your plane. As long as the sole and cheeks aren't miles out of square, the iron can be adjusted laterally to compensate.  I test the cuts on a piece of scrap and move the lateral adjustment lever until it cuts square

A few notes before I get started. 

I'm left handed. A lot of what you'll see is backward for righties.

As mentioned, this is as basic of a shooting board as I can make. From start to finish it took roughly 20 minutes. 

I do not cut miters with hand tools. As such, this is a 90 degree only shooting board.

I have much longer shooting boards for edge shooting.  

For something more traditional and allows the flexibility of shooting miters, I highly suggest the shooting board Paul Sellers builds here.

I made this to use a #4 smoothing plane. This is not my primary smoothing plane. End grain is very difficult on cutting edges and blunts them faster than face grain will. I would not want to use my primary smoothing plane for a lot of shooting work

I'm starting off with some 3/4" cherry hardwood plywood, and I'll be using power tools. It's very important the shooting board is flat and all the edges are square

I cut the piece to about 16" long and 18" wide initially. Here I am going to cross cut 7" off

This is the result. I like to have a Chanel on either side. I am left handed but I have a dedicated shooting plane that works on the right side only. I wanted to use that on this board from time-to-time as well

I am using a piece of oak for the fence. It's important this cut is close to square - but not dead square. On the first couple of uses the plane wil end up shooting the end of the fence

It fits all the way across

I cut a relief on the back side. This is so the plane has less fence material to square,. but I still have a lot of mass in the fence itself 

I also chamfer the bottom edge of the fence slightly. This serves as as dust groove

I'm going to secure the fence with 3/8" self tapping bolts. 

I pre-drill a 1/8" hole for the bolt, and a 1/2" recess so the head and the driver can fit. 

This is the make-or-break part of the build. The fence needs to be dead square to the top board. However even with clamps, things can shift when gluing or screwing it down. I use a combination of wood glue and CA (super) glue. CA glue is too brittle on it's own, but when combined with wood glue, it acts as a clamp. 
I use a little wood glue on the bottom of the fence. I'm still securing it with the bolts, so I don't use a lot. 

I hold the piece against my square for a few minutes with hand pressure. This gives the CA enough time to set and make a permanent bond. In turn, it acts as a clamp so the Titebond III will bond effectively. No sliding around in clamps and no creep to worry about. Once the Titebond III has set (I wait about 4 hours), I use an impact driver to set the lag bolts. 
Once those are in I screw a fence on the bottom like a bench hook 

Now to test it out with a typical sized piece. Before I do this I take full length passes with nothing on the shooting board. The plane will cut into the edge a bit and will also cut into the fence. 

Perfectly square.  When you check for square, be sure to check with the straight edge long the edge that was against the fence

Done! Now I wax the bottom of the ramp and keep it waxed to reduce friction.


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