The shooting board that I have used for the last few years is fairly pathetic. All it consists of is a piece of 3/4″ MDF with a cleat and a fence. There is no chute for the plane to ride on, the board is a little too narrow and a little too shallow, and it is pretty darn ugly (unless you appreciate the look of unadorned MDF). Although it is functionally adequate, it is basically the Yugo of shooting boards.
This shooting board is one of the last holdovers from the dark days in my woodworking career when I did most of my woodworking out of my apartment’s one car garage in Redondo Beach. I have included a picture of my first workshop below to put you in the right frame of mind. Note the sole electrical outlet on the left wall which powered both the two light fixtures (which were actually a shop upgrade), as well as any other power tool I used in the shop via the orange extension cord laying on the ground. Also note my first workbench which consisted of two 3′x4′ pieces of MDF screwed together and attached to 2x4s which fit into the top of my sawhorses. I did have more tools than this picture shows, but I had to keep them in the coat closet of my apartment and bring them out to the shop when I wanted to use them. I didn’t trust the padlock on the wooden garage door to keep them safe and the humid, salty beach air pretty much guaranteed that they would rust overnight regardless of whatever space age rust preventer I applied to them.
It is definitely time for a shooting board upgrade. Especially after my wife bought me a Lie-Nielsen #9 for Christmas.
I constructed the base and platform of my new shooting board out of authentic baltic birch plywood which I purchased from a local cabinet supply shop in 5′x5′ sheets. I have experimented enough with the cheap chinese plywood crap that they sell at the big box stores to know not to waste my time. Although the plywood has 13 plies and looks tempting upon first inspection, it invariably warps into the shape of a potato chip as soon as I unload it from my truck and bring it into my shop.
I designed my shooting board to be roughly 18 by 18 inches with a 3 inch wide chute. I wanted a fairly large shooting board to support wider and longer boards, but I didn’t want my shooting board to be so large that I was better off adding legs to it and turning it into another workbench. This design will allow me to shoot a board that is 10 inches wide. Anything wider than this and it is probably easier to clamp the board end grain up in a vise and plane it normally.
I cut an 18″ by 18″ piece for the base and a 15″ by 18″ piece for the platform and glued them together with the pieces flush on the left hand side. When the glue was dry I made a couple of light trim passes on the table saw to make all the sides flush (We already established that I could be a bit anal in the last post). I added a small groove in the left side of the chute to catch any dust or splinters that could otherwise build up between the plane and the edge of the platform and cause the cut to go out of square. The easiest way I could think to do this was to use my plunge cut festool saw with the blade set to protrude about 1/16 – 1/8 of an inch below the level of the chute. I know that the picture below may cause me to lose all credibility on the hand tool forums, but it was the best solution that was available to me. My site is called Blended Woodworking after all.
After adding the groove I set aside the base and began working on the fence and the cleat. I had a large piece of flatsawn 8/4 hard maple that I milled up and turned on edge so that the fence would be quartersawn in width. I made the fence 1 1/2 inches tall by 2 inches wide. I wanted a taller fence so that it would support thicker boards while shooting without the risk of spelching. The cleat was made from a piece of hard maple similar to the fence, but the size and dimensions aren’t really critical so use whatever you have on hand.
I attached the fence using 1/4-20 insert hardware so that it could be removed or tweaked slightly to square it to the chute. I drilled 9/32 inch diameter holes in the fence to allow 1/32 inch of play after the fence is installed. To adjust the fence for square I clamped a combination square to my plane and held the plane against the side of the chute.
I transferred the hole locations to the top of the platform using a 9/32 inch transfer punch. Transfer punches come in handy in numerous shop situations and they are pretty cheap. Next time you place an order with Lee Valley add a set to your cart. After transferring the hole locations I drilled 3/8 inch diameter holes for the 1/4-20 inserts. I find that adding a small chamfer to the holes with a countersink keeps the wood from splitting out and makes it easier to start the inserts straight in the hole.
I prefer to install the threaded inserts with a T-wrench from Woodcraft. The one problem with this method is that it seems to only work with the inserts purchased from woodcraft. I purchased some inserts from Rockler when I was building the crib and the T-wrench actually split the inserts before they had been fully recessed into the wood. Rockler also sells a tool for installing these inserts that is basically an extra thick flathead screwdriver bit with a pilot rod to center it in the insert. The baffling part of this tool is that the flathead portion is actually wider than the insert which prevents you from driving the insert flush to the surface of the wood. This effectively makes the tool useless for most applications.
Once all of the inserts are installed you can use your square setup to adjust and attach your fence.
In the future I plan to construct a miter attachment for my shooting board so that I can true miters. The miter attachment will basically be a large right triangle that attaches to the shooting board fence. I will drill holes horizontally through the fence and add threaded inserts to the back edge of the triangle. This will allow the mitre attachment to be easily added or removed as needed.
I still have to add a few coats of Minwax Antique Oil to the shooting board and a coat or two of wax to the chute before I put it into full time use. In the meantime I will get back to designing my tool cabinet.