How to Use a Shooting Board?

How to Use a Shooting Board?

Q: I have never built or used a shooting board, but plan to in the near future. I have seen numerous articles in several woodworking magazines and also on the Internet on how to build the board. The instructions for building the board are clear and well presented, but they all seem to stop short on explaining how to use the board. The first question that comes to mind is, when planing the workpiece, what prevents the shooting board itself from being planed? Also, is it necessary for the projection of the blade to be exactly the same each time you use the board? If the authors of the articles for building the shooting boards would elaborate on these and other questions, it would be helpful for amateur woodworkers. Thanks. – Richard Faunce

Tim Inman: I think your questions will all be answered if you’ll just make up a “quickie” shooting board and give it a try.  In fact, I’d require it if you were one of my students. Before you spend time and materials making the “perfect” shooting board, try some things to see what you like and want in your final effort. You’ll be surprised how easy they are to use, how simple they really are – and you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one. I have a couple of them hanging on my shop wall. I often use the one that is ugly just because it works better than the one that is pretty. To answer your specific questions, you will plane a little bit of the shooting board clamp, but only a few thousandths – the thickness of the curl. If you’ll look at the sole of the plane, the cutting iron sticks out from a little “window” which surrounds it. The metal on the edge of the window makes a “stop” so the plane can’t keep digging into the shooting board. The depth of the cutter setting on the plane need not be exactly the same each time. It will be pretty close, though, because you’ll usually plane off about the same amount each time. Veneer is pretty easy to “overpower” by hand, so super precision isn’t too important with the shooting board. A veneer shooting board is actually such a simple tool most authors probably don’t recognize what a mystery it might be to someone who has never used or seen one. Thus, they fail to fill in the details that are so obvious to them. Again, my best advice: don’t overthink this. Just make up a rude-crude shooter, and give it a try. Then you’ll know what you want. The clamping part is the most important detail to me – and it never gets mentioned. Now go out and make one!

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