Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Shooting boards

I have been using a shooting board for years, though not entirely satisfactorily for several reasons.  I used my Veritas low angle smooth plane for shooting and just don't like it for this purpose.  I find it difficult to grasp and keep flat on its side and it's too light to develop the momentum I want when shooting wider boards.  These disadvantages outweigh the advantage of its 37 degree cutting angle in my opinion.  The second issue was that the board wasn't long enough in some cases to shoot wider stock.  Finally, the fence was only 3/4" high and on several occasions I got tearout on thicker stock.  Time to choose a different plane for shooting and make a new board.

A recent sale on baltic birch gave me the impetus I needed.  I decided to make it as long as I could while having the blade pass the fence with my arm comfortably extended.  This turned out to be 16".  As for width, I chose a 2" track, the maximum width of the wings of the planes I anticipate using on it, and a 10" work surface, which seems wide enough for good registration against the fence.  As for the fence, I simply added a second piece of plywood to make it 1 1/2" high.  Very straightforward:

A ramped track has the advantage of using more of the blade but I chose to omit this refinement.  That left the issue of what plane to use.  The Veritas shooting plane weighs 7-3/4 lbs., is 16" long and has a 2 1/4" wide blade. Nice to have, but expensive.  Of the Stanley Bailey planes, the one that comes the closest is the 5 1/2, which is 15" long, 2 1/4" wide (newer ones are 2 3/8") and weighs 6 3/4 pounds.  I have one and it does feel about right.  It is much easier to grasp on its side than my low angle smoother, but I still wanted to do better.  A search located this article from a Lee Valley newsletter that describes how to construct a wooden grip and I used the concept while coming up with a different shape:


It applies the force to the plane against the raised portion of the casting that the frog is bedded on.  Construction, as described in the article, is an easy to make sandwich and then I just shaped it by eye and feel.  My hand rests comfortably on it and it is easy to push, although I might have made it a bit shorter.  Even with the front of the tote might be about right, but it depends on the size of your hand of course.

After limited use, I find it comfortable and effective, although I may shorten it a bit.  I was concerned that it might move around but it doesn't because it is wedged tightly between the casting and the frog, accomplished by rounding over the front inside corner on the top to match the contour of the frog.


  1. Smaller smoothing planes are fine for shooting small pieces. I use a low angle jack for longer or large pieces, but the most critical thing is not the plane but the edge. Using a sharp edge, I never use or find the hot dog or its variant attachment to the plane necessary. Most planing problems (not all) are solved by a super sharp edge.


    1. I agree with you on both counts. I think I will use my long angle smoother for small pieces like you do. Sharpness is definitely extremely important but I found that I couldn't really grip the plane comfortably and it was causing problems. The grip is nice to have, but not essential. I'm sold on them now that I have one. The design for a bevel up plane is more difficult, but I am thinking about trying to make one.

  2. Any plans toeventually include the dowel? It reminds of the T5 Jack put out by record.

  3. Ralph,

    I intended to but wanted to wait until I got the grip made to see where to position it. When I tried the grip I liked it as is. I'm going to use it awhile like this and then add it later if I think I need it. You see all kinds of versions of grips or hotdogs as one design is called. It's fun to be creative and come up with something you like best.