Last year, I read an article by Mike Dunbar in Popular Woodworking and it featured the benefits of making and using shooting boards. As someone who takes chairmaking classes with Mike at the Windsor Institute in Hampton, New Hamsphire, I have grown to really appreciate his woodworking talents as well as his humor. Suffice it to say that Mike’s article gave me the jump start that I needed after being a woodworker for many years. I think it also coincided with me selling my chop saw when I moved and my decision to restore an old Stanley 360 Miter box with saw. You see I had been aware of the benefits of using shooting boards ever since I bought Charles Hayward’s book on cabinetmaking back in the early 80’s, but it took someone else to motivate me to make some shooting boards and to appreciate the difference that they can make in enhancing ones woodworking skill. So between Mike’s article and all the posts and threads on the Neander section of Sawmill Creek Woodworking Forum, it was about time that I got with the program and made some shooting boards. Well thank God that time has arrived!
I guess some background on my love of using hand tools is in order. While I have been into using wood planes for years, I don’t have a good answer for why I didn’t get into making or using shooting boards. Maybe I thought that using a plane the proper way and keeping good technique was enough to give me edges that were 90 degrees to the board surfaces. I don’t know. What I can say is that I bought my first stanley #4 plane, painted in blue and red, when I was mowing lawns back in the mid 60’s. But it was in the late 70’s and early 80’s that I watched the Woodwright’s Shop with Roy Underhill and soon got fired up about buying and restoring old woodern planes. Since then I have been blessed to use a variety of wooden and metal planes and they are an integral part of how I build handmade furniture.
So last year I made three shooting boards and I have quickly discovered that they are awesome to use, both for trimming end grain and long grain. Since I don’t own a chop saw, I can cut a miter on a piece of trim on my Stanley 360 miter box and then plane it fit with the shooting board for mitered joints. Instead of struggling to get edges that are straight for say a drawer, I can also get them to be at 90 degrees to the board face. That is way cool and it helps make me a better woodworker/furniture maker.
Here is another thing, I followed Mike’s advice about the benefits of using a dedicated Bedrock 605 plane for shooting. They are hard to locate, but you can still find them if you are on Ebay or in antique stores. I bought one in an antique store and I spent some time cleaning it, draw filing out a high spot just behind the throat, and then flattening the sole on a 3 foot long piece of 3/8″ thick glass with 80 and 120 grit sandpaper on it. I soon realized the need to draw file the one side to get it at 90 degrees as well. It just took some unrushed time of filing, sanding and checking the edges with a precision straight edge and a couple machinist squares. I also upgraded the plane with a Hock Replacement iron in A2 steel and a thicker cap iron, which enhanced its capabilities too.
It gets better. Recently, Barb and I made it to the Woodworkers Show that was held in Columbus, Ohio at the Expo Center. I have been a fan of Lie-Nielsen planes for years, but heh the Lee Valley booth at the show gave me the opportunity to test drive a Low Angle Jack Plane (LV LA Jack) and boy was I ever impressed. Make no mistake, I think, like most neanders, that Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley make great tools. Yet this time I was taken by the heft and the feel of the Lee Valley Veritas plane and I love using it. It might be my favorite woodworking plane and now that I have shooting boards, it is mighty cool to use. Thanks for listening to me ramble, but heh woodworking is in my blood and it gives me a great escape from the pressures of caring for my flock. If you want to see me use the LV LA jack on a shooting board, I put together a quick video on Youtube and you can see it here
God bless you!