Shooting board woes

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From the many YouTube tutorials I've seen, a shooting board should be a quick project that a relatively inexperienced woodworker can do. But I am struggling with getting square ends and am on the verge of throwing out my 3rd attempt.

For some reason, I just can't get it to be square after shooting, it's always too high on one end or the other. I am using a Starrett combo square which I have checked against a square edge.

Given I get ~3hr a week of woodworking, hand tools only, trying to make an accurate shooting board has become a massive time sink and is draining a lot of joy out of making stuff.


Any thoughts on what I'm doing wrong?


For my first attempt (2x ikea melamine) I followed Derek Cohen's guide. After being unable to get square ends and realising my first cheap combo square was out, I binned it.

For my 2nd attempt (mdf base, plywood top), I didn't want to clamp my Starrett (wallet was still hurting) so I only used it to square up my fence and set it 90° where the plane runs as seen in many YouTube videos. It was out and I tried shimming it with paper and adding an adjustable fence (similar to Mitch Peakcock's YouTube video). After a million attempts to square things up and making fine adjustments to the fence, I discovered my Stanley no 5 was not actually flat (probably messed it up when lapping the sole!). Luckily I have a spare Record no 5 which I hadn't 'restored' and seemed flat enough and tried again. Still no luck with that and after a wasted week while off from work, I decided to try again.

Attempt no 3 starts with plywood drawer bottoms from a thrown out wardrobe - very poor quality ply with stuck on wood paper pattern but at least it had a straight edge and is quite flat - not 100% but probably good enough? I put on a fence taking care to square it up. After a night of drying followed by screws, I shot a piece and it was still out!

Despite all the woodworking videos, forum posts, blog posts, etc, I've seen, accuracy continues to evade me!

I know there are commercially available versions but I am not willing to throw money at the problem without understanding what I'm doing wrong. I know my Record's side isn't 90° to the sole and have been using lateral adjustment to compensate. Apart from shooting square, I get good results from this plane, giving me very fine end grain shavings.
 
When you build a shooting board then test it with your Starrett is the fence square, or has the fence moved?

When you say " it's always too high on one end or the other" do you mean it's out of square as if the fence wasn't square, or out of square as if the side of the plane wasn't square to its base? You mentioned using the lateral adjustment to compensate so I assume you mean the former problem rather than the latter.

If so, when you run the plane on the stock are you pressing it tightly against the side of the board? Sometimes the impact of taking the cross grain shaving can cause the plane to "bounce" away from the stock.
 
I think you may have part of your answer in the last paragraph where you say you are using the lateral adjustment to compensate for on out of square side.

I would suggest a systematic approach, get each part of the system as square as possible. So center up the blade and make sure it is parallel to the sole.

Then check the guide and fence of your block are square.

Before trying to cut the end of your workpiece square, check that it has straight edges as if it is rocking you will never get a 90º end.

Finally make sure you are holding the workpiece tightly and don’t try to take too much off. It should only project over the guide fence the thickness of a single cut, otherwise you will round the end as the plane rocks over it.
 
Have you considered shooting to a scribed line rather than relying on the fence to give you the 90degs. Use the fence to help handle the blowout (with a sacrificial piece between fence and work-piece if necessary) and hold steady the board being squared.

If you mark a good 90deg line with a marking knife and plane to that on the shooting board, you'll find it is the line that controls the squareness rather than the fence. If you can master this technique, the absolute squareness of the fence becomes less important (a nice to have but not essential), and making shooting boards becomes a lot simpler.

This is worth a watch:

 
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First of all, I'll comment on your "first cheap combo square": these things are quite easy to adjust (although I realise it's probably too late if you've binned it). Get a needle file and take a bit off the bottom of the slot that the ruler bit runs in. Depending on which way you need to adjust it, you'll only need a couple of strokes of the file on one end or the other.

For the shooting board, I think we need to know which way you're finding it isn't square.

If it isn't square to the face, then that implies your blade isn't at 90° to the side of your plane. That might be because you've set it parallel to the base and the base isn't at 90° to the side, or it might be that the blade isn't parallel to the base. If the latter, use the lateral adjustment lever to get it parallel to the base. If the former then you've got two options: either use the lateral adjustment lever or sort out the plane (or use a different one). The other possibility here is that the plane isn't staying firmly down on its side as you shoot.

If the problem is getting it square to the edge, then the next thing to do is figure out what's wrong. Some possibilities:

1. The fence isn't square with the edge of your shooting board. The easiest way to check this is to use a square (that you've checked for squareness!) against the fence and against the side of the plane when it's pushed up against the lip of the shooting board. If it's not square, then you'll need to do something about it. That depends on the shooting board construction. If the fence is screwed down (my preference), then you can just loosen the screws and adjust it. If it is held in another way, you might have to take some shavings off the fence.

2. The plane is drifting to the right† as you shoot (or the workpiece is drifting to the left). This is probably a symptom of taking too heavy a cut, or it could just be that your technique needs practice. A good way to test whether this is the problem is to clamp the workpiece firmly down to the shooting board and keep taking cuts with the plane until it won't cut any more. Then check for squareness. If you can achieve squareness this way, then you either need to practice your technique more or make a shooting board that stops the plane from moving to the right† (an example is here).

Another option you could consider would be working to a line rather than relying on the shooting board. Check out Rex Krueger's video here. That method requires a bit more practice, but gets rid of any requirement for the shooting board fence to be square. It still needs your blade to be square to the side of the plane though.

† or left if you're left-handed
 
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From the many YouTube tutorials I've seen, a shooting board should be a quick project that a relatively inexperienced woodworker can do. But I am struggling with getting square ends and am on the verge of throwing out my 3rd attempt.

For some reason, I just can't get it to be square after shooting, it's always too high on one end or the other. I am using a Starrett combo square which I have checked against a square edge.

Given I get ~3hr a week of woodworking, hand tools only, trying to make an accurate shooting board has become a massive time sink and is draining a lot of joy out of making stuff.


Any thoughts on what I'm doing wrong?


For my first attempt (2x ikea melamine) I followed Derek Cohen's guide. After being unable to get square ends and realising my first cheap combo square was out, I binned it.

For my 2nd attempt (mdf base, plywood top), I didn't want to clamp my Starrett (wallet was still hurting) so I only used it to square up my fence and set it 90° where the plane runs as seen in many YouTube videos. It was out and I tried shimming it with paper and adding an adjustable fence (similar to Mitch Peakcock's YouTube video). After a million attempts to square things up and making fine adjustments to the fence, I discovered my Stanley no 5 was not actually flat (probably messed it up when lapping the sole!). Luckily I have a spare Record no 5 which I hadn't 'restored' and seemed flat enough and tried again. Still no luck with that and after a wasted week while off from work, I decided to try again.

Attempt no 3 starts with plywood drawer bottoms from a thrown out wardrobe - very poor quality ply with stuck on wood paper pattern but at least it had a straight edge and is quite flat - not 100% but probably good enough? I put on a fence taking care to square it up. After a night of drying followed by screws, I shot a piece and it was still out!

Despite all the woodworking videos, forum posts, blog posts, etc, I've seen, accuracy continues to evade me!

I know there are commercially available versions but I am not willing to throw money at the problem without understanding what I'm doing wrong. I know my Record's side isn't 90° to the sole and have been using lateral adjustment to compensate. Apart from shooting square, I get good results from this plane, giving me very fine end grain shavings.

It strikes me that you have been playing catch up all the way when seeking to build and use a shooting board.

It is meant to be a simple construction used with a simple plane. Technique is also important, but likely to be complicated by the need to adjust and control a skewed plane body.

What you might try doing is making a platform with an adjustable fence, and then securing it once adjusted square. That would get matters "straight".

Planing needs to be a gentle motion - not a slam-bang-thank-you-maam. Just place the place against the work piece and push it through. A sharp blade - SHARP! - does not require much force. Set the plane (#5?) with the blade quare to the sole. Adjust the frog to do this (it is usually off-square if the lateral lever is needed).

Regards from Perth

Derek
 
I always set the blades square whilst the plane is sat on the shooting board.
Are you comfortable with the setup and operation of a plane in normal use before introducing the shooting board ? Could be perhaps that you aren’t adjusting “in” when moving the blade, therefore first knock pushes the blade back for example ?
I always starts with face/edge against my shooting board fence, then flip 180 after a few swipes, then back again.
To me good shooting is all about where you are putting your pressure, and having a super sharp plane. Unless the planes bottom is so significantly concave or convex you can see it by eye I wouldn’t worry about it too much for shooting.
Hand pressure (for me, having used various slightly dodgy shooting boards for a fair amount of time) is diagonal pressure with work holding hand. Don’t stick the component out by 3mm then try and plane it square, flush it then edge it out a tiny amount as the plane drives through.
With the plane I try and focus on getting good pressure straight down to the board. Too much pressure towards the component can produce a rock as the board starts to wear out (which of course it will due to the planes blade eating into its “track” or fence)
 
This is not gonna help you.....yet.
Before you become disheartened and worn down. Stop. Try and find a soul to help you. It could be anything tbh but a little input from a person who knows will seriously help. One other thing is don't start making stuff that needs perfection at this stage. Enjoy creating....anything. creep up on fancier projects but start by making stuff that's simple well and steadily. Nail stuff together neatly. Shelves....a little table anything but "fine furniture" and "dovetails" as they will p#@s on your joy. Even simple stuff benefits from a help so it's not just blind enthusiasm.
 
My experience of those I’ve made is that there’s a natural tendency to push against the workpiece, and even if your edge is dead square to the shooting board base, it’s very easy to inadvertently lift or rattle the plane out of square a little.

Also I found it very uncomfortable to use with my Stanley 5 1/2. It isn’t designed for a shooting board.

Many effective shooting boards seem to have tracks to keep them, well on track.

In the end I splashed out way more than I’ve ever splashed out on hand tools (almost all of mine are car boot specials) and got myself a veritas shooting plane
and board. It was a good investment. But still, to work well it needs a razor sharp edge and to take light cuts on end grain.
 
I had a similar problem. My fence was dead square to the board but always ended up with out of square cuts.

The stock I was planning was too thick and even though my plane was razor sharp the piece would always move if the shaving was a tad too thick.

Test using really light cuts on a piece of thin stock which is easier to hold tight against the fence. If it ends up square your board is fine.

Your shavings should be perfect thin curls, if you're getting broken shavings or dust your iron needs to be sharper.

Best of luck
 
Beginners tend to obsess about squareness without a real understanding of how unsquare affects the build. Much better to do your best to get individual parts the right length and get the diagonals correct when gluing. One tiny piece of light on a tenon shoulder won't affect hardly anything. The first comes from correct marking. The second from measuring carefully.
Better to make something straight off the saw that's correctly marked with zero regard to shoulder squareness (beyond using a decent square)
 
I haven't had a chance to respond in full to all the useful advice received so I'll add some quick brief comments.

The wood I tested with most was 1cm thick Sapele I think - the curls were coming off very fine and I could crush to dust with my fingers. It was out of square as if the fence wasn't square.

With all other planing tasks, I'm fully comfortable using the plane. I've knocked up a few boxes, end grain coasters, etc, but always had problems with shooting square.

I will try making the board again paying extra attention to square up at each step as suggested. Might help to film myself afterwards in slow-mo to see what's wrong with my technique.
 
My guess is that the work isn't quite square concerning lateral adjustment of the plane,
and that is where the other noticeable error is coming from.
If you've got some short bits, i.e twice the length of a small matchbox to shoot both long grain, and see if they will pair together on something flat without a gap.

I find those blocks handy to have around, as if shooting stuff what's a bit much really,
then it can alter the lateral setting.
Just incase you may be doing this already, with something a bit wider, i.e a cigarette box @20something mm's thick..
and you have a slight camber on yer iron, then this may not be evident, since the perimeter
of both pieces may mate without gaps, compared to the matchbox(ish) sized blocks,
which will show up the profile/camber of the iron better, i.e not being tall enough to get much past
the apex of the bearly noticeable camber, which might be present.

The wee blocks are great to have, getting the setup right planing long grain,
thus not blunting the edge before needing to plane the end grain workpiece.
 
Any thoughts on what I'm doing wrong?....
yes it's very simple; you are wasting your time messing about trying to make a shooting board.
There are pages and pages on this with everybody having the same problems.
They aren't particularly useful or necessary but are very popular in amateur woodworking circles - they look like such a good idea!
They can help with some repetitive tasks and I've knocked something up a few times, particularly when I was making a lot of small boxes years ago, but they don't get a lot of use and can be managed without. In fact a normal bench hook is a good substitute for the odd occasion.
Instead practice whatever it is you are trying to do but without a shooting board.
 
There classic use is making dovetail drawers where the ends are an important face having to be square and marked on. Also narrow and long and thin.
 
I haven't had a chance to respond in full to all the useful advice received so I'll add some quick brief comments.

The wood I tested with most was 1cm thick Sapele I think - the curls were coming off very fine and I could crush to dust with my fingers. It was out of square as if the fence wasn't square.

With all other planing tasks, I'm fully comfortable using the plane. I've knocked up a few boxes, end grain coasters, etc, but always had problems with shooting square.

I will try making the board again paying extra attention to square up at each step as suggested. Might help to film myself afterwards in slow-mo to see what's wrong with my technique.
Your suggestion is that the fence isn’t square to the track. If you measure it square, with your square, then it could be down to technique. The plane wandering away from the track as you plane forwards. This could be from applying too much outwards pressure to the work piece and not enough inwards to the plane.

Something you can try is to put a paper shim, or two, between the work and the fence at either the front or the back of the fence. This will adjust the angle of the work relative to the plane. If the angle doesn’t change as expected it’s a pointer to your technique. If it corrects the angle then you know how much to shave off the opposite end of the fence to get it square to the plane.
 
Your suggestion is that the fence isn’t square to the track. If you measure it square, with your square, then it could be down to technique. The plane wandering away from the track as you plane forwards. This could be from applying too much outwards pressure to the work piece and not enough inwards to the plane.

Something you can try is to put a paper shim, or two, between the work and the fence at either the front or the back of the fence. This will adjust the angle of the work relative to the plane. If the angle doesn’t change as expected it’s a pointer to your technique. If it corrects the angle then you know how much to shave off the opposite end of the fence to get it square to the plane.
The problem is always that even if the thing is perfect in every way it is still possible to plane an edge off square. This is why shooting boards are discussed endlessly.
To get square across the face it helps to work to a mark, in which case you don't need a shooting board anyway.
Try doing it all without a shooting board.
 
I haven't had a chance to respond in full to all the useful advice received so I'll add some quick brief comments.

The wood I tested with most was 1cm thick Sapele I think - the curls were coming off very fine and I could crush to dust with my fingers. It was out of square as if the fence wasn't square.

With all other planing tasks, I'm fully comfortable using the plane. I've knocked up a few boxes, end grain coasters, etc, but always had problems with shooting square.

I will try making the board again paying extra attention to square up at each step as suggested. Might help to film myself afterwards in slow-mo to see what's wrong with my technique.
I thought this was an interesting video:


Different to how I've always gone about a shooting board but I'm tempted to give it a try and see how it works out.
 
After a few weeks busy with other things, I finally got a few hours to see if I can dial in perfect 90.

Still not having much luck, not sure what I'm doing wrong, so I'll seek an alternative to a perfect shooting board.

I'll try my hand at planing to a scribed line or maybe even the Paul Sellers vice-held end grain shooting jig.

Since I'm only making stuff for myself & family, I've decided perfection can wait - I'd much rather spend the few hours I get woodworking making something, even if imperfect, than getting frustrated over one part of the process. I'm sure I'll figure out what's wrong eventually
 
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