For many years I tried to design a shooting board (and bench hook) that would be worthy of publishing in Popular Woodworking Magazine. I tinkered with adjustable fences to dial in a perfect 90° cut, grippy working surfaces and fences with replaceable bits for zero-clearance cutting.
All of my designs were failures.
In the end, the crappiest shooting board that I ever built turned out to be the best shooting board I ever built because I did the following things:
1. Forget the adjustable fence. Just nail and glue the sucker down and adjust it to 90° with a shoulder plane after assembly. Adjustable fences (well, mine at least), go out of adjustment all the time. The non-adjustable fence on the shooting board I made five years still makes airtight 90° corners every time.
2. Forget sanding or finishes. I make my shooting boards out of 1/2” Baltic Birch. Unsanded. Unfinished. And I chop dovetails on them all the time. The result is a very grippy surface. My work doesn’t slide around like it does on shooting boards I have finished.
3. Forget fancy. Every add-on I have added to my shooting boards has been more trouble than it is worth. I could make a long list of mitering accessories, zero-clearance bits and UHMW tape.
Instead, I’m telling you that if you are like me and make your own shooting boards, keep it dirt simple. The more complexity you add, the less likely the shooting board will work.
The shooting board I use is made from 1/2” Baltic Birch plywood that is glued together. After the glue dries, I true up the fence for the shooting board with a shoulder plane until the appliance gives me 90° cuts every time. Then I use the shooting board until it is completely chewed up.
How does it get chewed up? I use the other side of the shooting board as a bench hook. And I chop dovetails on both sides. It’s a big shop coaster during parties in my shop. And etc.
You can download a SketchUp drawing of the appliance here.
— Christopher Schwarz