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Through the years, I have fielded quite a few questions about shooting boards, and so I thought it might be nice to share some of the considerations with you, for your own thinking process.
Make or Buy?
That is a biggie, and it’s multifaceted. If you can make a shooting board accurately enough to suit what you need it to do, you may not be considering buying, but there are hurdles to leap.
Ask a few questions:
What is your time worth? You have a busy life, a full time job, a family that deserves quality time. When you get shop time, do you want to spend it making tools, or projects like furniture, jewelry boxes or cabinets? Time for most of us is in short supply. If you want your time spent making beautiful things for your family, then tools that can do what you need done, and directly are really nice to have.
Skills and tools- It seems simple enough, but that depends on a lot of things, and when you dig into it, the shooting board is not as simple as it looks. We all have saws and planes, but do we want a quick jig that will be accurate enough for the duration of a project, or do we want a tool with major capabilities and high accuracy, built to last for years with proper care? There are different ways of looking at it. Most of us don’t make our own planes, saws or shop machines, so if you’d rather buy than make, there is no harm or foul in buying, after all, it’s your shop and your choice.
It’s just wood, after all… Or is it just wood? We select Baltic Birch for it’s uniformity and stability, and then we accurize it a lot from there. Our observations over years have shown it to remain very accurate seasonally. Why not use metal? Lots of really good reasons. Metal isn’t automatically better than wood for these tools. They are unnecessarily heavy, much more difficult to mill, drill and accurize to the required degree, adding costs. Metal to metal can be destructively hard on handplanes as well as leave unwanted marks on wood. Even UHMW doesn’t slide like waxed wood. Like planing in the usual way, a waxed plane sole on a waxed shooting board chute is a smooth easy and accurate ride.
A shooting board that is made to last years and work in a number of different angles is a bigger project than it appears. There are aspects of such a tool that are important in the making, and there are other aspects that seem cool on their face, but actually breed inaccuracy. Multi-position fences that can be set accurately to less than a degree of accuracy take some care in making. Straightness over the the length of chutes and fences, in the 0.001-2 inch range from 12- 30 inches long takes great care to achieve.
Straightness, coplanarity and calibratable angular accuracy are very important qualities to the shooting board as a tool. They can give a simple block plane the accuracy of a surface grinder. They may not look as beautiful as a tool unto themselves, but the beauty is built into what they help make. Stable materials and accurate surfaces become the beauty in your work. In a rectilinear tool, it seems deceivingly simple at a glance, but using the wrong material can make all this accuracy difficult to achieve and maintain.
Making a shooting board is careful work. It takes mindfulness and layout skill, finely tuned tools, accurate machines and a developed discerning eye to make. It can be harder to make if you don’t use power tools at all. One of my clients once said, If I had a good shooting board, I would then have a tool that could help me make a good shooting board. That has a lot of truth to it.
This is about your present and future creativity. How capable would you like the shooting board to be? One or two angles, many angles? It’s not about having a built in protractor, it is about being able to be accurately set the shooting board with a tool as nice as a Starrett Protractor or a high quality square so the quality of the setting can be assured. Then it’s about retaining that accuracy while the business is done. Calibratable settings? Yes! How can you compensate for wood movement so accuracy issues don’t keep you from making whatever, whenever in the future? We have to be able to calibrate accuracy before use.
What are shooting boards commonly used for? There are plenty of good instances. Squaring boards that will have dovetails laid out and cut on them. It helps accurize and show the layout, and that is what squares the box when you assemble it. Un-squareness in the layout will amount to an un-square, possibly unusable box. Care before the cut is what makes for fine work. Want layout lines you can see in endgrain, so you can saw perfectly? Shoot the endgrain first.
Small, short and thin stocks are safer to do on a shooting board, and that goes for both long and end grain. Machines love to eat workpieces this small, while exposing your fingers to dangerous cutters. Our shooting boards offer a planing stop accessory, so you can thickness material too. It is a great tool for small box work, or anything with smallish parts. Much safer than a machine and it makes small box making a dream.
We offer accessory fences that make it possible to shoot material that extend all the way to the width of a 2 inch plane iron on the board, about 1-3/4 width, so the shooting board’s domain into thick work is easily expanded if desired.
Mitering moldings is a big reason for accurate shooting. Hollows and rounds molding planes are very popular; considering a half set of hollows and rounds can set you back more than the $3,500+ range, why not shoot your molding work with an accurate tool? Moldings make for twice the work in a shooting board. You’ll need twin chutes, multiple fences and sometimes multiple fence angles because molding shooting requires the molding to be accurized to fit in it’s installed position, and the shooting board has to be able to emulate that.
Store bought and machine made moldings are also widely made and used in shop, and all types of moldings benefit from shooting board accuracy and finish quality. If this is work you’ll have in your future, then you’ll want to have a shooting board that is up to the task, whether you make or buy. We offer a couple of different shooting board models specifically made for addressing custom molding work and miters in different directions.
Joining veneer is an important job for the shooting board. This is important in furniture making, box making, lutherie… From long book matching, planing specific angles for sunbursts or compass points, inlay work, even making parquetry is important work for the shooting board. Many different angles apply and can be accurized with boards that are set up to address this work.
Layout for joinery can be helped by shooting the surfaces that will bear the layout tools, as well as the layout marks prior to cutting. I have also used the shooting board to true leather.
Sanding shooting tools are available for shooting boards, and I have used them to true plywoods, plastics and other materials that aren’t easily planed.
Other nice things a shooting board can do here is accurize length and squareness as well as remove saw marks and tear out from the cutting process, dressing things up with a hand plane to a surface smoothness that is similar to 5-600 grit sandpaper right off the plane. The shooting board can be a very well rounded makers tool.
If odd angles are desired or if you have work that has to match angles that are not standard, we also offer an accessory fence for shooting almost any angle between 0-90 degrees. Shoot any angle you want or need as accurately (or inaccurately) as you require.
To be certain, the shooting board can be used very flexibly, to accurize most anything you want. It is perfectly fine to think outside the box with it.
It’s Your Shop. It’s also your time. What you do with it should be what you want to do with it. I can tell you, that after making hundreds and hundreds of shooting boards full time for years now, it still isn’t anything less than careful work. I work to 0.001 inch tolerances daily, but I know that isn’t for everyone. I personally use a lot of specialized tools in my shop to help me be accurate and productive, but they are often tools a lot of woodworkers may not wish to have, unless they are also machinists.
In my shop, I approach the making of a shooting board like I would an infill plane. It takes time and care to make, fitments must be precise, and are made to last years with proper care. It’s all precision from the get go, and that’s what you’ll get when you buy one of ours. My eye is to your future craftsmanship, so I want the accuracy and capabilities to be there so you can go wherever you like with your creativity. Caring about your craftsmanship is what our tools are about, so I take steps beyond what you might for yourself to assure our tools will give you all of your craftsmanship at it’s best.
So make or buy? I can’t really tell you what you should do. It’s up to you, because it’s your shop. For our part should you choose to buy, our tools offer a lot of variety, capability and accuracy for use with your craftsmanship. A shooting board can help you fight above your weight when performing quality work, and enable you to do more when you have less than a full kit of tools. There is no disgrace in owning a custom made precision tool that can enable you to make creatively and accurately in many, many ways. If you prefer to make furniture rather than tools, we have a selection of helpful Shooting Boards and Woodworking Tools to help you do exactly that.
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From pocket knives to kitchen knives and just about any knife you care to name, a simple method to use is a piece of 3/4” piece of wood on the benchtop and an EZE-Lap diamond paddle.
By placing the knife on the piece of wood with the edge just overhanging the edge and placing the face of the diamond paddle on the knife edge you will near enough replicate the angle of the original primary bevel of the knife. For longer knives I add a strip of thin wood behind the knife using superglue to attach it. Then I butt the knife up against it to prevent it slipping as the knife has more leverage. Adding shelf liner helps with slippage too.Rubbing back and forth along the edge or using circular motions the bevel is established. If you want a steeper bevel to add a secondary bevel to match the original Stanley secondary bevel, add a 5/16” shim and then use the same medium hone a superfine hone as shown. Do the same to the opposite side and your knife is ready to use. For a fully honed edge strop on the leather using buffing compound.
These drawings should help understand.
I started the box by making the top and bottom frame and panel, mainly because this was new territory and I wanted to keep my options open. I figured that I could fit the rest of the box to the frame and panels if they ended up being slightly off in size.
I completely blew the first mortise by chopping right through the frame with my chisel. This was caused by a combination of laying out too deep a mortise and hitting the chisel too hard while chopping. Luckily I had some extra wood, So I redrew the mortises slightly less deep and hit the chisel with more care, especially when reaching the bottom of the mortise.
After making the frames, I measured and cut the panels to size. I bevelled the outside and rebated the inside of the panels.
I was quite pleased with the end result. The frames were square and the panels fit!
First off, I want to thank Whitney Van Dyke and the rest of the folks from the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. for inviting me, and Glen, to the press preview of the Nathaniel Gould exhibit. It was a blast being the only woodworkers at this early morning preview nearly two weeks ago (November 13). We got to meet and speak with Dean Lahikainen, the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Art at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), as well as Kemble Widmer and Joyce King who were the researchers who revealed Nathaniel Gould’s undiscovered prolific nature as a cabinetmaker and business man (you’ll get to meet all of them later in the post).
It was the folks at C.L. Prickett in Yardley, PA who sparked this whole investigation. They came to possess the Bombé desk and bookcase pictured at the head of this post. They knew it wasn’t a Boston piece because of the differences in construction and decoration. With no signature there was no way to determine who made the secretary – or was there? Enter historical mystery buster Kemble Widmer who has been studying Salem furniture for years.
Widmer’s first thought was Nathaniel Gould. Why? He was, after all, a rather insignificant cabinetmaker from Salem, MA, who, until recently, only had a handful of pieces attributed to his shop. The key term there is “until recently”. In 2006, Kemble Widmer and Joyce King came across an 18th century treasure trove that would change the perception of Nathaniel Gould forever.
Widmer made the leap to Gould based on the blockfront desk and bookcase at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The desk and bookcase contain the inscription “Nathaniel Gould not his work”, but there’s a bit of a mystery there as well. The signature is in one hand, while the “not his work” is clearly in another. Was this the work of a disgruntled journeyman or apprentice or was it something completely different? For a cabinetmaker of so little renown, how could he have made such a masterpiece? Surely, if this was the quality of work coming from his shop, there would be other pieces of similar quality. How is it possible so few Gould pieces exist?
When looking at the Bombé secretary, the quality of workmanship and materials are stellar (along the same lines as that of the blockfront at the MET). Widmer assembled his team and began looking for clues.
Some time later Joyce King, a key member of the team, came across a reference to a Nathaniel Gould’s account books in the Massachusetts Historical Society. Not knowing if the account books were related to the Nathaniel Gould that was a cabinetmaker in Salem, she and Widmer “trucked into Boston” (as she puts it) to see what they might find.
Amazingly, the three account books were not only the records of the exact Nathaniel Gould they were seeking, but they illustrated a rich and lavish career spanning 20 years and some 3000 pieces of furniture. Gould was not so insignificant after all. He was, in fact, the largest importer of mahogany in the colony (which explains why his pieces display such magnificent figure). He had a modest shop of three or four journeymen and a couple of apprentices, but he commissioned work for his customers from other shops as far away as Boston.
There’s so much more to this mystery than I can cover in a single blog post. So, beginning next week, I will restart my “Furniture Details” blog posts with some more in-depth exploration of Nathaniel Gould and his furniture. The great thing about talking with people like Kemble Widmer, Joyce King and Dean Lahikainen is you get a chance to see details they’ve discovered from their focused research that you might not otherwise learn on your own. Each of the three gave tremendous insights into Gould and his work. They also presented several as yet unsolved mysteries, which I am sure will not remain so forever. It’s just a matter of time. There’s lots more to come, but for now, check out the video below to hear part of the tale in the words of Kemble Widmer and Joyce King.
The exhibit, “In Plain Sight: Discovering the Furniture of Nathaniel Gould”, shows off 20 pieces of Gould’s furniture. There is a richly illustrated catalog available to go with the exhibit (you can buy it here). The exhibit opened on November 15, 2014 and runs through March 29, 2015 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. The pieces are varied in nature; everything from chairs to desks to tables and secretaries. All of it is worth the trip to Salem even if you couldn’t wander the rest of the museum (but do because it’s filled with amazing stuff…some of which you’ll see in mid-December..hint, hint).
Ken Hatch, with an unsolicited opinion:
I have Japanese chisels in both #1 and #2 White Steel, either takes an incredible edge straight off the stone and the edge will last. I also have a set of the newer Stanley SW 750’s with Chrome Steel, they take a good edge but straight off the stone the edge fractures at the first touch of wood and the chisel dulls very quickly.
I like to think after watching my video on making a custom razor, in honor of the end of Movember, you’re all so inspired to make one that you can’t imagine there being another option. But in fact, there’s always options, and I’m a huge fan of OPTIONS!
So here’s another version for you, this time with a safety razor head versus the cartridge style (at least that’s what I call it) like the one I built. In fact, this style of razor head looks very cool and I just may need to make one, because I can, and I have plenty of scraps and cutoffs to play with.
Huge thanks to Brandon over at the Weekend Wood Dust YouTube channel for sharing!
I've just posted the latest video showing my wonderful Sauer and Steiner planes in action.
End grain veneering mustn’t be all common. I have only seen two examples and those two sightings were a year apart. And it looks exactly like this:
There is an online article about making end grain drawer fronts by Matt Kenney of Fine Woodworking HERE.
Another use of end grain is a style of decoration called oystering or oyster veneering. Oystering uses slices of tree branches to create patterns. This is believed to have developed by the English in the mid 17th century. And this an interesting example:
THIS is a link to a Wikipedia article (fragment) on oystering. The article references a 2004 Fine Woodworking article by Silas Kopf titled Making Oysters for Veneering. I haven’t found it online so you might have to go to the DVD. Or a library. Or your woodworking friend. You know, the hoarder.
Things being what they are, I think I should start befriending some members of the Fine Woodworking staff.
Matt, call me…
Charles Brock of the video series Highland Woodworker visited me a few months ago to film at The Barn, and the episode came out today. They did a nice job of making me seem sensible. It was an ordinary day in the shop, I didn’t get all dressed up or anything.
After much consternation and a little yelling, “The Book of Plates” arrived at our warehouse this morning, along with all the custom boxes to ship the book to customers.
I haven’t seen the final bound book with the muted gold stamp on the cover, but John says it looks great.
As promised, our warehouse is setting up a special assembly line to ship out all the pre-publication orders as quickly as possible. If you ordered “The Book of Plates” during our free shipping offer, your book will be in the mail very soon.
If you plan to order the book through one of our retailers, such as Lee Valley Tools, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Classic Hand Tools UK, Highland Woodworking or Henry Eckert, keep an eye on their web sites. Their orders were shipped on Friday.
If you haven’t ordered “The Book of Plates” there is still time for Christmas, though it will be a squeaker. The book is $100 plus $9 shipping and handling. The book is heavy (more than 8 lbs.), oversized and shipped in a custom box.
Oh and the above illustration of Cato the Roubo crow was made by Suzanne Ellison, our researcher, indexer and contributing editor. The elements of the collage come from “The Book of Plates” (except the crow).
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
I sent this picture to Bob Van Dyke last night,
with the question
“what’s worse than seeing faces in the carvings?”
Answer – seeing smiley faces in the carvings!
For the record, Bob also replied – “and the smiley face is really kind of an evil wise ass smiley face- sort of reminds me of some sort of Tahitian or south pacific smiley face carving…why is that?”
Knives often seem problematic to many both in the holding of them at the right bevel angle and to maintain bevel angle consistency. I have made different types of guides and jigs for students to use because of this but generally freehand my own because it’s quicker and I can. With this jig we hold the knife rigid and move a paddle faced with a million diamonds to one or both sides of the bevel depending on preference. I have always double bevelled my knife because of course I’m used to it, but there really is no need for a double bevel to form the edge for the type of work we woodworkers do. A two-sided bevel means we angle the knife to compensate the bevel against a straightedge and develop a vertical knifewall. Dead simple. But you can simply have a single sided bevel, left or right, to suit dominance, and that will work well.
If the knife you have is mine, that’s the Stanley folding pocket knife, and it has two bevels, just sharpen up from one side as shown in this instructional. Forget the other side. Eventually the blade will be a single bevel on the one side and the combo of the flat face and the bevel will make a 30-degree bevel.
Mark a depth line 4 mill (1/8″) from one edge as shown and…
… by marking the blade angle on the outer surface to guide the depth on both edges cut Cut to the lines to create the saw kerf to a similar angle just deep enough so that the blade pops out parallel to the edge as shown.
Use a fine dovetail saw to cut a kerf into the endgrain of a piece of wood 2” or so wide.
The kerf should now hold the blade by the knife handle in the holder.
Bevel the edge with a shallow cut following the kerf to guide you. The angle should be shallow enough not to hinder the paddle we use to abrade with.
Cut the block to length.
Glue the block to a longer 2” wide block (I just used cheap superglue) and set a 30-degree angle to an finder and mark the angle onto the new block now called the carrier. The knife blade in place will help establish distance for the legalists who think it matters.
Cut the angle of 30-degrees with a tenon saw.
Anchor the carrier in the vise and slide the knife into the kerf held by the handle.
Place the paddle abrader onto the slope of the carriage and rub in a circular motion until a burr occurs along the edge opposite edge to the bevel you are abrading. Change paddles from coarse to fine and then onto the superfine paddle.
Once done the blade is good for any woodworking. Any burr will break off in the first cuts you make but you can always refine the cut further with a strop and buffing compound freehand if you wish.
This is the best system I know of and knife sharpening takes only seconds to develop. I am using the usual and preferred EZE-Lap paddles coarse, fine and superfine.
Some old bed-side tables were being scrapped from my parent’s old house. They were from my older sister’s room and had wonderful detailed metal drawer pulls. I salvaged them some time ago and now will use them for my daughter’s chest of drawers. I like the idea that she will grow up looking at them like my sister did.
Filed under: Drawers & dressers, Projects Tagged: drawer haldle, drawer pull
We haven’t said a lot about what will be in the first issue release of 360 WoodWorking, but as we get closer we’d like to announce one of our friends who will be contributing an article a presentation, Darrell Peart. Darrell has been a professional woodworker for a long time, long enough that the URL for his website is furnituremaker.com and he was recently on the cover of Fine Woodworking. He’s written articles for most of the major print magazines and he is the author of two books “Greene & Greene: Design Elements for the Workshop” and “In the Greene & Greene Style”. You can purchase both of those books (and a DVD) directly from Darrell. Before becoming an independent furniture maker, Darrell worked for many years in the custom cabinet and millwork business around Seattle, Washington while building studio furniture on nights and weekends. In addition to running a working shop, he also offers classes on a variety of topics.
Darrell’s work is inspired by the work of California architects Charles and Henry Greene who worked in Pasadena, California in the early 20th century. Those elements are just the starting point for a wide range of furniture designs, be sure to visit his site and view the furniture gallery. In his presentation for 360WoodWorking, Darrell discusses how he stays competitive with much larger (and better equipped) shops. He has adapted elements of his work in commercial shops to speed his workflow without sacrificing quality or breaking the budget. You can read, see pictures and video of exactly how this professional furniture maker ensures that everything fits and the work goes as planned. Those are worthwhile goals for every woodworker, whether amateur, pro, or would be pro. You won’t want to miss this “cross media presentation”.
In mid-December the first major presentation of 360WoodWorking will be released. Darrell Peart’s contribution is one of several, so stay tuned to see what else is coming. All content for 360WoodWorking will be free until January 2015, but if you want to go ahead and subscribe rest assured that your credit card will not be charged until next January and your subscription (if you opt for the annual plan) will run through 2015. If you sign up for the monthly plan, your subscription will start in January.
Discontent is the key to success, not satisfaction. To do more than you did before is what creation is about. To do the job better than the last time, to create something more special, or to walk new ground. This is what comes from our seasons of discontent. If we say to ourselves, I have learned enough. I am now the master of my craft, you have lost touch with that spark that keeps us creating. Satisfaction doesn’t spur us to do more. It leads us only to the couch. Keep trying to do better than the last time and you will never run out of ideas.