Introduction: Making & Using a Shooting Board and Mitre Board

About: Just a hobbyist. I make stuff from wood, play with my CNC Router/Laser and generally just turn big bits of wood into sawdust and smaller bits of wood. Made some furniture pieces, a couple wooden clocks and so …

Caveat Emptor...

This is intended as a very brief introduction into making and using a Shooting Board and Mitre Board. I've not bothered getting too far into how they're actually used - 2 minutes on Google and you'll see far better versions than I'll be able to make.

These are also my own simple home-made versions, constructed out of what I had available at the time. Every woodworker traditionally makes their own version of a Shooting Board - ask a dozen woodworkers for their opinion on what the best design is, and I'll bet you get a dozen different answers...

I would also very strongly suggest doing a Google search for Shooting Boards and their use before you start making your own. My version is by no means perfect and there are many many many variations out there.

If you've got the money, you can also buy some beautiful Shooting Boards, but given how simple the basic design is, making one of your own is a really good weekend project. It'll teach you things you'll use in the future and provide enormous satisfaction, once you made your own, and can quickly and easily, cut (or Shoot), the ends of a board perfectly flat & square.

What is a Shooting Board or a Mitre Board?

At it's most basic, a Shooting Board is nothing more than a frame that allows the Woodworker to hold a piece of wood, while using a wood plane to cut (or "shoot") the ends flat & square.

While this may not sound particularly useful, virtually everything you'll ever make, relies upon the wood you're using being flat & square. Many woodworkers will likely have a workshop full of tools and machines for making things flat & smooth, but often, the only tool they've got for working on the ends of a piece of wood, is the saw that they used to cut it to length.

A well made Shooting Board, allows you to quickly and easily, using nothing more than a wood plane, cut perfectly square ends on a piece of wood. It also allows you to take the tiniest shaving off the ends of a board, allowing you to cut pieces into perfectly matched lengths. All by hand, and leaving the ends smooth and clean, virtually ready for finishing.

A Mitre Board is essentially the same thing, but it holds the wood plane at 45 degrees, allowing a nice mitred edge to be cut.

Step 1: Basic Shooting Board

This image shows my version of a very basic Shooting Board.

  • One side is where my wood plane can slide back & forth - mine has a piece of nylon on it to reduce friction (although this isn't really necessary)
  • There's a front piece that's set at 90 degrees to the plane face - the work is held against this by hand as the plane is moved back & forth
  • There's a nice flat surface for the workpiece to sit against

Two Critical Requirements

Whilst this is a relatively simple design, there are two critical things necessary for the device to be useful:

  • The front piece (against which the work sits) must be set at 90 degrees to the face of the plane.
  • The surface against which the plane sits, must be parallel with the surface that the work sits upon

Note - I use my Shooting Board with the wood plane in my left hand, and hold the work with my right hand. If this is different for you, you'll need to make yourself a right handed version...

What type of plane is needed?

The answer, is pretty-much whatever cast-iron bodied plane you have available. Cast iron planes will always have their sides machined at 90 degrees to their face. Wooden-bodied planes, not so much...

If you're lucky enough to have a couple to choose from, I'd strongly suggest the following:

  • Use a nice heavy plane - using a nice heavy plane allow you to use the weight of the plane to help push through the end of the wood. Whilst fine cuts are usually best, sometimes you just need a little more Ooomph to get through the wood. The heavier bodied planes assist with this.
  • Use a fairly long plane - I'm using my 5 1/2 which is long enough to let me get some momentum going and to a good long stroke when cutting.
  • Depending upon the material, a nice wide plane is also a benefit - again, my 5 1/2 has additional width allowing me to cut thicker material.

You can by specialised planes for use on a Shooting Board (Veritas for example makes a left and right-handed version), however virtually any wood plane will work.

Step 2: Getting It Square and Keeping It That Way

You'll see that the front piece on my version, is held in place by a couple of large stainless bolts. Whilst this isn't all that pretty, it does allow me to adjust it if it ever gets out of square (mind you that's yet to happen).

Basically, all I did was increasingly tighten these bolds, while checking that it was still square to the face of my wood plane). Once the bolts were fully tightened, I then put a couple of small woodscrews into it (from the back) to keep everything in place.

If I need to adjust it, I'll remove the woodscrews, tap it back into position with a small hammer, and then put the woodscrews back in (into new spots - not back into the original holes)

Step 3: Holding It in Place

The traditional Shooting Board is not mounted to the workbench, rather the shooting board simply has a strip of wood along the front, which hooks against the edge of the workbench. When in use, the material is pushed against the front of the Shooting Board, which also serves to hold the board in place on the bench itself.

On this image, you can see the basic design of mine simply has a slightly longer face, which hooks onto the front edge of the bench - in use, it's surprisingly stable.

Step 4: Using It to Cut the Perfect Edge

When using the Shooting Board:

  • On your workpiece, always choose (and clearly mark) one edge of the work that is going to be your Reference Edge. In use, you'll always keep this edge against the front of the Shooting board
  • Once you've cut the first end, swap the board by turning it end-for-end, keeping the same reference edge against the front of the shooting board
  • By keeping the same edge against the shooting board, you'll end up with ends that are parallel with each other, and 90 degrees to the reference edge.

Using the above technique, avoids introducing errors if your material isn't perfectly square and parallel (for instance, when boards where each side and face have been planed by hand).

Step 5: Now for the MItre Board

Some Woodworkers will have two separate Shooting Boards - one for cutting Mitres and the other for cutting square ends - mine ended up being something of a hybrid...

Put simply, all I did was made a small frame that sits on top of my Shooting Board, that holds my plane a 45 degrees to the work. As I'm usually only ever cutting mitres for box-making, the work pieces are always small and so for me, this works really well.

Again, it looks kinda clunky, but it seems to work well for me.

Note - one difference when cutting Mitres, is that it's not possible to keep the same Reference Face against the front of the Mitre Board as you would normally, so you'll need to take care that the material is as square as possible.