Block Plane Shooting Board


Block Plane Shooting Board:
Designed for trimming end grain, a low angle block plane is the perfect tool for a travelling shooter

Designed for trimming end grain, a low angle block plane is the perfect tool for a travelling shooter

The nucleus of tools that form the core of any travelling tool kit will almost certainly contain a block plane of some description. Such is the versatility of this little tool that few of us feel suitably attired and able to leave the ’shop without one. I’ve trimmed doors and jointed panels with mine, neither of which I was expecting to do beforehand, but in a tight spot you make do with what you have. I’m also no stranger to using a bench hook to set up an impromptu shooting board when the need arises. The two devices are a natural pairing in this context but depend on having access to a reliably flat surface to stand any chance of creating a square end to the piece being trimmed.
In the workshop I have just one shooting board, large enough to make the most of a dedicated shooting plane and its not insignificant mass. The trouble is it can often seem a little over the top for some delicate operations. So here’s a solution that takes full advantage of the block plane’s talent for tackling end grain in more portable configuration; a block plane shooter.

Accuracy where it counts
When it comes to making a shooting board there’s really only one thing that matters and that’s that the plane needs to be guided to cut at the desired angle across the end of the piece being trimmed. Most of the time this will be 90° or 45°. The template for this style of shooting board is a piece of ply with at least one perfect 90° corner. Strictly speaking, the edges don’t need to be square to the face of the board; it helps but it’s not imperative. The other important component is a back stop or fence with square and parallel sides. Prepare the components accurately and orientate them so that the back stop butts up tightly against one of the square sides of the ply template and you have the makings of a reliable 90° shooter. 

The back stop must have parallel sides to maintain 90°

Lining things up
I have an abundant supply of threaded inserts left over from when I used to make loudspeaker cabinets. They were often specified as anchor points for the drivers and a whole host of other fittings that require a firm fixing. Using them to good effect to build jigs for the workshop means you’ll need access to a pillar drill or similar equipment and a good supply of 1–2mm drill bits. Alternatively, each time you want to join two pieces together clamp them in place and drill a pilot hole through both pieces at the same time. Then use the pilot hole as a guide to drill clearance holes, blind holes and friction holes to suit.

Use a Forstner bit centred on a pilot hole to recess the fixings

Clamp the components tight in registration if you drill the pilot holes by hand

Festool slot cutter
There’s a quick and easy way to cut a slot for the through bolts using a Festool Domino. If the component is wider than the depth of bore, just square a line across the face of the board and cut the Domino slot from both sides referencing from the face.

Use a bench hook to mortise thin components

Allowing for wear
All shooting boards suffer from wear through use so it pays to have the parts that will need correcting in the future easily dismantled and put back into place. The back stop tends to suffer the most so having it anchored through slots means you can maintain a clean edge for longer before having to make a new component.

The Festool mortise can easily become a through slot

Trim the back stop to length before the first use

Micro adjustments
Make adjustments by slipping anything from a Post-it-note to a pencil behind the workpiece to change the angle

Make micro adjustments to the 90° angle by inserting a spacer between the workpiece and the back stop


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