What is a shooting board plane?

 
     
     
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What it's used for

 
 Using a shooting board plane 

When using a shooting board or a bench hook to secure the workpiece, the cutting edge meets the side of the wood. The shooting board plane, with its cutting edge on the side, is ideal for this purpose.

 
     
 Conventional hand plane used on its side with shooting board 

Other planes have to be placed on their side when used with a shooting board or bench hook.

 
     
 Shooting board an shootin board plane 

What is a shooting board?

A shooting board is a workbench appliance, used in combination with a hand plane, to position and hold the wood while trimming and squaring up the edges and ends.

 

It is used when jointing and end grain trimming.  

 
     
 
 

What is jointing?

Jointing is planing the long edges of lengths of wood perfectly flat so that they can be joined together without gaps.

 
     
 Planing end grain with shooting board plane and shooting board 

What is end grain?

End grain is usually on the two shorter edges of rectangular pieces of wood. The ends of the grain fibres, rather than the long strands, are seen where they have been severed by a saw. Using a shooting board plane makes trimming and smoothing end grain much easier.

 
     
 Long shooting board for jointing work 

The length of shooting boards can vary considerably – the ones used for jointing are generally much longer than those intended for end grain trimming.

 
     
 Bench hook is useful for end grain planing 

What is a bench hook?

A bench hook is a little like a shooting board, but is more often used when sawing wood rather than planing it.

 

However, it does double up as a great device for holding the wood when cutting end grain. 

 
     
 Shooting board plane useful for planing mitres 

Planing mitres

Apart from jointing and end grain work, a shooting board plane can also be used very effectively for planing mitres, when the ends of pieces are cut at 45 degrees, as in picture frame joints.

 
     
   

Characteristics

 
 Shooting board plane; specialised planes; woodworking hand planes 

Abstract art?

Shooting board planes look like tools that were designed by Picasso in his abstract years!

 

The mouth is on the side of the plane, the frog assembly sticks out sideways and the handle is usually set at an odd angle. This gives it a surreal appearance until you realise that it's been designed this way for the very practical purpose of planing, side on, pieces of wood held on a shooting board or bench hook.

 
     
 Left-handed shooting board plane; specialised planes; woodworking hand planes 

Because the plane is L-shaped and the handle leans to one side, this plane comes in left- and right-handed versions. Make sure you get the one that suits you!

 
     
   Wonkee Donkee on shooting board planes; specialised planes; woodworking hand planes 
     
 Skewed cutting edge of a shooting board plane 

Skewed irons

Unlike standard bench planes, the iron of the shooting board plane is often skewed, usually by about 20 degrees, which is a great help when cutting end grain, one of its primary uses.

 

The skew gives the plane a more effective slicing angle and makes cutting easier.

 
     
   

Do you need a shooting board plane?

 
 Using a conventional plane with a bench hook 

Many woodworkers are content to use conventional bench planes in combination with a shooting board or bench hook. Block planes are also used, especially for planing end grain.

 

See What is a bench plane?and What is a block plane?

 
     
 
Shooting board plane
 

However, if you do lots of planing on shooting boards and/or bench hooks, a dedicated plane might be better as it's purpose-designed for the job.

 

Because a conventional plane has to be turned onto its side for this type of work, gripping it is slightly awkward and your wrist may suffer.

 
     
   

Number

 
 Stanley No 51 shooting board plane; specialised woodworking planes 

Stanley's nod to the demand for shooting board planes was the No. 51, made between 1909 and 1943. The No. 52 was the shooting board that came with it. Modern shooting board plane designs are strikingly similar.

 

An original No. 51 might cost you several hundred pounds from an auction site as they are quite rare, so a new one is probably the best bet.

 
     
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