Please note that any woodworking tool or range of products that I review is an entirely honest appraisal based on the following criteria:
- I have purchased the item or items.
- I have used the items for more than a month in my own workshop.
- I have not been paid or coerced in any way to give favourable reviews.
Tool Review #005: Veritas Shooting Board Fence Kit
Personal Rating: 5/5
Over the years, I have built quite a few dedicated Shooting Boards. Some are for shooting 90º and others for dedicated angles or compound angles. The reasons for these shooting boards are multifold. For me, the runout on my compound mitre saw is just a touch too much and I try for extreme accuracy and crispness in my joinery.
Illustration of Shop made Shooting Board from 1939
For those who are not sure why one would need a shooting board, let me explain:
A shooting board is a woodworking jig that is used in combination with a hand plane to trim and square up the edges and ends of your boards. It is typically placed on top of your workbench and has a cleat underneath which registers against the side of the bench, allowing you to push your plane against the resistance of the bench.
A plank or board with it's edges planed flat and square to the faces of the board is called an "Edge Shot Board".
There are two specific purposes for which one would use a shooting board:
- End Grain Trimming
The design of the shooting board remains fundamentally the same in both cases, but the length of the board will vary - with the boards used for jointing being much longer than those intended for end grain trimming.
A shooting board consists of a flat board, the base, with a stop at one end, similar to a bench hook, on which the board to be planed is rested. The stop prevents the board from sliding and keeps the board at your desired angle as it is planed.
Parallel to the base and slightly lower is a secondary surface which may be a separate board, or may be a large rebate cut into the base. The difference in height between the base and the fence is to allow for the vertical offset of the blade in the hand plane, when the plane is used on it's side. (Blade in the vertical plane).
The purpose of the fence (Upper Board) is to guide the plane along the edge of the board being planed, so that the blade in the plane is presented at exactly 90º to the base of the shooting board. Assuming that the sides of the hand plane being used are perfectly perpendicular to the sole, this ensures an edge that is at 90º in the vertical plane to the face of the board.
For end grain trimming, the board is placed on the shooting board so that an edge adjacent to the end to be trimmed is hard against the stop.
You would usually have scribed a line on the end to indicate how far to trim the board. The hand plane is rested on its side on the fence and held firmly against the end of the board whilst being pushed along its length. Jointing is performed the same way except that the board is oriented so that one end is against the stop and the edge to be jointed faces the fence.
One problem faced when using shooting boards repetitively is that your plane blade generally becomes worn very quickly in one area. This requires frequent re-sharpening to ensure smooth and accurate cutting.
To alleviate this problem, you can either use a specifically designed shooting plane with a skew blade such as the Veritas Tools or Lie-Nielsen Toolworks dedicated shooting planes, or if you are using a standard bench plane, you can build your Shooting Board with a slope (ramp) which solves this problem by introducing a slope to the fence. As your hand plane moves along the fence, the slope causes the part of the blade in contact with the board to move along the blade's length. This even exposure of wood along the whole blade allows a longer blade life, as sharpening is less frequent. It will also result in an easier and cleaner cut, as the blade cuts with a shearing action as opposed to a square-on cutting action. This sloped shooting board effective results in the same shearing action as the skew blade dedicated shooting planes.
Traditionally, a shooting board is built with specific stop, 90º for shooting square, 45º for shooting mitres and so on.
Now that we have covered the basics and background of shooting boards, we can get back to the tool review.
As I own a dedicated Veritas Shooting Plane (skew blade), I do not need to have a slope on any of my shooting boards. Quite often, I build furniture pieces that have numerous and odd angles other than square. For these items, I have always needed to build yet another shooting board with the "Stop" at the required angle.
Instead of building yet more shooting boards and finding place in my workshop to hang them, I decided to buy Veritas Tools' latest Variable Angle Shooting Board Fence.
First off, the entire Veritas Variable Angle Shooting Board Fence is exceptionally well built in typical Veritas fashion! The castings are beautifully finished off, the brass ball bearing positive lock is excellent and can be adjusted for proper accurate seating. The pivot base is made of brass and the pivot bolt shaft is accurately milled. The base plate is CNC cut, completely accurate and well finished.
The "L" Fence is cast from Zinc-Aluminium Alloy, is accurate milled and allows you to attach a variety of shop made wooden sub fences via the countersunk machine bolts and the brass knurled knobs.
Changing sub fences is very easy and takes less than a minute. The system also features a micro adjust scale and I found this easy to read, adjust and set the fence to any odd angle, or creep up on an angle.
The brass ball bearing spring-loaded button registers in fixed detents at 0°, 18°, 22.5°, 25.7°, 30°, 36°, 45° and 60° allowing quick adjusting of the fence to shoot square angles as well as mitres for frames with ten, eight, seven, six, five, four or three sides. For any weird angles in between, the fence locks in place with a gyratory handle.
The Fence is shown here on a Veritas Shooting Board with Veritas Shooting Track and Veritas Shooting Plane
In use, I have found that the Veritas Variable Angle Shooting Board Fence lives up handsomely to my expectations. With the fence mounted, I no longer need to have a variety of shooting boards in my workshop. It is easy to set, holds position accurately and firmly and delivers consistent results over and over again.
I fully recommend this piece of kit to all woodworkers. To take a "smidgen" or as is often said a "katspoegie" off an end-grain workpiece, to shoot boards absolutely square every time and to shoot any angle you wish, this superbly built fence will satisfy even the most demanding craftsman.
Now I hope Veritas Tools comes out with a "Mitre Jack" and I will be a happy chap!
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- Tags: Cabinetmaking, Hand Tools, Shooting Board, Shooting Fence, Shooting Plane, Variable Angle Shooting Fence, Veritas, Veritas Tools