Normally you flatten a face and the edges of a board on a jointer, and flatten the opposite face with a thickness planer. You then square the ends on the table saw, or perhaps with a miter saw. Regardless of your method, the edges and ends of the board will more than likely show milling marks – those tiny concave cuts made by the jointer and planer knives.
Sanding is one way to remove these marks, but you risk rounding over those crisp edges. Another way is to work the edges with a card scraper –a bit of a nuisance, particularly on a long board, or half a dozen of them. However, with a well-tuned hand plane and a shooting board you can quickly and accurately true and smooth the edges and ends of boards.
Making the Jig
Make this jig from almost any sheet goods, or from solid wood. At minimum you need a base, a sub-base, and a stop block. Melamine is a good base because it’s smooth and the hand plane will glide across it. The sub-base need only be about 1/4″ to 5/16″ thick – the width of the offset of the blade in the hand plane you are using (it can vary from plane to plane, so select the plane you will use with the shooting board before you build it). A stop block keeps your stock from moving around as you plane it. An end block helps in immobilizing the jig in use. A small dado cut along where the sub-base meets the base provides a channel for debris. An optional adjustable fence, held firmly in place by a pair of cam clamps, helps hold stock in place – particularly thin pieces.
Using the Jig
This shooting board is simplicity itself. Just position your work piece on the jig so that it extends a hairs breath over the edge of the sub-base that faces the extended portion of the base, apply firm pressure to the stock, and plane away. A bit of practice is all you need. The Veritas low angle Jack plane or low angle smooth plane make superb shooters. The sides of these planes are ground perfectly square to the sole, and the low cutting angle of the blade makes them perfect for difficult grain, and unbeatable for end grain. Keep the blade super sharp and use a very fine setting. You’re not hogging off a lot of wood here, but taking the finest of shavings. If you end up using the shooting board a lot consider investing in a second blade for your plane, using it expressly for face and end trimming.