A Prequel to My Shooting Board Project

With my recent acquisition of a Veritas Shooting Plane, my logical next project is a shooting board.

This post is not about that shooting board.  This post is about the fiasco that was my first attempt.  It didn’t get very far, and was not one of my prouder moments (I kind of lost my cool).  In any case, on my last post, Ethan (the kilted woodworker) mentioned that he appreciated me showing my failures.  So, here’s a pretty good one.

Several years ago, I responded to a Craigslist ad for a grizzly wet grinder.  It turned out the seller was a cabinet-maker who was closing up shop.  I ended up buying the grinder, but also went home with a tablesaw, a spiral cutter head jointer, and a load of lumber.  The lumber was a mixed bag of all sorts of things and filled the bed of an F-250.  I got it all home and did my best to sort it and stack it in my lumber storage racks.  I have also acquired various bits and pieces of lumber at garage/estate sales and have added them to the pile.  There’s quite a lot there now, but over the intervening years, it has gotten a little disorganized.  It’s an odd mix of small-ish pieces and single boards.

My very messy lumber storage rack.

My very messy lumber storage rack.

Enough background.  I decided that I wanted to build a ramped shooting board and so I did a google image search using that term to find some inspiration. I started to form an image in my mind of what I wanted to build.  Plywood would have been fine except I didn’t have any nice stable baltic birch ply.  I did have some box store cabinet grade ply, but the cores aren’t very good and you get these weird voids.  I also had some ½-inch MDF, but I figured that wouldn’t look very good.  And then I said to myself, “you’ve got this rack full of lumber, why not use some of that?”   I don’t know if it is all woodworkers, or perhaps its just me, but for the past couple of years I have, from time to time gone to the lumber rack in search of a piece for some project or other, only to think, “That wood is too nice for this project.”  This time I resolved to change that tone.  I mean the wood is only just sitting there waiting to be turned into something.  If I keep putting it back waiting for that perfect project, I’ll never use it.  Why go buy baltic birch ply when I have so much other wood available to use?  So, I started pulling boards out of the rack to see what I have.

I found these two boards in the rack and discovered that they were book matched.

I found these two boards in the rack and discovered that they were book matched.

I pulled two boards that I think are maple.  They measured a full 1″ thick.  After rotating them around, I realized that they were sequentially milled boards and could be arranged to create a book match pattern.  Ignoring my previous resolution, I put them back, with the thought that they would make a nice set of doors for a cabinet some day.  See how quickly I crumbled?

Has some light spalting, I'll save this for another day.

Has some light spalting, I’ll save this for another day.

Then I found these two boards.  They looked terrible.  In the photo below, they don’t look too bad, much better than they did in person.  They were a little over ¾-inch rough milled, but not a full 4/4.  That’s ok, as I don’t need really thick material for this project anyway (that will only make it heavier).

I found these two. They looked a real mess.

I found these two. They looked a real mess.

I laid one board on my bench top to check for flatness and discovered that it was a little cupped on one side.  The board is too wide for my jointer, but no problem, jack plane to the rescue. I traversed across the board to remove the cup and then diagonally.  I checked for wind and once happy that the face was flat, I fed the board through the planer.

I flattened one side.

I flattened one side.

Feeding the board through the planer.

Feeding the board through the planer.

It cleaned up nicely.

Wow, this is actually kind of nice.

Wow, this is actually kind of nice.

The shooting board is going to need a wider base board to hold the ramp and the Veritas track.  The top board (the ramp) can be narrower.  Since I needed a wider board that what I had, I decided to cut the board in half and glue it into a wider panel.

I cut it in half.

I cut it in half.

Glued and clamped over night.

Glued and clamped over night.

A this point I was thinking to my self that I was making some progress.  In the morning I removed the panel from the clamps and found that it had completely potato chipped on me.

Very badly cupped.

Very badly cupped.

I live in a cold climate, and really don’t like the heat.  I know what high heat is like, as I lived in South Texas for about 10 years before moving to the Pacific Northwest.  That heat turned me into a hermit and meant that I only did any woodworking for about six weeks each year in January and  February.  I only mention this as it was the hottest day of the year so far (about 85°) here, and that was probably making me a little cranky.

I thought that perhaps I screwed up the jointed edges.  I figured that I would cut the board in half again (right down the glue line), re-joint the edges, and re-glue the panel.  I ripped the board back into two but discovered that each board was quite badly cupped.  So, I started the flattening process all over again.  Cup side up on the bench… jack plane across… check for wind… check with a straightedge… flat… perfect.  Of course now that one  side was flat [and I was sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage (thanks Gerhard)], the other side had a pronounced dome.  No problem there, that’s what the planer is for.  I fed the board through the planer taking light cuts and removed the dome and leaving the board a consistent thickness.

I picked up the board and sighted down the edge and….  The $#%@-ing thing was completely cupped again.  W  T  F ?????

The board was already down to about ⅝-inch thickness, and I, rather shamefully I must admit, was rapidly loosing my patience.

I cut it back into two boards.

I cut it back into two boards.

I suppose sometimes a man needs to know when it is time to retreat, and I put all the boards back in my lumber rack and retired from the field of battle.

I later picked though the lumber pile once more and found this:

Some further poking around in the lumber rack turned up this.

Some further poking around in the lumber rack turned up this.

I believe that it is walnut.  It measures a full 1-inch thick, 10-inches wide, and 6-feet long.  It rocks terribly on the benchtop (both cup and twist) and it would be a nightmare to flatten if kept full length.  I’ll cut it into three pieces first and then flatten them.  The project is already well underway, but I’ll have to post more about that later.  Stay tuned.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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16 Responses to A Prequel to My Shooting Board Project

  1. I feel your pain. As Ken would say, stupid wood tricks suck.

  2. jenesaisquoiwoodworking says:

    Hey Jonathan

    Mate I know the feeling, it is incredibly frustrating. Good on you for posting your experience though, because this is were we all learn most is from the mishaps. Perhaps this is one of those situations where you could try doing the whole process by hand and over several days. It has really made a difference for me in terms of restricting this type of movement. I would usually flatten one face (of each board) by hand, then clamp the boards with those two faces up against each other and leave them for a few days, sometimes a week until the next weekend. Then I would do the other face in two or three different sessions (again with time in the clamps in between) through the planer or by hand if it is very trigger happy wood. To work this way you need to juggle at least two projects so that one can work on something else while the boards settle. That creates issue with space (I find) as the part for the different projects clutter one’s work surfaces, but otherwise it helps to not get bored with any one project as you frequently hop skip and jump between them.

    Just a though, you know your shop and wood best.
    Have a wonderful weekend mate.
    Gerhard

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Gerhard,

      Thanks for sharing that, it sounds like a very well thought out method. I’m sure with all your “feral” hardwoods you have had to adopt such measures. This is the first time that I have run onto the problem of a board re-cupping immediately after flattening. On the bench overnight, sure, but 5 seconds after coming out of the planer??? I’ll be sure to give the “Marx Method” a try the next time I run into this.

      I hope you have a great weekend too.

      Jonathan

  3. Kees says:

    Using quarter sawn wood would be helpfull in a project like this.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hello Kees,

      I whole heartedly agree that good quartersawn lumber would have likely prevented this issue. Unfortunately, I was just trying to use wood that I could find in my lumber racks.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  4. Gavin says:

    As always, your idea of a mess is my idea of getting there by way of tidy! I cleared out my Dads place after he passed. In excess of twenty trailer and van loads to the tip (dump) later I was left with about 4-5 tonne of varying grade timber in a range of species. My sister ended up with three tonne of firewood. I still do what you do with having a second think about using some pieces that I pull out but the majority of the time simply use the most appropriate and accessible pieces at hand. As a friend of mine says- it is a quality problem. It was a logistical nightmare! and a 100km from my house. I haven’t had too many issues with excessive cupping but a few uncooperative pieces have taken a short flying lesson to be retrieved and sent through the saw for firewood. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger….apparently 😉 Gavin

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Gav,

      It’s good to hear from you. That sounds like it was a lot of work. Still, it must be nice when building a project, to do so with wood your dad collected. I know I’d like that.

      I hope you are keeping well. All the best,

      Jonathan

  5. Wow, you sure good some gorgeous boards in there… unfortunately, figured woods love to play stupid wood tricks 🙁

    Since the accuracy of the shop appliance you are building depends on flat stock that stays flat, I would abandon the idea of using figured woods and go get some stable Baltic birch ply..

    Sorry to be a kill joy, but those boards would sure make great inset panels, may be for the box to keep the shooting board inside? 🙂

    Bob, running and ducking boards

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Bob,

      Yeah, this woodworking would be soo much better if it weren’t for stupid wood.

      You’re not being a kill-joy, but I just wanted to use whatever I had on hand. With my recent trip to Lee Valley in Kelowna, my woodworking budget has been blown for a little while and a sheet of baltic birch wasn’t in the plans. If I’d have had some on hand, I would have used it. That said, the walnut that I have used turned out beautifully. The shooting board is about 75% done, but I’m so slow at blogging that the post will be a little while yet. I’m thinking of doing some curly maple inlay… we’ll see.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  6. Matt McGrane says:

    I’d agree with Bob to use good Baltic birch plywood for its stability. Solid wood rarely seems to stay flat, straight and untwisted. I see big-name woodworkers using solid wood, but I have to believe they get a better quality wood and have it for a good while before using it.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Matt,

      I agree, baltic birch can’t be beat for stability. The walnut board that I have used, has turned out nicely. It was cupped and twisted, but after being cut into three 24-inch pieces, it flattened easily enough. What’s more, it stayed flat on the bench over night. Yeaayyy. I don’t remember where I got it, so it must have been in my shop for years.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  7. Bruce Thompson says:

    Or. . . You could go to Angeles Millwork on C street and pick through the box of the marine grade plywood off cuts that they get from the local yacht builder. Just a thought. 🙂

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Bruce,

      You know, I never think to go there. I know that you’ve told me about it before, but I’m rarely on that side of town. I really must make a trip in there one day and see what they have. I hope you are well. Let’s go grab a coffee one of these mornings.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  8. Pingback: A Ramped Shooting Board in Walnut and Maple - Part 1 | The Bench Blog

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