What is a Shooting Board?

Malcolm Tatum

Shooting boards are essential accessories used in various woodworking projects. Typically, a shooting board will be used along with a hand plane to precisely square and trim the ends and edges of different types and sizes of planks and similar pieces of wood. The board makes it much easier to maneuver the board into position so that the hand plane can be used to make smooth passes along the surface of the planking in much less time than would be possible otherwise.


The configuration of a shooting board workbench is very simplistic. A flat surface is positioned on top of a base, which makes for a stable work area. At one end of the surface, usually referred to as a board, there is a small stop that somewhat resembles a bench hook. The purpose of the stop is to prevent the planking from slipping out of position while the trimming or jointing is taking place.

There is also a second surface just below the upper board or surface. Running parallel with the upper surface, this surface is known as a fence. The space in between the board and the fence allows room for the blade in the hand plane to move with ease and precision. At the same time, the fence also helps to keep the plane properly aligned during the trimming and jointing. As a result of the dual functions of the stop and the fence, it is much easier to maintain control of both the plane and the wood that is being trimmed or jointed, which helps to cut down on the potential for error.

Outside this basic configuration for the shooting board, there are some differences in design, based on function. With jointing, the surface of the board is usually much longer than when engaging in end grain trimming. This is because there is a need for a longer surface on which to position the planking, and keep it in position while using the plane to trim the ends to specification. Many boards also have a design that is known as a ramped shooting board, which adds a slight slope to the fence. This innovation is thought to help minimize wear and tear on the blade of the plane, making it possible to finish more work without having to stop and sharpen the blade as often.

The shooting board is used in professional wood crafting businesses, as well as with woodworking at home. As with many types of tools, it is possible to purchase a basic woodworking shooting board that will do fine for most projects around the house. Boards that are larger and capable of standing up to daily use are more often utilized in commercial shops, and will cost considerably more than the simple home types.

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