Wednesday 13 January 2016

How I Made My Miter Shooting Board

Some times boxes with mitered joints are looking more elegant than dovetails.

But how to do miters in a hand tool only workshop?
The solution is a miter shooting board or donkey ear, how it will be called too.

I've made one. Entirely by hand, with hand tools only. Curious how?
Then have a look.....

I'm using my shooting board very often in the every day work of the woodshop. Experienced woodworkers have mentioned the importance of using a shooting board in a hand tool shop for a long time.

So I won't have to say anything new about it. I was just looking for a solution to a new problem in my shop.
My plans are to build some boxes in the next few weeks. The design I have in mind contains miter joints and I was wondering how to do exact miter joints in a hand tool only workshop.
I guess some of you are already working with it. The answer is a miter shooting board (or donkey ear). There are several designs out there. My decision was to make one based on a design of Robert Wearing. Google for these terms and I'm sure you will find a lot of results.

The design is easy to understand and pretty easy to rebuild. The challenge was to do it with hand tools only and being precise.

Here we go.....

The Base

The base of my new miter shooting board is made from birch plywood. I had no material which was thick enough for a base so I laminated to boards of 12mm ply.

The two base boards

The boards are approx. 30 cm wide x 45 cm long. I couldn't build it longer because my bench is placed at the wall and if I would have done so, then the plane would hit the wall panels.
I marked and predrilled a few holes in the lower board. These holes are just for "clamping" purposes. 

Board lamination w. screws

Glue was spread on both panels, then put together and the screws were tighten. I let it dry over night and removed all screws the next day. Then I smoothed the edges and checked the whole assembly for squareness. 

The next step was to make a groove with reference to one of the long edges.
I came in about 25 mm and scribed a line.

Scribe a line at the long edge

And another one additional 4 mm away from the first one.

Scribed line #2

Between these lines I have done a groove with my plough plane. Just a hint, touch the stones before you start. It will make it so much easier.

Ploughing between the lines

Making the scribe lines first makes ploughing a bit easier. It will help to avoid tear out and guide the plane.

The final groove

The Stops

I have laminated the stop from some beech I have found in my scrap box. They are approx. 40 x 40 mm. The length depends on the width of the base (approx. 280 mm in this case, from the groove to the opposite edge).

The stop blocks

I have made them square on 4 sides. One end of each stop will get a 45° bevel. To mark the bevel I came in 5 mm from the end and made a nick and draw a knife line across.

Knife nick

Knife line across
This knife line is my reference for the complete bevel.

Mark the 45° bevel

Now I took my square and made a 45° line across the side of the stop block. The end of the line I have drawn around. 

Knife nicks

That done I had just to connect the both knife nicks on the opposite.

Connecting the nicks

All that done, I have transferred the marks to the other block.

Transferring the marks

As I have no miter saw or miter block I had to work very accurate on establishing this bevel.
The first step in this direction was to make really deep notches. I made them with a chisel, cut a second knife line and chiseled out the material again. This would give me a clear reference for the planing later on.

Deep notches

I've sawed it down with a small tenon saw. So close to the line as I could.
Here is the result.

Result across the block after sawing

Result along the bevel after sawing
Not bad, dude, not bad! :-)

Marked the high spots

After checking the sawn surface with the square I've marked all the high spots so that I know where to touch with the plane.

Planing down the high spots

I've carefully planed down the high spots with a low angle plane. I've checked gradually the progress while planing.


And with a bit of patience and with fine shaving I was finally there. I repeated all the above described steps with the second stop block.

The stops are done

Mounting The Stops

With the stop blocks done I could do the next stage. Mounting the stops.
Finally there is no fixed layout for the stops. I decided to come in 25 mm from the top edge and to adjust the stop relative to the edge on the right (which is my reference edge).
I've clamped a square to the base and have aligned the stop with the square.

Aligning the stop

I've marked and drilled some holes and screwed the blocks to the base.

Screwing the stops to the base

The distance for the other stop block I've chosen to not lose the contact of the plane sole.

Stop blocks mounted

Next Steps

I will tell you what. I will stop at this point for some reasons.

1) A cold caught me this weekend and I couldn't finalize my work at the shooting board.
The shelf and the top guide are already done. But the final assembly is missing.

2) The post is a pretty long one. Much longer than expected.

3) Have I already told you the a cold hit me? ;-)

Guys, we will talk next week.

Stay tuned!


  1. You have my undivided attention Stefan. My donkey ear jig was made mostly with hand tools and it's off just a smidgen. Annoying to say the least. I have been looking around for an adjustable one but no luck so far.
    Hope the cold is getting better.

    1. Hi Ralph,
      thanks for your interest.
      I hope it's coming out bang on. The first shots I've made with the incomplete board were.
      With adjustable you mean that model with a hand screw on one side?

  2. AH yes, the seemingly easy yet most frustrating, 45 mitre :-)
    There are many variations on miter shoothing boards, mine is different. Curious to see how yours turned out.

    Bob, back from hospital

    1. Hello Bob,
      it went surprisingly well. I guess it has to with the wood you are using. The stops and the guide are made from beech which can be planed wafer-thin.
      I found this design pretty easy to build for the first shot.
      Which design have you chosen? Is it on your blog?

      Beside that, once again best wishes to both of you.


  3. Covered my mitre jigs on my blog? Yes kind of...
    See pics on Apr 17th 2015 Bench details


  4. I've attempted a couple of these and both were slightly out, unless you can make them adjustable they're not much use, mitered edge boxes etc look terrible if the miters are not spot on.

    1. Hi Tony,
      thanks for your comment. I'm not quite sure if I got your point. Is it about that it makes no sense to have the stop blocks adjustable?
      Until now I'm quite satisfied with the design I have chosen. If the blade is set accurate in the plane and the piece are fixed tightly while shooting then the edges are coming out spot on 45°.
      But I'm with you, if the miters are not spot on the corners will look ugly.
      Is there another design you can recommend for hand tool only work?


    2. Hi Stefan,
      Thanks for the quick response. I have tried a couple of designs but they produced miters that were very slightly out. With some sort of adjustability I could have corrected the miters.

  5. I just finished making one similar. The angle of the mitre is controlled by the bridge rail that supports the left side of the plane foot. If the rail is screwed but not glued it can be shimmed to give the correct angle.