Feather boards are a great safety feature to use with table saws, router tables, band saws and other machines where you are sliding your wood past a rotating blade/bit. They help prevent kickback by holding your workpiece where it should be while you feed it through your machine.
Make vs. Buy
Commercial feather boards can seem a ridiculously expensive to buy compared to functionality, the ones I bought just sit since I made my own. The exception might be the one that came with the bandsaw on my Shopsmith, but for the table saw and router, solid wood beats the plastic ones hands down!!!
If you want to make your own feather boards, it probably worth your while to first make a jig. I rarely buy new materials when making jig, I just gather things up from around the shop.
This is a table saw jig, you could also cut these freehand with a bandsaw, the wider kerf of a table saw gives them a bit more flexibility. When selecting wood for feather boards, hardwoods work best such as oak and maple.
- Base – plywood or MDF, somewhere between 18-24″, big enough clamp your board and have a handle (not in photos) to push it through the saw with.
- 2×4, or something taller than the saw blade to stabilize the top.
- runners for miter slots on table saw
- angled piece of wood
- something to use as a “key” this is your spacer, set about 1/4″ away from where the saw blade cuts the jig. I found some sort of L-bracket I had in my bin to use. You will want these to sit flush, which means marking and chiseling out the wood you are placing them on. This will make using the jig quick and easy.
- Clamp of some sort. I have a T-Track clamp from Rockler, so I added 2 rows of t-track slot. Ok fine, so the first one ended up being too far away and I had to try again ;0). My second choice would be this auto adjusting clamp from Bessey
- screws, glue, nail gun to fasten everything together.
- I made my runners out of oak, cutting them first on the table saw 1/4 larger than desired size, then planing them until they fit snug in my miter slots.
Cutting the Feather boards
- Once your jig is assembled, cut the end of your boards at 30 degrees.
- Mark a parallel line from one end somewhere between 2-3″
- Clamp board to jig next with right side against the key, marked line up.
- Start running through the saw, stopping when you reach your line.
- Back up the jig, reposition wood, sliding to the right with the key in your slit, clamp again and repeat until you come to the end.
However you choose to attach your feather board, you will need to cut slots for them to slide on. Two ways come to mind:
- You could drill each end of your slot with a bit the width of the slot, then cut the sides out with a jig saw.
- Use a router with a plunge base and edge guide.
I chose the second method and really only had to mark the beginning and end points and set my edge guide to the correct depth.
The router in the photo is set for dados, but it would look almost identical for cutting slots, just with a smaller straight edge bit. You want your slot just big enough for the bolt to slide through easily, not too tight and not so big it makes adjusting the feather board sloppy.
Taking the time to make some good quality feather boards can help increase your productivity and safety in the long run.
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