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Using Push Sticks for Safe Woodworking

Push Sticks –  Develop a Safe Habit


Push Sticks- Push Blocks - Work Safety - Health & SafetyPush sticks are essential woodworking accessories. If a woodworker is going to work with power tools like a table saw, band saw, jointer, or router table, it is an excellent idea to have a variety of push sticks on hand. (Under the general heading of “push sticks” are included push blocks and featherboards as well.) Push sticks are used to keep the woodworker’s hands away from moving saw blades, router bits, and jointer knives during woodworking operations. The wood material being cut or shaped is controlled and guided with the aid of one of more push sticks.

Push Sticks – A Woodworker’s Choice

The intent of this woodworking article and YouTube video is not to serve as a public service announce regarding safety. This article and video are also not intended as a safety guide for all woodworkers to follow. However, the individual woodworker can consider this article and video as a reminder to stop, take your time, and think about what he or she doing when working with power tools. Woodworking safety is an individual’s responsibility.


Why use a Push Stick? 

Push sticks and push blocks are woodworking accessories that are used to control material as it is being cut, jointed or shaped.  These safety devices allow for a safe distance between the woodworker’s hands and a spinning saw blade or router bit. Simply put, it’s better to have the accessory nicked that a woodworker’s fingers and hands.

Push Sticks & Hands on Training

Push sticks are part of any quality training course when the use of power tools are discussed. The woodworking instructor will demonstrate how and why the various push sticks are used before any of the stationary power tools are even turned on. If you are a beginning woodworker, it is a good idea to seek out a competent woodworking instructor so that you can learn the basic skills of the wood craft. A great instructor will show you how to work safe.  It’s just a very good idea to get some hands on experience and some safety training.


How to Get Push Sticks & Push Blocks

Push sticks are available from online stores like Woodcraft and Rockler. The are plenty of choices of push sticks and push blocks available for the woodworker. Also, it is quite easy to make these woodworking accessories in your own work shop. Be sure to have the push sticks close at hand for each of your stationary power tools. Remember, using push sticks and push blocks is a skill and a habit that we develop when we are new to woodworking. It is also a skill and a habit that we maintain throughout our entire woodworking career.


Push Sticks & Work Safety 

Many of us have different levels of woodworking experience. Decide for yourself what your work safety standards are for your skill level. It is your health and safety. Remember to stop, take your time, and think for yourself. Too often accidents happen when a woodworker gets in a hurry. If you aren’t already, consider using push sticks, push blocks, and featherboards.


Watch more YouTube woodworking how to videos online.

…Your comments are welcomed…

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

How to Cut Uniform Thin Strips

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
Muhammed Ali…3-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion (1942-)

Hardwood Veneer cut on Band Saw

Hardwood Veneer cut on Band Saw

One of my woodworking shop accessories is drawing a lot of attention lately. Many viewers have seen it on my band saw during recent woodworking videos and they have asked me about it in their emails. While the name of the tool implies that it is to be used on the table saw, it has also found a lot of time on the bandsaw cutting thin strips of wood inlay bandings. What is it you ask? It is an invaluable saw accessory called the Rockler Thin Rip Tablesaw Jig.

One might ask “What makes this simple jig so special?” The beauty of this jig is indeed its simplicity. There is a roller bearing on the end of the accessory. The jig is adjustable from side to side and it can be locked into position in the miter gauge slot. When used on the tablesaw the roller bearing is set away from the blade an amount equal to the thickness of the desired ripping. Then the jig is simply slid about 4-5 inches in front of the saw blade and locked into position. Basically, that’s it.

How to Cut Uniform Thin Strips on the Tablesaw
1.) Place the surfaced edge of the board to be cut alongside the roller bearing.
2.) Slide the table saw fence alongside the opposite edge of the board.
3.) Lock the fence in place. When ready turn on the saw and take a small practice cut into the board.
4.) Check the measurement with a dial or digital caliper. Make lateral adjustments of the bearing as needed to obtain the desired measurement and adjust the fence to the boards’ opposite edge. When you have the right measurement for the ripping it is time to “rip away.”
5.) Simply, repeat the procedure of moving the table saw fence in alongside the edge opposite of the cut after every rip is made.

Band saw setup for ripping wood inlay bandings

Bandsaw setup for ripping wood inlay bandings

How to Cut Uniform Thin Strips on the Bandsaw
Note: (The “drift” of the band saw blade must first be accounted for when using this technique.) In the picture to the left a small wedge has been set between the manufacturers’ fence and the L-shaped thin rip fence. This was performed to set the fence to the correct angle of the “drift.”)

1.) Set the roller bearing a distance away from the blade that is equal to the desired ripping.
2.) Now, place the roller bearing an inch or so in front of the bandsaw blade and turn the star knob down to lock the jig in place.
3.) Next, place the right edge of the surfaced board alongside of the bearing.
4.) We now want to set an L-shaped thin rip fence alongside the left edge of the board to be ripped.
5.) Place the regular bandsaw fence next to the L-shaped thin rip fence and clamp both fences together along the boards’ left edge. Lock the fence and for safety lower the bandsaw’s bearing guides to just above the boards’ surface.

Dial caliper measure thickness of wood inlay banding

Dial caliper measure thickness of wood inlay banding

At this point it is just a matter of taking a practice cut to check the accuracy of the thickness of the ripping with a digital or dial caliper. Adjust as necessary. When the correct measurement is obtained it is time to rip. To make the next rip it is simply a matter of placing the board’s right edge against the roller bearing and then sliding the fences over to the left edge of the board. Rip and repeat the process to obtain uniform rippings.

The Rockler Thin Rip Tablesaw Jig has been in my woodworking shop for over 3 years and is still going strong. It is great for making rips on the tablesaw. However, it is also terrific on the bandsaw as it allows me to rip wood inlay bandings to a consistent uniform thickness of 3/32.” This simple little jig allows me to perform operations safely, efficiently, and with accuracy.

So, give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Recommended Videos…

Ripping Thin Strips on Wood Inlay on the Band Saw

Cutting Thin Strips on the Band Saw

Band Saw Rip Fence made in the Shop

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Zero Clearance Table Saw Inserts

“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”
Jonas Salk…American medical researcher and virologist.

Shopmade zero clearance table saw inserts greatly improves the safety and efficiency of the table saw. New table saws come with an insert. However, are the factory inserts always the best option for the woodworker? The gap alongside of the saw blade of the original table saw insert is wide which can lead to tear-out and also cause more sawdust to fly. Also, safety concerns arise when wood debris falls into this opening next to a spinning saw blade. Have you considered a zero clearance table saw insert yet?

Table Saw Zero Clearance inserts

Vairous sized Table Saw Zero Clearance inserts

Zero clearance table saw inserts can easily be bought or the woodworker can simply make the inserts in the woodworking shop. Either way you choose is the right way and you’ll be glad you made the choice. Once you begin the habit of using a table saw insert you will wonder why you didn’t use them previously. You will also feel like your level of craftsmanship went up a few notches and you will soon see improvement in the quality of your work. (When making a crosscut on the table saw with a sharp blade and a zero clearance table saw insert you will prevent tear-out.)

Phenolic zero clearance table saw inserts can be purchased inexpensively. Some inserts are already sized to fit the throat of your specific table saw model. Then there are phenolic inserts that are purchased oversized so that with a little work you can fit it to the throat opening of your saw.

Some woodworkers choose to make their own zero clearance table saw inserts from material they have readily available in the woodworking shop. Baltic birch plywood, solid wood, or MDF can be used. The choice is yours. When you have zero clearance table saw inserts, you will be working more confidently as well as more safely.

Table Saw Zero Clearance insert with a splitter

A Table saw splitter safely keeps the saw blade kerf open.

A Table Saw Zero Clearance insert

A splitter on a zero clearance insert.

A Finish nail keeps the zero clearance table saw insert flat in the table saw.

A finish nail will hold the zero clearance insert from lifting out of the throat.

If you make your own zero clearance table saw inserts:
1.) You will want a good snug fit in the throat opening of the table saw.
2.) Make sure the top surface of the insert is adjusted so it is even or just slightly below the table saw surface.
3.) Make sure the insert does not have a tendency to lift out of the throat opening. Add a small finish nail to the end of the insert farthest from the operator.
4.) If you make a zero clearance table saw insert for a single table saw blade that will be used for ripping material be sure to always have a splitter in place. The splitter keeps the saw blade kerf open and helps to prevent any binding or table saw kickback.

An assortment of zero clearance table saw inserts can prove to come in handy. If you work with dado blades it’s a good idea to have a number of table saw accessories already made. This way you will have an insert to use with various dado blade combinations. Also, if you work with a dedicated dado sled for the table saw you will be glad to have different sized zero clearance table saw inserts.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

The 5 Most Important Power Tools in my Woodworking Shop

As a beginning woodworker I was fortunate to have attended a two year woodworking/carpentry program. I was even more blessed to have a wonderful man named Mr. Wagner as an shop instructor during this time. He was the best. There were 12 students in the class and we learned how to use hand and power tools. We started off by learning to use and maintain basic and specialty hand tools and then we eventually moved on to using the woodworking stationary dado, dado sled, power woodworking tools, woodworking tools, machines.

It was then that I decided that I would have my own woodworking shop and I started to think about what tools for woodworking I would want for my shop. Interestingly enough, my choice of the 5 best woodworking machines is still the same today as it was back then. The power woodworking tools that follow are listed in the order of importance in my shop.

Table Saw
The table saw is the heart of the wood shop as so many functions can be performed especially with the use of woodworking jigs and sleds. (Miter Sled and Dado Sled.)

The jointer is great acquiring a flat, smooth, and straight surface. It can be a narrow edge or as wide as the jointer knives.

The planer works well for surfacing and dimensioning material quickly. Start with a jointed surface and make the opposite surface parallel.

Band Saw
The band saw is wonderful for cutting straight, cutting curves, or slicing wood veneer.

Drill Press
The drill press when set up with a drill press table is very accurate for boring holes along with other functions such as sanding.

Recommended Video… Let’s Build a Drill Press Table

When it comes to power tools my shop woodworking revolves around these wood machines.

Your choices may indeed differ than mine and that’s OK as woodworkers have a variety needs in this wood craft. There are a few woodworking tools that I absolutely love that I left off this list such as the wood lathe, the open end drum sander, and a good compound mitre saw. For me they would be a close 6, 7 and 8.

Just curious tho…What would be your top 5 power woodworking tools for the shop?

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

20…Let’s Build a Jewelry Box…Part 3

”Dreams are made possible if you try.” …Terry Fox

This episode is part of the Let’s Build Series

Woodworking Tips and Techniques:

1.) Using blue adhesive tape to aid the gluing process.
2.) Using Ulmia spring clamps for assembly and fitting of miter joints.
3.) Cutting perfect miter joints on the table saw using the Dedicated Miter Sled.

In Part 3 of this how to build a jewelry box video series we are back in the woodworking shop as we continue working on the Koa wood veneer jewelry box. We have previously fit the components together during a dry run so it is now time to apply yellow glue to the miter joints. First though, we need to tape the walls of the wooden box with blue tape. This will act as a hinge as it will allow us to spread the glue into the open miters and then swing the walls to close the joints. Also, when you only have two hands the blue tape greatly simplifies the task.

Koa wood veneer packets prepared for wood glue.

When the miter joints of the box are closed we can now clamp the corner woodworking joints tight with the Ulmia clamps. These pinch clamps are worth their weight in gold as they secure the miter joint while the adhesive sets. Notice how each miter joint has a spring clamp at the top and the bottom. This give equal pressure throughout the joint and assures alignment along the length of the joint. Note: We will make sure to check our wood project for square by measuring diagonally across the jewelry box and getting equal measurements.

When the wood glue is firming up we can apply blue adhesive tape next to the rabbets since we will be gluing the rabbets to receive the base. The application of the blue tape will help to contain the yellow glue and prevent it from reaching the surface of the wood veneers. We want keep the glue in the joints only. Any excess glue that reaches the veneer surface will create unnecessary work for us and can complicate the wood finish that will later be applied.

Since we have glued the rabbets we will continue by gluing the edges of the base and fitting the base to the rabbets of our woodworking project. When the veneered base is set in place we can proceed to securely clamp the wooden box. Note: Because our base is comprised of an MDF core with both sides veneered we can glue all four edges of the base because there is virtually no wood movement unlike a solid wood base.

After the glue has dried we take the jewelry box to our woodworking bench where we set up our bench dogs to the bench top adjacent to our woodworking vise. With our Koa veneered box we prepare to clean off the glue residue with our card scraper. When we are finished scraping the glue we then sand by hand to smooth the surface.

Our attention now turns to the box lid and how it will be housed in place. We are using solid Koa wood for the lid as well using Koa to cover the tops of the veneered walls. The tops of the veneered walls will have a slight overhang and will also be mitered at the corners. These tops will include rabbets to allow the lid to seat. We create the rabbets on the table saw using dado blades along with a sacrificial dado fence. In this section of the video we pay close attention to the safety accessories employed. Notice the handled push block used when cutting the rabbets. It controls the stock being cut and also keeps our hand away from the blades. When the rip cuts are made we use a splitter and a long push stick that keeps our hands at a safe distance as well as secures that the material is flat on the table saw top as the material is fed through the saw blade.

Our next job for this woodworking project is to cut the miters on the dedicated miter sled while ensuring a proper fit to the top of the veneered box. No tape measure or rule is needed as we mark everything based on its placement to the box. This eliminates any chance of error in measurement while creating a very accurate marking. With this procedure in place we will simply mark and cut as needed and then secure the miter joints with spring clamps. When all four miters are fit we will glue and clamp them.

The box lid is dimensioned for thickness by using two power tools; a bench top planer and an open drum sander. The planer does most of the work, however for the final dimensioning and smoothing the lid is run through the open drum sander. Woodworking Tip: Because the lid is of curly koa there is a chance for grain tearout so this is one important reason why the final dimensions for the lid take place on the open drum sander.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

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