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A tablesaw is a highly coveted woodworking tool for professional woodworkers and DIYers. It is a versatile power tool that cuts lumber efficiently and accurately.
Compared to a circular saw, a table saw provides better control over the stock and allows you to make precise and repetitive cuts with different types and sizes of workpieces. Tables saws are also excellent for making specialty cuts such as dados and rabbets.
But when you don’t use it properly, a table saw can be very dangerous.
Statistically, table saws are the least safe woodworking tool, causing more than 30,000 injuries annually in the US. The most common table saw injuries include finger amputation and deep cuts.
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Amputation on a table saw often occurs when the fingers accidentally come into contact with a spinning blade whereas deep cuts often result from kickbacks.
Thankfully, you can reduce the risk of table saw injuries by using the table saw properly and utilizing safety features such as the riving knife, anti-kickback mechanism, and blade guard.
You can further increase your safety when operating a table saw by using various table saw safety jigs including a push stick or push block, cross cut sled, miter sled, and a splitter.
A featherboard is another invaluable safety jig. You can use it to reduce the risk of severing your fingers on a table saw while cutting lumber.
So, in this article, we shall explore a table saw featherboard and why you should use it when working with a table saw.
Table Saw Featherboard
As I previously stated, most of the table saw injuries involve the amputation of fingers and thumbs. This happens because of moving the hand too close to the rotating blade while feeding stock to the table saw blade.
As a result, any slight mishap exposes the fingers to the danger of coming into contact with the spinning blade. And that is how the fingers get severed.
But you can reduce the risk of cutting your fingers on a table saw by using a featherboard along with your other table saw safety jigs.
What is a featherboard?
A featherboard is a safety device that holds down a workpiece or presses it tight against the fence on table saw, router table, or band saw. It can be plastic or wooden.
This safety jig acts as a helping hand for pushing narrow stock against the the fence, allowing you to keep your hand away from the spinning blade or bit.
A feather board consists of thin, flexible, parallel “fins” or “fingers” that are mounted perpendicular to the direction of the workpiece movement. They hold the workpiece tight against the fence to prevent lateral play. You can also mount the feather board so that it holds down the stock against the table.
The main advantage of using a featherboard is that it allows to keep your hand away from the dangerous blade or bit. This ensures that you end your job with 5 fingers on both hands every time.
But there is another advantage. A featherboard on a table saw also servers as an anti-kickback device. The fingers are carefully shaped to make it easy to move the workpiece forward and hard to pull it back. This design plays a crucial role in restraining the stock from sliding backward, effectively preventing a dangerous kickback.
In other words, a proper fingerboard on a table saw can prevent the wood from flying back at you when the blade tries to shoot it backward.
Best Table Saw Featherboards (Top 3 Picks)
Featherboards for table saws come in different styles and shapes but these are our top choices.
Kreg PRS3010 True Flex Featherboard – Best Bang for the Buck
If you have ever used any Kreg jig, then you are familiar with Kreg quality. And this Kreg Featherboard has that DNA.
The Kreg fingerboard is made of rugged industrial grade plastic that is durable and strong enough to hold the wood in place as you cut it.
This unit is easy to set up and adjust. You can actually set it with one hand as you hold the board you want to cut with the other.
The kit comes with washers to raise the featherboard up higher for taller wood.
I use it on my compact Dewalt DWE7485 table saw to increase safety when ripping lumber. It has made ripping wood much easier and the fins keep even pressure on the stock, guaranteeing uniform woodcuts.
The Kreg featherboard is compatible with many tables saws that have standard miter groove of size 3/4″. Examples include various types of Ridgid and DeWalt tables such as the Ridgid R4512 and DeWalt DWE7491RS.
Therefore, if you have a Shopsmith, Craftsman, or any other type of table saw with a wider or smaller miter gauge slot, the Kreg True Flex is not the right featherboard for you.
Hedgehog Spiral Featherboard – Most Versatile
As the name implies, the hedgehog featherboard takes the shape of a hedgehog. And not only is the shape unique but also the locking mechanism.
It has a single locking knob compared to other featherboards that use at least two knobs to attach to the T-slot. The knob acts as a single pivot point, allowing you to quickly rotate the fingerboard into position and tighten it down with one hand.
Similar to Kreg, this safety jig is made from durable plastic material. You can use one unit on a table saw or add a second one if you want exceptionally smooth and clean cuts.
The hedgehog featherboard is by far the easiest to set up. Once you slide it into the miter slot, you swivel it to adjust it to the width of the stock you want to cut and clamp it down.
It might not be possible to set it up with one hand as the manufacturer claims but is quick to set up because you don’t have to worry about aligning it.
Unfortunately, the hedgehog spiral fingerboard only fits in 3/4 inch T-slots. But if your saw has a 5/8″ miter slot, you can buy the bundle that includes a 5/8″ expansion clamp.
Though its price is on the higher side, this hedgehog jig is one of the most versatile featherboards that you can use with a variety of table saws, band saws, and router tables.
Bow Featherpro FP1 Featherboard – Most Durable
The Bow featherboard is another outstanding featherboard you can consider for your table saw, router table, or band saw. It is made of plastic with replaceable foam fingers.
However, like Kreg True Flex, the Bow FeatherPRO FP1 does not work with all saws. It only works with saws that have a standard miter slot of size 3/4 inch.
What makes the Bow featherboard stand out is the replaceable fingers. They hold the wood surprisingly firmly, making it very difficult to pull the wood backward.
And when the foam fingers wear or get damaged, you can easily replace them instead of buying a new tool. This modularity makes the Bow Featherpro one of the most durable feather boards.
And there you have it!
To recap, a table saw is very useful for making various types of cuts but can be very dangerous when you dont use it properly. You can easily lose your fingers or suffer bad injuries on a table saw.
The best way to increase table saw safety is to use it correctly and utilize safety features and jigs such as a push stick, riving knife, splitter, and a featherboard.
A table saw featherboard serves 3 main purposes:
- Push the workpiece against the fence on your behalf, allowing you to keep your hand at a safe distance from the spinning blade.
- Apply consistent pressure on the stock against the fence to ensure accurate cuts every time.
- Prevent or slow down kickback by stopping the workpiece from moving backward.
There are many types of table saw feather boards on the market but these are the top 3 options:
- Kreg PRS3010 True-Flex Featherboard – Most Affordable
- Hedgehog Sprial Featherboard – Most Versatile
- Bow Featherpro FP1 Featherboard – Most Durable
Safety Precautions When Using a Featherboard
These are some of the DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind when using a featherboard on a table saw:
- DO NOT use the featherboard as the only safety measure on the table saw. Always couple it with a push stick and remember to install a riving knife or splitter and blade guard on the saw.
- DO NOT mount the fingerboard at the blade or behind the blade as it can cause kickback. Mount it in front of the blade.
- DO NOT use damaged or worn featherboard.
- DO use featherboard for long and narrow stocks.
- DO wear personal protective equipment when working with a table saw