A featherboard is a simple jig that makes it much safer to cut thin stock on a table saw or router table. Featherboards are quite easy to make, and every woodworker should keep a few on hand. Featherboards are also invaluable when cutting a bead or other intricate detail on a router table. One momentary slip of the stock away from the fence or table can ruin the bead. A pair of properly positioned featherboards will guarantee a consistent, clean bead detail.
Equipment / Tools
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Bevel or layout square
- 1x6 board, 12 to 18 inches long; preferably hardwood
Cut the Stock to Size
Cut the board to the desired dimensions. In this example, the featherboard is cut to 5 inches by 12 inches dimensions. Rip the 1x6 stock to width on a table saw, then cut it to length with a miter saw.
You can cut the stock to the length that is appropriate to your needs. For example, if the clamping point on your table saw or router table is more than 12 inches from the saw blade or router bit, you'll need to make your featherboard longer.
Miter the Board
Make a 30-degree mitered crosscut on one end of the board, using a miter saw. This edge will be the portion of the featherboard that will be against the wood stock as it is run through the power tool.
Mark a Stop Line
Mark a line 3 inches in from the mitered end of the board, parallel to the 30-degree mitered cut, using a bevel or a layout square. This will serve as the stop line when you're cutting the fingers of the featherboard on the table saw.
If you do not have a bevel, you can merely measure more than 3 inches from each edge of the 30-degree miter cut and make a pencil mark. Then, mark a straight line between these two pencil marks, using a straightedge as a guide.
Cut the Fingers
Set the fence of the table saw 1/4 inch from the blade. Place the long side of the board firmly against the fence and flat on the table, and run the board through the saw from the mitered edge until you reach the stop line. Then, carefully retract the board until it safely clears the blade.
Turn the saw's motor off. With the stock and your hands clear of the blade, move the fence an additional 3/8-inch away from the blade, and make another cut parallel to the first and again up to the stop line. To be safe, the saw should always be turned off while adjusting the fence.
Repeat the same process until the entire width of the board is cut into fingers about 1/4-inch wide.
If the last cut yields a very thin finger, you may wish to remove that finger altogether. If the last finger is greater than 1/4 inch in width, make one more cut. You don't want any fingers to be more than 1/4 inch in width, as that may cause the finger to be a bit inflexible and can bind the wood when the featherboard is in use.