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Pushsticks and jigs for router safety

With more than 23 years of woodworking and router experience, Carol Reed knows a thing or two about shop safety. She shares her tips for using pushsticks to prevent injuries and errors.

"I see myself as a teacher of beginners," says Carol Reed, who has taught woodworking and router techniques for 23 years. She also demonstrates her talents at woodworking and home and garden shows. Her first book, Router Joinery Workshop, was published in 2003.


Why you need these jigs

"I like to call these pushsticks my 'success devices,'" Carol says. "The real reason to use pushsticks is that not only will you be safer, you'll reduce burn marks and errors. Overall, you'll enjoy more success."


How to build Carol's jigs

pushsticks to work
Enlarge Image
 
With the aid of a feather board, Carol
Reed's pushstick for narrow stock
keeps workpieces flat against the router
table.

Follow the drawings below to cut the pieces for Carol's two router table accessories. Make a pattern for the handle by tracing the handle of a handsaw. Create a template of the handle from your tracing, she says, and then "make an armload of these darn things. That way, you won't feel bad if you chew up one of your jigs."

We made our handles from easily worked and inexpensive MDF (medium-density fiberboard). To assemble the pushstick used for routing the ends of long stock, glue and clamp the base to the MDF upright piece. After applying glue to the handle, rub it across the upright, and clamp in place. Glue the heel on last. To make the pushstick for narrow stock, glue the base to the handle, and clamp until dry. For safety, do not use metal fasteners to hold the pieces together.


Put the pushsticks to use

pushsticks
Enlarge Image
 
Carol's vertical pushstick, with a
replaceable 1/4" plywood heel, helps you
press tall pieces firmly against your router
table fence.

Paired with a feather board, Carol's narrow-stock pushstick above, helps you control small pieces. The vertical pushstick, right, supports the ends of tall pieces. "I use this handle design at my tablesaw and jointer, too," Carol advises. After you chew up the sole and heel, send it through the jointer and attach new pieces.

"And don't think of just 3/4"-thick material," Carol says. "I have safely routed thinner stock with 3/8 " pushsticks and a little heel."


Climb-cut safely

Carol advises woodworkers to approach climb-cutting with added caution. (Although this method of clockwise cutting with a handheld router produces less splintering than the traditional counterclockwise direction, the router tends to pull itself away from the operator.) With climb-cutting, you can remove burn marks or clean up tear-out, making only a 1/64" pass with a handheld router.

"But I don't advocate any climb-cutting at a router table," Carol adds. "Think of it this way: A router table was designed to cut wood narrower than the handheld router base. If you introduce wood to the backside of a cutter at a router table, you essentially drop your stock onto a moving sidewalk. And if you're trying to control a small piece, where will your fingers go? Right into the bit."

For safety, I encourage all my students to draw big bit rotation arrows with a Sharpie marker on their router bases and motors." The arrows provide a constant and readily visible reminder of which direction the bit is turning.


 

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