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    Using Push Sticks

    At the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, where I teach and also manage the woodshops, showing students how to safely operate power equipment is one of our first tasks. The lesson always includes push sticks.

    A push stick is a shaped length of wood or other material that helps control the movement of a workpiece. It is most needed at the tablesaw, jointer, router table, and bandsaw.

    Using a push stick keeps hands away from blades and cutters. It also helps maintain an even pressure and feed rate, reducing the risk of kickback and producing a smoother cut. In our shops, we keep extra push sticks handy, and there is always one sitting on top of a machine table or hung on a hook nearby. We encourage students to get in the habit of looking for the push stick before they turn on the machine.

    There are many well-designed push sticks for sale, but shopmade sticks are easy and inexpensive to make from materials as close as your scrap barrel. A well-made push stick will hold the work securely with a notch, cleat, or nonslip surface. It will feel right in the hand—an awkward handle can be unsafe if it forces you to shift your hand for a better grip. And it will be easy to make, because shopmade sticks are meant to contact the blade at times and eventually to be replaced.

    Read the companion posts to find out how to make and use five essential shopmade push sticks for the tablesaw, jointer, router table, and bandsaw.

    (Originally printed in the Sept/Oct 2006 issue of Fine Woodworking magazine (FWW #186)