Push Stick for Ripping

Author: Mark Salusbury
Photos: Mark Salusbury
Published: October November 2019
Push Stick
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One of the most daunting woodworking shop tasks is ripping stock or parts on a table saw. Especially when the stuff is small and/or close to the rip fence. This simple push stick will calm your mind, give you confidence and allow you to better control the workpiece while making ripping operations.

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You want to push the stock past the spinning blade deftly to feel you have control over the cut but you’re rightfully afraid of being cut or worse…the dreaded kick-back. Push sticks have been around for ages, are better-than-nothing extensions for your hands and fingers, but merely keep your body parts further away when disaster strikes. They really offer little more than misplaced confidence.

What’s needed to rip stock safely, with confidence, is a featherboard and a “Pushover”. The featherboard, shop made or store bought, exerts lateral pressure, keeping the stock snug to the rip fence while also providing comforting anti-kickback insurance. The Pushover solidly supports the stock, and the resulting off-cut, from before the cut to beyond the blade, keeps your fingers away from the action and helps prevent the stock from potentially being lifted by the rising rear of the spinning blade when/if unexpected tension in the stock rears its ugly head.

Unassembled
The parts of the Pushover, all ready for assembly. Notice the trio of holes on either end of the longer piece at the bottom of this photo. This part is called the shoulder. Depending on which side of the rip fence you will be using this rip jig on you can attach the sacrificial leg to the appropriate end. Don't use glue for this as you may want to change sides down the road.

All Together Now
Assembled, the jig can be used on one or the other side of the rip fence. It's shown here to guide a workpiece on the right side of the rip fence.

Helping Hand
If you use one, position the featherboard just behind the leading edge of the blade. You'll notice here how a portion of the leg has been cut away, as a pass has already been made. If this leg gets too small you can easily replace it.

What is this magic device?

I make my Pushover from straight-grained hardwood, three #10 woodscrews with washers, a stout metal grip and some glue. The design is flexible so it can be made to suit whatever rip-fence it’s saddling. Overall dimensions aren’t critical, though some general guidelines will help. Most dimensions will have to be determined according to the width and height of your rip fence. It comprises five principal parts; a top, a side, a shoulder, a leg and a grip.

What’s important is:

– it’s long enough to not tip forward when pushed along the fence

– it’s precisely supported by the top of the fence and/or the saw table on both sides of the fence

– it’s rear-mounted sacrificial push “leg” be positioned snug to the side of the rip-fence yet free, allowing the Pushover to glide easily along the fence.

8” is a good length, stable yet small enough to keep close-at-hand and put in place when needed, but not bulky/awkward. My rip fence has a smooth supportive top tuned quite parallel to the table top so my Pushover rides the fence-top and the sacrificial “leg” and opposing side stop 1/32” short of the table. Otherwise, the leg and side could come down to be supported by the table. Regardless, the inner width between the side and the leg should be fixed so a shim the thickness of a playing card can be pressed in on one side of the fence when the Pushover is in place.

The shoulder

The shoulder should be tall enough that it provides solid support for the attached sacrificial leg but not so tall that it interferes with your grip. Holes drilled to clear three #10 screws at both ends of the shoulder allow the mounting of a sacrificial leg at either end, making the Pushover equally adaptable for use on either side of the rip-fence, depending on the task at-hand.

In use

If you’ve squarely crosscut the stock you’re ripping at both ends, the Pushover becomes an extension of your hand as you pass the stock over the table, between the fence and featherboard while its sacrificial leg guides the stock past the spinning saw-blade. The first pass will rip the profile of the cut into the leg so the leg thereafter will safely compliment the off-cut as well as the stock. The leg can be easily changed to offer safe support to match the task at hand.


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