Best Table Saw Featherboard: Hedgehog vs Magswitch
More than 10 Americans receive amputations due to table saw accidents every day. Kickback is the leading cause of injuries. As a piece of wood is pushed through the table saw blade, if not guided through straight and against the saw fence, it can ride up the top or back of the blade. Table saw blades can reach up to 4,000 RPM. As your board rides up on top of the blade, the teeth combined with rotational speed grabs onto the board and flings it back towards the operator at a high speed. This can cause significant injury. Worse yet, many times the operator can be "pulled" into the blade, severing fingers and hands.
While table saw injury numbers are decreasing due to improved safety features such as the electric signal detecting technology from SawStop, more can be prevented with an inexpensive addition to your table saw: a featherboard.
What is a table saw featherboard?
A featherboard mounts to your table saw top, behind and to the side of the blade, to provide consistent pressure to your workpiece against the table saw fence. This pressure prevents the wood from being pushed through the blade crooked which could cause a bind leading to kickback. As well as having a safety function, it also ensures a straight cut as your piece is not able to wander from the fence.
Important: Where to Mount a Featherboard
Featherboards must be mounted in a way that applies pressure to the board at a location before the blade. The last point of contact from the featherboard happens at a location prior to the spot the blade is making contact with the wood piece.
In other words, do not mount the featherboard so that it applies pressure to the board into the blade.
This will pinch the wood into the blade and could lead to kickback and injury.
The Hedgehog Featherboard
The Hedgehog Spiral Featherboard is the perfect starter featherboard. It slides into your standard sized 3/4" miter slot and locks in place with a single knob for fast, one-handed operation. Rotate until the feathers press against your workpiece pushing it securely against the saw fence. The spiral design allows for 5" of board width adjustment (as shown below).
Pros and Cons of the Hedgehog Featherboard
Hedgehog Spiral Featherboard Honest Review
The Hedgehog featherboard was the first table saw safety accessory I purchased. Many people make their own featherboards, but the simple design and one-hand operation was perfect for me to start out with.
The main issue I had with it was capacity. When I ripped boards wide enough to cover the miter slot opposite of the fence, I was unable to use the Hedgehog. You can see what I mean in the video below where I switch to the Magswitch Featherboard. (jump to video). A small note, but I have noticed that, due to the spiral shape, it is easy to accidently place the featherboard too close to the blade and nick one of the feathers, so careful attention to your placement is important.
However, I still find myself reaching for the Hedgehog to this day because it sets up so quick.
They can even be stacked on top of each other for thick boards that you want additional support along the height of the workpiece.
You can find the single Hedgehog Spiral Featherboard on Amazon for about $40
The stackable featherboard kit is usually about $80 on Amazon
The Magswitch Featherboard
Where the Hedgehog fails, the Magswitch Featherboard shines. It is incredibly versatile as it easily repositions to accommodate any size of workpiece. Two built-in magnets activated by hand-knobs allow you to position the Magswitch anywhere on your cast iron or steel table saw surface. It provides the same safety functionality as the Hedgehog, but is not limited by the miter slot location.
Pros and Cons of Magswitch Featherboard