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
Magswitch Featherboard Honest Review
This is by far my favorite featherboard I have used. It is my number 1 go-to tool that gets used nearly every time I rip wood on the table saw. I may be weird, but there is something satisfying about watching a board pass through each feather as it feeds into the saw blade.
There are only two legitimate downsides I have found. The cost is one. It is more expensive than the Hedgehog, but at around $60, it isn't unreasonable for quality safety equipment for the most dangerous tool in the woodshop.
The other downside is the only issue I've run across in using the Magswitch, and it has me reaching back for the Hedgehog on occasion. Any time the board I am ripping is the exact thickness to require the Magswitch to be placed directly over the miter slot. The magnets will still stick to the table top, but the grip is not strong enough to stay secure.
Using the Magswitch Featherboard
You can find it on Amazon for about $60
Comparing the Hedgehog Spiral Featherboard vs Magswitch
These are the two best featherboards on the market. They are both great safety tools that will protect you from dangerous kickback. However, there is a clear winner: the Magswitch. If you don't mind spending a few more bucks, you'll get a much more versatile featherboard out of the Magswitch. You can place it anywhere on your table top, with the exception of over top of the miter slot. This is where the Hedgehog beats the Magswitch - that and you can set up the hedgehog with one hand, if that is important to you.
I am happy that I own both as they compliment each other really well. Where one fails, the other excels.
Do you own either of these featherboards? We'd love to hear your experience in the comments below. Leave a question if you are considering buying either one. We are quick to respond to our readers' comments!
Additional Table Saw Safety Accessories
Table saws are dangerous tools when not used properly. However, there are so many great gadgets that will assist in safe operation of your saw.
MICROJIG GRR-RIPPER Push Block
You may have noticed I use the Microjig GRR-Ripper push block to keep my hands away from the blade. Any push block is better than no push block, but I will never recommend any other.
The handle is angled to help you maintain 3 directions of pressure: downward, forward and towards the fence. The bottom has grippy knobs that STICK to the wood and help push it along through the cut. There's retractable tabs on either end to grab the end of the board. They are great - and inexpensive at around $25 on Amazon.
Vertical Featherboard by Magswitch
This will be my next table saw accessory purchase. I seem to always have trouble keeping
downward pressure on a long workpiece.
This vertical featherboard magnetically attaches to your fence allowing the feathers to apply pressure to the wood downward. The feathers adjust to the thickness of your workpiece. You can find them on Amazon for around $75.
I promise to give a full review once I've had some time working with it, so subscribe to the blog and you won't miss it!
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