We’ve been doing more and more woodworking over the past year, and our arsenal of tools and equipment has grown steadily. We’ve always been pretty safety conscious (thanks to Evan, who always has to remind me to put on my eye/ear protection, respirator, etc) but with the increased dangerous-equipment-usage, we’ve been feeling the need to up our safety game even more. Enter the Push Sticks.
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Basically, a push stick is a tool you use when you’re working on a table saw to be able to a) keep your hands farther from the spinning blade of doom, and b) give yourself more control to safely maneuver a piece of wood through said spinning blade of doom. There are two common styles out there that were popularized by Matthias Wandel and John Heisz, so we made each of those versions and tried them for ourselves.
The Wandel version is based around the idea of using two long-handled push sticks. You hold them pretty far back, which keeps your hands quite far from the blade. One is used to push the wood forward, and one is used to hold it from the side and keep it straight. Because of how you hold each of them, you tend to stand a little more to the side which means you’re less likely to get hit if there’s a kick back.
The Heisz version is designed in a way that applies forward and downward pressure at the same time so that you have solid control of the wood without having to apply as much force yourself (meaning you’re less likely to fall forward toward the blade). It also has a log of surface area that touches the wood and feels like it gives you great control.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Wood that’s between 1/2″ and 1/4″ thick (if you’re doing Wandel’s version it can be plywood or lumber, but stick to plywood if you’re doing Heisz’s version. We didn’t know this til after we made it so you’ll see that we used lumber)
- Wandel’s template or Heisz’s template
- Bandsaw or Jig-Saw
- Router with a ⅛” roundover bit
- Random orbit sander with a 220 grit sandpaper disk
- Sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper
- Circular saw or miter saw (If you don’t have scrap wood laying around and need to cut some down to size)
Step 1: Print, cut, and glue template
The first step was to download the templates. We printed them out, roughly cut around their shapes, and glued them to the wood.
Step 2: Cut out push sticks
We cut out our push sticks on our band saw, but you could do it using a jig saw as well. The band saw gives you a little more control though, so if you’ve already got one, that’s what we’d recommenD.
Step 3: smoothing and sanding
This step is optional. We decided to round out our sharp edges (and imperfections because yours truly got a little carried away on the band saw) using a 1/8″ roundover bit. This mainly gave us some smoother to hold onto. We also sanded these to get them even smoother, plus sanding removed any paper we couldn’t pull off and the remaining glue residue.
And that’s it! These guys are super easy to make. But I know what you’re all wondering… which one did we end up liking better?
First we tested the Heisz version…
Then we tested the Wandel version…
And our favorite is… the Wandel push stick! We ultimately chose it because we felt less scared using it, which is a totally personal perception. But you could push the board farther without having to get close to the blade at all, which was nice, and having that secondary stick to help guide the wood made us feel a little bit more in control.
With the Heisz version, we had to reach our arms over the blade to push the wood all the way through, which we weren’t crazy about. Although we DID like how much more surface area of the push stick was in contact with the wood using the Heisz push stick.
In the end… I think we’re actually going to try and make our own, using what we liked from each design. Stay tuned for a video and post covering that soon!
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