Feather boards

A featherboard, as you probably know, is a feed-control and safety device. It is simple to make, and very important to use.

In router table work, particularly when routing profiles on 3-foot and longer workpieces, I'll plant featherboards on the tabletop. one on each side of the bit. so they'll press the work against the fence. Then I'll clamp a couple more to the fence to press the work against the table. In addition to ensuring that the work doesn't drift or bow away from the bit. the featherboards prevent the work from kicking back. (In this regard, featherboards arc terrifically useful on the table saw.)

What I want to do here is show you a couple variations on the featherboard and emphasize how easy they are to make and use. I also want to show you vacuum-clamped versions of the featherboard. If you have a vacuum system at your disposal, you'll discover that it is even easier to set the featherboards with vacuum than with mechanical clamps.

Making a Basic Featherboard

Is there a typical featherboard? I doubt it. They have been made in all sizes and configurations. I've seen 2-inch-wide ones and l()-inch-wide ones. I've goi a couple of 2-inch-thick ones. You can make yours 6 inches long or 18 inchcs long. Some are cut on die table saw. some on the band saw. There are even woodworkers who cut the "feathers" with a hacksaw.

What usually happens is that you run into a situation where the featherboards you've got won't work. One's too big, another's too small. Or you don't have enough featherboards.

So you make more. It takes a trip to the scrap bin and 3 to 5 minutes at the saw. Bingo! You have another leather-board.

If you are just starting out, here's the scoop on cutting your very first one.

1. Select a board to use. As I've suggested, the width and length of a basic featherboard aren't all that important. The layout drawing shows a featherboard that's 4% inches wide and 10 inches long, but that's arbitrary.(11k feathers camc out nice and even at that width when I "drew" the 'board on my computer. Would you agree that's arbitrary?) If you are making a featherboard for a particular immediate need, size it for the job.

As you sort through the scraps in your bin, look in par-

Held by mechanical clamps or vacuum, featherboards provide workpiece guidance on the router table—and prevent dangerous kickback.





Part Qty.

featherboard 1

Dimensions x x 10"


Hardwood ticular for a piccc of oak or ash.These are naturally springy and work well for this use. But maple and cherry and poplar work, too. As a general rule, you ought to steer clear of the soft and the brittle woods.

2. Miter the end. The layout shows a 30-degrce angle.That's fine. But you'll find, over time, that that angle is arbitary, too. If you are making a job-specific feather-board, a very shallow (or very steep) angle may allow you to position a featherboard in a very tight spot.

At any rate, make your first cut a miter. Senile a line parallel to the mitered end but offset about 3 to 6 inches.This line marks the base of the feathers.

3. Cut the feathers. Some woodworkers swear by the band saw for this work, but I do it on the table saw. No layout—beyond the baseline—is necessary.

As you might expect,both the length and the thickness of the feathers affect the pliability of the 'board. Short feathers are stiffer than king feathers of the same thickness. Thick feathers, too, are stiffer dian thin ones. If you have to make the 'board short so it will fit a confined spot, make the feathers thin.

Set the rip fence about inch from the blade. Feed the blank into the blade, cutting as far as the baseline. 1*1111 the work back. Move the fence '/»inch away from the blade. Make a cut as far as die bascline.and pull die work back. I use a push stick to help me move the featherboard back off the blade.

Keep up this routine until you run out of featherboard width. If you move the fence XA inch after each cut. you should get a fully satisfactory set of feathers.

And that's all there is to it.Well.okay...you can modify the "body" of the "board. Round it off, maybe radius the edges, drill a hole in it so you can hang it on a nail. You can even put some finish on it. But really, once the feathers arc cut, it's ready to be put to work.

Making a Featherboard with Thumbs

A featherboard that's very useful for the router woodworker is the "thumbed" style. It can be planted on a pretty narrow surface, like a router table fence, by applying clamps to the 1- to 2-inch-widc sections on one or both sides of the feathers. These clamping surfaces are what I call the thumbs.

As you can sec from the layout drawing, the thumbs arc-to inch or SO shorter than the feathers. While the particular version shown in the drawing, with its radiused corners, is a band-saw project, you can easily produce a workable model on the table saw. And if one thumb is all your application can accommodate, one thumb will be adequate.

Using Featherboards

Setting a featherboard the first time can be a little frustrating.

The goal is to position the 'board so that its feathers move just a little as you feed the workpiece past it. Just a little flexing. There needs to be pressure, but not so much that you have to struggle to advance the workpiece. What you certainly don't want is a slip fit for the workpiece between the fence and the featherboard.

The slip fit, of course, is easy to achieve. It's the tight fit that you have to work for. I think it comes with practice.

Stand a workpiece against the fence. Slide the featherboard against it. Maneuver it to set the feathers squarely against the work—you don't want just the heel or the toe, you want the whole foot pressing against the work. Press it so the feathers flex just a little. Now clamp it. All you need

featherboard with thumbs h-8"

Sawing the feathers on the table saw ensures that you get straight kerfs and feathers of a consistent thickness. Move the fence % inch after each cut. A push stick can help you move the featherboard back from the blade.


Part Qty. Dimensions Material

Featherboard 1 3/4Hx8MxlO" Hardwood is three hands, one to hold the 'board, two to apply the clamp. What usually happens, of course, is that you lose the tension 'til you get the clamps tightened.

Here are two tricks you can try. Set the featherboanl against the work to establish its position. I.ift the work from the table, and move the featherboard about lAo inch closer to the fence. Then clamp it. Now the channel is narrower than the workpicce. enough to put the work under pressure but not so much as to stall its passage.

The second trick is to set the featherboard just a bit cocked, and apply the first clamp.Then remove the work-piece and pivot the featherboard around that first clamp, properly aligning the tips of the feathers. Apply the second clamp.

Note that you need two clamps for each featherboard. With only a single clamping point, the featherboard will pivot and shift out of position.The clamping points can be virtually side by side, but as long as you have two. the board won't move. Be savvy in your choice of clamps, too. I've found that hand screws can vibrate loose unexpectedly. And the popular trigger-action quick-clamps, which you can apply with one hand, don't always hold securely either. The plastic pads on the jaws can slide on the work, and even work off their jaws. I use em. but not for clamping fences and featherboards to my router tables.

Where should featherboards be stationed?

Sawing the feathers on the table saw ensures that you get straight kerfs and feathers of a consistent thickness. Move the fence % inch after each cut. A push stick can help you move the featherboard back from the blade.

Use a piece of the working stock to help you position the featherboard. Hold it against the fence and align the featherboard so the workpiece just overlaps its tips, as shown. Secure the featherboard with two clamps.

A three- or four-featherboard setup is often required when routing moldings to ensure that the work doesn't bow or drift away from the cutter. This array features a "thumbed" featherboard clamped to the fence, and a couple of basic featherboards clamped to the tabletop.

A tandem featherboard cuts down on the number of clamps required. It speeds up setup, too, because if one featherboard is positioned properly, the second also will be.

In general they should be fore and aft of the bit, though the specifics of the operation have to be taken into account. I'm not comfortable with the idea of applying the featherboard s pressure directly at the bit. Pressing the work to the fcncc or the tabletop (or both) is what you want to do. Often,a featherix>ard or two clamped to the router table top and pressing the work against the fence suffices. Other times you want the featherboards clamped to the fence, pressing the work down onto the tabic. And when milling long moldings, you may have to festoon both tabletop and fence with featherboards.

All these featherboards require a cartload of clamps. You spend a lot lime setting and removing the clamps, loo. Following are some rimcsaving approaches.

A Tandem Featherboard

A single clamp won't do on a featherboard; you need two to keep the device from pivoting out of position. Moreover, a single featherboard often won't do either, you need two to keep the work in line.

The tandem featherboard saves clamps and clamping time. It's so simple and obvious that you'll kick yourself for never having thought of it. (Well, at least I did when I saw one for the first time.) To make one, you simply screw a cleat to two featherboards, linking them together (see the drawing Tandem Featherboards).

One clamp applied to each 'board in the tandem will suffice. Set a tandem on the tabletop, with one featherboard on each side of the bit.

Vacuum Featherboards

Vacuum simplifies setup dramatically. You don't need any mechanical clamps at all. Hold the featherboard in position firmly with one hand, and turn a valve with the other. The %"acuum will instantly suck the featherboard to the tabletop or fence.

How easy is dial?

You do need vacuum-clamping equipment. Review the chapter "Vacuum Clamping" on page 50 for the details on vacuum pumps, fittings and hoses, vacuum tape, and other supplies. You won't take the vacuum-clamping plunge in order to set featherboards: but if you've got the equipment, or you're planning on investing in a vacuum setup in the future, this is one of the applications.

You can probably convert the featherboards you already have, so long as the stock used is nonporous and the bodies arc large enough to provide the minimum-sized vacuum chamber (10 square inches). All you have to do is drill a vacuum port, seal the featherboard. and insuill a fitting, then apply the vacuum tape.

If you want to start from scratch, here's that "basic" design, modified to work with vacuum.

1. Lay out and cut the featherboard. Use a stout, nonporous hardwood like maple or cherry. (Earlier I recommended oak and ash for featherboards. but they are

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A vacuum featherboard's advantage is the ease with which it can be applied to the tabletop or fence. Hold it in place with one hand and pull the vacuum with the other.


Part Qty. Dimensions


Featherboards 2 W x 4x 10"


Cleat 1 X" x 3" x 18"



8 drywall screws. #6 x 1

problematic with vacuum because of their porosity.) Select a board that's free of defects. Miter one end of the board at about 30 degrees. Lay out the base of the cuts that form the feathers.

You can cut the feathers on the table saw or on the band saw.

2. Drill the vacuum port and seal the board.

Once all the feathers have been cut, drill the vacuum port. The hole is a pilot for your vacuum fitting, so size the hole appropriately.The layout shows a through port, but you can, of course, use a T-port if you prefer.

Apply a couple of coats of a film finish to the board's body to seal it against porosity. Seal the bore of the vacuum port as well.

3. Install the vacuum fltting(s). Several options are available here. An easy approach is to seal a male quick-disconnect into the port with silicone caulk. If you think you'll be using multiboard setups, you may want to cut down on the number of female quick-disconnect fittings needed. If so, opt to use a brass or nylon barbed hose connector. (You can just slip the vacuum hose over the barb; no other connector is needed.)

I was concerned by the idea of having the fitting jutting up out of the featherboard. so in the layout drawing, I show the use of an elbow fitting.

To install a threaded fitting into a solid wooden featherboard. just file a notch across the fitting's first few threads. It will act like a self-tapping screw, cutting its own threads in the wood. If you drilled the correct size pilot, you should get a sufficiently tight seal. If you do end up with a vacuum leak, back the fitting out and apply a bead of silicone caulk to the threads before redriving the fitting.

A vacuum featherboard's advantage is the ease with which it can be applied to the tabletop or fence. Hold it in place with one hand and pull the vacuum with the other.


Part Qty. Dimensions


Featherboard 1 fc" x 4&" x 10"

Low-porosity hardwood


Vacuum tape, x approx. 24"

Brass 90' elbow, male/female

Brass barbed hose connector, male

1. Cut the fcatherboarcLs and plates. The feathcrboaixls arc the vacuum fcatherboarcLs described immediately above. Follow steps 1 and 2 on pages 259-260 to make two featherboards for each tandem.

The base ply of my prototypes is phenolic, which is a strong, nonporous material that's ideal for vacuum-clamping plates. The top plate is a strip of plywood. I used Baltic Birch for this, but you don't have to. Cut these parts to the dimensions specified by the Cutting last.

2. Cut half-laps in the featherboards and top plate. To joint the four components (two plates and two featherboards), I opted to cut half-laps in the featherboards and the top plate.The base fits into the laps in the featherboards, while the featherboards are locked into the laps in the top plate.The assembly is glued together with epoxy.

All the lap cuts arc the same depth. To establish the correct widths and the correct positions, it is best to lay them out using the workpieces. I)o the laps on the router table, using the Miter Sled (page 249) to guide the workpieces.

Do the featherboards first. Use the base to set the depth PO of cut.Then use it to lay out the laps. Cut them.

Do the top plate next. Cheek the depth (if cut against C the lapped featherboards, and adjust the bit extension if ^ necessary. Lay out the laps on the plate under the feather-boards, then cut them. «

3. Drill the vacuum port. A nice thing about phc-nolic (and odier plastics) is that you can actually cut threads in it with a tap.The plan here is to bore and thread a hole ® (the vacuum port) in the base for a nipple that extends up ^ through the top plate.To accommodate the nipple, the top plate needs a clearance hole that's fractionally bigger than the outside diameter of the nipple.

Lay out and drill the vacuum port in the base. Then, using the appropriate tap—the one that's got the same thread as your fitting—cut direads.With phenolic, you don't need a tap lube, though you do with other plastics. (See die section "Cutting Threads" in the appendix.)

Bore the clearance hole. Make sure it aligns with the vacuum port.

4. Assemble the Uindem. Epoxy holds it all together. Mix a batch of the glue, apply it. and assemble the parts.

Brass barbed hose connector





Brass 90° elbow fitting

Turn into vacuum port in featherboard.

Brass barbed hose connector

4. Apply the vacuum tape. Make the vacuum chamber just as large as you can. Remember that the bigger the vacuum chamber area, the greater the clamping force you will have. I used a continuous band of tape around the featherboard.

A Vacuum Tandem Featherboard

The tandem is a device for ganging two featherboards on a clamping plate. That way. you can set infeed and outfecd featherboards simultaneously. 1 wanted to use "standard" featherboards but fit them on a fence or along the front of the various router tables made for this book.This compromise works.






90s elbow (female/ female)

Plywood top ply

Phenolic base ply

Barbed hose connector



90s elbow (female/ female)

Plywood top ply

Phenolic base ply


Vacuum port

Vacuum port


Part Qty. Dimensions Material

Featherboards 2 W x 456" x 10" Nonporous hardwood

Base ply I fc" x 2]/i" x 24" Plastic*


Vacuum tape, x ]A", approx. 54" Brass nipple, male/male, 1X/T long Brass 90" elbow, female/female Brass barbed hose connector, male 'Acrylic, polycarbonate, and phenolic are all suitable.

The tandem vacuum featherboard is designed to fit the narrow space between the table's edge and the router bit. Position it so the bit is between the feather-boards, as shown.

5. Install the vacuum fittings. Turn the connector into the elbow and tighten it. Turn the elbow onto the nipple, and again tighten the parts together. Finally,turn the nipple into the vacuum port.

6. Apply the vacuum tape. Make the vacuum chamber just as large as you can, but confine it to the base ply (don't incorporate any of the feathcrboard bodies). I used a continuous band of tape around the ply. keeping it as close to the ply's edges as possible.

Using a Vacuum Featherboard

Few setups in woodworking are easier than planting a wcuum feathcrboard. as I said.You position these boards in the same places, you just don't have to grapple with mechanical clamps. But in router woodworking, you usually use two to four featherboards at a time, so what you are really doing Is trading the mechanical clamps for hoses and valves or pinch clamps.

Setting four vacuum featherboards requires three T-fit-tings and three pinch clamps, as well as the vacuum pump. Consult the drawing Plumbing a MuJtiboard Setup. The setting sequence is as follows:

1. Plumb the four featherboards. as shown in the drawing. Close all three pinch clamps light.

2. Plant the tabletop infeed clamp first. It has no pinch clamp, you'll note. Set the position, then turn on the vacuum.

3 Set the tabletop outfeed feathcrboard next. Slide it into position, then open the pinch clamp.The featherboard will be sucked to the tabletop.

4. Set the two fence featherboards in the same manner. One by one, establish the position, then suck it to the fence by opening the pinch clamp.

Repositioning a featherboard is as simple as closing the pinch damp to free the dcvicc.Thcn you can move it to a new spot and set it by opening the pinch damp. (Repositioning that tabletop infeed featherboard. of course, would require releasing all four featherboards. unless you put a pinch clamp on its hose, too.)

Using the vacuum tandem featherboard simplifies the plumbing su!>stantiaily, since you only need two lines. Set one tandem on the router table, positioning it so the bit is between the featherboards. Then set a tandem on the tall fence, again positioning it so the bit is between die featherboards.


Vacuum hose

Plastic T-fitting

Pinch clamp

Vacuum hose

Plastic T-fitting

Pinch clamp

Autocad Modeling

To set first 'board, pull a vacuum by turning on the vacuum valve.

To set first 'board, pull a vacuum by turning on the vacuum valve.

To set the other 3 'boards, pull vacuum to them by opening the individual pinch clamps.

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Surfacing Baseplate

Fit a router with a long, wide baseplate, and it becomes a planer, a hollowing machine, even a circle cutter.

designed for. Worked like a charm, and the setup was simple and fast.Thcn there were the uses it got bccausc.wcll.it was what I bad that would work. Instead of cobbling up a trammel especially to rout a 17- to 18-inch-radius arc, for example, 1 just drilled a pivot hole in the far corner of this baseplate and used it as the trammel.

Making the Baseplate

The baseplate doesn't take long to make. I spent about two hours on it.The stiffeners were made from cherry rippings selected from my too-big-to-toss scrap collection. The acrylic and the handles were purchased especially for this project.

1. Cut the parts to size. The surfacing baseplate has only three parts to make—the plate itself, plus two stiffeners.

I made my surfacing baseplate using 36-inch clear acrylic. The plate need not be acrylic. It need not be clear. Use phenolic. Use ' »-inch or v«-inch or '¿-inch plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF). paniclcboard, or hard-lxiard.Thc stiffeners will cancel the tendency of the thinner materials to sag.

The name "surfacing 'baseplate" is something of a misnomer. This custom baseplate is really a multipurpose. oversized fixture.

Yes. the primary use is for surfacing stock. But it has other uses as well.Any job in which the router must be suspended above the work—hollowing a broad recess, for example—is one for which this baseplate is suited. You can block it up and clamp it to a workbench, and it becomes a kind of overhead router fixture. Because the baseplate has so much surface area to either side of the router, it's also a kind of offset baseplate. Reposition the router off-center, and it really becomes an offset baseplate. If you are willing to drill a few extra holes in it, it can be a trammel.

Quite simply, here's what the surfacing baseplate is: a wide, flat platform fitted with two handle grips. Having once used a plywood fixture like this, I chose to make the one shown using clear acrylic. Especially with the stiffeners. it is suitably rigid, yet you can see through it and monitor your work.

Since I made it. I've used it for only a few projects, but in each case I was mighty glad I had the baseplate on hand. For a couple of those projects, nothing else would do. One example: I needed to flatten a warped plank that was too wide for my jointer. It was the kind of job the plate was



Reid #BTH-8 plastic knob

,- Hardwood stiffener


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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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