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Tips for Mastering Featherboards Barre VT

The safest way to make featherboards is on the bandsaw using a simple sled with a miter slot runner. Cut a 30-degree angle on one end of the featherboard blank first. Mark a parallel line about 2-1/2 in. from the angled end.

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Tips for Mastering Featherboards

Tips for Mastering Featherboards

Featherboards are like having an extra set of hands in the shop, going where no fıngers ever should.

by Jock and Susan Holmen

The featherboard  gets its name from the rows of flexible “fingers” that act like a bird’s feather and give way in one direction only. They help ensure safety and accuracy, because they keep consistent pressure on stock where it’s needed most, close to the cut. They’re indispensable for eliminating bumps on a molded edge or uneven bottoms in rabbets and dadoes. 

Shop-made featherboards are often superior to commercial ones, because they can be custom fit to your machines and they cost next to nothing. All the featherboards in this article were made from the type of scrap lumber and plywood that can be found in any shop. 

Perfect Pressure Every Time

Positioning a featherboard can be a pain. Too close to the fence or table and the squeeze is so tight you can barely feed the stock. Too loose and you’ve lost effectiveness. Try taking about 1/8 in. off the first feather. Set that end against the stock you plan to machine and clamp the featherboard parallel to the table’s fence. The pressure should automatically be just right. 


Featherboards Made Easy

The safest way to make featherboards is on the bandsaw using a simple sled with a miter slot runner. Cut a 30-degree angle on one end of the featherboard blank first. Mark a parallel line about 2-1/2 in. from the angled end. Set the blank on the sled and make the first cut from the end to the line. Then, slide the featherboard over to the next mark to make the second cut and continue across the board’s width.

A feather length of about 2-1/2 in. with cuts made every 1/8 in. provides the right balance between flexibility (for firm pressure without being too stiff) and strength (so the feathers won’t snap off) for most hardwoods or multi-ply birch. Increase the feather spacing to 3/16-in. when you are using softer woods, such as pine or basswood, or regular hardwood plywood. You can always fine-tune the length and spacing to suit your own needs. 


Tall Support for Tall Stock

A tall featherboard can apply pressure against the entire height of the fence. It’s especially useful for holding tall, narrow stock—for instance, a door panel—against a fence. Just glue some scraps to create a block that is as tall as your fence is. Then, cut the feathers on your bandsaw sled.


Bit-Bridging Featherboard

This wraparound featherboard produces chatter-free moldings, because it provides continuous pressure ahead of and behind the cutter. Cut a 2-in. arc in the end of the blank before you cut the feathers. 


Guaranteed Square Edges

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