Featherboard Evolution




Introduction: Featherboard Evolution

About: retired chemist trying to stay out of trouble

The problem with featherboards is they aren't feathery enough. Meet the bristleboard.

We are redecorating and it's up to me to produce miles of trim. I bought a load of nice 1 x 4s, but I really needed 1 x 2s and ½ x 2s. There was a lot of ripping to be done, and I wanted it to go well. This jig was a big help, so let's go.

You will need a scrub brush, some scrap plywood, a pair of screws, a utility knob, and a functional workshop.

Step 1: The Business End

Take an old bristle brush or pick up a new one, and cut into nice chunks. I used a hacksaw with the bristles held loosely in a vice, and this step was over before I could capture an action shot. 

Step 2: Make the Board Parts

You know all those bits of scrap plywood you've been saving because you knew they would be useful someday? Their day has arrived!

Cut a strip to compression fit into your saw slot and wider one that will span the distance to the blade. It would be good to make that width have something to do with the width of your brush piece. But don't waste any time measuring.

Then cut a slot to slip the bolt on your knob. Center-ish and parallel-ish is good. I used a router and did a really bad job. It didn't matter.

Step 3: Connect the Pieces

Screw the back of the brush to the end of the board. Of course you'll want to drill and pilot the holes. Or not.

Once again, center-ish and parallel-ish is good.

Step 4: Thread and Go

Since my knob had a threaded stub on it, I simply drilled an undersized hole somewhere near the center of the slot board and spun the threads into it. I tried to think of a reason to make this more complicated, but I gave up.

If you find featherboards tedious to make and annoying to use, you'll love the bristleboard. The bristles provide more consistent pressure over a wider range of flex, so this is much quicker to set up and works far better. Plus it's so freaking ugly, you have to give it a home.

Cheers from Sarasota.



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33 Discussions


3 years ago

This is fantastic! I have had issues with the my featherboards on some past project, and this looks like a simple and easy solution for future work. Thanks!!!

Security for little Money! Sicherheit für kleines Geld!
Prima! Super!

Hey Flavrt

Great quick and easy featherboard setup. I could actually see this as a down facing featherboard setup also, in addition to the fence facing setup you have. It looks much more tolerant of bad setups and softer on the wood.

I am also guessing that this is a bit easier on softwoods. I have had my traditional feather board leave marks when I am working with soft wood.

Just a quick question on the adjustment slot with the screw down knob. It looks like you are already right up to the blade with it slid all the way back. Is there a reason for that? Do you have two miter slots on the tablesaw? I am mostly just curious to see if I am missing something.

And greetings from Port Saint Lucie, over on the other side.


3 replies

Thank you, Doug. I hope to paddle out your way this summer.

You are very observant. Yes to everything. The bristleboard is more tolerant of sloppy setup. I will definitely use the 2nd half of my brush vertically as a hold down.

There is very little travel remaining at the right end of the adjustment slot, which is what I needed for one large project at the saw and router table. I did such a bad job of cutting this slot, it should be done over from scratch. But I've grown accustomed to its ugliness. ((The key theme of my Instructables is skipping by details that don't matter.))

It is a tool, as long as it does the job it doesn't matter how ugly it is. Some of my favorite tools are ugly as heck.

I mostly like this for the concept of using the brush as a featherboard. I sometimes do some work on very thin and delicate materials using a micro table saw (modified dremel). I am curious if I could use the same idea with a natural bristle brush and completely cover the cutting area. I don't really care if I lose a few bristles and the even downward pressure at the point the blade is cutting could be very handy keeping the cut clean and smooth. Hopefully it would help reduce vibration on thin materials.

Overall, thank you very much. You got me thinking. Now I need to do some experimenting.

A surgical scrub brush may be ideal for the application you describe. The bristles are very soft, evenly distributed, and form a flat surface at the tips.

Please let us know how things develop.

I love your bristle brush feather board! What a great idea!

To copy a from another comment, "I've been on the receiving end a MANY kickbacks," and at leart one left it's imprint on my gut!

I once made what I called a "feather bar" out of strips of countertop laminate. It's only claim to fame is that it is long, and can be used for panels and ripping long boards.
See attached photos.

Feather 1.jpgFeather 2.jpg
1 reply

"countertop laminate"

Fantastic. An expression of Modernist elegance in a practical device.

We are all developing useful ways to exploit the superior elasticity of artificial materials. However, nothing I've seen can compete with my bristleboard's ugliness.

Nice instructable!

I use metal bristle brushes, and a double slotted board, and believe me this provides total anti-kickback protection as well as holding the board in place perfectly. And no the bristles do not scratch the board noticeably.

I will make some of these for use as hold-downs and hold-ins for my router table.


9 replies

Yes, I'm betting they are even more valuable on the router table where the cuts need to be even more precise.

I think metal bristles present different characteristics that are worth exploring. It would be great to upload an image of your jigs so everyone could view those alternatives.

I have found that brass bristles provide just the right 'spring' for my usage.

The hold-downs use scrap bearing-studs from a commercial print house.

See photo -

You're taunting me with an invisible photo.

Or is this another weird artifact from using the Apple browser?

The photo IS in my profile upload area!

I just have no idea how to let you see it!!

I assumed that it was going to be visible when I uploaded it - hence the "see photo below" - ah well.

Please give it another go. It's a 5 step process. Reply —> Add Images —> your library —> Add File —> Post

OK? Here goes nothing!!!

The roller bearings are really very good at adding pressure without adding commensurate friction.

BTW - Note the little crank at the bottom right - that's for my homebrew router lift, of which I am very pleased/proud!

Router table setup.jpg

That, Sir, is a work of art. I am humbled. You should take over this Instructable, so I can sit quietly in the corner and learn some things.

Thank you so much for following through.

Bet you like this - it includes the lock for the mitre slot.

MITER-SLOT FEATHERBOARD - http://www.woodcentral.com/shots/shot32.shtml

You are doing a great job, and the people who follow(me)/comment your 'ibles seem to be a great bunch! I really enjoy your postings.

One of these days I will start doing 'ibles myself - I have LEARNED SO MUCH from Instructables that I feel I MUST give back!

BTW that is not an idle promise/comment - I have very little free time at present since what I am doing is actually tooling up to finish the cabinetry in my new/old house that I am presently refurbishing. Lots of the jigs and fixtures I am using had their start right here on this site - of course 40 years experience making jigs and fixtures allows me to make radical changes where I see the need.

I have been doing carpentry/woodworking for years BUT cabinetmaking is new to me. in fact the first fixture in the house is a staircase we finished on friday.

So Flavrt, please carry the torch a bit further, but i will surely join you later.

I've been on the receiving end a MANY kickbacks. I've yet to have any penetrate my gut. This is even with very thin hardwoods. I worked with a professional carpenter many years ago and he emphasized the importance of protecting your fingers more than anything else. Also, the primary cause of kickback is from the work piece becoming bound up and placing more force into moving the piece than cutting it. This is exactly what the main purpose is of the feather board - keeping the work piece firmly against the fence.

1 reply

Thank you for commenting. Your experience is close to mine.

A couple of things need to said about this issue. We can't publish a full safety course within every Instructable. Comment trolls always take advantage of this. They scream about safety as a way to get attention without actually putting some effort into creating a presentation that is interesting and informative. All the venom and fallacies and mischaracterizations and ad hominem and hysterics tell us more about them than the subject at hand.

OTOH, comments are great for adding depth and breath to Instructables. I always learn something, and that's why I put some effort into encouraging a healthy discussion. Unfortunately I've seen many conversations on woodworking turn nasty. I believe this is due to the reclusive nature of the craft. Often woodworkers with decades of experience don't perceive the narrow breadth of their experience. So when new things come along, they see no benefits and react with anger, fear, and confusion. I think we should tolerate this behavior because our methods must be robust enough to defend against even the most buffoonish criticism.

Which is not to say that I take the danger of kickbacks lightly. I've toured a furniture factory where the operator of a straight line track saw had to wear a chainmail apron. That saw kept making spears and shooting them back at him all day. However, I don't believe old-fashioned featherboards provide good protection from this hazard. They are simply not springy enough to be reliable. If the featherboard is bumped or shifts or is initially set up a few thou too loose, there is only an illusion of protection from kickbacks. And that's worse than nothing at all. Bristles are not as strong as wooden fingers, but there are many more of them and each is far more position tolerant.

The best safety advice we can give to newbs, if we are so obliged, is all safety devices fail. Fingers and eyes and other essential body parts need to be out of the flight path when they do.