Making The Ultimate Feather Board Homemade Machines & Jigs
“Didn’t you just make a feather board, John?” you might ask. And I did, just last week. But in one of those rarest of rare events, I got a comment on the video suggesting a better method. And I jumped on it, of course!
It works with my fence system and locks onto the rail. It’s quick to put on, use and take off again, and it’s compact enough for easy storage. If you’ve built my fence system (or are going to build it), this makes a great accessory. You can get the plans to make one for yourself.
The build video:
The project is made from plywood – 3/4″ and 1/2″, plus a small amount of solid hardwood for the fingers of the feather board. This needs to be clear of knots and straight grained. I used red oak for mine, but any dense hardwood will work. It doesn’t take much material – these are just scraps I got from my selection of scraps:
You can also use solid wood for most of the parts, but it is prone to seasonal expansion and contraction that may effect the performance.
Other than screws, there are only two metal parts: the pin for the cam handle and the rub plate. I used a piece of flat steel 1/8″ thick for mine, but it was a bit too wide:
I ground it down until it was the right width. It needs to be just less than the thickness of the filler piece to move freely:
Aluminum can also be used for the rub plate, as long as it’s 1/8″ thick.
After rough cutting the parts, I like to lay them out on the plan sheets where they are detailed. That way I can quickly see if anything is missing:
Some of the parts have angle cuts and although not strictly necessary, the project looks better and more professional with them. I used my tapering jig to make the cuts:
Just make marks for the angle on the bottom of the part and line those up with the edge of the jig and make the cut:
Assembly begins by gluing the brace to the left bracket. I used pieces of 1/2″ plywood to space the brace up the right amount before clamping. I gave that about an hour to dry:
Next, the filler and right bracket are glued and clamped. These need to be flush on the back and top. Once again, I let the glue dry for about an hour before moving to the next step:
While I waited I worked on other parts of the project.
The back is fastened next and once again glued in place. Screws are added to reinforce the joint – three 2″ long ones and one 1-1/2″ long one on the end:
Very important to drill pilot holes to avoid splitting. I use a 1/8″ bit for the #8 screws I use and drill all the way in, the full length of the thread.
The rub plate was next for me, but I recommend that you fasten it to the filler block before assembly:
Note that the top of the plate is about 1/4″ down from the top. The screw ia also slack – the rub plate needs to move freely.
Trying the completed assembly on the fence rail for the first time and you will probably need to adjust the cam by sanding it. This is shown more clearly in the video at the top of this page:
I’m calling the arm that extends out with the fingers the toothbrush and that’s the next part to cut out. In the plans it gives the width as 2″, but really it should match the combined thickness of the brackets and filler. That’s two layers of 3/4″ plywood and one layer of 1/2″ plywood. And since plywood is rarely the full thickness, you almost always end up with something thinner. In my case it was 1-7/8″:
With all that said, you can leave the toothbrush 2″ wide – it’ll be fine. Unlike the table saw fence this works with, nothing here needs to be very precise. It just has to work and look good.
On the end of the toothbrush are the bristles, or fingers for the feather board. Layout for these is not critical – I did six spaced out relatively evenly:
To do it again, I’d push these ahead a bit. The last one doesn’t leave a lot of wood on the outside of the last finger.
I made the cuts on my table saw with the blade tilted to 45 degrees and used my mini table saw sled to guide the cuts:
For the cuts I used a thicker blade with a full 1/8″ kerf. Possible to use a thinner blade and make two cuts per slot, or just thinner fingers. But if you go with the thinner fingers, you should add more – like 10 instead of 6.
I used a piece of very straight-grained oak for my fingers after dialing in the thickness:
Then cut them to length and glued them in:
Ready to demonstrate how it works and… I made the fingers too short! The feather board was hitting the left side of the table saw fence and couldn’t get close enough:
So I cut out those:
And glued in new ones. These are 3-1/2″ long and actually work a lot better than the short ones. More springy.
Note that they stick down below the toothbrush by about 1/4″. That so that they will be resting on the table saw top while the toothbrush is just above it.
The build video shows the best way to determine how long it needs to be. And since every saw is different you have to make yours to suit the one you have. I fastened the toothbrush with screws only, just in case I need to replace those fingers again at some point (like after dropping it on the floor, for example).
As I said at the top of this article, you can get the plans to make one for yourself.