When Should a Push Stick Be Used (a Clear Guide)

A woodworking workshop is full of dangerous machines that threaten to harm your body. One item you can use to prevent this is the push stick, but when should a push stick be used?

If there is a chance that the workpiece will fly off and cause kickback, or if your hands will get too close to the blade, a push stick should be used.

Thanks to this article, you will gain a good insight to learn to estimate in which situation a push stick is desired and how to use the push stick in the right way. So if you love your fingers, read this straightforward guide on when should a push stick be used?

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What is a push stick?

When Should a Push Stick Be Used - Push stick
When Should a Push Stick Be UsedPush stick

A push stick is a simple device that can be thought of as an extension of your hand. It is primarily used in woodworking to push wood through rotating blade machines such as table saws or planers. The push stick has a handle and a small hook at the bottom with which the wood can be gripped.

Push sticks come in different sizes and shapes. the material from which they are made can also differ. Usually, you will also receive a plastic push stick with the purchase of a table saw, but you can also find it in wood or make it yourself. (Later in this article you can see how you can make it yourself)

To find a good push stick, there are a few things to keep in mind. What I personally think is the most important is that your hand can stay as far away from the saw blade as possible, but the push stick still fits well in the hand. Another important point is that the push stick can give sufficient stability to the wood so that you have control at all times while working.

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Why We Should Use a Push Stick?

Push sticks are indispensable in the woodworking shop because they can help prevent amputations and other injuries caused by kickbacks.

Table saw blades, for example, or planer blades, are sharp and rotate at a high speed. Pushing the workpiece against the saw blade can result in hand or finger injuries. A push stick protects your hands from being cut by the blade.

Pushing wood through a blade can become uncontrollable due to the speed at which the blade rotates. A push stick can help you gain better control of the workpiece so you can work more safely and accurately.

When should a push stick be used

Most woodworking machines, such as table saw blades or planer blades, have cutting edges designed to remove wood. In the blink of an eye, their fast spinning parts can cause a variety of injuries.

These accidents happen faster than you think if the machine is left unattended or when it becomes a habit to operate it.

As a result, in this section, I’ll go over a few scenarios in which a push stick is preferable.

Obviously, not all situations can be described because there are thousands of different circumstances, but by using these examples of when to use a push stick, you can gain a better understanding of the hazards in your workplace and when you should use a push stick.

When you get too close to the saw blade

If your hands come too close to the saw blade at any time, it is recommended to always use a push stick.

So it’s good to think before you hit the switch and imagine the path your hands will travel. Before making the cut, I guess the movement of the wood and my hands.

If I notice that at any time my hands are getting closer than 10 cm to the blade, I force myself to use a push stick.

This way of thinking allows me to estimate the danger of my action in just seconds and avoid major damage. I recommend that you also make this a habit every time you make a cut.

Disappearing of the wood

If you can’t avoid placing your hand in the same line as the saw blade, use the push stick. When the wood suddenly shoots faster through the blade or is caught by the blade and “disappears,” your hands continue to push towards the cutter, now free of the wood. When the wood disappears, your hand will move uncontrollably towards the saw blade, causing damage faster than your brain can process and prompting you to react.

In this case, the push stick will be able to ensure that the forward and uncontrolled movement occurs above, rather than at, the height of the saw blade. If you shoot through, your hand will travel above the saw blade and nothing serious has happened.

Safety through better grip and control

Smaller parts can change direction faster than larger parts, but they are more difficult to control due to their reduced grip.
The best way to reduce risk in these situations is to use a push stick. This will not only give you more control over the workpiece, but it will also keep your body parts away from the blades.

Safety on the table saw is more than using a push stick. On my website, I already posted several articles about the safe use of a table saw. For example, you can read the article How Can I Make My Table Saw Safer (7 Helpful Tips) to see what you can do with your table saw before you get started. I also highly recommend reading 12 Table Saw Safety Tips, So You Can Keep All Your Fingers.

Push Stick Vs Push Block

Push sticks and push blocks are two different types of push tools that you can use when working with high-risk machines. While they can both be used for the same task, there are a few differences.

Everyone’s opinion will be different when it comes to determining the best choice between a push stick vs push block. It depends from person to person. That is why you can discover the differences in the comparison table below and decide which is the best choice for you.

Push stickPush block
WeightLight weightThe weight is higher than the weight of the push stick
MaterialMade from plastic or woodMostly made from plastic
HandlingEasy to handleMid-range handling
TractionLess tractionHight traction
When should a push stick be used – Push stick vs push block

How to Make a Push Stick?

A push stick should fit comfortably in your hand. This increases the control you have over the wood you want to work on. When you buy a standard push stick, you have to make do with the shape and sizes that are offered to you.

Fortunately, you can also make a push stick yourself. This allows you to tailor it completely to your liking. For my workshop, I made my own push stick, which you can see in this video on my YouTube channel.

In addition, I also made a hold-down stick, which gives me the same safety properties when I cut wood on my crosscut sled. They are two items that I use constantly in my workshop and that I believe everyone should have.

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How to Use a Push Stick?

If you are going to use a push stick, it is better that you use it correctly to get the maximum safety benefit from it. If you use it incorrectly, there remains the risk that your body parts can be damaged.

When you push the workpiece towards the blade, you have to push it without any rotational force. If you use a conventional push stick, you can observe this because it has a single edge.

If you don’t push with the center, it can generate rotational force. Then kickback can occur.

When you use a wider push stick (or a push block), you won’t see this. Because these strongly block the tensile force with the substrate and that will not cause the wood to turn. So there is no rotational force, and you can easily feed the workpiece to the saw blade.

When using the push stick, the length of the wood should not exceed 2 times the length of the push stick. Because the push stick forces the workpiece, it can easily rotate.

If the length of the workpiece is longer, use an additional push block to get better control of the workpiece.

Be careful when using plastic push sticks. They have a smoother surface and therefore less friction. This allows them to slide over the surface if you push more.

To gain control over the two halves you are cutting, it is recommended to use a push block. These push blocks grip both halves and avoid further kickbacks and injuries. You can change the cutting width of the push block according to the workpiece you want to cut.

When you start working with a push stick or a push block, you will have to take in mind that, Even if you use a push stick, accidents still can happen.

Having a first aid kit in your workshop allows you to administer first aid in an emergency, which can be crucial in the healing process.

If you read my article, How To Make A Workshop First Aid Kit – N°1 Guide | FREE CHECKLIST, you can see how to put together a complete kit tailor-made for your workshop.

Make sure you’ve read the article, gather valuable information, and put together your first aid kit before you get started with the dangerous tools in your workshop.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you use a push stick with a panel saw?

If you use a vertical model, make sure the equipment is securely fastened before using it. Otherwise, it may topple over while in use. When necessary, use push sticks. When ripping through narrow woodwork, using a push stick keeps your hands out of the cutting zone, which helps to avoid serious lacerations.

How thick should a push stick be?

The push stick can be made from any scrap wood you have lying around. However, I would recommend 18 mm (3/4”) thick plywood for stability.

How long should a table saw Push Stick be?

A push stick should be used for pieces shorter than 30 cm (11″) or for the last 30 cm (11”) of a longer cut. When using a push stick, make sure your hands are a safe distance away from the blade, and choose a push stick accordingly.

Is it safe to use a push stick for ripping lumber?

Yes, It is safe to rip lumber with a push stick. It is recommended to use push sticks to keep your hands away from the blade. When you make push sticks yourself, always make them out of sturdy plywood to avoid them falling apart while pushing.

When should you use a push stick when ripping?

When ripping narrow or short pieces of wood, when the fence is less than about 15 cm (6″) from the blade, the piece is less than 30 cm (11″) long, or the last 30 cm (11″) of a longer piece is being cut, use a push stick.

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I hope this article will answer your question, when should a push stick be used, and that this blog inspires you.

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Christophe, founder of Christofix.com
Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration

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