There are tools in the woodworking workshop with fast rotating parts against which the wood must be pressed in order to work. Using a push block can make a significant difference in this situation. This article will explain the three main reasons why you should use a push block, which is as follows:
- To help you keep your fingers away from the saw blade or planer blades
- To make more precise cuts
- Push blocks will help you to avoid kickback
If you have never heard of a push block or if you do not see the benefits of using a push block, then you should definitely read this article. It will give you a new perspective on how to better control wood and avoid serious injury or even death with this simple tool. I can already tell you, that this is a must-have tool for any workshop, make sure you have one and use a push block to avoid injuries.
What is a push block?
A push block has a handle at the top so that it can be held firmly, and a good grip is assured.
All kinds of settings are possible on the underside of the push block that can be set according to the wood to be processed.
Push blocks can either be made of plastic or consist of a thick block of wood with a hook attached to the back to hold the workpiece for better control and to allow pushing through the wood.
What is a push block used for?
Every year, thousands of accidents with machines occur in woodworking workshops. Many of these accidents result in amputated fingers being caught in a saw blade or knife.
A push block is intended to reduce some of the accidents associated with a table saw. (Related: 12 table saw safety tips)
A push block is used to help you push the wood over the table saw while allowing your fingers to be kept away from the blade. An additional purpose of the push block is to prevent kickback.
The push block is usually combined with a technique that uses 3 pressure points. This technique will protect you and give you amazing cutting results. You will discover more about this and how to use a push block later in this article.
When to use a push block?
When your fingers are to close to the blade
Your fingers are dear to you. They ensure that you can carry out your favorite hobby or job. So you want to keep your fingers. Therefore, you should always avoid getting them too close to dangerous parts, such as a saw blade.
A push block is a good tool for this. It keeps your fingers at a safe distance, and it also provides better control. This better control means that the wood cannot “shoot away” as easily so that you cannot be pulled into the knife unexpectedly.
While this may be the most important safety reason to use a push block, there are also a few other reasons, such as being able to make better and straighter cuts.
To make better and safer cuts
Performing a rip cut involves sliding a plank across the cutting face of the table while touching the rip fence for guidance to the blade. If your board drifts away from the rip fence, your cut will be skewed, and the danger of this is that you could get a kickback.
If you want to get the wood through the table saw safely, you need to apply three pressure points. To gain a good insight into this, I will briefly describe these three pressure points.
The first push is moving forward. This is the direction needed to cut wood on a table saw.
The second is downward pressure. That means, pressure coming from above the board to the blade of the table saw. Pushing down on the board prevents the table saw blade from lifting your board and throwing it at you.
The third is inner pressure. To avoid kickback and maintain straight cuts, apply pressure to the plank toward the rip fence. You should apply this pressure before the table saw blade, not after it. If you try to push in toward the fence after the blade, the freshly cut wood will bend inward, pinching, which can lead to kickback.
Keeping these three points of contact will not only give you a straight cut, but also minimize the risk of kickback. Thanks to using a push block, you can let the material move smoothly through the cutting path without it floating on the worktop.
You can achieve those three pressure points even better by using a push block combined with a push stick. You can use the push stick to ensure the inner pressure towards the gate.
Then, place your push block on the board to be cut and apply even downward and forward pressure to move the board through the blade. Keep your gaze fixed on the fence to ensure that your board does not drift away from it.
You could also use two push sticks, but if you swap the push block for a push stick, you must consider that you can apply less downward pressure to prevent kickback. You are more likely to exert forward pressure when using a push stick.
The most important thing is to keep your fingers away from the spinning blade and to keep the wood from floating and causing a kickback.
To avoid kickback
I myself once experienced a kickback and I can tell you, that is not a pleasant experience. Fortunately for me, it ended with only a serious bruise on my abdomen, but no other serious injuries. It could have been much worse.
Kickback occurs when the rotating blade of your table saw grabs, lifts, and throws a piece of the material you are cutting at high speeds. As the blade turns towards you, the wood is in turn thrown in your direction and can hit you hard enough to injure or even kill you.
That’s not the only danger of kickback. Since the blade pulls the wood onto it, the process also draws your hands to the blade. If you’re lucky, you’ll have minor cuts. But it is also possible that you lose your fingers on the rotating blade.
A form of kickback occurs during a rip cut when some wood starts to go past the back of the blade. As the material drifts away from the rip fence, one corner of the wood can catch the raised teeth of the blade, pulling the wood onto the blade, and leading to a discarded piece of wood.
You can prevent these and other forms of kickback by using proper safety equipment and technique. For this, you should use a push block, combined with a technique that applies three pressure points, as you could already read above.
Besides protecting against kickback because of the three pressure points and the small hook at the back that keeps the wood under control, the handle will keep your fingers far enough away from the saw blade. Thanks in part to the push block, this technique will also give you better cutting results.
How to use a push block?
How to use a push block is pretty self-explanatory. What you need to make sure is that the push block is stable on the wood for maximum control and that the cleat hooks behind the wood, so you can push the wood smoothly through the table, saw, or planer.
Before you get started using a push block, there are a few settings that you need to make. The first setting is the height of the saw blade. What I personally always do is set the saw blade slightly higher than the thickness of the wood. Whether I’m using a push block or not, I’ve made a habit of doing this for every cut. In case something happens, the injury will be minimal.
Furthermore, depending on the type of push block, you have to adjust the settings at the bottom of this safety item. Lower the side piece until it touches the saw table surface and the push block is level and firm on the wood.
After that, you can move the parts so that the saw blade can slide through perfectly without damaging the base of the push block.
Once the settings are done, place the push block on the wood and make sure the cleat hooks behind the wood. By means of the three pressure point system that you could read earlier in this article, you can now start working on the wood.
How to choose a table saw push block?
Choosing a push block can be a difficult task. The offer is large and there are different models, but which push block is the best for you? For this, you can take a few things into account that can help you make a choice. You can pay attention to the following:
- Build quality
A push block is a tool to work with and will be subject to knocks or in some cases where you accidentally run the push block into the saw blade. That’s why you need a durable push block that can withstand all the wear and tear over the years and can last a long time.
I wouldn’t immediately opt for the lightest model, but also not for the heaviest. A heavier weight will feel sturdier and give you better control but will be less pleasant if you use it a lot.
Opt for a pusher block with a wider base that will stay in place as you push the workpiece through the blade.
Make sure that the quality of the construction material of the push block is good and that it ensures safety.
In addition to purchasing a push block, you can also choose to make a DIY version of it. In this YouTube video, you can see how I made push blocks myself with an automatic heel that folds away when placed on top of the wood.
If you prefer a professional push block, I can recommend to use a push block like the the GRR-Ripper, which in my opinion seems to be the best choice for woodworkers.
With all this data from this article, finding the right push block should become an easier task. If you want to see which are the best push blocks on the market, I advise you to take a look at my article, “What is the best push block”. Besides my personal favorite, the GRR-Ripper 3D push block (full review here), you will find 4 other toppers that you should definitely see.
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Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration