Almost every table saw comes with a single push stick. But that is not enough. You need at least one push stick and push block to provide the correct push contacts. Otherwise your cuts are not straight and you risk a serious injury.
The use of a table saw always entails a certain risk. You move the material to and through a sharp rotating knife. Depending on how powerful your table saw is, the blade rotates between 30,000 and 50,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). That your eyes can't keep up so quickly.
When it comes down to it, everything that can cut through wood can cut through your soft, fleshy body. Even without taking into account the risk of injury, you run the risk of a recoil and your cut is not straight, resulting in disappointing results.
Recoil is incredibly dangerous
Warning : The following section discusses the dangers of table saws and can make some readers worry or uncomfortable; we recommend that you go to the next section if that describes you.
If you are not familiar with the concept of recoil in woodworking, you can count on being lucky. Recoil occurs when the rotating blade of your table saw grips a piece of material that you saw, lift and throw at high speeds. Because the knife turns towards you, the wood is in turn thrown in your direction and can hit you hard enough to injure you or even kill you.
That is not the only danger of kickback. Because the knife pulls the wood on it, the process also pulls your hands towards the knife. If you are lucky, you have small cuts. But it is also possible that you could lose your fingers on the rotating knife.
A form of kickback occurs during a tear cutter when a portion of the wood begins to pass along the back of the knife. As the material drifts away from the crack, a corner of the wood can catch the rising teeth of the blade, pulling the wood onto the blade, leading to a piece of wood being thrown.
The following is a video that demonstrates this type of recoil. Honest warning, the person in the video appears undamaged (barely), but it's still scary to see how close they get to serious injury.
As the video shows, this recoil takes place as your wooden piece of tear fence drifts to the leaf path. You can prevent these and other forms of kickback by using the correct safety equipment and technology. The first piece of equipment is a riving knife.
If you recently purchased your table saw, it came with a slender piece of metal installed just behind the blade. Generally, unless you have a specific reason (such as installing Dado blades), you should not remove it. The riving knife acts as a physical barrier to prevent your wooden piece from floating on the rear teeth of your rotating saw blade.
The second device is a push block or push stick, combined with a technique that applies three points of pressure. In addition to the same protection, the same technology will also give you better results.
Use three pressure points for better, safer cuts
Performing a crack cut involves sliding a board over the table saw wall while touching the crack fence for guidance to the knife. If your board drifts away from the crack, your cut will be crooked (and you may experience a recoil).
So when you get the wood through the table saw, you want to apply three pressure points, as seen in the photo above. (Note: I lifted the knife after the cut to clarify the image.) The first print progresses. To saw wood on a table saw, you naturally have to move the material in the direction of the blade.
The second is downward pressure. That is, the pressure comes from above the board to the table top. By pushing down on the board, you prevent the table saw blade from lifting your board and throwing it at you.
The third is internal pressure. To prevent kickback and to maintain straight cuts, apply pressure to the plate in the direction of the crack-like fence. You must apply this pressure before the table saw blade, not afterwards. If you try to push inwards towards the fence after the blade, the freshly sawn wood will bend in, squeeze, which can then lead to kickback.
By maintaining these three contact points, you ensure that you not only get a straight cut (because you drive straight over your crack gate), but the kickback risk is also minimized. The general idea is to let your material move smoothly through the saw path without allowing drift on the blade.
You can reach those three pressure points by using a push stick and a push block. Your table saw is probably supplied with a push stick, and as long as you use the right technology, it works well. You must use the push stick for your inner contact point towards the gate.
Then place your push block on the board that you want to cut and apply an even pressure and forward to move the board through the knife. Keep your eyes on the fence to make sure your board doesn't drift off.
Although you could theoretically use two push sticks, you might not get enough downward pressure to prevent kickback. With a push stick you concentrate the downward force of the board instead of over the surface.
Alternatively, you can use a GRR-RIPPER push block instead of a push stick and push block. It is able to safely deliver all three pressure points in a single tool.
Whatever you use, the most important thing is to keep your fingers away from the rotating blade. Destroying a push block is much better than the alternative.
The push blocks you have to buy
Now that you know why you need a push block, it's time to buy one. There are many options to choose from and everything is better than nothing. But here are a few good choices:
A Good Push Block: Big Horn 10230 Push Stick
Sometimes you see the terms push blocks and push sticks used interchangeably, and that is the case with Big Horn 10230 Push stick. The crucial part are the safety features that it offers. That includes a spring-loaded tip on the back that protrudes for maximum grip on the end of your board. And a rubber texture at the bottom to increase the grip as you push and move forward. The closed construction that surrounds your hand should mean that if something goes wrong, it is likely that the stick will hit your knife before your hands do, giving you an extra layer of protection.
A nice multi-pack: Safety Woodworking Package
If you want many options, this safety package has you covered. It not only has table saw-friendly push sticks and push blocks, but it also has push blocks that work with your router table and jointer. Some push blocks are provided with thick rubber for extra grip-like texture. The bright orange color is also pretty handy if you are trying to find where the safety equipment ended up in the store … again.
A premium experience: GRR-RIPPER 3D push block
If you want the best, safest and most comfortable experience, it is hard to beat the GRR-RIPPER 3D push block. It is incredibly adjustable, so you can work easily with both thick and thin boards, wide and narrow cuts. Micro Jug even offers extra accessories for even smaller cuts or advanced techniques such as tapered cuts. It may cost more, but you get a premium experience for your money. This single push block is able to use all three pressure points, and the rubber textured handles keep the block locked to your wood.