A DIY feather board is simply an angled piece of wood which has fingers cut in one end. It’s a great addition to table saws and router tables, and even some band saws.
For example, on a table saw I like using a feather board to make sure the work piece doesn’t drift away from the fence, which can be a concern in some instances, like when doing bevel cuts.
It works by helping to apply consistent, even pressure to your work piece, securing it either down into the table, or into the fence, as you feed the board through the cut.
I’ve made 3 different types of feather boards, each with it’s own level of complexity (from basic to fancy/advanced). I’ll explain all three below.
I prefer a basic, wider feather board paired with a sacrificial fence when cutting rabbets with a dado blade. This will ensure the depth of the rabbet is consistent all the way through.
For holding a board tightly against the fence on the horizontal plane, you may want a narrower feather board. This is because you want the fingers behind the blade, so a wide feather board will likely end up hanging off the edge of the saw anyway.
Securing a basic feather board can be done with bar clamps, and if that’s the method you plan on using, make sure the board is long enough so it will reach the edge of the table for proper clamping.
You could buy feather boards commercially, which are typically designed to work in standard ¾” miter slots. But it’s fairly simple to build DIY feather boards yourself. You can use ¾” plywood, or ¾” solid wood.
If you go with solid wood, make sure the fingers are cut along with the grain, and that there are no knots in the section of the board that will be the fingers.
Also know that by using solid wood, you’re risking uncovering internal tension which can cause the fingers to warp.
For a basic feather board, cut a 30 degree angle on one end. Mark another 30 degree line across the board, about 3 to 4 inches in from the angled edge.
Then mark out 5/16” ticks along the angled edge, and extend a line from each tick, back to the other 30 degree line.
Using your band saw or jig saw, cut at each tick all the way back to your line, and stop.
DIY Feather Board For T-Track Miter Slot
Another method is to build a runner (aka miter bar) with washers on the bottom. This works if you have a t-style miter slot. The washers keep the runner locked down into the miter slot.
You can counter-bore the holes to allow the washers and screw heads to inset.
Make sure you’re using hardwood for this, like oak or hard maple. As you can see here, I made a simple miter bar, and glued on 2 angled pieces to hold the feather board at the correct angle.
Tap a couple bolt holes in the miter bar and use knobbed bolts to lock it in place.
I slotted the center of the feather board so I could slide it in and out from the blade, and then it can be locked down with the knob.
The other hand-bolt secures the miter bar down in the slot so it won’t slide. This simple feather board has been my favorite so far, as it’s much easier to set up and use than a standard feather board clamped in place.
However, maybe you don’t have a t-style miter slot that could accept a washered miter bar like this one. If that’s the case, you can make an expanding miter bar like some commercial feather boards use. I call this the fancy version…
Fancy Feather Board
This DIY feather board version is a bit more complicated to build, but it works really well, and universally for anything with a standard miter slot, like a table saw, a band saw, and a router table.
First draw a basic ‘U’ shape with fingers at a 45 degree angle. The overall shape of this design is about 6″ by 7″, with 3-1/2″ long fingers inset from the sides. It should look something like this here:
Then cut the fingers with a band saw and drill some holes slightly larger than 1/4″, like I did here:
Notice I started skipping lines on my fingers after the first 2 were cut. The lines were originally marked at 3/16″ and I found that was too narrow. So I started skipping every other line. That put the remaining fingers at every 3/8″.
After building this one I believe the best option would have been to mark every 5/16″, but this one turned out great regardless. These wider fingers still flex plenty good to be functional.
Next draw lines connecting the holes and cut the slots using a scroll saw, or jig saw, and then cut the remaining parts away from the edges.
Next you’ll want to get some 1/4″-20 flat head stove bolts, 3 inches long is perfect. The heads on these bolts are conical in shape. However, if you have some fully threaded hex-head bolts, you can use a grinder to make the head of the bolt cone shaped like I did:
Next build a simple miter bar about 1/4″ thick, 7″ long. Use some kind of hardwood for this. It does not need to fit really snug in your miter slot, in fact a tiny bit of wiggle room is perfect. Drill a 1/4″ hole at each end, positioned so they line up with the slots you made in your feather board.
Now countersink each hole, and then cut a ~2″ slot from each end with your band saw.
Now if you have some good 1/4″-20 knobs you can use them, but you can also make your own knobs like mine, which work great. Plus the larger size gives you better leverage to tighten them down.
To make your own, cut a couple triangles from plywood, not solid wood, and drill a hole centered in each triangle. Hammer in a 1/4″-20 T-nut from the top:
Grab a couple washers and your DIY feather board (fancy version) is ready!
I found this double-lock-down miter bar and large handles to work really well. I can crank down pretty good on it and the feather board doesn’t budge, which is ideal.
And as you can see, with the fingers inset like they are, you can pull the feather board further away from the blade, closer to the miter slot. This is not possible with the washered miter bar version.
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