Review By Dean Bielanowski  Magswitch Website - http://www.magswitch.com.au


Magswitch Magnetic Featherboards
Review

By Dean Bielanowski

When it comes to making cuts on a table saw, router table, shaper, bandsaw or numerous other woodworking machinery, a good featherboard will not only improve safety, but will also ensure a more accurate and straight cut. But in the past, securing a featherboard to your worktop where it is needed has sometimes been quite slow and bothersome, often requiring the user to unscrew locking knobs and slide miter bars from miter slots etc.

Australian company, Magswitch, has attempted to solve these issues by producing the Magswitch magnetic featherboards... a featherboard system that can be secured and released with a quick twist of a knob.

The Magswitch Featherboards
When you look at the Magswitch featherboard's functional component, the featherboard fingers, they look almost exactly the same as those found on conventional featherboards, whether they are plastic or wooden. The fact is that they ARE indeed the same and work in exactly the same manner as conventional featherboards. There is no difference, well apart for perhaps some difference in the type of plastic used between jigs - the Magswitch featherboards are molded from durable ABS plastic.

What makes the difference is the way they are attached to your work surface. But before we get into that, let's look at the types and sizes of Magswitch featherboards currently available. These are shown in the table below...
Magswitch Featherboards 10327-AUS Standard 20mm Table Featherboard
H: 2.1"  W: 7.1"  L: 7.1"  Wt: 1.06lbs
Magswitch Featherboards 10328-AUS Professional 30mm TABLE Featherboard
H: 2.1"  W: 8.0"  L: 7.1"  Wt: 1.75lbs
Magswitch Featherboards 10329-AUS Professional 30mm FENCE Featherboard
H: 2.1"  W: 9.0"  L: 2.8"  Wt: 1.32lbs
Magswitch Featherboards 10339-AUS Professional 30mm Vertical Attachment
H: 4.3"  W: 8.0"  L: 3.9"  Wt: 0.94lbs

I have one of each item in the table above, and this is enough to handle pretty much all my requirements for my machines, although your requirements may differ.

Switchable Magnets!
As the company name suggests, Magswitch products use a switchable magnetic assembly to provide holding force to your tool's surface. You can turn the magnets "on" or "off" as needed with a simple 180 degree turn of the knobs located above the magnetic surfaces on the jig...

"Huh"... I hear you say?
"Aren't magnets always switched on?"

Well yes, they are, as you probably recall from high-school science class. But you might also recall that magnets have "poles" and that "like ends" of magnets repel each other, whereas opposite ends attract. This is the basic theory at work behind the Magswitch featherboards. Each magnetic clamp features two powerful rare earth magnets. When the knob is turned "ON", the two magnets "align" to provide a very strong grip to steel or magnetic surfaces. When turned "OFF" the rare earth magnets counteract each other, releasing the magnetic force holding them down to your work surface. The theory is so simple, but the practicality is awesome. Now you can position your featherboard virtually anywhere on your work or machine surface and lock it down quickly and easily. You no longer need to be limited by the location of your miter table slot.

The magnets themselves, when engaged, provide a combined breakaway strength of up to 210lbs, however, this can vary depending on the work surface material grade, thickness, and surface finish.

How to Use the Magswitch Featherboards
Note - I have copied the below information direct from the Magswitch website. Basically, I couldn't explain it any better or any differently. The process is too simple for further explanation.
 

(Blade Guard removed for Clarity)

1. Simply place your stock against the fence and position the Magswitch Featherboard against the edge of the stock material. Make sure that the
Featherboard fingers are a minimum of 1" in front of the blade to avoid squeezing the stock into the blade.

Magswitch Table Featherboard
2. Apply the amount of pressure that you would normally apply to the stock
material to the featherboard using your thumb.

Magswitch Table Featherboard
3. Rotate the two knobs 1/2 turn clockwise until the knob reaches the internal stops.

Magswitch Table Featherboard
4. Proceed with cutting as you normally would.

Note: Never place the Featherboard where the fingers are even with or behind the blade as serious injury could occur. While the Magswitch Featherboard will greatly reduce the possibility of kickback, precautions and safe sawing methods should still be observed.

Standard vs Professional Table Featherboard
You may have noticed from the product table above that the basic TABLE featherboard is offered in both standard and professional versions. What is the difference? Well, the standard version features 20mm rare earth magnets, the professional features 30mm rare earth magnets. Because the magnets in the pro version are larger, it offers more clamping force and higher breakaway limit. Additionally, only the professional version can use the 30mm vertical attachment to provide a simultaneous vertical featherboard hold down effect on workpieces up to 2.5 inches thick. Personally, I would recommend going straight for the pro version of the table featherboard. While both versions provided a great grip on both my table saw, bandsaw and router table surfaces, I did manage to slide the standard featherboard a little in use when using it to make a cut on a long, heavy board. Ok, so I probably skewed the feed of this board a little during the cut causing the featherboard movement, but it has to be mentioned nonetheless. I had no trouble with the pro version, but I had also discovered the reason behind the issue with the standard version by then too. If you ensure your table surface is clean, as well as the magnetic surfaces on the jig, and take care when using long and heavy lumber, you should have no problems at all. I didn't find my regular wax coating I use on my table saw and router table to prevent rust to have any noticeable effect on magnetic holding pressure.

Professional 30mm Fence Featherboard
This featherboard is much slimmer than the others, primarily designed to be used as a vertical hold down mounted to a fence. I used this quite successfully on my router table with a cast iron fence, but could not use it on its own with my table saw fence, because that fence has aluminum faces. This brings us to the only real limitation of this product... and that is it can only "grip" to a magnetic surface. Cast-iron works a treat, as well as steel and sheet steel, but it wont grip to aluminum surfaces at all. So take this into consideration if you plan to purchase these witht he mindset of using them on aluminum surfaces, they won't hold!

Despite this limitation, if you have steel or cast iron fences on your machines, you are good to go, and this featherboard works great for tools with those fence types. It attaches in the same manner as the TABLE featherboard via the two Magswitch magnets.

Professional 30mm Vertical Attachment
As mentioned above, the professional vertical attachment can only attach to the professional 30mm table featherboard. It attaches to the table featherboard via two small bolt and butterfly nuts which can be tightened easily. The vertical attachment can be moved laterally up to 1 1/2" and has a height limit for the workpiece material of 2.5". This should provide plenty of space, because most wood of 2.5" thick or larger will likely be heavy enough not to require the use of a hold down featherboard anyway. The vertical attachment is well priced in relation to the actual pro table featherboard, so it makes a good extra investment to have both vertical and horizontal hold force during a cut.

Magswitch MagJigs
Magswitch Mag JigIn addition to the line of featherboards offered by the company, they also offer "MagJigs" which allow you to incorporate MagSwitch technology into your own user-made jigs. Using a MagJig allows you to clamp your jig magnetically in the same way as the featherboard jigs, by simply twisting the knob. These two come in both 20mm and 30mm versions, so you can choose the level of magnetic force required for your jig, or use multiple MagJigs for extra hold-down power.

In Use
The MagSwitch featherboards are so simple to use, they almost guarantee compliance. Every woodworker probably has some fancy woodworking safety devices around the shop they purchased but never use, simply because they are too difficult or too time consuming to fit and remove. The MagSwitch featherboards offer safety and convenience in a single package. Plus there is no learning curve to using them, and no technical assembly of many components.

Perhaps best of all however, when not in use they attach very securely to the metal cabinet of any good cabinet or contractors table saw, to a router table cabinet, or even a bandsaw cabinet (assuming it is not aluminum of course). I have my MagSwitch featherboards sitting on the side of my table saw cabinet where they are within easy reach when I need to use them. This saves valuable shelf or cabinet space.

The Price
MagSwitch featherboards are not the cheapest featherboard you can buy. Typical street prices for the Magswitch products are as follows (as at March '07):

30mm Pro Table Saw Magnetic Featherboard - US$49 - AUD$89.95
20mm Standard Table Saw Magnetic Featherboard - US$39 - AUD$59.95
Vertical Magswitch Featherboard Attachment - US$15 - AUD$24.95
30mm Magswitch Magnetic Fence Featherboard - US$49 - AUD$87.95
30mm Magswitch Magnetic Jig - $US29 - AUD$49.95
20mm Magswitch Magnetic Jig - US$25 - AUD$34.95

Shopping around might get you a slightly better price of course.

Are they worth the money though? My personal opinion is that if you use featherboards quite a lot when cutting or shaping on your woodworking machines, then yes, they are definitely worth the money. The ease of placing and removing the featherboards will save a lot of time in the long run, and time is often money! If you rarely use them, or don't mind attaching conventional featherboards to miter slots (and the limitations that comes with) then they might seem like an expensive purchase, and probably would be for your situation. So, weigh up your own individual needs and decide whether or not you will get plenty of use from these products.

As I use featherboards regularly on my table saw and router table to improve safety and cut accuracy, they are invaluable to me, and having magnetic versions such as these make them all the more easier to use. Needless to say, I like them a lot, and that is the conclusion of my review.... in a nutshell ;-)

Available to Order Online through these companies...
Click graphic to go to their direct product page for this item

In the USA
 

Magswitch Magnetic Table Saw Featherboards
Magswitch Magnetic Table Saw Featherboards

Rockler.com

Magswitch Vertical Featherboard Attachment
Magswitch Vertical Featherboard Attachment

Rockler.com
Magswitch Magnetic Fence Featherboard
Magswitch Magnetic Fence Featherboard

Rockler.com
Magswitch Magnetic Jigs
Magswitch Magnetic Jigs

Rockler.com

MagSwitch Magnetic Featherboards
Standard Table Featherboard
Hartville Tools
 

MagSwitch Magnetic Featherboard
Pro Table Featherboards
Hartville Tools

MagSwitch Magnetic Featherboard
Pro Fence Featherboard
Hartville Tools

In Australia

Mik International Logo

Full List of Australian Retailers:
http://www.magswitch.com.au/pages.asp?sName=Outlets
 

Magswitch Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited!


Magswitch 20mm Featherboard


Turn on the magnets with a simple knob twist!


Standard featherboard finger design...


Attach it virtually anywhere on your table! You are no longer a slave to the miter slot.


The underside of the Magswitch featherboard. Note the two rare earth magnetic clamps.


The 30mm professional version with vertical attachment in place, shown applying both vertical and horizontal pressure against a board ready to be cut.


The vertical attachment is secured via small thumbscrews.


The Magswitch fence featherboard is longer and thinner and works well for holding down material on router tables.


When not is use, the magswitch featherboards grip on the side of my table saw cabinet. Easy storage!

 

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