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
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...
Standard 20mm Table Featherboard
H: 2.1" W: 7.1" L: 7.1"
Professional 30mm TABLE Featherboard
H: 2.1" W: 8.0"
L: 7.1" Wt: 1.75lbs
Professional 30mm FENCE Featherboard
H: 2.1" W: 9.0"
L: 2.8" Wt: 1.32lbs
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.
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
(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.
2. Apply the amount of pressure that you would normally
apply to the stock
material to the featherboard using your thumb.
3. Rotate the two knobs 1/2 turn clockwise until the knob
reaches the internal stops.
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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 -
Vertical Magswitch Featherboard Attachment - US$15 -
30mm Magswitch Magnetic Fence Featherboard - US$49 -
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