Push sticks – The good, the bad, and the ugly (but also good)

Push Sticks

Everyone has their opinion on push sticks. I have read some arguments in forums on what push stick is better. Bottom line if they attribute to more safety then use them. Each situation may require a different push stick. Here are a few of the push sticks I have in my shop.

The Good:

Recently Metthias Wandel posted his favorite push sticks on his website so I thought I would give them a try. They have become my go to sticks for small (less than ~12” long) pieces. They are the red sticks pictured in the middle. One thing I like about these sticks is, like Metthias, I find myself standing at a 45° angle to the blade instead of behind the blade. Just an added safety bonus.

The Bad:

The bottom stick is a plastic piece that came with my Porter Cable saw. I’m not sure what it is about this one but its just awkward to use. The fact that is plastic also makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m sure if it came in contact with the blade the blade would obviously win but I get the feeling as if it would be grabbed and thrown easier than wood. My hand is uncomfortably high as well when using this. This one is also too slippery for my liking. When my hand is at the end of the handle I feel like I’m disconnected with the piece as it is too far away from me. And when my hand slips forward, which it always does with this one, I feel the need to stop and readjust. Not something I want to do in the middle of a cut. There is also no finger stop like Metthias’ sticks have to deter my hands from proceeding closer to the blade. I go out of my way to not use this one.

The Ugly:

The top stick is my favorite style of push stick for general use and hands down for larger stock. Its simply a 2×6 with a hole cut out and a sacrificial strip added to the back. The only way to comfortably hold this is through the hole with my palm resting on the top 45 angle. This adds a constant to the situation and as I always cut with no more than a tooth length above the blade I know my hand will not be near the blade. The 1.5” width of the board offers a wider footprint than most push sticks which increases stability. I also like the length of the base. When using it I feel like I have more control of the middle/front end of the piece which reduces the chances of the piece being lifted from the back of the blade. With the sacrificial strip and also the width of it I can also run it right over the blade with no worries. If my blade is set at .25” away from the fence for smaller strips I can just set the board and the push stick against the fence, press down, and run it through with no worries. The sacrificial strip at the end will push the piece through after the cut and the wide base is constantly holding the small piece from lifting. I have never felt in danger when cutting thin strips with this method. This also eliminates the need to make a thin rip jig as well as one of those GRR-Ripper style push blocks. When the base gets too eaten up I can just trim shorter. If you are good about keeping the blade down this can last a long, long time. My favorite style push stick hands down.Push Sticks