Don't Use Push Sticks or Pads
I hope you’ve had an opportunity to read the “Woodworking Essentials” column in the February 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking (#167). In it, Marc Adams discusses power jointers and a better way to work. I have to admit that I had a few issues with Marc’s article, but I’m not the safest guy in the shop. However, I did learn a number of ways to improve my time at the jointer.
One area in which I veer from Marc’s teachings is in the use of push sticks and push pads. Let me say that if you use these implements, he shows you exactly how they should be gripped and used. My statement is: I don’t use sticks and pads. I use gloves. There it is , deal with it.
OK, now that you’ve calmed down and the little hairs on the back of your neck have laid flat, let me explain what, why and how I use gloves. I only use them at the jointer and I remove them before moving to any other tools.
The gloves I use are gripping-style gloves that are used to grip lumber or other materials. I’ve used PVC dot-covered gloves, gloves that are palm coated with rubber and those with a honeycomb pattern.
To answer the “why,” I feel I have more control when using gloves. Naturally, your hands read or feel the lumber as it moves over the jointer bed. You can feel where the board hits and skips the knives or if you need to speed or slow the travel to obtain a cleaner cut. When you add a push stick or pad to the process, you remove the ability to feel the board as well as access that information. Also, the gripping action of my gloves ensures that I’ll not slip while working. That’s not something I feel you can say when using the push pads (those always seem awkward to use). And imagine the ease of moving the board back for a second pass , no putting down the push stick or pad to then grab the board to move.
Next, let’s look at how I use gloves. Of course, you should never allow your hand to perch beyond the trailing edge of the board. So, don’t use your palm to push the lumber. The reason we’re tempted to hook our palm over the trailing edge of the board is to gain a hold and not allow the lumber to slip. But, if you’re using grip-type gloves, you can simply place your hands anywhere along the board , the gripping action holds firm and allows you to move the lumber with ease.
Even I have a limit to the glove scenario. I will not use gloves for jointing pieces that are less than 3″ wide. Below that width I cannot position my hands or fingers properly to gain the added control. From 3″ to 5″ I use my glove-covered fingertips and the side of my hands for my hold. Above 5″ in width I position my palms flat to the stock at go about my work.
Now before you send me a message or comment on how wrong I am because you’ve read “no gloves in the shop” all your woodworking life, buy a pair of gloves and give it a try. I’ll bet you’ll immediately notice the added control and the information gained from your work. But, if you try it and still think I’m wrong , fire away.
And if you happen to agree with my glove use, add your comment. We might start a new movement that will rock the foundation of safety in the woodshop.