Jig Journal: Custom Push Pads
by Jerry C. Forshee
Let’s face it: Many of us all too often see safety as…well, just plain boring.
We always seem to be anxious to use that little bit of free time to get to the shop and work on that next pressing project for our spouse, kids or grandkids, and safety takes a back seat.
But you can’t do woodworking from a hospital bed; every bit of safety exercised actually lets you maximize your precious free time to do woodworking.
Push pads are one common safety aid. There are good push pads and there are better push pads. Commercial push pads (the good), which are readily available and economically priced, are often used when face jointing on the jointer. The angled handle helps the operator keep the stock against the fence as the stock is fed across the jointer knives. The through “D” handle is much like a suitcase handle, with finger grooves providing a comfortable and firm grip of the push pad.
But some safety experts assert that no jig should have a handle that encloses your fingers. The reasoning is that should there ever be a mishap of some kind (kickback, trapped blade, a knot coming loose, etc.) your hand could become trapped and a serious injury could result. (If you do use these commercial push pads, I recommend holding them with your hand cupped over the top, rather than putting your fingers around and through the handle – but that is at best an unnatural grip, and the ergonomics of the thing beg you to use it in a less-than-safe manner.)
With a careful operator, the chances of such an accident might be remote, but why chance even a small risk of injury if a simple and economical alternative is available?
The push pad shown here (the better) is a shop project you can make in a few hours from scraps; it’s fun and will improve your safety practices. This design is an improvement over popular commercial push pads. I call it the “Safe ‘T’ Push Pad.”