Homemade Push Sticks

We didn’t have shop class in high school, but when I got to college we had a 3D design class that gave me exposure to tools like the bandsaw, table saw, and a few other things that are happy to take your fingers off. In that class, we learned a few tricks to keeping yourself safe, such as using two pieces of scrap to hold the wood you’re pushing through a band saw or table saw, to give you a safe distance from the blade.

One of the things that got me started in making with wood is the bevy or YouTube videos and maker blogs out there. People in this community are willing to share their ideas and it’s easy to find several approaches to the same problem. The topic of push sticks was no exception.

I learned about a few different styles, but being most comfortable with the two sticks approach, I found this video by Matthias Wendal to a be a great guide in making my own push sticks.

What I like about this design is that it’s ergonomic and it keeps your hands far away from the blade, but you get the control of two hands.

Design

Two pieces of wood on a table, ready to be cut

I started with some leftover oak I had tested for another project. The oak seemed hard enough that I could rely on its sturdiness, and it wasn’t too heavy either. One of the things I don’t like about it was how grainy it is, but in this case that could be a good thing by offering more grip on the handles.

I didn’t realize until later that Matthias included his design on his website, so I found a frame on his video of when he was working with the design and kind of drew it freehand onto some scrap cardboard.

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I used an exacto and box cutter to cut the shape out and matched it up to the wood that I had already cut down to size. This allowed me to kind of preview the handle and to confirm that this design was what I liked. I traced the cardboard onto the first piece and made a few slight adjustments.

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This project was a great excuse to pick up my first jigsaw. A bandsaw might be even better for this kind of project, but the jigsaw worked just fine.

I cut out the first stick.

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This gave me an even better idea as to the final weight and balance of the push sticks. With a few more adjustments, I outlined the first piece onto the second and cut it out with the jigsaw.

What I learned by doing it this way was that even though both sticks came out similar in sizes they’re off by just a little bit. I think it was just because it was like taking two passes at the same design. It doesn’t bother me, but if I were making these for someone else, I would redo them. I made these push sticks before my step stool project, but if I were to make these again, I might try clamping the wood together and cut both pieces at the same time as I did with the sides of the stool.

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The next step was to route off the hard edges. I routed everywhere except the front where the sticks make contact with the wood.

Finally, I put a hole in each handle in case I wanted to hang these up, then I sanded them down.

Fin

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These push sticks work really well and I keep them right on the side of my table saw, so they’re easy to grab when needed.

I’ve seen many more videos by Matthias since then and this is by far one of the tamer projects he’s done. He takes a very engineer-like approach to a lot of his work and his YouTube channel is chock full of useful tools and woodworking techniques.