Featherboards are both useful and can be considered as a safety tool in some cases too. I use them most on the router table, but they can be used on the table saw, the drill press and other tools as well from time to time. I always think of them as another set of hands to help me hold and steady the wood so I can get a better and more accurate cut.
Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/_n_ncxTbwRM
My original thought was to use some hard foam wheels, but the only ones I could find were too soft, then when thinking about other rubber kinds of wheels, I thought of inline skate wheels ... they are ready almost everywhere at many garage sales and thrift stores for a couple of dollars a pair, which often gives you 3 or 4 pairs of wheels to use.
If you find some inline skates, just make sure the wheels spin nicely and freely and if they do they will work perfectly.
I used 3/4 inch plywood for mine because I wanted to use mine with my magswitchs so I could use them on any of my steel top machines should I need the feather board.
These wheels are a bit thick so, in order to get them to use with thinner wood, it's best to angle the wheels toward the deck or top of the tool. The angle is whatever works best for your wheels, but it looks like about 15% from the fence of your table saw is a good place to start.
After the angle is cut, check to see how wide the board is, you will want to make sure it will work on all your machines, table saw, drill press and maybe even a bandsaw. Also, note you may want to install 2 or even 3 wheels in your featherboard, but remember that aligning 3 is much harder than just installing 2 wheels where no alignment is needed.
Depending on the wheels you get, it seems they mostly come with 1/4" or 5/16" centers. I found the 1/4" was better because you can use a slightly smaller T-nut that works a bit better in angled wood you will be using. If you don't have a drill guide to check the bolt diameters, just do some trial-and-error tests to see what works smoothest.
After the angle is cut, next you need to cut a recess in the back of the featherboard for your T-nuts. To find where these recesses need to be, I drilled some through holes from the front after measuring my wheels for placement. Then I could flip over my plywood and drill recessed holes with my Forstner bit from the backside of the plywood. Remember that these recess holes need to be drilled at an angle so that the T-nuts sit-in at an angle to hole the wheels.
Next came the holes for the magswitches. I always use the "150" magswitchs, they have better holding power and in most cases 2 works just fine. I prefer to cut oblong holes for the inserts for my magswitches but pure round holes work too, they just take a bit more work to turn the switches on and off. In my case, I use a 1-3/8 forsnter bit with a 3/8" offset. This means I drill one hole, them measure a line 3/8" in any direction from the edge of the last hole, then drill another overlapping hole using the edge of the line, and I end up with and oblong or elongated hole that fits the magswitches perfectly.
Once the recesses for the T-nuts were drilled, I drilled a through-hole for each wheel for the T-nuts to fit snugly in. In my case, the collars on the 1/4" T-nuts is 5/16" so a drill bit that size worked perfectly.
Next, I gently tapped the T-Nuts into place from the backside of the plywood then flipped it over and attached the wheels with 1/4" bolts that were sized to fit. I also used washer between the wheels and the plywood to ensure the rubber wheels would not rub against the plywood.
That's it .. the featherboard jig is done, time to try it out on a couple of machines with the table saw being first. I chose a board that had some edge damage that needed to be cut off and aligned the featherboard to the board in combination with the fence setting ... started up the table saw and pushed the wood through the blade. I was instantly amazed at how much easier it was to use than a standard featherboard with friction fingers pushing against the wood. The wheels rolled smoothly, kept the wood firm against the fence but pushing the wood through was much easier and even seemed more stable ... but that could be just my impression.
Next, I tried it on the drill press where it could be used as an alignment tool for things like drilling holes for mortises or any other kind of drilling where you need to keep wood firm against a fence, but move it past the drill bit. Again, the wheeled featherboard worked like a charm ... I love how easy it allows the wood to be moved across the wheels.
This featherboard jig was another pleasantly surprising build because it works so well and is not that hard to build from old used inline skate wheels, some scrap plywood and some magswitchs you probably already are using ... a great addition to my shop.
Copyright Colin Knecht