Feather Key Jig - The safer version.

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Project by SNSpencer posted 12-16-2009 02:31 AM 4665 views 23 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

OK, I have seen a couple of Feather Key cutting jigs on this site and I decided to throw my design into the mix. I took an existing design that I saw somewhere and added a few tweaks of my own, some for function and some for safety. The entire thing is made from scrap. Some plywood for the base, Oak, Cherry and a scrap of Plexiglas.

Picture 1 – Overall shot of the jig which rides on rails that slip into the miter slots on my table saw.

Picture 2 – The backside, and most dangerous part of the jig. In an effort to make this operation safer, I added a “No Fingers” box and stained it RED. This completely encompasses the spinning saw blade as it exits the jig. It’s kind of hard to see it in the picture but the top of covered with a piece of Plexiglas. This box makes it all but impossible to lose a finger by accident unless you run the jig all the way through the blade. I normally move the jig forward into the blade to make the cut then just slide it back. Also, you will notice a small space at the very back of the box. This is there so that any trapped sawdust can be emptied out. My first version of this had a hole drilled through the bottom inside the box but I ran into sawdust falling through and the jig would “lift” from the table on the return trip as it slid on a thin layer of sawdust.

Picture 3 – Close up of the trough where the box to be keyed resides. I drew in a ½” scale and the stop block is infinitely adjustable. Simply unclamp, move and reclamp. I also extended the cut line mark to the very rear of the trough for easy reference when the slot is covered by the piece being milled.

Picture 4 – Just a picture of the front side of the jig. Notice the tall Oak cross member at the very front. It keeps the jig from warping since you would be cutting through 2/3 of base.

Picture 5 – Glued directly to the jig is an example of what this contraption is for. I have a little piece of Yellowheart as an example of the feather key process. I also labeled for which table saw it was designed for. (Someday I hope to be confused by having multiple saws in the shop, come on Lottery) Mainly when I have nosy friends over they inevitably ask what some of the things in the shop are for. This makes it real easy to explain.

For now the jig only has the slot cut for a feather key that is perpendicular to the workpiece. It could easily be run through the saw with the blade angled as well. I have found that this can lead to problems with chip out if the corner of the box is not backed by the jig tray on both sides of the cut. If I ever decide to do this I would either make a separate jig for that type of cut. Unfortunately, I did not think ahead and just make the jig two sided with the rails off center. (“No Fingers” box and a cross member on the front and back. I could also do the appropriate scale on either side.)

-- Jef Spencer - Refined Pallet -

13 comments so far

View SgtVrooman's profile


36 posts in 3335 days

#1 posted 12-16-2009 02:53 AM

Outstanding jig, great explanation, thank you for sharing.

View gagewestern's profile


308 posts in 3318 days

#2 posted 12-16-2009 02:57 AM

cool looks very safe

-- gagewestern

View sras's profile


4790 posts in 3097 days

#3 posted 12-16-2009 03:00 AM

Nicely done! It’s clear lots of thought went into this – right down to the sawdust. I like the attention to safety – blood stains can ruin an otherwise perfectly good piece ;) One thought for added safety is if you can rig a hard stop on the sled to prevent it from traveling too far. Maybe just a board clamped to the back of the saw table …

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View abie's profile


874 posts in 3739 days

#4 posted 12-16-2009 05:16 AM

nicely done and described.
BTW I was taught from many sources to only push the sled thru the key and not back.
Moving the sled back could introduce error into the cut.
Thanks for the info.
My sled is similar.

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

View SteveMI's profile


1092 posts in 3262 days

#5 posted 12-16-2009 05:19 AM

sras beat me to it. In building my sled I found it was too easy to just push past the blade since some of the work is resting on the rear fence. So I added a stop to my outfeed table that limits the sled travel. The “no fingers” box was another thing that I saw on another post and is a super safety feature.

Your post is almost like an engineer journal, great to read.


View bigike's profile


4050 posts in 3256 days

#6 posted 12-16-2009 05:34 AM

pretty safe and precise looking, nice work

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View hootr's profile


183 posts in 3314 days

#7 posted 12-16-2009 04:11 PM

i’ve got to quit this site
i’m spending more time building cool jigs than projects!!!!!!
just kiddin, good job

-- Ron, Missouri

View OhValleyWoodandWool's profile


970 posts in 3088 days

#8 posted 12-16-2009 09:12 PM

good job

-- "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure." Mark Twain

View Pdub's profile


923 posts in 3148 days

#9 posted 12-16-2009 09:17 PM

It’s going in my Favorites. Love the safety features. I know for a fact that when finger meets moving saw blade, the blade always wins.

-- Paul, North Dakota, USAF Ret.

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 3701 days

#10 posted 12-17-2009 12:23 AM

Pdub – yes, the saw blade always wins, even when it is multiple fingers!


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

View Mike's profile


93 posts in 3133 days

#11 posted 02-25-2010 09:36 PM

Great jig. Really like the saftey. Built my first sled a couple months ago and suddenly realized why folks had put blocks at the back of the fence. Didn’t cut myself but suddenly realized I was getting awful close to the blade.


-- Mike, Cantral Oregon

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3545 days

#12 posted 02-25-2010 09:41 PM

Great Idea

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 3076 days

#13 posted 02-25-2010 09:47 PM


-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

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