Of all of the jigs in the woodshop, the push block or push stick is usually one of the first that is built. I have qualifications that govern a utilitarian project like this. For one, I rarely purchase materials since scraps can often suffice. Other parameters are to make minimal cuts and processing since these are not that critical. I much prefer wooden push blocks over the plastic ones I’ve seeen. The plastic ones(besides having to be purchased) seem to not grip the wood as they need to in making a safe cut. I also prefer MDF over plywood.
When taking the time to make a push block, it makes sense to make multiples. I’ve purposefully shaped it to nest well when making multiples. A piece of 10” x 48” stock can easilly yield 8 blanks:
These can easilly be separated using a bandsaw to zig zag between the rows(shown in Red). Then follow with crosscutting the individual rough blocks.
One failure of most push blocks IMO is that the heel seems to get chewed up quicker than the base so I’ve incorporated a replacable heel. In this design, the the heel AND the block can both be ‘refreshed’ by simply trimming off 1/4” from the bottom. Anticipating this, I’ve included about 1.5” of solid material on the bottom of the base for just that purpose. The heel can also be replace as needed. It is retained using a 3/4” long brass screw. Brass is used in case of a blade strike so your saw blade won’t be damaged. Here’s a skeletal view so you can see how the heel fits in place:
You can also quickly raise the heel in situations when you are ripping thin material. If the heel is touching the table, then the pushblock is not doing all it was intended to do. The heel should never prevent the bottom of the block from fully contacting the wood.
Begin with making the heel. It is simply a 1/2” square stock of pine or hardwood.
Next, prepare a 6” x 10” block of 3/4” MDF or plywood for the base. Make a slightly loose 1/2” x 1/2” kerf, 1/2” from the rear of the block.
To get the width of this kerf perfect the first time, you can fit it to the heel using your favorite KerfMaker. I use my Disposable one. To achieve the slightly loose fit, when gauging the heel, add a shim of paper as a fudge factor.
Now laminate a 1/8” cover to the base. Be sure to not get glue inside the slot for the heel.
All that is left now is to add the handle and shape the outside. I start by drilling two holes for the handle. I use a 1.25” Forstner bit for the ends and then ‘connect the dots’ using a scrollsaw or jigsaw. You can go the extra mile of making a template for smoothing it up with a router and a flush cut bit.
Lastly, round over all the outer edges(except for the bottom) to make it more comfortable to use. Drill for and install the brass heel-retainer screw and “Bob’s your uncle”. :)
There is, however, one situation that this block is not well suited for and that is for ripping very thin stock. For those instances, I suggest making one of these completely out of the base 3/4” material with an integral heel. The reason is that for ripping very thin strips(1/8” or less), the heel should fit flush to the fence so that it can push the thin strip on past the blade. Of course there are other better ways for ripping thin stock which I’ll be covering in a future episode.
For those situations, here’s the solid version:
Edit: Actually, if you don’t share a shop with others and you can manage your push blocks, if you keep 3 – 4 dedicated to particular width cuts, then they don’t tend to get nearly as chewed up and you might do well with the solid version shown last.
-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--