Foot switches

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 07-07-2011 03:03 PM 2236 views 1 time favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 3316 days

07-07-2011 03:03 PM

On my drill press, I like to pierce the wood with the motor turned off to see if I am exactly where I want to be. When I know I am in exactly the right place, I like to hold the bit at the top of the surface of the wood (with that center point (brad point or forstner bit) still partially inserted in the wood when I turn the motor on.

Sometime, I also need my other hand to help hold the material in the right location.

When both hands are committed to their respective duties, I used to lean forward and flip the start switch with my chin (not very comfortable and it forced me to take my eye off the work for a critical second). Then I discovered foot switches. They work great when you need both hands to do other things.

I have a foot switch on my drill press and my router table but I don’t think it is needed as much on the router table.

I’ve contemplated the safety issues of a foot switch and decided that they create no additional danger and may even make some operations safer if the switch is secured in its location.

I wonder if other LJs use foot switches for any of their stationary power tools.

As an FYI – I use a click-on, click-off switch. There are some switches available that are only on while being depressed (a dead man’s switch).

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

13 replies so far

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3195 days

#1 posted 07-07-2011 03:11 PM

Sounds like a great idea. Another one that never occurred to me. I plan to order a foot switch for mine. Thanks.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 3022 days

#2 posted 07-07-2011 03:24 PM

On my drill press, stationary belt sander, band saw, table saw and wood lathe.. But mine are all the deadman variety. BUT ! You must remember to turn off the machine when done so no one steps on it and discovers a live one.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4256 posts in 3406 days

#3 posted 07-07-2011 04:16 PM

The biggest trouble here is safety.

One machine that should never have a foot switch is the table saw or radial arm saw.

My feeling on this issue is different than yours. It is my rule, that if it takes two hands to manage the workpiece, then I think that I probably don’t have a well thought out procedure. I use a lot of clamps and temporary jigs to solve these situations. I am currently on a campaign to totally eliminate ever touching the work piece with my hands while using the table saw. I think it is quite doable. I always have a guard, or a sled on the table saw.

There may be some exceptions, such as large pieces of material on the table saw, but even there a better solution is an infeed table, and I have used those, and plan to optimize that situation soon.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11167 posts in 3670 days

#4 posted 07-07-2011 04:28 PM

I only have a foot switch at the router table. I find it handy and safe.
Most often, work at the DP is secured. Especially, if the hole is critical. Always secured when using a Forstner or hole saw.
Like Jim, a foot switch at the TS or RAS scares the beejeezus out of me!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View wiswood2's profile


1138 posts in 3937 days

#5 posted 07-07-2011 05:11 PM

I have one on my scroll saw, dremmels,and my band saw ,I would never be without it on any of them.

-- Chuck, wiswood2

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 3022 days

#6 posted 07-07-2011 05:23 PM

The foot switch for my table saw replaces the factory switch on the motor hanging off the back of the antique . And for a one armed guy it’s a lot safer than a paddle switch that I can’t get to, instant off. I don’t use the saw a lot, and if there’s something largeish then it’s a two person operation.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3550 days

#7 posted 07-07-2011 05:42 PM

I use a foot switch on my drill press and it is quite useful. I also added a drill press fence with adjustable hold down clamps that stabalize the workpiece while drilling. Very useful…I have been considering a fooot switch for my router table as it would be especially handy for those stopped cuts.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3316 days

#8 posted 07-07-2011 05:53 PM

I would agree that I would not want a foot switch on my table saw, jointer or planer.

I think I disagree with Jim on the safety of having one on the drill press or router table. I think the main safety issue is how long does it take to turn the machine off in an emergency. With both of these tools, I think I could turn it off quicker with a foot switch. I am considering adding one to my lathe where I turn the machine on and off quite frequently.

Let me say that I would never consider the availability of an extra hand to be a substitute for properly securing the wood with fences and clamps.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3078 days

#9 posted 07-07-2011 05:53 PM

Good question Rich – I have one on my scroll saw only. I’ve thought of using one for my router table but haven’t found the need for one. I placed that switch for an easy push off in case of an emergency. As stated by Glen, always turn off the machine switch when not using it. An animal could set it off not to mention kids (in my case grandkids).

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View Woodwrecker's profile


4211 posts in 3817 days

#10 posted 07-07-2011 05:59 PM

I have some I use on and off as the occasion dictates Rich.
I bought three of four from Harbor Freight when they had them on super sale. I also use the click-on-click-off model. I have found theirs to be as good as other, much more expensive brands.
Sometimes having both hands free is the safest way to go.
Good post.

View TheDane's profile


5577 posts in 3904 days

#11 posted 07-07-2011 06:11 PM

Rich—I use a dead-man’s switch on my mortiser and drill press as well as on my scroll saw.

When I am changing cutting tools, I unplug the machine.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Elizabeth's profile


817 posts in 3385 days

#12 posted 07-07-2011 06:15 PM

I have a deadman’s switch on my scroll saw (it makes it feel a lot like a sewing machine!) but nowhere else.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4256 posts in 3406 days

#13 posted 07-08-2011 01:03 AM

About the only place I want a foot switch is my Dremel. Scroll saw seems safe as well. But the risk there is small. The risk on a drill press I feel is in between, I just don’t like the principal. Mostly, I tie the work down. The router…....hmmm…..not so sure about that one.

I am trying to develop habits, methods, and fixtures to minimize risk on all tools. One habit I have…..when I first turn on the router table after installing a different bit, I stand behind or way to the side, having read here about disintegrating bits and flying pieces.

It’s a little like in surgery, we do a lot of things by rote to prevent contamination, and don’t have to even think about it.

I still like the principal of no foot switches on truly powerful tools. The Dremel and the scroll saw are not powerful and tend to do things slowly. The drill press is on the boundary… can throw things, so I tend to lump it with the bigger machines. Placing ones hand on the router table and inadvertantly stepping on the switch seems like a potential problem.

Put another way, I am not trying to push the boundary on safety, I am trying to extend safety habits as far as possible. I am a little safer every year, I think. I hope to get safer yet.

Safety is an ever moving target and a skill that must not only be learned, but constantly revisited and improved.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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