As a part-time college woodworking instructor, I have seen quite a few variations of the featherboard. In general, I'm a skeptic when it comes to new gadgets, having found over the years that they don't live up to manufacturers' promises. Then I came across the Magswitch Pro 30-mm and Standard 20-mm magnetic featherboards, products that have now become mainstays in our shop because they not only work, they work really well.
Magswitch Pro with hold-down
Soon after I began evaluating the Magswitch featherboards, I found that their main advantage is that they are much easier to set up than other featherboards–incredibly easy. All that is required (besides a steel or iron tool surface, of course) is to push the flexible fingers against the workpiece and flip the switches on top to activate the magnets. No fiddling, adjusting, or clamping required. Setup time averaged about five seconds. In fact, they were so easy to use that they actually got used. One of my fellow instructors remarked that he had never seen students use featherboards before, but actually saw several students using the Magswitch featherboards on the same day.
Super-strong magnets are what make these featherboards hold and work so well; 20-mm and 30-mm refer to the diameter of the magnet in each model. The Standard 20-mm model would slide slightly with variations in board width while ripping rough stock, yet still maintained enough tension; the Pro 30-mm model was more powerful and almost impossible to move or lift once set.
Magswitch makes a hold-down attachment for the Pro model that attaches to it with included angle brackets and adjusts easily for height and reach with wing nuts. It is useful for controlling small pieces but can be used on wood up to 2-1/2 inches thick.
We found the featherboards very useful for rips on the table saw, holding tall boards on edge square to the jointer fence, and on the shaper. But when resawing on the band saw, we had to position the fence to the right of the blade to use them, which was awkward. I would like to see both right- and left-hand versions for use on either side of a fence.
We also tested Magswitch Mag-Jigs. These have the same 20-mm and 30-mm switchable magnets that the featherboards use, but with mounting tabs with screw holes for attaching to shop-made jigs and fixtures. We used them to make a guard for the shaper and some auxiliary fence jigs. When used individually they tended to swivel, but when used with two or more magnets they held very powerfully with the same ease of use as the featherboards.
Magswitch has succeeded in creating a line of very useful products that enhance the safety and precision of many shop operations with unprecedented ease. I am highly impressed with their featherboards and Mag-Jigs, and look forward to discovering new uses for them.
Price $40 and $50
Price $26 and $34