I recently had a reminder of how important using push blocks can be. I was routing a 1″ slot in in the center of a piece of plywood with a 3/4″ bit. I formed the slot by running the piece though the bit from right to left with one side against the fence. Then I turned the piece around and routed the other side (also from right to left).
By running this second operation from right to left, I was technically performing a climb cut, because the back of the bit was doing most of the cutting. Climb cuts are when you move the wood in the direction the bit is turning instead of against it. They can be dangerous, because you have less control and the wood can be flung from your hands.
It doesn’t always happen, you can perform a climb cut without incident many times, but the potential for an accident is higher. Five years ago I was performing a similar climb cut when the bit caught the board and sent it flying. That time I wasn’t using a push block and it was my finger that went into the spinning bit. After that $800 trip to the emergency room to sew my finger back together, I’ve been using push blocks.
This time the bit caught and threw the board I was routing across the shop. The push block did its job and went into the bit instead of my hand. Even though I wasn’t injured my heart still pounded for quite a while after the incident.
That night I purchased a Grr-Ripper that Stuart reviewed and recommended, and I plan to use it to compliment my damaged push block. I took advantage of a recent MicroJig deal, where I ordered the basic Grr-Ripper and received a free upgrade to the advanced Grr-Ripper push block.
Push blocks aren’t going always going to prevent injury, but they put more material between you and spinning cutters or blades, and they give you more control over the workpiece. They definitely aren’t an excuse to get sloppy in the shop, but they are one more line of protection when something unexpected happens.
Have you ever had an incident where a push block saved the day? Or perhaps one where a push block would have saved the day?