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Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards
Magnets are for more than the refrigerator art show
Text. Photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 3-31-2011
Not that long ago magnets were confined to electric motors and sticking kids artwork to refrigerator doors. Then Jerry Jaksha came up with the idea to build a magnetic featherboard and Grip-Tite™ was born. Now over 250,000 people - including the US Navy and the Smithsonian Institute - are using Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards and other offerings from Jerry’s company, Mesa Vista Design in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Another reason to be happy about the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards line is that they are made in the US!
At their core the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards are essentially a large magnet surrounded by a heavy plastic body. The standard Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboard has a large, focused magnet that develops over 80-lbs of clamping force and resists over 40 pounds of side force so they are not going to just fall off. In fact, the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards have a lever on the rear that “cams” the magnet away from the surface to make taking them off easier. A large contoured handle helps the user to manipulate the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards easier.
Flexible Lexan arms on both sides of the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards actually apply the pressure that holds the wood in place. A separate, larger Lexan arm can be inserted through the arm when the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboard is placed on the table surface. This longer arm can be installed from either side to work as a hold down or to hold wood against the fence.
The Grip-Tite™ Pro Magnetic Featherboards shown in this review have an even more powerful (50% stronger!) magnet and comes with the Lexan arms described in the standard system above. However, the Grip-Tite™ Pro Magnetic Featherboard includes the abrasive-covered RollerGuide™ wheel and mount that is screwed into the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards body. The RollerGuide™ mount is angled enough to “steer” the wood passing beneath it firmly against the fence.
The kit also includes a 4”-tall by 42”-long steel “Fenceplate” that you can screw directly to your fence face or a wooden sub fence with the included screws. The steel Fenceplate has been ground to be sure it is flat and clear-coated to help prevent corrosion. The Fenceplate-e provides the magnetic surface necessary for the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards to work on virtually any of today’s table saw fence systems.
Grip-Tite™ also offers their HoleClamp™ that is essentially a specialized clamp for attaching a sub-fence to your existing fence. The HoleClamp™ fits into holes drilled in the top of the sub fence and provides a way of clamping that assembly to your fence without altering it.
In the Shop
The Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards System has been around a long time and with so many people already using it, we are a bit late to the party. After using the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards in my shop I can say that later is better than never. It is clear that the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards are well thought out, built to last and work very well.
The magnets on the Grip-Tite™ Pro Magnetic Featherboards are indeed strong making worries about them slipping or falling off simple wasted effort. I suppose it is possible to just pull the Grip-Tite™ Pro Magnetic Featherboards off but using the built in cam release is much easier – and smarter. Remember where that cam lever is as it can be a major help in getting the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards into the exact position needed much easier.
I have tried the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards applied to the Faceplate on the fence or stuck directly to the cast iron table surface and in either position they work fine. I have to admit being a bit surprised by the amount of force you can generate with the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards to hold wood down or against the fence. Because the units have Lexan arms on both sides the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards can be used in many more situations.
The RollerGuides™ appear rather small but have a big impact on how a board passes under them. You really don’t feel much in the way of resistance but the “steering” of the RollerGuides™ into the fence makes your rip cuts exceptionally straight and eliminates you having to fight the board during the cut. That can only be safer.
There is a learning curve to using the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards but it is very small with the majority of that devoted to getting a feel for how much pressure that you want to apply with them. I think that most start out with too much pressure but after using this system a while it becomes clear that excess pressure just makes moving the wood more difficult. Install the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards so that there is enough preload to keep them engaged with the wood and making virtually any type of cut is easy.
The Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards Systems are easy to use and effective. Though they may look simple I am betting that lots of thought went into developing what we see today. You just have to use them once or twice to recognize the increased safety they bring to the table saw.
The Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards have a street price of around $35 for individual Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboards to $150 for the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboard Systems. Unless you do something very, very wrong there really is no wear to anything but the easily replaced Lexan wings so this system should keep on protecting you and making your work a little better for many years to come. As safety investments go, the Grip-Tite™ Magnetic Featherboard System is both a good and economical one.
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