A featherboard is commonly a homemade woodworking tool that is little more than a board with some narrow strips cut in the end of the board. This board is used much like a row of straight fingers to hold wood stock against a fence as it is being ripped through a table saw, radial-arm saw or across a router table.
There are numerous commercial types of featherboards, but whether you choose to use a homemade version or a commercial type, they all work pretty much the same. For this article, let's focus on the homemade models that you can learn how to build in our article on making featherboards.
You'll notice that the end of the board that has the cut fingers also has a 30-degree angle cut into the end of the board. This angle allows one to clamp the featherboard against the stock (which in turn is places against the fence) and push the stock forward. However, if one were to try and pull the stock backwards, it would impede against the angled fingers and would prevent the stock from sliding smoothly past the blade.
Click on the picture on this page to open up a new window and click through to see all the three pictures of featherboards. You'll see not only a close-up of a homemade featherboard, but also how to clamp it to a table saw and hold the stock firmly against the fence.
TIP: In some instances, a second featherboard might be clamped against the fence to hold the stock down to the table, particularly when running stock through a router table.