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Push Sticks

September 29, 2023

Good morning, Y'all!

I wanted to share with you an update to the website - we now have a page for signing up to receive our weekly newsletter. Here it is: - I made this short enough for anyone to remember. The "signup" - one word - page, where a person can "sign up" - two words - duplicates the utility of having a signup form at the bottom of each Folkcraft page. But a lot of folks miss the bottom-of-the-page signup, and end up calling or emailing for assistance. So anyway, here it is. 

And now some fun stuff!

Push sticks. We use this particular tool for moving/pushing a piece of wood through the blade of a saw. The purpose of a push stick is to keep our hands and fingers away from danger. Here's a photo of some of the push sticks we use every day:

push stick 1
Push stick selection

The smallest push stick we use is at the top, left. It is pretty simple - just a handle with an extended reach. We use this one exclusively for our medium sized band saw. Every time we cut thin material on the band saw, we sacrifice a bit of the push stick. This stick is currently about 9 inches long, but it used to be about 15 inches. It is nearly time to make a new one!

This design of push stick is used exclusively on our table saw:

push stick 2
Push stick with an ebony veneer

With the integrated handle, and the ability to add layers on to the bottom of the tool, this is what we use when our hands are above a blade, pushing wood through the blade.

table saw blade
Table saw blade

The "adding layers" part I mentioned above? Check out this next photo - the bottom layer is African mahogany at 5/8" thick, followed by a wenge layer at 1/8" thick, then a walnut layer at 5/8" thick, with a rosewood layer at 1/8" thick. At some point the mahogany/wenge fretboard, and the walnut/rosewood fretboard were destined to be part of one of your instruments, but were rejected somewhere along the line.

stacked fretboards to make up a push stick
Stacks of fretboards make up the base of this push stick

Over the years (most of our push sticks probably go back decades) we've cut through layer upon layer of our push sticks, and have added layer upon layer to keep our hands away from the spinning saw blades.

And since we make dulcimers, we have pieces of wood that look an awful lot like dulcimer fretboards sitting around, and those (don't panic - they're flawed in one way or another) fretboards often get repurposed...

Push stick made of fretboards
Push stick made of dulcimer fretboards

Look closely, and you'll see the holes where the lower fretboard might have received position dots at some point, and the middle fretboard some actual frets.
We could probably make utterly gorgeous, beautiful push sticks. Hand crafted, sanded to perfection, with a nice oil finish (I think lacquer might be too slippery for this use). But these work great, and I don't feel bad about cutting into them every day. We've been using tools like this since day one, back in 1968, and so far they've done the job - we've never had a luthier lose any body parts. So we'll stick with what works.

And speaking of that...

I really need to spend some time in the shop today - you've ordered instruments that need to go out the door, and I have to go use some push sticks to make them!
Thanks for reading, Y'all - have a great Friday.

Richard Ash, dulcimer-builder-that-would-rather-cut-into-a-push-stick-than-cut-into-his-fingers