Sled-Style Tapering Jig

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This article is from Issue 35 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A simple sliding sled for making legs safely

Using a tablesaw to cut tapered legs isn’t rocket science, but some jigs make the job a lot harder than it needs to be. Those simple hinge-bar tapering jigs are awkward to use. Trying to hold the blank against the jig and keep the jig against the fence while making the cut is too much of struggle.

My sled-style tapering jig makes the process safe and nearly foolproof. Adjustable cams allow for exact positioning to match cutlines, and shop-made aluminum hold-downs prevent the work from shifting in mid-cut. A runner attached to the underside of the base ensures that the jig and workpiece slide smoothly and safely past the blade. Last but not least, a comfortable plane-style handle helps keep fingers away from the saw blade.

Note that my jig in these photos is a bit different than the one shown in the drawing. I made my jig from parts on hand. The drawing shows an improved version made from readily available materials (see the Convenience Plus Buying Guide).

Make the parts

The base needs to be rigid and sturdy, but thin enough to enable the saw blade to cut through thick stock. I used 1⁄2"-thick pre-painted Ready-To-Go (RTG) plywood, but Baltic birch would also work.

1 Using a tablesaw, cut the base (A), blanks for the cams (B), and the stopblock (C) to size. Round the sharp corners of the base as shown in Figure 1, using a bandsaw or disc sander. Then rout a 1⁄4" round-over on both faces, with the exception of the edge that will abut the blade.

2 Make two full-sized copies of the Cam Pattern (see Online Extra at left) and affix them to your cam blanks. Saw the cams to shape, sand the profiles, and then soften the edges on both faces with a 1⁄4" round-over bit.

3 On the underside of the base, lay out the holes as indicated in Figure 1. Along the inner row, drill 5⁄8"-diameter × 1⁄4"-deep counterbores, for the bolt heads. Next, use a 1⁄4"-diameter bit to bore the through holes for the bolts. Drill the 1⁄4" holes in the stopblock (C), and 1⁄4" and 3⁄8" holes in the cams (B). Countersink the pivot hole in each cam so that its screwhead sits flush.

4 Cut two dowel pins (D) to peg the stopblock (C) to the base (A). Epoxy the machine screws into the cams (B) to serve as pivots, and the dowel pins into the stopblock (C).

5 Using 1⁄2"-thick plywood or MDF, make the Cam-Slotting Jig shown in Figure 2. Chuck a 5⁄16" straight bit into your table-mounted router and position the base so that the bit is centered in the 3⁄8" cam hole as shown. Clamp the base to the router table, and then rout the slots in both cams.

6 Download the full-sized Handle Pattern on page 21) and affix it to a scrap of hardwood. Saw the handle (E) to shape and sand to your line. Round over the front and back edges as needed to make a comfortable grip.

7 Using a hacksaw, cut the aluminum stock to length to make the hold-downs (F). Drill the 5⁄16" hole where shown on

the Hold-Down Pattern download. Now use a metal-jawed vise to bend the stock to shape. The finished shape doesn’t need to be perfect, but don’t overlook the little dip at the front end. The small flat is needed to apply pressure to the blank.

8 Size the runner (G) to fit your saw’s miter gauge slot. Place the runner in the slot, shimming it flush to the table’s surface if necessary. Lay base (A) on top so that the left edge is the thickness of matchbook cardboard from the blade. Position your rip fence against the right side of the base to ensure that it’s parallel to the blade. (Note: Some woodworkers prefer positioning the edge of the base against the blade to create an exact reference. Setting the base my way leaves extra material for removing burns or saw marks.)

9 Drive a few 1" nails through the base into the runner to temporarily secure it. Flip the base upside down, attach the runner with countersunk flathead screws, and then remove the nails.

10 Screw the handle (E) to the base (A). Wax the runner and underside of the base, and you’re ready to put your new jig to work. 

Using A Tapering Jig

Here’s how to saw a classic two-sided tapered leg. The process—marking, clamping, and cutting—doesn’t take much longer than reading about it. Two notes before you begin: First, mortise your leg stock before you taper, since mortising is easier on square stock. Second, consider your cut sequence beforehand. Make the two cuts in an order that allows uncut faces to reference against your stops and base. Otherwise, you’ll need to reset your jig or stabilize the tapered face using the offcut wedge.

1 Lay out the leg. Mark out the finished foot on the bottom of the leg, and the location of the apron on the top.

2 Position the leg on the jig, aligning the marks you made across the foot and face with the edge of the jig. Abut the top of the leg against the stopblock, and secure the leg with one hold-down. Adjust the cams to fine-tune the leg’s position, and then tighten the second hold-down. Make sure that the aluminum won’t contact the saw blade.

3 After making the first cut, turn off the saw, rotate the leg, and make the second cut.


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