Top-Notch Tapering Jig

Ease and flexibility make this accessory a real keeper.

Tapers often play a big part in furniture design. At the JD Lohr School of Woodworking, we incorporate them quite a bit, particularly when creating table legs. There are dozens of ways to taper a squared leg using a variety of machines in the shop, but we prefer to use the table saw, which provides clean, consistent results when used in conjunction with the right jig. 

Commercial tapering jigs are available, but many suffer from serious shortcomings, such as the inability to secure the work to the jig during the cut. That’s partially why so many shop-made designs proliferate. We’ve developed a variety of them ourselves over the years, and finally settled on the version you see here, created by instructor Eoin O’Neill.

  The design intention was always to create a straight-edged carrier board that features an adjustable fence, as well as a method of safely securing the work to the jig. This model fits the bill nicely and also includes a fence guide to prevent the jig straying from the rip fence. The final touch is a hook-and-eye system that keeps the stored parts together. Made primarily from MDF and plywood, it’s not terribly expensive to build, especially for such a useful jig.

Most importantly, the jig is easy to use and versatile enough to handle a variety of tapers while safely producing identical results every time. We love it; I doubt we’ll have to improve it.

Easy to make, easy to use

The jig consists of 2 basic assemblies: the sled and the fence guide, which clamps to the rip fence to prevent sled wander. We used lightweight MDF for the sled panel and hardwood plywood for the fence guide facer, handle, bolster, and fence. The rest of the parts are solid wood. Make the sled panel and fence first, then use the notched and slotted fence to lay out the knob holes in the sled panel. After attaching the guide strip to the sled, make the fence guide, ensuring that its spacer allows snug, but easy sled travel. Note that the stopblock carriage bolt prevents trapped sawdust from misaligning the leg.

onlineEXTRAS

To see a video of the jig in action and to download patterns of the handle and bolster, visit woodcraftmagazine.com.

Lay out a leg, then set up the jig

Setting up the jig involves laying out a single leg with your desired taper, which will allow you to set the jig’s fence to the appropriate angle. Next, you secure the fence guide to the rip fence, which prevents the jig from wandering away from the fence, spoiling your cut and risking kickback. Finally, you position the leg on the jig, make the necessary fence adjustments, lock the fence in place, and you’re ready to cut your tapers. 

Lay out the taper. First lay out the taper start line across the upper section of the leg, then mark out the leg thickness at the bottom, extending the lines fully across the end grain. Finally, connect the top and bottom lines as shown.
Secure the fence guide. With the sled against the rip fence, position the fence guide just a bit above the guide strip on the sled, and clamp the guide in place. Make sure the sled travels easily but with no side-to-side slop. 

Align and clamp. Place the leg on the jig with its foot against the stopblock, and with one mortise facing outward and the other one facing down. Align the ends of the taper layout lines with the edge of the sled, slide the fence against the leg, and tighten the fence knobs. Finally, secure the leg in place with the toggle clamp.

Hanging Tight

A screw eye inserted in the end of the fence guide allows hanging it on a hook screwed into the sled to keep the jig components together on a wall. 

Rip, roll, rip. Done.

Cutting the tapers couldn’t be easier. First, set your rip fence to align the sled’s outer edge with the edge of the saw blade, and then make the cuts as shown. Note that feeding the leg from top to bottom like this results in the cleanest cut because you’re sawing with the grain. All the same, you’ll need to do a bit of cleanup using a jointer, hand plane, or sander. Also note that the toggle clamp shown is self-adjusting for stock of various thicknesses.  

First cut. With the sled retracted so that the leg overhangs forward of the blade, feed at a steady, consistent rate to avoid burning. At the end of the cut, carefully push the sled past the blade and bring it around to the other side.
Leg rollover. Rotate the leg to orient the previously cut taper upward, and clamp the piece securely in place against the fence and stop. Taking this approach ensures that a completely straight face of the leg is against the sled for best stability. 

Second cut. Make the second cut in exactly the same manner as the first. For most legs, which are only tapered on the inside faces, you’ll be done at this point. However, if you want to taper all 4 faces, simply readjust the fence, and repeat the maneuvers on the remaining faces.

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