Tapering is a simple and safe operation with the right jig. Build our version from scrap, and you’ll be ripping tapers in no time flat.
Tapers are a classic way to reduce the proportions of table legs for a more slender, delicate look. You’ll need a jig to make these modified rip cuts safely. Most store-bought tapering jigs, however, have a design flaw: they limit your control of the workpiece during ripping – and that can lead to a dangerous kickback or poor cutting quality. Here’s a better solution: instead of buying a jig, you can build a safer alternative from scrap-bin leftovers and a couple of toggle clamps. The clamps keep workpieces securely locked down during cutting, and you can tailor the jig to cut the exact taper you need. Here’s how to make and use it.
Note: In the following photos, the table saw guard has been removed for visual clarity. We do not advocate removing guards or other safety devices from your tools.
Step 1: Make a base for your jig from 3/4-in. plywood or other sheet goods. Rip and crosscut the base to size so it’s at least 6 in. wide and about 6 to 8 inches longer than the leg you want to taper (see Photo 1).
Step 2: Draw the taper cut on your leg workpiece, extending the line across the adjacent face and end of the leg – you need to determine exactly where the blade will enter and leave the wood. Clamp the leg to the jig base and to your bench so the taper line aligns with the edge of the base (see Photo 2).
Step 3: Cut a straight, flat piece of scrap that will serve as back-up support behind the leg. Make the support the same length as the leg. Set the support against the leg, and fasten it to the base with a few countersunk wood screws (see Photo 3).
Step 4: Attach a stop block to the jig that butts against the end of the leg. Fasten it with a couple of screws (see Photo 4).
Step 5: Make two mounting blocks for the toggle clamps from scrap that matches the thickness of the leg. Fasten the blocks behind the support and near the ends of the leg. Screw the clamps to the blocks. Then adjust the rubber bumpers on the clamps so they press firmly against the leg when locked down (see Photo 5). That’s all there is to building the jig!
Step 6: To prepare for cutting, set the jig on the saw and raise the blade until the teeth are about 1/4 in. above the top of the leg. Hold the jig against the rip fence, and adjust the fence so the edge of the jig is flush with the inside edges of the blade teeth (see Photo 6). Lock the fence and pull the jig back so it’s clear of the blade.
Step 7: Start the saw, and feed the jig along the fence to rip the taper. Keep your hands behind the jig support throughout the cut (see Photo 7).
Variation: If your leg requires tapering on two faces, simply tape the cutoff piece back in place, and flip the leg in the jig so the offcut face is up. Adjust the clamp bumpers as needed to account for the amount of wood removed by the saw kerf. Re-clamp, and make the second taper cut (see Photo 8).
Step 8: Now run the tapered faces over your jointer to remove the blade marks (see Photo 9), and scrape or sand them smooth. Be sure to hang this jig on the shop wall where it’s easy to find and modify the next time you need it.