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How to Cut a Tapered Leg

comments (6) May 13th, 2010 in blogs

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Contributing editor Steve Lattas Federal Card Table employs a delicate taper that leads up to a gorgeous payoff.
Theres no shortage of tapered legs in the Shaker style book.
Theres more than one way to cut a taper. Here, contributing editor Gary Rogowski makes quick work of a table leg on the bandsaw.
Contributing editor Steve Lattas Federal Card Table employs a delicate taper that leads up to a gorgeous payoff. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Contributing editor Steve Latta's Federal Card Table employs a delicate taper that leads up to a gorgeous payoff.

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Table or desk legs that have been tapered top to bottom have a grace and delicacy that square legs just don't seem to have. Shaker furnituremakers exploited this leg style, and so have many others. Although legs may be tapered all the way around, more often than not, tapers are cut on two adjoining faces of a leg. The process can be both quick and reliable.

Projects featuring tapered legs:

Building a Gate-Leg Card Table 
• Federal Card Table 
 Designing on the Go: A Coffee Table Takes Shape 

Roughing out tapers is best done by machine, either a bandsaw or a tablesaw is a good choice. Tapers also can be cut by mounting leg blanks on a jig that's passed through a thickness planer, a process that requires very little cleanup. Cleaning up the cuts also can be accomplished in a number of ways—on a jointer, with a router and flush-trimming bit, or with a handplane.

How much taper a leg gets and which faces are tapered are personal choices best made with plenty of experimentation. Lets cover a few of the most common methods.

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posted in: blogs

Comments (6)

NormanDanis NormanDanis writes: A tapered leg whose cross section remains rectangular is easy. I would like to know how to create a circular tapered leg from a square blank, with a lathe, a what is best tool for this, such as spokeshve, draw knife, etc.
Posted: 6:41 am on October 9th

NormanDanis NormanDanis writes: Tapering a leg whose cross section remains rectangular is not at all difficult with any of a number of easy-to-build jigs. I would like to know how to create a tapered circular leg without a lathe.
Posted: 6:37 am on October 9th

michaeldfox1 michaeldfox1 writes: One quick safety note.....

Never EVER, EVER stand inline with either the infeed or the outfeed end of ANY tool. I've been woodworking since 1972 when I apprenticed in a column and molding mill. I've seen things thrown out of all kinds of machines at really incredible speeds, where they sometimes even go through walls.

A couple of times when I've broken this rule...and we all break the rules sometimes when under pressure...I've ended up with something shoved into my gut knocking the wind out of me.

Remember...knots break out, wood splits and jigs vibrate loose. I always prepare for the worst that can happen.
Posted: 3:56 pm on June 8th

sleepydad sleepydad writes: Lots of ways to cut tapers...

Actually you guys missed this one and it's how I do it now... it's pretty easy and works great.

Posted: 10:46 am on May 19th

chatito chatito writes: Tapering Jig is faster and easy. Great article!

Posted: 10:28 am on May 19th

Shavingsandsawdust Shavingsandsawdust writes: This article is an excellent overview for making tapers on power tools. I use a very similar method of making my tapers. After layout, I rough cut the taper on the bandsaw. Then, I clean up the taper using an adjustable jig with my drum sander similar to the planer jig shown. I've done it both ways, but I'm a bit more comfortable using my drum sander as 1)the thought of flying stock, jig parts and broken planer knives in the event of a major miscalculation on my part scares the bejeebers out of me, and 2) I can sand the tapers down pretty fine saving a bunch of time. Tim
Posted: 9:18 am on May 19th

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