How to make a simple leg-tapering jig
Dedicated sled is dead-simple to build and use
Synopsis: Tapered legs add elegance and lightness to the appearance of a piece, and there’s an easy, efficient, and safe way to cut the tapers using a dedicated jig. Tom McLaughlin’s tapering jig consists of a platform, some stops, and a couple of toggle clamps. Used on the tablesaw, it helps you to easily cut consistent tapers on multiple legs. It can also be used on the bandsaw.
Tapered legs are a simple design choice that can dramatically affect the appearance of a piece. In most cases, when located at the corners of a table, legs are tapered only on their two inside surfaces. This produces a light and elegant look—not to mention the illusion that the legs are splayed, giving the table a sturdy and stable appearance. To get these results with greater efficiency, accuracy, and safety, I recommend a dedicated jig. The one I use is a breeze to make. It consists of a platform, some stops, and two toggle clamps.
To build the jig, start with a leg blank squared to its largest finished dimension, cut to length, and with its joinery cut. Then, on the end grain at the foot of the leg, lay out the end points of the tapers. Make your marks slightly outside the final dimensions. You’ll set up the jig to cut to these points and be left with a comfortable margin for handwork when you clean up and refine the taper.
For the sled’s platform, use 1⁄2-in.- to 3⁄4-in.-thick Baltic-birch plywood or another stable material, approximately 6 in. wide and 4 in. longer than the finished leg.
Now clamp the leg blank to the sled platform, with the material to be removed overhanging the edge. Position the top and bottom of the leg approximately 2 in. from the platform’s ends, with the top of the leg leading the cut.
With the leg clamped in place, add the three pre-drilled plywood stop blocks—approximately 3⁄4 in. thick by 1-1⁄2 in. wide by 4 in. long—that will ensure accurate repeatability. All three stops should be pressed up to the leg. Screw the stops in place. Now you can remove the clamps and leg from the platform.
At this point, the leg can be quickly nested and placed against the stop blocks, but it won’t be secure. For that, mount two toggle clamps to riser blocks roughly the height of the leg’s thickness and secure them to the sled near the ends of the leg.
I prefer to use the sled on a tablesaw since it leaves the smoothest surface requiring the least cleanup, but you can also use it at a bandsaw. I recommend mortising the legs before tapering them. Not only does this spare you from cutting joinery on a non-square piece, but you also can use the mortises to confirm you’re tapering the correct faces.
For the full article, download the PDF below.
See how Tom cleans up his tapers to perfection in this video, and make sure to check out Rough Cut with Fine Woodworking, to watch Tom build a beautiful tapered-leg Shaker table using this jig. Season 8 premiers April 2018!
More tapered leg goodness on FineWoodworking.com:
- Three Federal Legs – Power tools speed the process, banding adds style
- Splay-Legged Table – Straightforward design with a refined flair
- Build a Harvest Table – A quick, satisfying project with simple lines and loose-tenon joinery
- Perfect Tapers on the Tablesaw – Make tapered legs of all types, quickly and safely