Taper cuts are necessary for creating a variety of parts, from simple wedges to elegant legs for a demi-lune table. The table saw and a tapering jig are ideal partners for making these parts safely and accurately. A basic tapering jig need be little more than a rectangular piece of scrap with an angled notch cut in it. The notch holds the workpiece at an angle, while the jig’s straight edge bears against the rip fence as one edge of the work is cut to a taper. A single-sided jig is great for cutting a wedge or a right triangle, but it won’t work for parts like guitar fret boards or table legs that are tapered on two or four sides. The same notch that positions the work when cutting the taper on one edge won’t produce the proper taper when the work is flipped over for cutting the opposite edge.
Two- and four-sided tapers require a jig with two different notches: one notch fits the work’s uncut edge, and the second positions an already tapered edge so that the opposite edge may be tapered.
Making the Multi-sided Tapering Jig
To make a multi-sided table saw tapering jig, start by cutting out a rectangular piece of 1/2" or 3/4" plywood that’s about four to five inches wide and three to four inches longer than the piece you wish to taper. Next, cut the first angled notch using a band saw or jigsaw. For example, say we want to taper a 16" coffee table leg from 1-1⁄2" square at the top end down to 1" square at the bottom. This equals a taper of 1/4" over the 16" length of the leg on each edge.
On the band saw, cut out a 16"-long recess that starts at least 1/4" deep and angles to 1/2" deep at the other end. For the notch used to taper the other edge/side of the work, cut another angled recess in the other long jig edge. This time, make it taper from 1/4" deep at one end to 3/4" deep at the other end.
Using the Multi-sided Jig
To taper a four-sided leg, use the shallow notch to cut two adjacent sides of the part. To keep the cuts square, put the uncut side of the leg face-down for the second cut. Now, flip the jig over to its other face and use the deeper notch to taper the remaining two sides of the leg. You will need to reset the rip fence for these next cuts. Also, this time, go ahead and tape the scrap pieces from the first cuts back on the already tapered sides before cutting the remaining two, which will keep the cuts square.