cutting straight edge and tapering cuts with a table saw video screenshot

How to make taper cuts or straighline a rough board edge. This simple jig makes it easy to cut straightline edges or tapers using your table saw.

Skill Builder Video

Chris Marshall: Cutting tapers is a pretty common technique in woodworking, and it means you're making a rip cut along a board at an angle to the board's edges, rather than parallel to them, like this cut right here. Often you'll need to rip tapers when making legs that get more slender from top to bottom, like the shaker end table, or the angled back slats on this outdoor chair. Now, you need to use a jig to cut taper safely on the table saw or bandsaw, because you're feeding the wood at an angle to the blade.

For many woodworkers, the jig they use for tapering looks something like this. It's basically two arms that hinge on one end so you can change the degree of taper, and then lock in the angle. There's two big limitations to jigs like this. For one, these work pieces tend to be pretty narrow, and it can be hard to know how to hold them against the jig when you're pushing everything through without getting your push stick, or worse, your hand, too close to the blade. It's inconvenient or downright dangerous. I think there's a problem with physics here too, and I'll show you what I mean.

If you imagine my thumb being the force of the spinning blade pushing back on the workpiece as you feed it through, there's a tendency of these jigs to want to pull away from the rip fence, and that can lead to a kickback situation. Well, there are better, safer tapering jig options out there like this one from Rockler. It functions completely differently from these old hinge style jigs. This bar underneath rides in the saw's miter slot so the jig doesn't rely on the rip fence at all. It always tracks parallel to the blade through the cut, and the workpiece rests on the jigs base instead of directly on the sawed able, to help immobilize it.

An adjustable fence supports the wood from behind, and two metal hold down clamps lock it in place securely. Setting up this jig can make a taper cut a simple. Start by marking the face of your workpiece with the angle you want to cut, and then wrap those layout lines around to the edge and end. Then set the workpiece on the jig base, and adjust it so its layout marks align with the edge of the jig closest to the blade. Now, carefully slide the jigs adjustable fence over and against it and tighten down the fences to star knobs.

Make sure the backend of the workpiece is flush against the fences adjustable metal stop. When the hold-down clamps are set and tight, start the saw and push the jig through the cut.