Making table leg taper cuts with tapering jig

Taper cuts involve gradually reducing the width or thickness of a workpiece along its length to create a tapered shape.

Taper cuts are nothing more than angled rip cuts. You can cut simple tapers with a jigsaw or band saw, then refine them with sanding or planing. But for more accurate, repeatable results, a taper-cutting jig is faster and easier. These jigs, such as the Rockler Taper/Straight Line Jig shown here, are essentially variations of crosscut sleds that use your saw's miter slot to guide them.

Setting up tapering jig for starting a cut
This Rockler tapering jig includes both a standard tape measure and one-degree registration marks on each end of the jig to assist in setting up angled tapered cuts.

In addition to the base, which has a miter bar on the underside, the jig consists of a moveable fence to set taper angles, hold-down clamps to secure the workpiece and a handle. Index marks, set at 1-degree increments, and tape measures at each end, help align everything. An adjustable workpiece stop caps the end of the movable fence.

Drawing layout lines on end of leg blank to guide taper cuts
For this table leg, which will be tapered on two sides, the author pencils in the cutlines on the "foot" end of the leg showing where the taper cuts end. There are also corresponding pencil marks at the beginning of the tapers, higher up the leg.

To set up the Rockler jig, first size it to your saw. This is simply a matter of assembling the jig and running it through the saw to cut a zero-clearance edge along the jig's base. With the tape measures then applied right at the new edge, precise angles are easy to set.

Starting a taper cut guided by jig
The workpiece is clamped into place with the beginning and ending marks for the taper aligned with the jig's zero-clearance edge. With everything locked down, one pass through the blade creates the taper.

Let's cut a small table leg that's tapered on two sides. First, mark the "foot" end of the leg where the taper cuts end. Then pencil lines around the upper part of the leg where the tapers begin.

To mount the workpiece in the jig, align the pencil lines designating the top and bottom of the taper with the jig's zero-clearance edge, snugging the fence in place against the workpiece and twisting the knobs to lock it down. To secure the workpiece itself, swing the hold-downs into place and lock them down.

Clamping odd shaped wood piece to tapering jig for cutting
With the miter bar removed, the Rockler tapering jig works with the saw's rip fence as a straight-line jig to cut irregularly shaped workpieces. It's a safer way to get a straight edge.

To make the cut, raise the blade so it clears the top of the workpiece, turn on the saw and feed the jig through the cut. Once the first taper is cut, disengage the hold-downs, rotate the workpiece 90 degrees, secure it once again with the hold-downs and make the second cut. You're done.

Tapering jig stop, hold downs and measuring tape
An adjustable stop at the rear of the jig works in tandem with the holddown clamps to secure a workpiece during the cut.

Tapering jigs can also function as straight-line jigs, perfect for processing rough stock or workpieces with irregular edges. For this, remove the miter bar and use the saw's rip fence for guidance instead. Set the jig's movable fence as needed to support the workpiece, and use the hold-downs to secure it. As before, use the jig's rear workpiece stop to support the end solidly.

Set the saw fence to the appropriate position to make the cut, then feed everything through just as before. Now your workpiece has a fresh, straight edge allowing you to further process it however you like.