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2 Jigs for Fast, Accurate Tapers

With these two jigs, you can rip tapers on anything from a footstool leg to a tall bedpost.

When it’s time to taper furniture legs, an adjustable jig will handle 90 percent of those jobs. But that other pesky 10 percen— such as the 80" posts for this pencil-post bed plan—can give you fits. By tailoring a tapering jig to your workpiece though, you’ll get consistent results, regardless of its length.

To cut accurate tapers, first make sure your tablesaw fence parallels the blade and the blade aligns 90° to the saw table. A 24-tooth ripping blade helps prevent burn marks. Also, joint and plane all four faces of your workpieces square so they’ll index accurately on the jigs. Ready? Let’s tackle that 90 percent first.

Build an adjustable jig to handle day-to-day needs

This adjustable tapering jig, Drawing 1, holds table or cabinet legs shorter than 34" and up to about 214 " thick. Build the base by cutting grooves in 34 " birch plywood and gluing 14 " hardboard to the top to form slots. Make the two movable hold-downs and the pivot block from scraps of hardwood and plywood. (To find the jig hardware, see Sources.)

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To taper two adjoining faces of a leg blank, first mark the tapers on the sides of the leg [Photos A and B]. Capture the base between the blade and rip fence, and adjust the fence out just a hair to prevent the jig from touching the saw blade. Then set the blade higher than the combined thickness of the jig base and the leg blank.

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Positioning the workpiece as shown above ensures a flat face will rest on the base and against the hold-downs for the second tapering cut.

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Cutting the first of two tapers on the leg edge shown above would place a tapered edge against the jig base for the second cut.

Lay the blank on the jig, aligning the taper marks with the edge of the jig closest to the blade [Photo A and B]. Make the nontapered workpiece end flush with the trailing end of the jig [Photo C]. Slide the hold-down blocks against the workpiece to act as stops, and tighten them down using the nylon nuts. Then secure the blank to the jig with the clamps.

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The hold-down block helps position the workpiece on the jig while the clamp holds it for cutting. Use the end of the jig to align workpieces consistently.

Start the saw, and slide the jig tightly against the fence as you cut the first taper [Photo D]. Then rotate the workpiece 90°, and make the second cut.

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The top surface of the jig acts as a backer board to reduce splintering as you cut tapers. This setup allows you to taper two adjoining sides of the workpiece.

To taper all four sides of a leg, you must reference from the center of the workpiece because after two cuts, you no longer have square faces to work from. Start by laying out the tapers on the four leg faces. Then mark the center and diagonal lines between the corners. At that mark, drill a  14 " hole 12 " deep. Next place the pivot block into a slot at one end of the jig [Photo E], and set the pivot-block screw height to align with the centered hole at the end of the leg.

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To set the pivot screw height, raise or lower the screw until it can be inserted into the leg center hole with the leg blank flat on the jig. Then tighten it in position.

Align the taper line with the edge of the jig as before, and then secure the workpiece using the hold-down blocks and clamps. After cutting the first taper, loosen the clamps, rotate the workpiece 90°, and reinsert the pivot block screw. Make the second cut, and repeat for the remaining two tapers.

Super-size a custom tapering jig for long posts

You could lengthen the adjustable jig to hold almost any size workpiece—eventhe four 80"-long, 234 "-thick posts of the pencil-post bed plan DP-00598. But you’d seldom need that capacity, and the jig would be cumbersome to use and impossible to store. You’re better off tailoring a jig to taper large blanks.

Start by jointing and planing a 2×6 that’s about 16" longer than your workpiece to 114 ×5". (We’ve sized the jig shown for the pencil-post bedposts.) From hardwood or 34 " plywood, make and attach a saddle that captures your tablesaw fence [Drawing 2]. 

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The bedposts have two tapers—short ones at their feet and long ones at their tops—requiring separate brackets for the short and long tapers. You’ll need a third, front-pivot bracket, too.

From 34 " plywood, cut, glue, and screw together the three brackets, as shown. Mark the pivot-dowel or screw location on each bracket at a distance above the saw table that’s half the thickness of the workpiece (138 " for the 234 " square bedpost). The front-pivot dowel should position the workpiece to provide 1" of clearance from the fence guide. Mount the front-pivot bracket flush with the bottom edge of the fence guide, and place the jig on your tablesaw.

To tailor the short- and long-taper brackets for the workpiece tapers you want, first mark taper lines on your workpiece. Drill a 12 " hole centered in the end of the workpiece; then place the front-pivot bracket dowel in that hole [Photo F]. Slide the other workpiece end until the marked taper line parallels the fence guide. Measure from the center of the workpiece end to the fence guide, and drill the end for the pivot screw at that distance. Now screw that bracket to the fence guide to provide a snug fit for the workpiece.

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To save time, use a dowel instead of a screw to pivot the front of the workpiece. Both the short and long brackets on the opposite end keep the post from pulling free.

Start with the short tapers

Attach the short-taper bracket to the fence guide, and then screw the leg to the bracket [Photo G]. To help control the jig, position infeed and outfeed supports in front and back of your tablesaw.

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Mount the short-taper bracket to the tapering-jig fence guide so the long bracket leg fits tight against the workpiece end. The pivot screw holds it in place.

By tapering the foot of the post first, those tapers provide clearance later for long cuts using the long-taper bracket. Cut the first taper for the foot of the post [Photo H]. Then remove the screw, rotate the workpiece 90°, and reinsert the pivot screw. Make the second taper, followed by two more to complete the bedpost foot. Repeat for the remaining posts.

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When cutting short tapers, the square portion of the bedpost rests flat on the saw table. Note that the post was mortised and drilled before tapering.

Tackle long tapers

To cut the long tapers, first replace the short-taper bracket with the long-taper bracket. Screw the foot end of the post to the bracket [Photo I].

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Cutting the short tapers first allows the post to ride close to the fence guide when cutting long tapers using the smaller bracket.

Now move the fence to align the workpiece taper lines with the blade, and add both an infeed and outfeed support. Cut the first taper [Photo J], and then rotate the workpiece 90°, keeping an untapered edge against the saw table for the next taper. Repeat for one additional taper, and rotate the workpiece again for the final pass.

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Because of the length of the jig and parts, good infeed and outfeed supports are critical when cutting the long tapers. We used a workbench for infeed support and a table for outfeed support to stabilize the jig and workpiece when cutting long tapers.

For the final taper, you no longer have a workpiece edge flat against the saw table. That can allow the workpiece to spin between the centers at the start of the taper when the square section no longer rests on the saw table. To keep the workpiece flat and reduce vibration, double-face-tape a cutoff wedge to the underside of the workpiece to re-create a flat surface flush with the bottom edge of the jig [Photo K]. Remount the jig on your fence, and cut the final taper.

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Before cutting the final taper, double-face tape a cutoff wedge to the workpiece flush to the bottom jig edge. This stops the workpiece from rotating as it’s cut.

Then find a home in your shop for this jig. By customizing the brackets, you can use it again for the oversize tapered parts on your next project.

Sources

Hold-down. Kreg Track Clamp with bolt and knob.
Four-arm knob. With through hole and 14 "-20 insert.

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