When I make a table or bench, I like the added elegance of tapered legs. You can taper them on a jointer or a bandsaw, but I prefer to make them with a jig on the table saw. There are several commercial jigs available, but I haven’t found one I’m happy with, so I made my own. It is easy to make and so simple to set up and use.
Photos by wooden box maker
Making the table saw taper jig
The jig consists of a fence and a block with an attached dowel that acts as a pivot for the leg. The dowel allows you to turn the leg on it’s center so your tapers are all the same.
You will need (these sizes fit my saw, adjust as needed):
- base (plywood or MDF): 3/4” 14” x 24”
- stock for two handles 3/4” x 6” x 12”
- fence: 3/4” x 3” x 17”
- dowel block: 1 1/2” x 1 1/2” x 3”
- 1/4” dowel
- 2 runners to fit miter slots
- 3 short t-track sections (2”-3” long)
- 3 bolts with wing nuts
- two hold down clamps
- misc screws
- plexiglass for blade guard
Start with the base
Start with a piece of scrap plywood and attach a couple of plywood runners to fit your table saw miter slots. You can wax them to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Next, add handles. The back handle needs to be shaped with an opening large enough so your table legs can fit beneath them. My jig can accommodate a 3” leg.
Attach the t-slots
Once the base is finished, fit the jig into the miter slots and turn on the saw to cut through the jig. This will give you a reference for where to attach the rest of the jig pieces. I wanted to be able to use the jig for different size legs, so I made the fence and dowel pin adjustable.
You can do this by cutting a length of aluminum t-slot into 3 sections, 1 at 2” long and two at 3” long. (You may need to drill and countersink for the screws.)
Attach the two longer t-slots to the right of the kerf to hold the fence in position and attach the smaller length lower on the jig for the dowel block that holds the leg in position.
Make the fence
I made my fence from a piece of plywood cut to size, then drilled with 3/8” holes for the knobs and t-nuts that attach the fence to the t-slots.
Attach two hold down clamps to the fence and slide it all into the t-slots.
Next, cut a small block and drill a 1/4” hole for the dowel. The dowel extends around 3/8” from the block. I added a hole for the hardware and attached the dowel block to its t-slot. I also added a small stop block behind the dowel block to make sure the dowel block can’t pivot back during the cut.
Last but certainly not least, add a piece of plexiglass to remind yourself where the blade is!
How to use the jig
To use the jig, start by drilling a 1/4” hole in the bottom of your table leg. Make sure it is centered by marking the diagonals and drilling where they meet.
The leg fits over the dowel on the dowel block. Adjust your fence until you have the angle you like for the leg. You can move the dowel block in and out to remove more or less material. The advantage of this jig is that it allows you to cut a long narrow taper, a short wide one, or anything in between.
Make sure your clamps are well clear of the blade.
It’s best to make a test cut on a piece of scrap the same dimension as your leg. A small change of angle can make a big difference, especially if you are tapering 4 sides.
Make your first cut, then pivot the leg to the next side you want tapered. Re-clamp the leg to your fence and make your next cut. I usually taper two sides, but sometimes I will taper all 4, depending on how light I want the leg to look.
Take great care in watching the blade. You need to raise your blade for the cuts, so pay attention to what you are doing! Make sure the blade is completely lowered or turned off and no longer spinning before pivoting the leg or removing the jig.