Mark ( on December 9th, 2008

With the rough stock for this table acclimated to my shop for a week or so, I started this project as I usually do, by viewing all of the stock and marking out all of the components for best grain use, etc.

Cutting_Rough_Stock_with_Jigsaw.JPGRough_Legs.JPGI then broke down the rough stock into more manageable, slightly oversize, pieces. I previously wrote about my method of using the jigsaw and band saw for this process.  To me this is the safest, most convenient and economical way to do this.

For the legs of this table I want a finished 1 3/4″ square leg at the top, tapering to about 3/4″ square at the bottom.  I started with 8/4 rough stock and ripped it to 2″  square by 29 1/2″ long to accommodate a 28 1/2″ finished leg length.  For the legs, I tried to utilize the stock such that the grain lines run diagonal across the ends of the leg.  This yields the straightest grain along the faces of the legs.  In this case I used the more quartersawn faces for the front of the legs – this helps to keep any face grain on the legs from competing with the simple design of the piece.  I mention this here because it is important to realize that it is at this point in the build process where these kinds of decisions must be made.  In my mind, this is just an extension of the design process that started with the initial sketch. Choosing your stock wisely here will pay dividends in the look of the finished piece.

Angled_Cuts.JPGI milled the rough leg blanks to 1 3/4″ square and then cross cut them to length on the table saw using the miter gauge with an extension fence.  However, because the legs on the table will be splayed out to each side by 2 degrees, it was at this point that I needed to account for that detail.  I first made a pencil mark on one face of each leg at both the top and bottom to indicate the general angles to be cut – it’s easy to get these angles turned around in your head and to make a mistake.  So, a quick set of pencil marks to orient you when cutting is helpful.  I then set the miter gauge for a 2 degree angle and cross cut one end of each leg.  Next, I set a stop block on the miter gauge fence at 28 1/2″ and cross cut the other ends of the legs, again at 2 degrees.  Batching these operations to occur at with the same setup assured me that each of the legs would be cut with exactly the same angle and also to the same length.  In the picture you can see the angled cuts on the top ends of two opposing legs.

Mortising_Leg_Blanks_with_the_Router.JPGI am using loose tenons for the joinery on this table.  So, while the legs were still square in cross-section I machined the mortises to accept the loose tenons for both the front and side aprons.  The side aprons have only single tenon but the front and back aprons have double tenons for added strength.  I used the router mortising jig that I wrote about previously to create the three 1/4″ mortises in each leg blank.

Tapers_Marked.JPGWith the angled ends and mortises cut on the square leg blanks, I could now move on to the operation of tapering the legs.  To start, on the two faces to be tapered I marked the legs at a point 4 3/4″ down from the top and at the bottom 3/4″ from each of the inside corners.  There are many ways to taper legs.  I contemplated just marking out the tapers and free-handing the cuts on the band saw.  I also thought about just using the jointer and making repeated passes to achieve the tapers.  Then, I noticed a little used jig in the corner of the shop.

This old jig was one that that I once used to cut straight edges on rough stock with the table saw.  I thought that it could be re-purposed for the process of tapering the legs of the table.  The jig is simple – it consists of a piece of melamine coated particle shelf stock from a home center and a couple of De-Sta-Co type clamps.  I re-oriented the clamps on risers to account for the thickness of the legs, added a couple of stops to account for the tapers to be cut and I was ready to go.

Table_Saw_Tapering_Jig.JPGThe jig rides along the fence on the table saw.  To cut the tapers I aligned the edge of the jig with the blade and positioned the fence against the jig.  Each leg was positioned on the jig aligning the 3/4″ end with the edge of the jig at the leading end and the 4 3/4″ mark at the trailing end.   The stock was pushed through the blade cutting a perfect taper – then the stock was rotated 90 degrees and the second taper was cut.  The important thing here was to cut the faces in the correct order so that after rotating the leg I still had a square face resting on the jig.  Doing so required the addition of a small block under the front clamp for each second taper cut.  In the picture you can see a leg blank in the jig with a taper already cut.

Next up I’ll start the work on the aprons and the top.

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3 Responses to “Modern Shaker Table: Making the Tapered Legs”

  1. Mark,

    Great post! Nice job on repurposing the old jointing jig. Used as a tapering jig it reminds of me of the one David Marks used on Woodworks. I am about to start a new project and think I will use your jigsaw trick to rough size my 8/4 stock. I have a similar Bosch jigsaw but I am curious as to what blades you use to cut 8/4 stock. The ones I have are not long enough.

    Finally, I really love your site theme especially the way the pictures are handled. Is this built into the theme or did you do that another way?


  2. Shannon,

    Thanks. The jig worked well for the tapering task. Why build another when you have something that can be adapted, right?!!

    You can see the Bosch jigsaw that I have in the picture. I use the Bosch Progressor Blades for almost all of my woodworking tasks with that saw.

    As far as the pictures on the site, I assume you are referring to the shaded box that appears when you click a picture for a larger view. That is a plugin for WordPress. There are many of them out there and they are usually named with “Lightbox” in the name somewhere. Actually I think that there are a few out there that have some nicer features than the one I am using.


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