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3 Tapered Legs on the Jointer Helena MT

Position the start block on the infeed table using the alignment mark as a reference (Photo 1). The start block gives you a consistent start point for each cut and provides a pivot point for safely lowering the leg blank onto the jointer.

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3 Tapered Legs on the Jointer

3 Tapered Legs on the Jointer

Advanced jointer techniques yield smooth, consistent tapers.

By Seth Keller

After I learned to cut tapered legs on the jointer, I never went back to my bandsaw or tablesaw. Legs cut on the jointer take less time and, best of all, require a whole lot less sanding. This is especially true with the spade-foot design in which the jointer’s cutterhead automatically creates the sweep above the spade foot. The same leg cut on a bandsaw would require hand shaping and sanding to finish the profile.

All three legs shown here are made from 1-3/4 x 1-3/4 x 29 in. stock. The first leg I’ll explain how to make is the familiar long taper found in many Shaker designs. Often, this leg has the taper on only two adjoining faces. The second leg has a short taper used on cabinets with legs and on some stylized modern pieces. The last profile, a tapered leg with a spade foot, builds on the techniques used in making the first two legs. This remarkable shape is both elegant and refined. It hints at Hepplewhite and Sheraton furniture designs from the eighteenth century and can make a piece distinctive and stylish even today.

The technique involves dropping a leg down on a running jointer. That may seem a bit scary at first, but stop and start blocks make the procedure safer than with most tablesaw taper jigs I’ve used and more accurate than for any taper I’ve done on a bandsaw.

It is a good idea to use a test leg to set up the cuts. As always, mill the mortises before you shape the legs. Finally, make sure your knives are sharp and your jointer is well-tuned.

Long Taper

1. Lay out the desired taper on all four sides of the leg. Make alignment marks 1 in. below the top of the taper. My taper goes from 0 in. to 1/2 in. at the foot.

2. Position the start block on the infeed table using the alignment mark as a reference (Photo 1). The start block gives you a consistent start point for each cut and provides a pivot point for safely lowering the leg blank onto the jointer.

Photo 1:  To set the start block, position the leg blank on the jointer with the alignment mark centered over the cutterhead. The alignment mark is placed 1 in. below where you want the taper to begin. Butt the start block up to the leg and clamp the block onto the infeed table.

3. Set your jointer’s depth of cut to 1/8 in. With push sticks ready, turn on the jointer. Place the foot of the leg firmly against the start block. Swing the guard out of the way and lower the leg (Photo 2).

Photo 2:  Start the taper cut by slowly lowering the leg onto the jointer with the foot set against the start block. Almost no wood is cut when you first put the leg stock down. The start block prevents kickback. Have your push sticks ready.

4. Complete the cut (Photo 3). Make three or four passes on the same side of the leg, closing in on your layout line.

Photo 3: Create the taper in several passes. Feed the leg slowl...

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