How do you taper legs for a hall/ sofa table ?

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Forum topic by Rick Dennington posted 10-06-2009 03:56 AM 4654 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Rick Dennington

5859 posts in 3192 days

10-06-2009 03:56 AM

Hey guys: I could use a little help here on this project. I’ve made a lot of furniture projects for family and customers, but have never had a call for tapered legs until now. I’ve got a tapering jig that I’ve had for several years (bought it from woodworkers supply for $20). In fact, to be honest, I’ve never even tried it,so I have no clue how to set it up to cut a taper. It’s strange that I’ve never had to use it. Everybody always wanted straight legs. But now here it is, and I”ve got to figure it out w/ your help.

So the question is: Say I’m making a 2” leg and a 3” strecher from leg to leg with mortise and tenon joinery. The table is 60 ” long, 15” wide, and 34” tall. How far down below the 3” streacher do you start the taper, how much do you taper to make it look right and proportional, and how do you set the taper jig to get that diminsion? Do you taper down to 1 1/2” or less? I can’t believe I’m 20+ years in ww, and never made a tapered leg. Any help would be greatly appreciated, and thanks, guys. Looking for your post. Rick.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

7 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#1 posted 10-06-2009 04:07 AM

Hey Rick
Sounds like a matter of design, of course you do need to go below the apron. I think Charles Neil has a you tube video on the subject that can help. There are much better and safer jigs to taper with . You might do a search here for tapering jigs that have a seres of clamps on it. If you want take a piece of 2×4 and practice until you get the taper you like.

Here’s one

Here’s a vidio

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BeachedBones's profile


201 posts in 3400 days

#2 posted 10-06-2009 04:11 AM

I’m no expert, the way I do it is to start the taper at, or very close to the bottom of the stretchers. I’d never taper more than 1/2 the width of a leg. Most often I taper in about 1”. I always taper the inside sides of the leg. I’ve seen it done to the outsides, but that always looks off and tippy to me.

I’m assuming you have one of those V shaped taper jigs. Using that I would mark the leg where you want the taper to begin. Then mark the bottom of the leg for how much you want to remove. The V jig rides along the fence, so bring the jig/fence and leg, and slide it over so the setup is tight to the blade where the cut begins. Remove the leg, slide the taper jig along the fence until the heal of the jig is next to the blade. Use the marked leg on the back side of the blade to set the swing of the taper leg, and lock the jig in position. Try the alignment again on both start and stop of the leg. You want to leave a slim extra to plane out the saw marks. The un-tapered sides have to ride on the table and fence, so make sure to plan out your cuts to ensure this, and that the tapers are on the right sides of the legs. I normally mortise the legs before I taper them because doing that is easier when you have flat surfaces to deal with.

feel free to check out my projects, I have a couple tapered legs in there for you to check out the style.

-- You know.... I think that old wood needs to be furniture.

View VillageWood's profile


44 posts in 3318 days

#3 posted 10-06-2009 04:23 AM

When I’m stuck on a design, I like to fall back on the golden ratio as a starting point: .618 (or .62)
So for your leg, that would mean tapering from 2 inches down to 1 1/4” (2 x .618 = 1.236)
As to the length of the leg, the ratio divides the 34” height into 21” and 13”. This means that you would either have a 21” long taper starting 13” from the top, which makes the leg look delicate, or a shorter 13” taper at 21” from the top that makes the leg look sturdier.
Try drawing combinations on paper and go with what looks best.

Hope it helps.

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3340 days

#4 posted 10-06-2009 04:23 AM

I have a cheap tapering jig I bought at Woodcraft and quite honestly it is kind of scary using it. Do not get me wrong, they work, I just am not comfortable using it. I have all of my digits and would like it to stay that way.

I recently made a table with tapered legs and used my band saw and planed them to the line with a #5 1/2 hand plane. It did not take long at all and 1 couple dozen strokes with the plane on each side and it was done. I have heard of people using a power jointer the same way.

I used 2 1/2” legs and tapered them to 2” on two sides and ended up looking a little boxy, sturdy, but boxy. If I were to do it again I would taper the legs down to 1” or 1 1/2” for a more refined look. The taper started 2” below the 3” apron and to my eye looked proportional to the table. I hope this helped.

-- Marc

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#5 posted 10-06-2009 04:33 AM

I just put a couple links on my earlier post they should help. This is the way I do it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5859 posts in 3192 days

#6 posted 10-06-2009 07:25 AM

Thanks guys, I really appreciate the help and all the answers. Sounds like you guys really know your business. You would think that after all these years of doing this, I’d of made a tapered leg by now—- NOT!

Thanks again a1Jim for the links. It helps when you can see something in action as opposed to reading it. You get a better “feel ” for whats happening. Anytime I can help you guys, just hollor! Rick.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#7 posted 10-06-2009 04:54 PM

Glad to help isn’t that what LJs is all about. Look forward to photos of those legs.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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