Tapering legs is a case in point, and the illustration on the left, from Cabinetmaking and Millwork, is an excellent example of a jig gone horribly wrong. I googled “table saw tapering jig” and came up with 9,650 images. About half of them were variations on this jig, including several commercially made ones. The other half of the images were a collection of generally complicated ways to work around the problems inherent in this device.
This subject came up the other day at lunch. Chris, Glen and I were out visiting a local reader’s shop, and the reader mentioned that he had a method for tapering legs using a jig he made and his surface planer. His motivation? He didn’t like the table saw jig shown here. None of us like the jig either, and we each have a quick, reliable method to taper legs. Glen uses the jointer, and there is a video of his technique on the “Videos” page of the web site. Chris (as you might guess) cuts them on the band saw and removes the saw marks with a handplane, and I use a simple sled on the table saw that takes about five minutes to make, is simple to set up and keeps my hands a safe distance away from the saw blade.
So what don’t we like about the ubiquitous jig shown above? As commonly illustrated, it is only good for short legs with large tapers. Make one long enough to put a 3/8″ taper on a dining-table leg and you’ll have an unwieldy mess dancing in the air a couple feet behind the saw. There isn’t a good way to hold the work to the jig and the jig against the saw’s fence at the same time. And, if you get far enough along to begin the cut, where will your pushing hand be at the end? Apparently, the model for the drawing wasn’t quite sure on his first two or three attempts at using this thing.
The four people at lunch the other day were each in possession of 10 fingers, many years of woodworking experience, and enough common sense not to order the fish. There are a couple things we’ve been doing here at Popular Woodworking to stop the repeated publication of dubious jigs and techniques. Just because something has been in print doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. We question these things, try them in our shop, and if they don’t work we’re willing to say “the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”
Our new column “Jig Journal”, which premiered in our August 2007 issue, is dedicated to showing simple, effective jigs. In our November issue, Marc Adams began a seven-part series of articles on “A Better Way to Work.” As the owner of the largest woodworking school in the country, Marc is especially concerned about safety, and this series is not a rehash of the same old rules. We’re proud to publish this type of article and think that’s what makes us a little different. We hope you do, too.