Tapers are simple details that can give an ordinary project some flair. What’s even better is that tapers are pretty easy to make using your band saw. I know — you can get the job done with a jig at the table saw. But setting up a jig (or making one) takes time. So unless you need to make a lot of tapers, this technique is quicker and easier. The technique boils down to three basic steps: layout, cutting, and smoothing.
The first step to creating tapers is layout. It’s the road map you’ll follow in the next two steps. I begin by marking each part with a starting and ending point. The table leg shown here will have a taper cut on two sides. So I draw the final size on the bottom of the leg. Near the top of the leg, all you need to do is mark where the taper ends. Since the cutting on the band saw will be done freehand, also mark the cutline. To do this, connect the starting and ending points with a straightedge.
When you think about it, making the cut is a pretty straightforward task. I like to start cutting the taper from the narrow end of the leg. If you start at the other end, the blade tends to skip along the surface before gouging in and leaving a large divot that can be difficult to remove later on. Your goal in cutting is to remove as much of the waste as possible. So cut as close to the line as you feel comfortable. And make the cut in a smooth, single motion. (A practice cut or two helps you get a feel for it.) One final thing — let the blade do the work. You’ll quickly get an idea of how fast to feed the workpiece.
You have a few options to take your workpiece from rough-cut to perfectly smooth. One I like is to use a hand plane. Any bench plane will work, but the longer the sole, the flatter the results. Set the blade for a light cut and tackle the high spots first. Check your progress with a square to keep the pieces consistent and keep an eye on the layout lines.