Straight Dope on Band Saws & Tapers


The most terrifying moment I’ve ever had in woodworking was using a commercial table saw tapering jig by following the jig’s instructions.

The jig was exactly like this one, which is sold by a lot of woodworking stores. I hesitate to even post that link because some moron is likely to pipe up, “Actually the jig can be used safely if…” and some beginning woodworker is going to believe it.

There are about 50 better ways to cut tapers before using this jig, including erosion. I know there are safe table saw tapering jigs out there. But this is not the jig you are looking for.

Today I fired up my band saw to cut a lot of tapers on the legs for this table from the 15th century. Usually I taper legs at the workbench with a jack plane. But because I had to remove about 1-1/2” of material on each of the six legs, I roughed in the shape with my band saw (plus the tapered offcuts are very useful in the shop for shims).

So because I am pooping on the parade of woodworking commerce today, let me add some more fertilizer. I don’t think most woodworking shops need a fancy steel-frame band saw. I’ve used a lot of the steel frame saws from all the best brands, and I’ve just never been impressed.

Sure, they can have a lot of cutting capacity, but unless you make a lot of veneer, you’d probably be better served by the simple Delta 14” band saw that the company made millions of in its Tupelo, Miss., factory. These saws are bulletproof, there are tons of them out there and you can usually pick one up for $200 to $300.

These workhorse saws stay in tune much better than the steel-frame saws. The guides are dirt simple. And parts are available anywhere. (No need to wait for a replacement electrical switch from Italy.)

OK, my spleen is empty. Time to go plane these tapered legs and cut their conical tenons.

— Christopher Schwarz


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42 Responses to Straight Dope on Band Saws & Tapers

  1. I’ve never used the jig you referenced but I have never thought they would be very stable. I like using a sled for for such things.

    I need to make a new one but I have a simple 8″x36″ piece of 1/2″ ply with some shop made hold downs that can be re-positioned to hold various size material. It’s safe and secure riding against the fence of the table saw.

    It also makes a fantastic edge jointer for bowed or rough lumber. I got the idea from some woodworking magazine. I’ve seen more advanced jigs like this on the internet.

  2. kendewitt608 says:

    Thanks, I going downstairs to put a gold star on my old Delta 14″.

  3. For tapering jigs, I go all Ron Herman and grab some available wood and just screw one together to meet my needs. Too many adjustments confuse me. I still have all my finger. One of them is in a drawer…

  4. Dave Reedy says:

    Chris, I’m not sure what you mean by “steel-frame” band saws. I’ve never seen one made of any other material.

    • Brent Ranke says:

      His Delta in the photo has a casted iron frame as opposed to a lot of the newer band saws with welded steel frames.

    • Dave,

      delong1974 is correct. The Delta and its copies are made from heavy iron castings that are bolted together.

      The steel-frame saws (called Euro saws, but that’s a misnomer) are made from steel plates that are precision welded. The geometry and technology are supposed to produce a more rigid saw frame. Lots of people love them, and I am in the definite minority for my love of the old iron saws.

      If you can’t find a Delta, look for a General (Canadian-made) or one of the other cast-frame saws. The Old Woodworking Machinery web site is an OUTSTANDING resource.

  5. delong1974 says:

    @Dave: He’s referring to a “Euro” saw, with an integrated single steel beam, like this one by Jet:

    That said, the supposed advantage is less flex and more resaw capacity than your standard 14″ consumer bandsaw.

  6. I wish I could find one of those Delta’s for cheap around here. I rarely see them for less than $600, and when I do they’re more iron oxide than saw.

  7. Marilyn says:

    Man, those are some pretty legs. 😀

  8. Love my 1945 14″ cast iron delta – heavy as heck and the only thing that I know has been replaced is the belt, replaced guides with ceramic, throat plate and of course blades – but it runs true.
    As for the Jig – that’s even a scary image – that blade is going right through the wood and then the fence Arrrrh!

  9. Thank you thank you and thank you…been trying to talk myself into ‘needing’ one of the steel resawing monsters…time to get the cheaper functional saw and start wearing it out.

  10. karlfife says:

    I think Mr Schwarz is contrasting bandsaw frames made from steel to those made of *Cast Iron*.

    No, he’s not likely suggesting you build your own WOODEN bandsaw frame like the venerable Matthias Wandel has done.

    The aforementioned Delta 14″ design (and its many clones) all share the characteristic of having a frame that is made of cast iron (though having various other parts such as the wheel covers are made stamped steel sheet metal).

    Modern larger-than-14″ saws (e.g. Jet JBWS-18X), are usually made of heavy-gauge plate steel, folded and welded. The “power switch from Italy” is likely to be in reference to any of the well made, expensive bandsaws built by ACM in Italy. They’re better known under their OEM labels such as Laguna, Minimax, Felder, and others.


    • forbeskm says:

      Hey, I made one of Matthias’ bandsaws and I could not be happier!! I rarely use my bosch contractor table saw anymore. They are not hard that hard to make actually, mine was made with a crappy 100 dollar ryobi bench top bandsaw, bench top drill press and the bosch.

  11. woodmandan says:

    I purchased one of those tapering jigs several years ago. The first time I put it on my table saw I was afraid to make the cut. It’s been hanging on the wall ever since. Any suggestions for another use? I would hate for my $20 to have been completely wasted.

  12. calebjamesplanemaker says:

    I bought a tapering jig just like this about six or seven years ago. Made one tapered leg and then made a shop made tapering jig immediately afterward that I felt was way more safe. Those metal things are not something I want to use again. Thought I was the only one.


  13. Oh, hmmm. Apparently this blog post isn’t about large herbivorous animals with short prehensile snouts? That’s disappointing…

  14. skywalker011 says:

    You are a/the man. Nicely put.

  15. Every time I visit your blog I end up on 30 minute “down the rabbit hole” internet search and find some crazy-ass thing like this

    And I say to myself I would totally get this and make up some “deal breaker” as if it was a reality. Thank you!

  16. gburbank says:

    If you’re truly lucky, you may find an old cast iron Atlas 12″ bandsaw, an ideal bandsaw for chair makers. No riser block limits cut depth to about 6″, deep enough for most woodworking cuts. What makes this saw shine? when cutting a continuous armrest/backbow style chair you can pass the laminated blank over the TOP of the saw to complete the cut, a trick no other cast iron saw can accomplish. The guides are interchangeable with delta-style guide blocks. And the frame is plenty stiff enough to properly tension a blade. They can be had for a song because they don’t look like much. Even in a shop equipped with several much larger behomeths, this saw still has a place.

  17. Scott Taylor says:

    1984 Delta 14″ (purchased new for $450.00) with a riser block. Things I have added: 1.5 hp motor, Carter guides, Iturra Design tires, tension spring and tensioner, tire brush. Built a very heavy wood base w/storage. Timber Wolf blades. Love the saw, it does everything I ask it to. Cast iron always wins…

  18. Matt Merges says:

    Chris posted this yesterday. This morning, my neighbor held an estate sale with a — you guessed it — 14″ Delta out front. Pristine condition with all the extras, manual, extra (new) blade.

    Said band saw is now in my garage, along with 6 hardly-used Bessey K clamps. At a steal of a price. I feel like this young man:

  19. Thanks Chris–you’re right. I have a 14 in. Powermatic band saw with 6 in. riser block ( similar to your trusty Delta ) that has never failed to do anything I’ve ever expected it to do . . . and yet I’ve been tempted by the seductive siren song of the sexy new Italian models . . . Away with you, Temptress !

  20. Dave Reedy says:

    I can’t do auctions for two reasons:
    1. I can’t control myself. Already have too much stuff. (Like most Americans.)
    2. When you buy at an auction, you’ve just paid more for the item than anyone else was willing to pay.

  21. I bought one of those commercial taper jigs once. I was about to use it for the first time, but decided it was too unsafe. Never used it!

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