Tapered Reamers


IMG_6125A couple people have asked me recently about what I use to make the tapered mortises on things like this low bench (above).  I have used this joint many times, for everything from sawhorses to tables.  I love its simplicity and versatility; whether it is a utilitarian horse, or a more finished bench, the process is the same.  The result is a solid, tight joint.

IMG_6127  IMG_2943

Windsor chair makers are very familiar with this joint, but the first time I used it was years ago when making a shaving horse according to These plans.  Alexander also had plans for making a tapered reamer for tapering the leg mortises after boring a hole.  I turned one (see top photo) on the pole lathe and it has done the job.  I also cobbled together a rounding shave of sorts to make tenons that match the mortises.  But chairmaker Tim Manney has taken things to a much higher level.

Tapered reamers in curly maple by Tim Manney

Tim makes and sells a gorgeous tapered reamer along the same lines but with some ingenious design adjustments and additions.  You can read more about them on his blog. He also has some great plans for the matching tenon cutter.  And then there’s his adze I’d like to try some day…

Whether you make your own, or pick one up from Tim, a tapered reamer opens up all sorts of possibilities.


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12 Responses to Tapered Reamers

  1. I wonder how many people have used those old plans of Alexander’s over the years. I made my first shavehorse and tapered reamer from those plans almost 10 years ago. I just made another reamer with the more nimble Tim-Manney design, and I’m currently in the process of building a better shavehorse (Peter Galbert’s “smarthead”), but I certainly got a lot of use out of the old one over the years.


  2. Hanan Hourvitz says:

    Dave. I have a question. I saw Tim’s tapered reamer is 6 degree. Lee-Valley produce and sell a 12 degree tapered reamer. In your opinion, which is best?


  3. Dave Fisher says:

    I think the 6 degree is better. I guess it just sort of makes sense to me that a better “grip” will be achieved with the more acute angle. But more importantly, Peter Galbert and Tim Manney (guys who really know what they are talking about) recommend the 6 degree. That said, 12 degree works for others, so whichever you can get your hands on.


  4. ryanvanlil says:

    Hi Dave! love the post,
    was wondering what it is you are showing with that shaving blade attached to it, in the first image.

    You say you make these tapered pens on a lathe, but looks like that tool might be useful for doing so, only I cant figure it out..



    • Dave Fisher says:

      Hi Ryan. That is a rounding/tapering plane for making a tenon on a leg to match the hole made by the reamer. I made the reamer on the lathe. Legs, I usually split and shave, then run the tenon of the leg through the rounding plane (after getting it close with a drawknife) to taper the tenon exactly. It works like a pencil sharpener. But Tim Manney’s design (linked in the post) is better, so I’d make one like that if I were to do it again.


  5. Pingback: Lowrider | David Fisher, Carving Explorations

  6. Eric Goodson says:

    Love this post, Dave. I have been just running holes in stools and benches and driving in a wedge to get them to hold put, but this seems smarter. Thanks.


  7. Elia Bizzarri is another master chair maker who sells reamers and tenon cutters. Bizzarri has a good article on the pros/cons of 6 vs. 11 degree tapers.


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