Making Tapered Craftsman Style Columns Home Improvement

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m drawing heavily on American craftsman architecture for the overall look for the exterior of the house. Since it has a large porch, the logical choice for the support posts are tapered columns.
The columns are mostly decorative, since the post itself is the structural support. Still, they do provide protection for the posts and really dress up the appearance.

Oddly enough, I started at the top by making a simple beveled cap that wraps the post. It has a rabbet cut in the bottom edge to receive the tapered plywood cover for the upper part of the column:

plywood to ceramic junction

The next step was to rip a sheet of 1/2″ exterior grade G1S plywood into strips that are 10″ wide. These were cut to the correct length for the tapered section and cut on the table saw:

the plywood is cut into strips
tapers are cut on the plywood for the upper cover

The jig I’m using is very simple, just a piece of plywood with the stock screwed to it temporarily. I’m making the upper cover with mitered corners to get a very clean finished look – it is more difficult to do, but avoids having the plywood edge-grain exposed.
These taper from 4-1/2″ at the top to 9″ at the bottom, so I need to cut a 2-1/4″ – 0″ taper on each edge.

When all four pieces were cut, I brought it out and glued it together around the post. I used plywood yokes to clamp the parts and keep them in line, and plenty of polyurethane construction adhesive in the joints.
The next day, I removed the yokes and sanded the cover smooth:

the tapered upper cover is glued and clamped
a close up of the corner of the tapered cover

The joints at the corners turned out perfect, with no gaps or misalignment.

After filling the rabbet in the cap with construction adhesive, I slid the tapered cover up and fastened it with a few brads:

plywood to ceramic junction

Next up, the base cap needs to be made and I’m using well seasoned spruce cut from a 2×10. It also wraps around the post and has a bevel cut in the top edge to shed water, plus a dado to receive the tapered cover. The corners are joined with biscuits and more construction adhesive:

parts for the base cap are cut
the base cap is assembled

After gluing it together, 2″ nails are driven in to secure the corners and the dado is filled with glue. The cap is then set in place at the bottom of the tapered cover. The edges of the plywood fit into the glue filled dado:

the dado in the base cap is filled with glue
the base cap is put in place

The construction adhesive serves two purposes, it glues the tapered cover in place and completely seals the lower edge of the plywood against moisture. This is exterior grade plywood with waterproof glue, but you still need to take ever step possible to protect it from the elements.

The column base is a simple plywood box that fits under the cap. It is glued and nailed together on three sides, then cleats are put in to secure it at the top and bottom:

the base is built
cleats secure it in place

The fourth side of the bottom is installed and then it’s time to add the trim to the box to make it look like frame and panel construction. I cut “L” shaped corners from 2×4 then glued and nailed these in place:

the assembled base box
corner trim is installed on the base

Blocks are fitted at the top and bottom to complete the look, but when I built the second column, I added a bit more detail with another cross piece and vertical to create the squares:

the trim is finished on the base
the second column is finished

Of course, I had to go back and do that on the first one, which was painted by that time:

plywood to ceramic junction

Not a big deal, and the extra decoration compliments other design features in the windows and door.

Finished, cleaned up and painted:

the columns painted
the porch from a distance showing the columns

These columns are a lot of work, but I believe they were worth the time and effort. They were also relatively inexpensive for the materials, using just one sheet of plywood and some framing lumber for each one. Total cost, less than $60 each.

I made a video going through the building and installation process: