Right handed woodworker using a left handed bench.

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Forum topic by Mainiac Matt posted 05-02-2016 03:35 PM 1179 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mainiac Matt

8513 posts in 2506 days

05-02-2016 03:35 PM

Topic tags/keywords: left right handed bench vise

I re-furbished an old industrial bench years ago and added a pair of vises in the normal orientation for a right handed woodworker…. accept the face vice could not be mounted all the way to the left end of the top, due to interference with the metal legs.

I’m getting my stock prepped to build an additional bench soon and am starting to wonder if working on a left handed bench wouldn’t be kind of nice. Especially if I had both to choose from.

I’ve noticed that when I join long boards with a hand plane, I often “switch hit” if the grain changes direction in the middle of a board, and I never have any problems doing so. It actually seems to make more sense to me to plane away from the face vise (forces put the board in tension and tend to pull a narrow board straight) than towards it.

Any thoughts out there? I’m sure I may be overlooking something, as I’m not a hand tool purist by any stretch of the imagination.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

10 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5108 posts in 4138 days

#1 posted 05-02-2016 04:02 PM

I think that it is kinda like Japanese saws. Push or pull (western style vs: Asian).
Whatever works for you is the best way.


View jimintx's profile


847 posts in 1762 days

#2 posted 05-02-2016 04:21 PM

I never have thought of a bench being “handed”. My first reaction is to say, “Huh?”

I am naturally left-handed. I have found that so many things in life are set up for right-handed use, that over time I just don’t even think about it, I just use it in my own way. By now, I am “experienced” enough that I don’t really think about it.

(For some reason, I did always think that radial arm saws were very right handed. It was one reason i finally gave mine away a few months ago – after 30+ years of use with no disasters.)

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View Ocelot's profile


2106 posts in 2816 days

#3 posted 05-02-2016 09:41 PM

I’m right handed. For workbenches, it seems to me that sometimes which ever way it is is the wrong way. It might be nice to have it both ways to cover more scenarios.


I often work my RAS with my left hand, although I’m right handed. It’s because Ive got my incra stop rail on the left side.

When the piece I’m cutting is long enough to give me a safe hand-hold far enough from the path of the blade, I pull the saw with my right hand and hold the wood with my left – well away from the path of the saw.

When I’m cutting short pieces, I want to hold the wood on the long side, which is the right side. Yeah, I should get some kind of hold-down clamps.


View rhybeka's profile


4355 posts in 3299 days

#4 posted 05-02-2016 10:25 PM

I have the opposite going on – I’m a lefty working on a right hand bench and I have issues occasionally with planing and such because it’s awkward. As long as it’s comfortable to you, I’d say go for it!

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View duckmilk's profile


3218 posts in 1502 days

#5 posted 05-03-2016 12:05 AM

Interesting topic. I’m going to be building a bench later this year with a leg vise. I’m right handed and have often thought that while working on the ends of a piece, it might be more helpful to have the vise on the right side of the bench, say, for sawing the end of a tenon and trimming it. I know this can all be done on the top, but sometimes I think it might be easier to do that with the vise in the “wrong” side. Any thoughts?
As far as planing, I don’t see what difference it would make. With a long board, just put your deadman or whatever on the left. It will be held securely anyway. But for sawing…

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View jimintx's profile


847 posts in 1762 days

#6 posted 05-03-2016 04:34 PM

Ocelot, I know I started this thread drift, and here I am going at it again. Apologies regarding the bench vise placement topic, which is very interesting to me as I am doing a bench rework right now.

If you have your right hand on the RAS handle to control the motor/blade carriage, then I would say you are operating it right-handed. If you move your body to the right, and have your left hand on the handle, then you will be operating it left-handed, but the blade will be on the other side of the motor/blade assemble, and virtually impossible to see. And – these same observations apply to a miter saw as well, a cross cutting device I have remaining in the shop, after ditching the RAS.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View Ocelot's profile


2106 posts in 2816 days

#7 posted 05-03-2016 07:32 PM

@jimintx (with apologies to Maniac Matt),

While it is a little awkward to see the cut line using the RAS left-handed, it’s not impossible. I’m using a stop rail so I’m not cutting to a mark anyway.

Back to the workbenches… it seems that it might be helpful to have vices on both sides.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8513 posts in 2506 days

#8 posted 05-03-2016 07:50 PM

it seems that it might be helpful to have vices on both sides.
- Ocelot

I’ve been thinking about this as well.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View CFrye's profile


10444 posts in 2017 days

#9 posted 05-21-2016 12:02 PM

Matt, there is a discussion regarding right and left handed benches on Shop Talk Live that may (or may not) shed some light?

-- God bless, Candy

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2624 days

#10 posted 05-21-2016 01:34 PM

I have a seven foot bench in the middle of my shop,when I bought my woodworking vise I was too excited to use it so I just put it on the right corner (just felt natural to me as a left handed person) but soon realized the most comfortable place for me was the the front left corner of the bench.
Tried the vise on the right of the bench to use my spokeshave ,although it was workable but felt awkward to use .

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

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