Which hand to you use to hold chisel and mallet?

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Forum topic by Lumber2Sawdust posted 11-24-2012 07:53 PM 1572 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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139 posts in 3066 days

11-24-2012 07:53 PM

I’ve been chopping some mortises today and it got me wondering which hand would be better to hold the chisel. I’m left handed. I hammer nails holding the hammer in my left hand and use my right hand to hold the nail when starting it. It seems natural to hold the mallet in my left hand and the chisel in my right. However, I feel completely clumsy trying to do detailed work with my right hand such as positioning the chisel accurately and clearing out the wood chips from the mortise as I’m chopping.

I switched to using my left hand for the chisel. That was hard! I had to try really hard to not pick up the mallet in my left hand. It just keeps ending up there!

In the end, I think I’m more effective using the chisel in my left hand. Having a mallet with a large face makes it so that I haven’t busted a knuckle yet while pounding with my right hand.

How do the rest of you deal with this, or am I the only one that thinks about stuff like this?

8 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4419 days

#1 posted 11-24-2012 08:20 PM

I’m left-handed, and I couldn’t even think of doing it any other way than mallet in my left hand.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3560 days

#2 posted 11-24-2012 08:34 PM

I’m right-handed and if I tried chopping mortises holding the mallet in my left hand, I’d either break my right hand or ruin the piece.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

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David Craig

2137 posts in 3310 days

#3 posted 11-25-2012 07:21 AM

Muscle coordination is a funny thing. I am a right handed person but shoot pool like a lefty. I tried reversing it and it doesn’t work for me. I cut mortises with a mallet in the right hand and the chisel in the left, but when paring or more refined work, push with my left and hold the chisel with my right. With the lathe, I brace the lathe chisel with my left and guide with my right. To intentionally try to change any of these habits would put me at risk. Go with what feels comfortable for you.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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425 posts in 2321 days

#4 posted 11-25-2012 01:03 PM

I had the same exact dilemma. I’m left handed and when I started to work with chisels and mallet I instinctively picked up the mallet in my left hand (same way I hammer). After a month or so (long enough for it to become “routine”) I suddenly realized I might get more control of the chisel if held in the left hand.

Well, that was so awkward I nearly broke my left hand with the mallet by accident.

I switched back to “normal” (mallet left hand, chisel right hand) and haven’t looked back since. My workaround: I use the mallet and chisel to do a lot of the removal of waste wood…when I need to switch and pare out corners, etc., I put the chisel back in the left hand.

It works for me. You’re not alone! Being left handed is definitely a challenge sometimes in the shop. Nearly all power tools are made for right-handers (even if the grip is “neutral” the motor or housing, power switch, cord, etc., will all be set up for right-handers).

In a right-handed world, southpaws have to adapt, improvise and overcome.

-- Steve

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2202 posts in 3359 days

#5 posted 11-25-2012 03:56 PM

You guys should have thought about all those tools before you became left-handed! :)

Right-handed here…and I wouldn’t even think about using a hammer or mallet in my left-hand.

-- jay,

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7770 posts in 3115 days

#6 posted 11-25-2012 04:55 PM

Yeah Jay, but I’m a lefty as well and that means we lefties are in our “Right” minds. ;-)

Mallet left
Chisel right

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 3066 days

#7 posted 11-27-2012 10:49 PM

Thanks for the replies, everyone.

I guess I’m the only one crazy enough to think about trying to switch hands. Other than the fact that the chisel magically appears in my right hand even though I’m trying to use it left-handed, the switch has worked pretty well. Using a mallet with a large face helps to prevent whacking your knuckles.

I find that I have more control using the chisel in my left (dominant) hand. If you’re feeling crazy, give it a try, you just might be a convert, too.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3152 days

#8 posted 11-27-2012 11:07 PM

This is an interesting question that I’ve never really thought about. I’m left-handed but do a lot of things like a righty. I generally use my right side for power and the left for precision. Thus, I hold the chisel with the left hand and the mallet with the right hand.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

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