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Left or Right Fence

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Nick Gibbs

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Here's an interesting question I've just been sent. Why are modern bandsaw fences on the left of the blade, while most other machine fences (and some antique bandsaw fences) on the right?

I replied that a lot of bandsaws can take the fence on the right or left, as it the case with tablesaw rip fences. It rather depends on the width of the component and/or the waste. Ideally you want the finished component between the fence and the blade, and the waste dropping away (though Steve Maskery has written a great article for anyone wanting to cut thin components on a tablesaw). When you are working at a bandsaw the natural tendency is to work on the ‘outside’ and push the board against the fence ‘inside’ (on the left) of the blade. On a tablesaw the crosscut fence tends to be on the left of the blade, and you stnad to the left of the machine, and so the rip fence tends to be positioned on the right of the blade. However, there seems to be no other reason for this arrangement on a tablesaw, and funnily enough I’ve recently been thinking about converting my tablesaw to have the crosscut fence on the right, and rip fence on the left. This is because it is a universal, with the planer on the left, so working on the right has better access. I’m interested to see how well it works.

Any thoughts anyone?
 

Rob Platt

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Bandsaw tilt has fence on right.
fence conventionally to left of blade allows for larger sizes to be handled as a general rule.
99.9% circsaws are for right handed use and spray the sawdust over a lefthanded user.
all the best
rob
 

Nick Gibbs

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Rob Platt":2p0v810b said:
99.9% circsaws are for right handed use and spray the sawdust over a lefthanded user.
Really? Surely the dust comes out centrally from a tablesaw and affects righties and lefties alike??? It's just a question of where you position the crosscut and rip fences. Most (probably all) tablesaw crosscut sliding carriages are on the left, with a mitre channel often on both sides so there's no reason why you couldn't use a crosscut fence to the right in the channel????
 

TheTiddles

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I wish someone would make these things suitable for the ambidexterous woodworker where left and right are equally bad

Aidan
 

Rob Platt

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we always refer to a circsaw as one held in the hand and one that sits on floor as a table saw. my apologies for assuming everyone would use those terms. the observation was linked to handedness once something has been made in a particular way, that way seems to become the norm and the accepted way. What would be the avantage to altering the way a bandsaw was constructed to have the pillar on the right and have everyone adjusting their way of using it to something quite alien and possibly hazardous?
all the best
rob
 

Nick Gibbs

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Rob Platt":3gi92g49 said:
What would be the avantage to altering the way a bandsaw was constructed to have the pillar on the right and have everyone adjusting their way of using it to something quite alien and possibly hazardous?
Inca used to make a bandsaw that way, and funnily enough I saw one in Richard Arnold's workshop today (see my blog, nickgibbs.com), and I'm pretty sure Robert Ingham has one too. Some woodworkers prefer them not particularly because of handedness, but because they suit their workshop layout better.

My issue wasn't with handedness (and apologies for confusion over circular saws and tablesaws). I was only discussing machines, not power tools, and wondering aloud why tablesaws in particular have the crosscut fence on the left and rip fence on the right. In many ways the rip fence is easier to use when it is on the left. Our Coronet Consort tablesaw has a rip fence and crosscut fence that can be used on either side. I quite like the rip fence being on the left of the blade, and actually seems to suit me with the right hand leading (with a pushstick of course) and guiding, and the left hand pushing the workpiece (with another pushstick).
 

Rob Platt

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what i`m saying basically is certain things have become the norm. why is the motor and chuck on the left handside of the lathe?
all the best
rob
 

Nick Gibbs

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Absolutely. Richard Arnold was interesting today about hand planes, and how early wooden ones had an offset handle. Gradually, he says, the handles were moved towards the centre, where they are now. He'd like a volunteer to use the offset plane he's made himself to use it solidly for a week to help him work out why they might have been designed that way.
 

Phil Pascoe

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=D> I''ve often thought that the headstock should be on the right. You choose to work down hill--the heaviest piece of wood should be on your right. That's my thinking. I'm right handed, but deal cards left handed (the only person in my family who deals right handed is my son, who is left handed- who uses a knife and fork right handed). I used to have a kayak- If I were drowning, I couldn't use a right handed paddle.....................Wouldn't it be nice to have enough space to have a lathe with reverse!
 

tool613

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There are two machines where the fence when used is on the operator's left , the pin router and the curvy bandsaw. These machines are often used freehand where good control is needed so it is a surprise that they are left-handed, so to speak, especially as (left) hand-tool contact injuries on the pin router are one of the hazards of using these machine. As to the curvy bandsaw I can see no reason why these machines are left-handed. Certainly in earlier times there were right-handed curvy band saws, and the last modern maker of such machines I know of was Inca who were making "left handed" small bandsaws until at least the mid-1990s.

Large Resaw band saws tend to have the fence on the right and there power feed.

jack
 

Nick Gibbs

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phil.p":3nu069fu said:
=D> I''ve often thought that the headstock should be on the right. You choose to work down hill--the heaviest piece of wood should be on your right.Wouldn't it be nice to have enough space to have a lathe with reverse!
There are lathes with reverse, I think. I was taught, as a spindle turner, to work towards the headstock, I guess because the wood was held more securely there and you'd get less vibration, but it may have been a myth. Right-handers will tend to find turning from right to left easier, I think.
 

Pete Maddex

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Hi,

Both my Kity combi and bandsaw have left hand fences, so I have no problem.

Pete
 

chipmunk

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Nick Gibbs":kx7mw9qf said:
phil.p":kx7mw9qf said:
=D> I''ve often thought that the headstock should be on the right. You choose to work down hill--the heaviest piece of wood should be on your right.Wouldn't it be nice to have enough space to have a lathe with reverse!
There are lathes with reverse, I think. I was taught, as a spindle turner, to work towards the headstock, I guess because the wood was held more securely there and you'd get less vibration, but it may have been a myth. Right-handers will tend to find turning from right to left easier, I think.
Hi Nick,
Your theory might work for spindle turning but I suggest you consider trying to hollow a bowl right handed with the headstock on the right and I think all will become clear :wink:

In reality I often swap hands even when spindle turning to undercut the left hand side of spindles or bowls.

I guess I'm not quite as flexible as I once was :wink:

Interesting discussion though. It's amazing how much "nurture" or experience or conditioning comes into what feels natural.

Jon
 

Nick Gibbs

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Good idea. Presumably you slide the headstock along the rails? I'm not sure if that's possible on my small Record lathe, but was possible with my old Coronet Minor (or was it an Elf???). I never did that (silly person), but then I don't turn many bowls. It would work for boxes though and other things. I'm beginning to have doubts about putting the rip fence on the left of my tablesaw blade. It doesn't feel as comfortable. But I'll persevere!!!
 

Rob Platt

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my lathe theory starts with threads, in that workings on the left use a conventional r.h. threads and as stated earlier bowl turning is easier if you are right handed. as everyone was made to be right handed it became the norm for for the works to be on the left in addition to the thread idea which would amount to some sort of standardisation.
the bandsaw because of its construction uses its fences either side as necessary radial arm saws seem to have blade on left and therefore if pulled by left hand would put operator out of line of fire. spindle drills have handle on rhs. my bench has its front vice on the right as i am left handed predominantly but the use of machines over the years has required me to adapt to a more ambidextrous approach. and i think its this conventional way of working that makes manufacturers build tools in a standardised way so if it works why try and invent a new wheel.
all the best
rob
 

John Brown

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Inca bandsaws ARE built the other way round(I have no idea why). Since the one I have is my first and only BS, it seem quite natural to me - like driving on the left hand side of the road, I suppose.
 

chipmunk

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Nick,
Agreed. I can slide the headstock right down to the foot of my lathe and do that quite a lot - it does solve many problems over access. It also solves the big bugbear which is the lathe bed interfering with long bowl gouge handles when hollowing. Others may prefer to use a rotating headstock.

On the original theme of reversing the norm I sometimes reverse the rotation of the lathe and scrape on the far side of the lathe for smoothing toolmarks from the interior of boxes and bowls. I have to say that it feels very unnatural but is safe if you keep your wits about you and has the huge advantage that you can see what you're doing - especially if the rim is undercut. BTW you do need a chuck or a faceplate designed not to unscrew (usually with set screws holding it to the lathe spindle).

Jon
 

Rob Platt

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forgive me i think the discussion is interesting but i think i have taken it away from the original question
an unintentional sidetrack
all the best
rob
 

Benchwayze

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I think most 'righties' do some things left-handedly.
Maybe it's because we are all 'lefties' by nature? :lol:
 

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