Fair Woodworking

November 3, 2014

The Ambidexterity Theory

Filed under: Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 5:23 pm

About a month ago I bought some lumber to build a couple of simple saw horses and a workbench in the style of the Naked Woodworker. Having sold my old work bench before the “Great Move”, I thought it would be interesting to try following along as a new woodworker might do.

Fast forward one month to the present, I’ve managed to complete one single sawbench.

Now it’s not that I haven’t been able to make time for the shop. It’s more like the time I’ve invested into shop time has caused the delays.

Something I was doing in the shop was destroying my back. At one point, just a few minutes in the shop left me all but unable to walk for a 4 day period. It wasn’t that I was pulling a muscle, or putting my back out as I have done many times in the past. It was just a very tight crook in the lower left of my back. Just like you would get if you fell asleep in a chair with your head cocked at an angle, but to the extreme.

I couldn’t figure out what the problem was, but since that time, less that half an hour in the shop would cost me at least a day or two of extreme discomfort.

Then one day I was listening to a podcast or the radio or something, where the guest was a strength and conditioning instructor. One of the things he mentioned was that many athletes fall into a rut of practicing their skills with only their dominant hand. Right handed kickers only kick the football with their right foot. Left handed golfers only use left-handed clubs. He was finding that this mono-dexterous training was occasionally causing the athletes bodies to become unbalanced, and resulting in injuries.

That got me to thinking about what lead up to my back problems. It started with installing a plywood floor in the shop over the concrete. The plywood was secured to the concrete with Tapcon screws, and these screws all have to be pre-drilled with a hammer drill. After that, I painted the floor with a roller, but first you have to cut in the floor along the walls with a brush. As soon as the paint was dry I was fast to work sawing by hand the material for building the first saw bench.

The drilling, the screwing, painting, and sawing. In each case I was bent over and using my right hand exclusively.  I then paid a 4 day penalty for it.

So I determined to experiment a little as soon as I’d recovered from the last round of back spasms.

Saw a little with my right hand, and then switch and saw a little with my left. The saw felt a little foreign in my left hand, but I was able to get by with it. Certainly better than I might have thought.

But who cares about the quality of the saw cut.


But that’s not all…

The guy on the talk show also mentioned a benefit he hadn’t expected. He found the athletes that took part in this ambidextrous training noticed a dramatic improvement in their skill with their dominant hand.

And we all could use a boost in our hand skills.



Except for me.



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