A call to the left handed

Just a quick question to the forum regarding altering to ols to be
more friendly for south paws and whether any of you had any top tips?

After getting a face full of abrasive material from my flex shaft
recently it occurred to me that it would be great to be able to get
it to run in reverse when using cut off wheels and the like, and I
have a suspicion that my vallorb files cut fractionally better when
used right handed, which is dead annoying. I strongly suspect that
jewellery attracts more than it fair share of lefties (and probably
dyslexics as well, but I may be projecting), so there must be any
number of work arounds out there (when I did a post grad in geology,
left handers made up more than half of the class, when I did a
business post grad I was one of 2 in a class of 70, so there is
definitely some self selection going on).

Chris Penner

Hi Chris,

Because of the way the teeth on a file are angled across the file,
they are only really suitable for right handed use and it is very
difficult for a leftie to get a single cut file to cut at all. Most
files are ‘double cut’ which means that they have one set of teeth
set at 68 degrees to one edge (the ‘cut’) and another set at 45
degrees to the other edge (the ‘upcut’). There is a drawing of these
on page 2 of my article on filecutting at


These teeth cross almost at right angles but not quite. The result is
that there is a line along the length of the file which does not run
directly along the length of the file at which these teeth intersect
and along which the file tends to want to go as it is pushed over the
work. This is termed ‘rowing’ and will take the file to the right as
it is used - the natural direction for a right hander. My friend who
is a left hander and used to be a production engineer at John
Bedfords file works tried many years ago to persuade them to produce
a range of files specifically for the left hander. He had a batch of
samples made up and they were sent for test marketing - all were
returned as unusable as the left handers in industry had become so
used to filing right handed or at least compensating for a right
handed file that they could not get used to using a left handed
file!! Consequently the idea was dropped. As to using power tools in
reverse, you have to be careful about things coming unscrewed -
chucks can drop off, the screws holding cut-off wheels and polishing
mops in place can come loose etc.

Best wishes,

Ian - right handed but sympathetic…

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

I am a lefty; both of my flex shafts and my micro motor hang on my
left side and they definitely flow away from my face (mostly). I have
tried the trick of making a cover/guard from the transparent threaded
end of a soda bottle, but I find that simply keeping a slow steady
flow of air from my mouth into the cutting area clears most of the
dust from my face when using cut off and snap on discs. The worst is
when I use bristle brushes, but again just a slow steady flow of air
from the lungs is a huge help. (I suppose originally having learned
the old fashioned technique of blowpipe soldering when I studied at
Bowman helps with this mouth technique, but it is a simple and
effective method of avoiding the dust in your face!)

Hi Chris!

It never occurred to me that my flex shaft was rotating in the wrong
direction, and yet I have a pair of safety glasses with tiny bits of
carbide embedded in them. To add to the confusion, I hang the tool
motor on the right side of my bench, because that is how I saw it in

I bat right handed and I use scissors with my right hand, but I
write with my left. I’m not ambidextrous. It’s just that no one but
my family knew I was left-handed, so some things got taught right
handed. I still remember one day in grade school when I picked up a
pair of scissors, the only pair of scissors with a green handle that
were marked “LEFT-HAND”. I tried using them, but they wouldn’t cut
paper. I was using them with my right hand.

The Foredom SR series flex shaft has a reversing motor. I wish I had
one now.:frowning:

Jeff Simkins