Should my vise go on the left or right of my workbench?
Why are vises typically located on the left front corners of workbenches? This seems backward for right-handers wanting to handsaw a piece gripped in the vise. If it were on the right, the offcut portion of the board would extend past the bench, giving you room to saw.
—Edward Dixon, Middletown, N.Y.
The answer lies in the distant past, Edward. Before power tools, wood-workers relied on long jointer planes to straighten and square edges on boards. And right-handed woodworkers—let’s face it, righties have always outnumbered lefties—work a plane from right to left (shown above).
Bench vises hold better when you push toward them, with the mass of the bench behind the workpiece. That’s why face vises usually are placed on the left end of the bench. When sawing workpieces (below), a left-side vise also lets you hold onto the offcut, with the keeper piece safely secured in the jaws, resulting in a cleaner cut.
But that said, you can mount a vise wherever it suits you best. Better still, mount two vises to your bench. We like a face vise on the left, and a tail vise on the right.