In Chris Schwarz Blog, Sawing Techniques, Saws

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You have a dominant eye and a recessive eye (assuming you still have both eyes , and not three). And that fact can make your life as a sawyer a lot easier , or a lot harder.

If your dominant eye matches up with your dominant hand (dominant right eye and dominant right hand, for example) then you’ll find it easier to train yourself to shoot a gun, swing a golf club or cut a tenon. That’s because the eye directly over your work is controlling the show.

But if your dominant eye and dominant hand are on opposite sides of your body, you might find it more difficult to stay on line when sawing. I’ve had many woodworkers with this problem comment that this was a significant hurdle for them to cross when learning to saw.

So how do you find out if you are cross-dominant or not? There are tests that optometrists can perform with a 2″-diameter disc. Another common (if imperfect) test is to intertwine your fingers. Which finger is resting on top? Is it from the same hand that you write with? Then your eye and your hand match up , you should be good. But if your left finger is on top and you saw with your right hand, then you might want to try this trick:

Shut your dominant eye when you saw so that the non-dominant eye can do a little driving. If you are right-handed, try shutting your left eye to see if your accuracy improves. If you are left-handed, do the opposite.

Because Halloween is coming up, I’m plotting a trip to our local Halloween Express store to score some pirate eye patches to experiment with. Wearing a pirate eye patch when sawing is a good conversation-starter in my eye.

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. This Saturday, I’m going to be demonstrating at the Woodcraft store in Dayton, Ohio. One reader who is a golf pro has promised to stop by there to further my education in cross-eye dominance. So come by Saturday if you’d like some advice on how to saw, sharpen or plane , or where to get a good beer when in Cincinnati.

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Showing 12 comments
  • P. M.

    This might explain why even though I’m lefty I feel comfortable handling the saw with my right hand. (Talking about how I fell with the saw regarding the cutting line). I thought was because normally I see more right handled people than lefties sawing.



    BTW this reminds me that I have a lefty handle saw pending from Mike W.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Mark’s "triangle and light switch" test works brilliantly for me. What does co-dominance look like with this trick?


  • Christopher Schwarz


    I’m afraid we’re going to need to get the help of some specialists to get any deeper on the topic of co-dominance. While there might be tricks that will help, I bet that lots of practice is the real cure.


  • Christopher Schwarz

    Tape might work.

    Still, a pirate eyepatch is so much cooler!


  • Chris K.

    I used the circle thing before from skeet shooting. I am right handed with left eye dominant. I wear glasses so the "fix" could be two things
    1) Change the way I hold the shotgun – not gonna happen
    2) Put a small "patch" of scotch tape (the kind that is not clear – kind of frosty) I placed this on the top corner of my glasses on the left eye. This small spot of obscurity allowed the right eye to take over.

    I wonder if something similar could be done?

  • Dale Smith

    My eyes are co-dominant. Apparently this is very good for hand-eye coordination for things like hitting tennis balls and catching soccer balls, which were my specialties back in the day. However, I’m wondering if co-dominance suggests any particular approach to sawing in woodworking. Thoughts?

  • Mattias in Durham NC

    Thist post is a funny coincidence for me. I was talking with a former Marine last weekend, and he said he could never make Marksman status because he was right-handed but had a dominant left eye. I had never heard of something like this before. After talking with him, I wondered whether that would explain my less than stellar results in target practice.

    The circle with fingers trick is really neat. After reading this post, there is good news and bad news. I am right-handed and have a dominant right eye. The bad news is that I need another explanation for poor aim.

  • mike

    and hang on to the patches for ‘international talk like a pirate day’ next Wednesday.


  • mark

    Another way to determine.

    Stick your hands out in front of you and make a small triangle with your thumbs and index fingers. Look through this hole at a steady object (say, a light switch) with both eyes open. Now, close your left eye. Can you still see the light switch? If yes, you are right eye dominant. If you switch eyes the opposite should occur (e.g. if you are right eye dominant, and that eye is closed, you shouldn’t be able to see the switch.)

    All is switched for left eye dominance.


  • Marc


    I’m right-handed and my left eye is dominant. I was aware of this before I seriuously started woodworking. I never had much problem sawing to a line, except with japanese saws. I guess, it wasn’t a question of eye dominance. Only thing to do is being more conscient of your head position. Using a bowsaw, it is definitely a benefit to have the left eye dominant. The frame doesn’t cover the saw blade. This way you don’t have to slightly tilt the frame sideways.


  • tms

    Hey Chris,

    Years ago, my archery instructor checked us all on the first day by asking us to make a circle with the thumbs and forefingers of both hands. Then at arms length, we looked through the circle at him. He said that the circle was centered over our dominant eye, and he could see it easily.


  • James Kahn

    Thanks Chris, another great post. I’ll have to try that.

    If the eye patch works, maybe we could set up a club of pirate woodworkers? Arr, me hearty.


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