Left-Tilt Versus Right-Tilt Table Saws

In response to a question about which is better, here's a well-thought-out list of pros and cons. December 28, 2006

Can somebody explain the advantages and disadvantages of left hand versus right hand tilt table saw?

Forum Responses
(WOODnetWORK Forum)
From contributor W:
Both saws will make all the same cuts. The differences are all in the methods of work, and what will feel natural/intuitive to you. For me, what is natural tends to be safer, which is why I bought a left-tilt Unisaw when I upgraded from a contractor's saw.

1. Commonly, the left tilt has the bevel wheel on the right side and is easily turned with your right hand. Since I'm right-handed, that's intuitively where it feels like it belongs.

2. Again intuitively, I keep the rip fence on the right side of the blade. Since my Unisaw is the left tilt version, I can rip a narrow bevel (for example on the edge of sheet goods) without having to move the fence to the left side of the blade in order to avoid trapping the cutoff against the fence, risking it becoming the proverbial "hidden arrow" should it kickback.

3. Left tilt allows the blade arbor nut to be removed with your right hand. It is also threaded in the standard fashion... again, intuitive.

4. With a left tilt, when both edges of a board are beveled, the sharp point of the bevel is up on the fence when cutting the second bevel as opposed to the bottom of the fence where it might slip under.

5. The right tilt gives you the advantage of using the rip fence distance indicator (long tape measure mounted to the fence rail) when using a stacked dado blade set. The blades stack left, away from the fence, so the indicated measurement remains accurate. On the left tilt, the blades stack toward the fence, which means that you have to factor in the thickness of the dado stack and calculate, or else measure with a tape rather than the mounted indicator.

6. A right tilting arbor allows you to remove the arbor nut with your left hand, which may feel more natural to a "southpaw," but the nut must be turned clockwise to loosen. Counter-intuitive and, therefore, can be confusing.

7. On most cabinet saws, the left tilt allows you to have access to the motor and inside the cabinet from the more open left side of the saw, avoiding the need to contort yourself under the right extension table. If you've ever dropped the arbor nut into the cabinet (I'm sure I'm the only soul who has done so), and it doesn't pop out of the dust port, this is a convenience for which you'll be grateful.

Others will likely post additional considerations that haven't come to mind, but those are certainly the differences you would experience most often.

From contributor M:
I've read and heard a bunch of left vs. right tilt opinions, but I've never seen such a well thought out and expressed list of the valid comparisons! Thanks for summing it up.

From contributor K:
I agree. It's not too common for someone to clarify a question with such enthusiasm and explanation. Well thought out and sensible.

From contributor T:
Contributor W listed a few I never thought of. The first one that comes to my mind, however, is when putting a bevel on a board when the blade is angled toward the fence, any slipup that raises the board will, in addition to the kickback hazard, cause too much wood to be removed, and it's tough to put it back on. When the blade tilts away from the fence, any such error only requires an additional pass to correct the undercut. The kickback hazard is also reduced this way. For this reason, I prefer the blade tilt away from the fence as it does on a left tilt saw.

On any right tilt saw, you can cut with the blade tilted away from the fence by moving it to the left of the blade. You can also double bevel a board with the sharp point off the table this way. Of course, the width of the board that can be beveled with this method is limited to the left rip capacity of the saw.

Additionally, the Unifence requires the extra step of having to remove the fence and re-attach it on the other side of the arm.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor H:
I use a right tilt table saw and use the fence on the left side of the blade when beveling. Having the fence on the right side of the blade when beveling causes you to position your body to the left of the saw fence unless you push left handed which is in line with the saw cut and could put you in a position to be hit with a kick back. The advantages of the left tilt saw does not warrant the safety factor of a kick back. Standing out of the line of the cut is the safer way to use a table saw.