Whether you’re a left-handed tech yourself, have one as a coworker, or simply want to see nails from a different perspective, you can benefit from learning about how south paw nail techs adapt their set-ups to stay in their right minds and in the right career path for them.
Much like the left-handed scissors you might remember from school classrooms, left-handed nail implements can be a huge improvement over traditional (right-handed) implements because they allow left-handed techs to maintain a clear view of the nail at all times, plus alleviate the need for them to twist their wrists or arms into uncomfortable positions. Ask your favorite implement manufacturer if it makes a left-handed version of the implements you use. Here are a few left-hand-friendly tools we found.
Antoine de Paris’ #43 is a left-handed version of its classic #44 pterygium remover and pusher combo tool. The company launched its first pterygium remover in the mid-1980s, then released this version — with the correct curve for lefties — a few years later.
Mehaz sells professional angled straight toenail clippers, like this 664 Professional Toenail Clipper, that can be easily converted to left-handed clippers. To convert, remove the clippings catcher and squeeze the clipper jaws together, which will cause the handle to come unhinged from the center pin. Then turn the clipper over, re-insert the pin, and re-attach the handle.
Tweezerman’s Cuticle Snipper works well as a cuticle nipper for left-handed nail techs because it can be used with the left hand as well as with the right since it has a body like a tweezer.
Most of the manicure tables at A Finished Appearance in New Kensington, Pa., have the drawers on the righthand side, making them ideal for right-handed techs.
Many right-handed workers think of manicure tables as neutral pieces of furniture that either a right- or left-handed person can use. However, left-handed techs generally find that all of the drawers, cabinets, supplies, cables, and really everything a tech needs to do her job are a long reach from her dominant hand. “I liked that I was allowed to reverse my table set-up for my state board exam because the positions of my implements and products were taught backward to me,” says left-handed tech Tracie McNeal of WildSide Nailz Art Studio in Lancaster, Calif. “Nearly every tech I see keeps her dappen dishes and powders to whichever side she holds her brush. As do I.”
A matching table with the drawers on the lefthand side was custom ordered for A
Finished Appearance’s left-handed tech Lisa Rearick.
Left-handed techs who we spoke to overcame this problem by having their tables custom built or, in several cases, reaching an agreement with the salon owner in which the owner purchased the custom table for them. Kathy Wagner of Frank’s On First in Casper, Wyo., commissioned her woodworking husband to build one based on her drawing. “I needed a drawer on the left side as well as a cupboard for tall bottles. This conclusion came from trying other tables,” she says.
Another great option for both left- and right-handed techs are nail bars, like this one by Design X Manufacturing, since the storage space is exactly in the center.
If you’re currently shopping for a left-handed manicure table, many salon furnishing companies will custom build one for you. “We make all of our pieces to the customers’ specs,” says Jason Mondene, a representative of Design X Manufacturing, adding that the price is the same at Design X regardless of the side onv which the drawers are placed. Mondene also suggests nail bars as a solution (where the nail techs work side-by-side on a long tabletop) since these typically feature storage in the center of the table (under the work surface), providing equal access to both hands.
Since electric files are motorized and have the capacity for quick injury to tech or client if used incorrectly, it’s especially important that nail techs — both left- and right-handed — are trained in proper e-file usage and are following best practices. (We recommend you take an in-person training class before using an e-file on clients.) That said, there are special considerations for left-handed e-filers. E-file instructor and (right-handed) nail tech Vicki Peters, who has been teaching for more than 15 years, says she gets about four lefties enrolled in each of her classes. She dispels the myth that left-handed e-filers have to learn from left-handed instructors. She says simply that the instructor “should mirror the left-handed tech when you teach them whereas I would stand behind the right handed tech to teach them.” Some of the key left-handed adaptations are:
Spin Direction: If you’re left-handed, be sure to only buy e-files that have “reverse” as a spin direction option. Most left-handed techs we interviewed said they are only comfortable filing in reverse (whereas most right-handed techs use “forward” for most services). However, that’s not to say all left-handed techs exclusively use the reverse setting. Peters says, “I have found that about half of the left-handed techs use the e-file in the forward motion and do not even know it.”
Starting Point: Most right-handed techs work in a left-to-right motion, which means, since the tech and client are facing each other, the tech starts with the client’s right hand. Whereas most left-handed techs work in a right-to-left motion, so they start with the client’s left hand first. (This goes for other prep aspects of the service, plus polishing too, not just for e-filing.) However, this is also a matter of personal preference.
Balance for Control: In her classes, Peters has noticed that left-handed techs have more difficulty balancing their hands with the fulcrum finger when filing. Instead, left-handed techs tend to place the inside of their wrists on the table and balance that way, which gives them less control.
A one-cut carbide bit will not work in the reverse spin direction because the teeth face the other way.
Some left-handed techs have found success with two-way carbide bits, such as this one by Medicool. These bits have two sets of teeth — facing in both directions — so they cut whichever way the machine motor is rotating.
Bits: Finding the correct bits, the attached abrasive piece of an electric file used directly on the nail, can be a major challenge for lefties. The problem lies primarily with carbide bits (bits made of hard metals like tungsten carbide) because these bits have “teeth” (also known as flutes) that must face in one direction or another.
Next page: Innovations In Bits and Being Ambidextrous