BACKGROUND: Test method, substrate material and operator variability are factors known to affect bond strength test outcomes. The aim of this study was to determine if, with increasing experience, individual operator skill in material handling influenced microshear bond strength outcomes. METHODS: This retrospective study used data collected from six preliminary tests carried out successively on enamel microshear bond strength for two adhesives: Clearfil SE Bond (Kuraray) and Adper Single Bond 2 (3M ESPE) by one operator. Mean and median microshear bond strength values, standard deviations and coefficients of variation for each adhesive test group were calculated and assessed. RESULTS: A gradual increase in mean microshear bond strengths, a decrease in standard deviations and coefficients of variation over time for both adhesives and a progressively more uniform distribution of microshear bond strength results recorded in individual test sets was observed. The results suggest an improvement in bonding reliability as experience is gained. CONCLUSIONS: Operator skill in material handling appears to play a critical role in determining the outcome of bond strength testing. This same skill is probably relevant when using an adhesive for the first time clinically. It is important that clinicians become familiar with new adhesives in order to achieve optimal outcomes.