By Jon Eakes
Getting a grip on things - and wearing nylons
You have probably noticed this yourself, but scientific studies have shown that it takes as much as 30 per cent more muscle power to hold on to a tool that is slippery than it does when working with a non-slip grip. A better grip translates into less fatigue as well as fewer accidents. So when it comes to tools, design changes on handles are not only marketing gimmicks but also serious efforts at reducing strain on the job. But not all designs are winners.
When it comes to hammers, many guys still prefer their old wooden handles. One design evolution that has proven very useful in most new hammers, and even in some wooden ones, is the widened curve at the tail of the hammer which cradles your little finger and keeps the hammer from slipping out of your hand without making you squeeze harder. Stanley tried to improve even more on making a "grip" handle by putting sweat grooves into the rubber moulding. Feedback I get from the sites is that it does improve the grip, but at the expense of making blisters because of the rough grooves. Generally, the shaped handle with a semi-soft non-slippery covering seems to be hitting the right balance between grip and rub.
If you haven't noticed the change in scrapers, it is time you went back to the store. The old standard straight wooden handle has been replaced by a raised back design with a moulded rubber grip. This is truly a day-and-night improvement. Throw out that old one and move up.
Sometimes design changes in tools go two steps forward and one step backward at the same time. Stanley brought out a cool combination utility knife and pocket knife. I loved the idea but quickly quit using it because the little lever used to open the large blade would dig into my fingers while using the utility knife. Their next model reduced the size of that little bump, but didn't completely get rid of the irritation.
All of the above relates to improving the handles themselves. Actually, we often wear gloves for protection. If the gloves make things more slippery, they increase stress. If they add grip, they protect your hands while allowing the muscles to work less. Buying a range of gloves to match a range of site conditions is probably a smart move.
Start with standard protective
gloves, leather in the palm and cooling canvas on the back. However, these can
get slippery. You can get cotton gloves that provide minimum cool protection
but have little latex dots on the gripping surface. They grip very well.
A stronger grip comes with
full latex moulding on a glove, but they can get hot. You can now buy these
with cotton on the backside with full moulded latex on the palm and grip side
of the fingers.
And finally, for you
guys out there, how about wearing nylons on the job? These thin white nylon
gloves don't transfer dirt easily - great for working with ceiling tiles and
not leaving dirty finger prints. They are actually called bricklayer gloves,
because the red dust just falls off of them. Impress your clients: show up
in white nylons.
Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.