Woodworking as Therapy #18: Hand tools

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 03-07-2012 04:46 AM 3912 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 17: Ruminating ideas for projects Part 18 of Woodworking as Therapy series Part 19: Hand tools bulking them up. »

So I’ve been lamenting that my use of some hand tools is limited due to strength and cramping issues when I hold things. I sold almost all my planes because I no longer have the arm strength to use them, but I’ve hung onto my nice chisels and dove tail saws. The tools just sit there staring at me begging to be used. So I’ve been thinking of some work arounds.

For my chisel handles I’ve been experimenting with the pipe insulation that comes as a tube with a slit in it. The workmen used this to insulate my pipes for the Sunroom and left some behind. So anyway I put some around one of my chisel handles and it actually works pretty well. It is not a great fit, but I’m going to experiment more with it. I think if I use some electrical or athletic tape and tighten it up a bit, I might be able to use my chisels again! There is a slippage issue, but I think if I do the taping right I can make that work.

As for my dove tails saws, the insulation just is not going to work. But I am going to dig out my anti vibration glove and see if that might work. I’m not sure it will do the trick because its not very thick. I am leary of using tape on the nice rose wood handles, but to use the saw I really need to build up the grasping area so that my hand is not curled up as much as it would be with the current size of the handle. Of course it can’t be built up too far because the handle opening is not all that big.

I really think if I can get these two issues worked out, I just may be back into the hand tool using arena. I know that I will have to limit how much time at each session I use the tools, especially the saw, but I figure if it takes several weeks to cut dovetails for a box, so what. I’ll be doing what I’ve always wanted to do and that is to make hand cut dovetails in my projects. Since this is a hobby and not a business, time is not an issue.

I’ll need to think of some way to do the sharpening that won’t hurt my hands, but that is down the road. Right now my chisels are all wicked sharp, so with the limited use it will be a while before I need to worry about sharpening.

Does anyone have any other ideas I might use to build up the girth of my hand saws?

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

10 comments so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4876 days

#1 posted 03-07-2012 05:03 AM

Betsy instead of taping the foam on you may want to use rubber cement to glue the foam on. If you’re able to use your saws again who care what the handles look like, they’re tools and meant to be used! Do you work with a physio-therapist or occupational therapist? These folks do amazing stuff in helping folks adapt to their individual ‘new reality’ and can often help people regain functionality. Jenn was in some pretty severe accidents before we married and she’d probably be completely disabled if not for the PTs and OTs. Could you have handles custom turned for you? If I could turn I’d volunteer to give it a shot.

Your persistance will pay off.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Betsy's profile


3394 posts in 5060 days

#2 posted 03-07-2012 05:11 AM

Mark I had not even thought about having someone turn custom handles. I may have to look at that.

Wouldn’t rubber cement eat through the foam?

I’ve not gone the OT/ PT route yet as I don’t qualify for it under our medical plan, but my doctor is working on my behalf to change that. You don’t really appreciate your hands until you have some trouble using them.

I have an acqaintence with Dystonia who is very crippled up, but she has managed to do everything she wants to do, she just finds a way to do it with her limitations. Last year she even jumped out of a perfectly good plane just to say she could. I can assure you, I will not be a lemming and follow her out of the plane!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4876 days

#3 posted 03-07-2012 05:36 AM

I don’t think so, contact cement might though so I’d not use that. You may even want to try double sided tape. Deer skin may be easier to grip then foam, maybe a couple of wraps would give you the birth you need. The leather should also form to your hand unlike the foam.

Like one of the other Lumberjocks tag line says ” improvise, adapt and overcome”!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View joey bealis's profile

joey bealis

177 posts in 3670 days

#4 posted 03-07-2012 05:45 AM

I have issues with my hands and I have just resorted to using the tools with different grasps. Using my thumb and index fingers to hold and position the chisel. Not as fast but with a little more patience it works just fine.


View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 4228 days

#5 posted 03-07-2012 10:44 AM

If you know where you need to builld up the handle’s at, you might try some rubber. Personally I would try the rubber from a bycicle intertube, cut into thin strrips. When you think that might do just put a little bit of super glue on it to hold try it out. The rubber can stretch to form around the handle.

I hope this idea if you try it out will work.


-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 3944 days

#6 posted 03-07-2012 11:35 AM

Betsy, I don’t know what size your chisels handles are, but a visit to a bike shop might be in order.
The old style handle grips might just fit over them, tassles are a non esential option..;-)
They can be trimmed, and even come with a guard to keep hands slipping down to the blade.
Another thought is a product called either plasti-coat or plast-dip I think. You buy a can of this stuff and dip the handles and get a layer of plastic, it’s usualy used on things like pilar handles but several dips could help ?
Lee Valley and others carry it.
That might also work on the saws, by painting it on..maybe..
We’ll keep thinking for you and of you !

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View JimF's profile


147 posts in 4457 days

#7 posted 03-07-2012 12:27 PM

Betsy, There are several tutorials on LJ regarding old saw refurbishing. They often need to repair or replace handles. Have you considered making a new handle out of a 6/4 or 8/4 material? With your hands, it might not be feasible to do the work, but thought I’d throw it out for consideration.

-- Insert clever tag line here

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 4877 days

#8 posted 03-07-2012 02:33 PM

Hey Gal, I see your point about using adhesives. How about using velcor type tape. If you have a harbor freight near you they have a large roll for very little. Fabric stores etc also carry it at some what higher prices. This would allow repeated adjustment for size, density, or different material. If it turns out that you can’t get in your area let me know and I’ll get you some. (don’t pay a big shipping charge) rt

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View HerbC's profile


1820 posts in 4023 days

#9 posted 03-07-2012 03:17 PM


If the electric tape is too slippery on the chisel handles, try good old fashioned friction tape instead. Worked good on the handles of softball and baseball bats when I was a kid, back in the middle of the last century.


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Betsy's profile


3394 posts in 5060 days

#10 posted 03-07-2012 06:11 PM

Wow these are all great ideas! I’m glad I posted this now I have several options to try. I’ll certainly let you all know how I fair with each option and which one I ultimately settle on. You LJ’s are great!

(Glen – I will most certainly bypass the little tassles_ :-)

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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