Now that I have explored what can physically be done in making these tool handles for Wood Engraving tools, I can now look at the Ergonomics more, using my experience from wood working tools, and what the various writers on wood engraving say. I'm looking at making new handles as I struggle with the ones I have - I have muscular problems throughout my body, including my hands and wrists, but I think also my hands are larger, and I am very use to larger wood working tools and their handles.
It was important that I looked at what can be done by physically making some because these handles are quite diddy - about 3cm to 3.5cm in diameter, and not very long, and it was important that I took some existing tools apart, worked out how they fitted mechanically together, made and fitted some together and tried them out first.
Along with perhaps having larger hands, and used to larger wood working tool handles, I also have lot of muscular issues, including in my hands and wrists resulting in finding some movements and grips difficult to maintain.
For example, I find using a standard computer mouse impossible using either my left or right hand, so instead I use an expensive and specialist tracker ball with my left hand only, but only for short lengths of time. I also find any touch screen device difficult to use for more than a short length of time, also standard computer keyboards.
It is true that there are a variety of different tool handles out there, but you might therefore see why I am looking at these handles carefully to make them comfortable for myself, and I am documenting it all because I appreciate that others might find this useful, whether they have muscular issues or not.
In my personal view, tools handles for any wood related tool, whether small or large, and whether for 'small' work, or working on a large scale, must comfortably fit in the hand and allow the user to perform their operation securely and with confidence. A poorly constructed handle could mean a lack of control and thus the tool not performing it's tasks properly or efficiently, which could result in a loss of accuracy or creativity in the work, or for the tool to uncontrollably slip.
For wood engraving, I appreciate we move the wood as well as the tool, however, I personally believe that which ever we are moving the same applies. So for me this means the tool should be comfortably be held in either the right or left hand so that the user can comfortably push the tool through, and by being able to lift the tool up / down into the block surface, and when moving the wood block around (to make curves etc.) to allow the tool to be held confidently without wandering, and to comfortably be able to 'stop' when needed. The handle should also not obstruct the work - i.e. not be too low and knock the block as we work at what ever reasonable angle the tool is at. And we should be able to do this gently, without undue force, and without having to think about it too much, otherwise our focus will be on the tool, not the creativity of the work, which will be of detriment to what we do ultimately.
The tool should be an extension of our body in other words, not conflicting with it, but allowing us to work.
This assumes always that the metal top of the tool is sharp because a dull tool will never do what it is supposed to, regardless of the handle.
I must add that I also appreciate what various writers say - for example Simon Brett in 'Wood Engraving - How to do it', and reading & digesting their comments in the coming weeks is important too. I should also add that with muscular issues (including in my hands/wrists), what others may do successfully, I may not be comfortable doing.
I appreciate that we all have our own way of doing things, and that some may read the above and say, hang on a minute, what about X, and of course you may be quite right. And you are very welcome to email me (using the 'Contact Me' links at the top of this page) to express your views.
It is of course easy to say the above, but harder to work out what to do. But, at the time of writing this article, my views are this - but please note they are subject to change as I continue to test and work on these handles.
Firstly, the rear of the handle should be large enough to be able to hold and comfortably and confidently push the tool, but not so large so as to force the wrist up, creating undue strain on it. To assist this, the rear of the handle should be sufficiently rounded to help us hold it comfortably, but not so much as to stop us from comfortably pushing it.
Secondly, there should be sufficient space for the little finger (or more) to hold the tool so that we can help to hold it and control it but in the going forward but also the up and down to get the tool in and out of the block, and help to control it when we move the block around to form curves etc.
Thirdly, is there scope for different sized handles for different tools - for the handle to fit the job of the tool? For example a larger clearing tool might require a slightly larger handle?
All this should be done so the tool can be used gently, when required, without having to put undue force on the tool, or on any of our fingers.
Now that I have a better handle to test with, I need to test it against these criteria. I'm sure I'm going to find things I want to do differently, and that is OK, I'm experimenting, and hopefully soon I'll get something I can make for more of my tools so that I can actually do some engraving, because that is what I am trying to achieve.
And you are very welcome to email your views using the 'Contact Me' links at the top of this page if you wish.
Tags: tool handles wood engraving woodengraving wood engravers woodengravers engraving engraver printmaking print making printmaker print maker print printing relief block
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