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JustinJ1982

hammer handle question

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My preference is for wood.

My pros for wood are that they can be made out of "sticks" laying around, they can be made to fit any hammer head, they can be made very smooth and shaped to fit ones hand and grip preference.

My cons for synthetic are easy to discover if one simply reads the above and replaces can with can NOT. Well, that isn't strictly true since they can be made to do such things, except I have no want for working with increadibly toxic chemicals and compounds to produce them!

For me what it really comes down to is the feel of the handle. Although the synthetic handles transmit more damaging vibrations through the handle in labratory testing then wooden ones, I don't grip the handle firmly as the machine does in the lab tests, so to me that is a mute point. Some smiths grip the handle more firmly and for them the synthetic handle would transmit less vibrations.

Just one guys opinion.

Caleb Ramsby

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the biggest advantage for a fiberglass handle I feel when you are starting out you have a tendency to grip the handle it is a skill that has to be learned. the study from Harvard shows that wood is the best transmitter of vibration fiber glass converts the low feq vibration that dose the damage to high feq which no damage. I have been blacksmithing since 1988 and I am in the process of converting my handles to fiberglass. The big thing with fiberglass is finding a handle with a good finish they sell them on Amazon 2062300 16-Inch Blacksmith $10.60 each. with a drill and a round file you can easly replace a fiberglass handle. I use a 5 pound hammer and most wooden handles are only rated for 2 pound hammers the bigger handles made are for small sledges I do not like the feel in my hand. I have posted 2 videos on hammering and ergonomics my youtube channel is nokomisforge. You will find them helpful in you journey in blacksmithing. home depot and Lowes sell 2 pound and 4 Pound cross peen for around $20.00 they are very good serviceable hammer. I have many friends who have added them to the hammer collection and they keep picking them and going back to them. at the end of the day you have to find what works best for you

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Never assume that a commercially made handle will have a grip shaped for best use in *your* hand; so how easy is it to modify the shape to fit your hand and usage? Some folks are lucky and a particular handle shape available commercially just *works* for them. No guarantee that it will work the same for you.

I am a bit perplexed with that study as it's well known that the first thing a professional tennis player does when they start having trouble is to go to a wooden racquet and as Blacksmith's Elbow and Tennis Elbow are the same thing...

So go with what works for you and change it as needed!

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a tennis racket is nothing like a hammer one hits a ball the other metal. Thomas If you have blacksmith elbow you should look at the way you are swinging your hammer. you should be using your wrist elbow and shoulder all in one fluid motion.

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But the tennis racquet handle and the hammer handle both transmit the vibrations and cause damage to the tendons (tennis elbow or blacksmiths elbow).
I didn't keep the link, but read some time ago of a study that showed fiberglass was the worst for transmitting the vibrations in both high and low frequencies. If I find some time soon I'll look for it again. I know when I tried a fiberglass handle once upon a time my whole arm was sore for a while. That didn't happen with the wood handle I'd been using previously.
Of course this may all depend on the exact formulation of the fiberglass or plastic used.

ron

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Well, I dug up what I believe to be the study that Trez is referencing:

http://people.seas.harvard.edu/~ljentoft/projects/hammers/hammers.pdf

I also dug up another one regarding vibration transmition of various tools and its findings are the opposite of the above:

http://www.theergonomicscenter.com/research/product_eval.shtml

In short the former study indicates that the wood handle transmits more harmfull vibrations and the later indicates the opposite.

To me unless a study involves 30 or more test pieces and repeated by otheres it is inconclusive in its findings.

Also of note is that in the later study they reference the contact area of the hand to the handle and "discomfort ratings" . The later of which indicates that they actually had people using the hammer and filling out questionairs as part of the study.

Speaking of people, I think that I will start a poll about which handle material is the most comfortable for the user.

Caleb Ramsby

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Francis; I haven't had a bout of the dreaded elbow in the last 20 years; so I guess I'm doing OK. Learning not to have a deathgrip on the handle and not to use an overly heavy hammer seems to have made the difference---used to use a heavy hammer even for small work and learned that holding back on a strike is NOT A GOOD THING; now I use a heavy hammer for heavy work and a light hammer for light work and have no issues.

Having a handle that is properly shaped for me makes all the difference. I often let the handle slide through my hand when working as the terminal bulb will keep it from coming out so I don't have to grip it tightly.

Also having the handle not too large for my hand. Gripping a too large handle cause problems too---my wife just found this out recently as she was talking surgery with a Dr for her hands and accidentally found out that the large steering wheel cover she had in her car was causing the problem---got rid of it and now no surgery or Drs visits and for a spinster their hands are even more important than for a blacksmith!

Many such studies are often sponsored by commercial entities that have a vested interest in the answer. I would look long and hard at the results and the design of the experiment and who sponsored it before basing. I, of course, tend to accept any study that goes along with my biases! (which studies have proven to be true in many areas!)

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SELECT THE RIGHT SIZE.

An ergonomically sound handle is one that has been designed so that the size, shape, grip-pattern and material all give the right amount of friction and allows a relaxed grip. By choosing the right size of hammer and handle, the user reduces strain on the muscles and tendons.
When developing hammers, we always aim to minimise strain on the user's body, without compromising on work efficiency. No hammer can ever undo any damage already done, and no manufacturer can ever guarantee that strain injuries will never arise.

"As an ergonomist, I specialise in working with people's abilities and limitations. The risk of occupational injuries is particularly great if you hold the tool firmly, work for long periods and adopt unsuitable stances.

Olle Bobjer, Ergonomist at Ergonomi & Designgruppen
Parts of the body that are particularly vulnerable are the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder.

It is good that there are tools that can withstand heavy work while at the same time putting less strain on the user."

We have shafts in a veriety of materials - made from hickory, steel or fibreglass. The steel shafts all have a ribbed rubber handle to provide the best possible grip.

it did not include the pictures but this is an over view from Olle Bodjer ergonomist and designer

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How many different sizes do they provide? I am amazed at the number of people who believe that if a manufacturer produces it it *must* be the best size/shape/design/etc and never consider how vast the differences in humans tend to be. (I can't fit my wife's wedding ring on my pinkey finger past the first joint and mine is ridiculously loose on her thumb for instance)

I've mentioned how a change to "ergonomic" chairs at work nearly crippled me while a certain "ancient" office chair was just right for my back. Ergonomics is rather a buzz word these days and as my Father was asked to give a talk on Human Factors at Cambridge I do have some background knowledge. It all comes down to what is right for *you*. If something is not right for you change it! (and these discussions are quite valuable in giving people suggestions on different things to try out)

If you have found something that works for you off the shelf you are a lucky person indeed; just be aware that that doesn't make it the answer to everyone's needs.

I claim to be the direct descendent of over 1.5 million years of tool making and using hominids and refuse to cede the right to make or change tools to anyone! (even if some of my constructions do rate unfavourably with those of an adolescent chimpanzee...)

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I don't personally care for the feel of fiberglass handles. To me, it feels like they have a little more flex to them than a wooden handle. I'm not smithing full time either. Most of my work gets turned out in half day blocks on the weekends and if I'm lucky, an evening or two during the week. I wont even use sheet metal hammers that have steel handles because of the flex they have when turned sideways to fold seems with. That being said- I also play drums, and I have tried various types of synthetic sticks over the years, and they all had the same problem- they flex too much and would hurt my hands, wrists, and arms. I have good stick technique, so that's not an issue. Hammering technique could probably be improved, but the concept between the to grips (firm but loose) are the same.
Just my 2 cents-
Jeff

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I'm not perfect enough to keep the burn marks 100% off my hammer handles. No fiberglass for me, thanks - I can't stand the smell of burning synthetics. I've occasionally used fiberglass handles on framing hammers, but I don't like the way they feel. I do indeed like the leather-covered steel-handled framing hammers. Never tried a steel-handled smith's hammer.

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I prefer a wood handle made by myself. They are very simple so easy to replace and take only a rasp (or belt sander) and saw to make. The size can be made to fit my hand very nicely. The raw wood with a rasped finish keeps any blisters from forming on my hand throughout a long day. The rectangular shape with two opposing corners removed gives me more control over the hammer and keeps it from twisting in the hand so it promotes a relaxed two fingered grip. The uniformity of the handle also means a comfortable right sized grip from the base of the handle almost all the way to the hammer head so no matter where I find i need to grip the handle it fits my hand. I can also get my hand on wood in many different raw shapes that cost me nothing so cheep simple and comfortable my preference is wood.

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I like wood. I can shape my handles to fit my rather small hands and to accomodate my grip. Having read the articles on synthetic and steel handles did nothing to change my mind. Guess I am just a crusty old fart about some things!

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