Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Get a (better) Grip - Apply Tape to Wooden Tool Handles

My grandmother was a Nebraska farm girl, sister to 9 siblings. Edna (aka Granny) is with me in the garden today, at least her spirit is my company. She passed away at 88 years old, those homesteader genes served her well. She was a jolly round woman of simple taste and her advise was often practical.

Her garden was a magic place. Hanging fuschia were my favorite. Being the happy grandmother she was, she brought the step stool for me to stand upon as I popped open each fuschia bud. Little fingers indulged by Granny.

It was one day in her garden that she gave me the following insightful advise. She was planting gladiolus bulbs (one of her favorite flowers) and I was helping. Using the small hand trowel, I was struggling to loosen the soil. She suggested that I use the big shovel.

"Spare your small finger joints, and use your bigger leg joints to dig."

At the time I thought that my fingers were fine, they weren't hurting (being only teenage fingers), but it did turn out to be easier to dig with the shovel.

Now as a 51 year old physical therapist with chronic joint pain, I truly value that advise. Whenever I find myself struggling to dig with a trowel, I hear Granny and get the shovel.

My current hand tools have wooden handles. They are smooth which makes it difficult to maintain a firm grip when wearing gloves.

My easy solution is to apply tape to the handles for more traction. I use cloth athletic tape, the type used to tape your ankles before sports.

Start with the tape at an angle so it will be easier to move down the handle.

One layer is usually adequate.
Bessie May (my dog) approves.
Over time the tape will start to curl up a bit along the edges. That just gives it more texture which is even better for gripping.
Tape was applied to this shovel a year ago.  
From time to time on this blog I intend to share some tips related to protecting your body while working in the garden. Do what you can to spare your finger joints. The wear and tear of the millions of movements your fingers make in a lifetime will most likely result in arthritic changes. Osteoarthritis happens when the smooth cartilage in our joints wears out. Eventually it can result in bone rubbing on bone which is painful.

Use a shovel instead of a trowel when able. Buy tools with good grips or modify what you have to make them easier to grip.

Your fingers will thank you later.

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