When we look at edge tools we’re very often preoccupied with the quality of the steel and it’s edge-holding capabilities but the handle which forms our interface with the tool is usually overlooked.
Clothes and shoes come in a range of sizes so you can choose those that most nearly fit -or if you’re feeling plush you could have them handmade to fit perfectly. But all the tools, artefacts, utensils, implements and vessels - all the things we pick up with a handle - come in a choice of one-size-fits-all.
I was perusing the latest tool catalogue from Rutlands recently and in the section of seriously gorgeous Japanese tools came across some carving knives.
I decided to have a look in Wiki and see what I could find out about Ergonomics.
“The term ergonomics is derived from the Greek words ergon [work] and nomos [natural laws] and first entered the modern lexicon when Wojciech Jastrzębowski used the word in an article he wrote in 1857. Later, in the 19th century, Frederick Winslow Taylor pioneered the "Scientific Management" method, which proposed a way to find the optimum method for carrying out a given task. Taylor found that he could, for example, triple the amount of coal that workers were shoveling by incrementally reducing the size and weight of coal shovels until the fastest shoveling rate was reached.”
This led to such things as Time & Motion Studies and probably ultimately to our dreaded Health & Safety Executive. The information is interesting if a little wordy and technical - have a look at it here.
I’ve recently put handles on a couple of spoon carving knives made by Duncan Chandler alias FGYT and an old Marples adze which Jon Warricker kindly reforged into a curve and tempered for me.
I tried out Duncan’s knives in the Spoon Knife Passaround early last year and one of the things which impressed me about them was the shape and size of the handles. I bought a couple of blades from him and he supplied a template of the handle shape. It’s similar to the American Flexcut knife handles.
The manufacturers of these claim that “The comfortable curved ergonomic handle allows for long periods of carving without hand fatigue.” I have one and it’s OK but a bit small so I made the handles for Duncan’s blades even slightly larger than the template and they’re ideal - for me.
|Side and top view, Walnut & Ash|
I realise that other people will have to use them, and the knives, but hopefully I have enough different shapes and sizes for them to find one that feels right in their hand.
As an aside, whilst perusing the Japanese knives in the Rutlands catalogue, I came across this one which is shaped like a small Samurai sword.
|It even has a little picture of a Samurai on the handle!|