Results 1 to 23 of 23

Thread: Hands

  1. #1
    Unpredictable
    Reputation: Ridnparadise's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    1,691

    Hands

    With all the heavy stuff on the forum lately, I thought a detuned subject may be due. My hands really feel the effects of trailwork, especially after a day of impacting stone with every second mattock strike. We use no machines - only hand building and in most places we are benching through soil with small floating rocks down to degenerating, fine-grain sandstone with root channels on clay below. Even using a fine-point pick the strike impacts hurt. If you use tools with handles too fat, there can be elbow and arm pain too.

    I don't think there is any answer with regard to the tool itself - fibreglass handles don't cut it. They flex a bit too much and lose impact power. They are inefficient compared to wood handles. So it comes down to what you can do to help your hands cope with the damage.

    I have a paid job that makes farmer's hands unacceptable, so I wear gloves (mainly cowhide unless it is really wet). I find Emu Oil massaged in at night, concentrating on the joints, helps better than the alternatives. Comfry cream and Chinese Peppermint help if there is bruising to the muscles or sore arm muscles, but the emu oil seems to work better than anti-inflammatory gels like diclofenac (Voltaren) or similar. It seems the emu oil limits the depth of callus as well - it never seems to get really hard and thick. About 7 drops is enough to do both hands, so it is fairly economical.

    Some other tips would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    I build my own.
    Reputation: Trail Ninja's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    5,245
    I got nothing. My elbows are shot, my right shoulder is going and my hands look like tarmac. After 50 years digging trails I take pain killers (Advil) and work a little less every year. I use thin wood handles WITHOUT that stupid grit painted on. My Pulaski has a fiberglass handle but I only use it for wood shaping anymore. I use gloves as thin as I can get away with, usually mechanics gloves. I wear through them faster but I don't like thick gloves.
    I have a device that can access the total knowledge of man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and argue with strangers.

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    86
    I'm not sure manual trailwork and "office worker" hands are two things which are compatible. I get callouses on my hands immediately after starting a "digging" project and they stay there until it is finished and then some. I also wear thin mechanics gloves and they might last a few months before wearing through at the fingers or the seams tearing apart. Trail building is just physically hard work and there doesn't seem to be a lot that can be done to reduce the effects (besides going mechanized).

    Have you thought about wrapping the tool handle in athletic/handlebar grip tape? It might take a little shock out of the rock hits. Its durability is going to be questionable though. I have never had to resort to trying it since we are lucky enough to have relatively rock free soils.

    Where you hold the tool handle can also have an effect on how much vibration is transfered to your body. Certain points along a handle will significantly amplify the amount of vibration and others (the nodal points) will tend to cancel vibrations. Where these points are located will vary tool to tool but should be easy to find with a little experimenting. The location of the nodal points could be changed by adding/removing mass along the handle's length and/or changing its length.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Reputation: ryanxj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    330
    I've never used them, but my local baseball pro shop has all kinds of gloves with anti vibration padding in them. Pricey? Yup. Suited for digging? I dunno. Worth a look though

  5. #5
    YRG
    YRG is offline
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Posts
    270
    Bar tape is great on tools. Makes them wider and provides impact absorbtion

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation: cmc4130's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    1,317
    Quote Originally Posted by Ridnparadise View Post
    . . .
    I have a paid job that makes farmer's hands unacceptable . . . .
    Man hands are nothing to be ashamed of.

    Surely a business handshake is not negatively affected. At least in Texas (where many big time city lawyers have ranches).

  7. #7
    I build my own.
    Reputation: Trail Ninja's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    5,245
    Quote Originally Posted by YRG View Post
    Bar tape is great on tools. Makes them wider and provides impact absorbtion
    It's the width of most handles (picks, mattocks, Pulaskis etc.) that I have trouble with. As Ridnparadise said, the wide grip is hard on wrists and elbows. Bar tape shouldn't add too much width though. I'm going to have to give it a try. If bar tape & bare hands works, I'd be happy. There's the in-hand movement that can be a problem. Hands slip inside gloves, thick gloves roll on themselves...
    I have a device that can access the total knowledge of man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and argue with strangers.

  8. #8
    Unpredictable
    Reputation: Ridnparadise's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    1,691
    I honestly don't think there is any answer to the effect of hitting hard ground repeatedly. I was more looking for an answer to the pain - you know, something like heroin. Preferably the rub in kind, because along with patients not being enthused if my hands look and feel like those of Frankenstein's monster, they don't really seem to want me to use heroin either.

    I'm not sure about grip tape. I like to be able to "pick up" a mattock or pick with one hand close to the head and then slide back to get more acceleration in the downswing. Grip tape would not help that, but then again, increasing the impact velocity can be a problem of its own on stony ground.

    The ground in this pic from today was brutal. Using a heavy pick (sharp point or square end) it took up to 3 hits to get the pick in 15cm. The stones and larger rocks were faceted and locked. Even after separating out the obvious stone and rock, the shovelling was brutal as well because of all the residual stone. Every stone you see stockpiled or used in this pic and about 2 million more we discarded came from about 10m of tread.

    Hands-p1130285.jpg

  9. #9
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    835
    I never use gloves unless extremely cold and do not like the feel or lack thereof using gloves.calluses are still the best protection and safest while using power tools you can have.

    If you are a avid trail builder do yourself a favor and toughen your hands,nothing beats the feel of dirt,rock and hand tools on your bare hands!

  10. #10
    FatBike Fiend
    Reputation: Wildfire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    870
    I'm waiting for the exoskeleton suit to be developed. No other suggestions other than to go mechanized if you can, at least the resulting callouses will be on a hidden location.

  11. #11
    I build my own.
    Reputation: Trail Ninja's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    5,245
    Ridnparadise, where I grew up we had stone like that. I don't miss it one bit. Here it's mostly round river rock. Much easier to get a pick around and to dig out. A big problem I have is moss and cedar roots sometimes up to 2 metres thick. So then I need very sharp tools to cut it. Of course as soon as you hit a rock...
    I have a device that can access the total knowledge of man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and argue with strangers.

  12. #12
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Cotharyus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    1,449
    I'm going to look into your Emu oil suggestion. I've found it best for me to do 1 day on and one day off with the hand tools if possible. Sometimes I can't, but other times I can do a day with a machine, and a day with hand tools, then another machine day, etc. - still, it would be good if I could figure out a way to prevent hand/elbow pain when using tools.

    I do wear gloves (leather, or insulated leather, as weather dictates) but still have hard core calluses. I haven't really settled on what's really best for a handle, my too favorite tools have different handles, one wood, one fiberglass.

  13. #13
    FatBike Fiend
    Reputation: Wildfire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    870
    Have you tried using a pair of those thin cotton gloves with rubber palms? They have really good grip so you don't have to grasp the tool handle as hard which may help your hand and forearm pain. Also work great when it's raining. Almost everybody on our crew has made the switch from thicker leather gloves and now prefers them to anything else. They wear out pretty fast but they're cheap to replace.
    Owner, Trailwerx Trails Contracting
    Palmer, Alaska
    www.trailwerx.com

  14. #14
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Harryman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    139
    My hands are shot, even an hour of trail work and they're aching for a day. Gloves, wood handles, machinery and the best solution of all is a group of skilled young volunteers.

  15. #15
    Unpredictable
    Reputation: Ridnparadise's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    1,691
    Quote Originally Posted by Wildfire View Post
    Have you tried using a pair of those thin cotton gloves with rubber palms? They have really good grip so you don't have to grasp the tool handle as hard which may help your hand and forearm pain. Also work great when it's raining. Almost everybody on our crew has made the switch from thicker leather gloves and now prefers them to anything else. They wear out pretty fast but they're cheap to replace.
    One of our regulars swears by them too, for exactly the reasons you do. He's an ex-UK forestry worker and has plenty of experience with gloves. I think I will have to give them a go, although they may have a really short life on days where we sort and use stone. It's funny how often the best solution is counterintuitive. Thinner gloves for less grip and less pain hopefully.

    Turmeric may help a bit too. Not in your gloves although that reminds me of a joke......

  16. #16
    Off the back...
    Reputation: pinkrobe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,875
    I'm happy with MX gloves. Thin padding and durable. Fiberglass handles on the cutter mattock, poplar/ash laminate on the Mcleod. The calluses tear off after a week, so I trim mine with wire cutters or nail clippers.

  17. #17
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    51
    Even though we use machines, there's enough hand work and other things to keep your hands rough. Some good leather gloves help, but I tend to use mechanics style gloves. Loosen your grip a little and take more swings. It lessens the impact a lot and you can work longer.
    Texas based trail builders: www.sstrails.com

  18. #18
    Unpredictable
    Reputation: Ridnparadise's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    1,691
    Quote Originally Posted by dmonbike View Post
    Loosen your grip a little and take more swings. It lessens the impact a lot and you can work longer.
    Grip power keeps coming up. It is probably worthy of its own thread. Most experienced trail builders dislike big hitter volunteers because of the potential to over-deepen the upslope of a bench and create more work. No doubt a loose grip helps, but it cannot be used universally.

    For example - sometimes when you use a pick, either pointed or chisel end, the purpose is getting between rocks. A loose grip can cause injury if the picks bounces. Sometimes that same tool can be used more like the tine on a field plough, to tear the ground apart as you rake it towards you (bent over stance, short swing, wide legs and widely split grip). A loose grip prevents you doing that. Swinging tools on a more horizontal arc increases the risk of rebound in odd directions and therefore grip pressure as well.

    With a mattock (my favourite) the risk of bounce off rocks is even greater, which obviously dictates tool choice, but if the purpose is digging a deep bench on steep sideslope, you have to take big swings or you get nothing done. What I like to do is (starting from the ground after the last impact) is to lift the tool with the non-dominant hand at the end of the handle and the other as far down toward the head as possible to ease the tool out of the ground. As it swings upward, that hand slides back toward the other, only reaching it (like a baseball grip) at the moment the head impacts the ground again. That is; there is still a gap at the top of the swing and on the downswing. At the moment of impact and through the surface, grip pressure increases and then reduces as quickly as possible to dissipate palm impact, letting the tool do the work. Like karate - only on tension at the moment of impact.

    Sounds great - still bloody hurts! It's a good pain though, mostly.....

  19. #19
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    684
    Have you tried icing after the work day? It gets me through pretty well.

  20. #20
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    835
    Still,hands down,literally! your bare hands beat gloves every time for 90 percent of trail work,I only use them for extreme cold or very muddy conditions.nothing like the feel and actually safer in some cases with use of power tools of your exposed hands on the good earth!

  21. #21
    Off the back...
    Reputation: pinkrobe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,875
    Quote Originally Posted by techfersure View Post
    Still,hands down,literally! your bare hands beat gloves every time for 90 percent of trail work,I only use them for extreme cold or very muddy conditions.nothing like the feel and actually safer in some cases with use of power tools of your exposed hands on the good earth!
    To each their own. My hands get carved up pretty good without gloves, especially working with dirt and rock. My epidermis is saved, I can build more, win-win. I know a few guys who build without gloves, and they all have very rough hands, with lots of small cuts and the occasional chunk of skin missing...

  22. #22
    I need skills
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    999
    try thin tacky gloves as another posted above. You may gripping the tool too tightly. A tacky glove helps with that.

  23. #23
    Delirious Tuck
    Reputation: thefriar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    2,238
    A) tool handle: Rocky soil (i.e. New England), I actually really like the Pulaski. The axe handle is easier on hands and benching. Rouge Hoe 60A is similar with the axe handle too. More focused and precise, and if you can get the duff/loam right you can "cut out" the loam and just peel it back vs. hacking bit by bit to get to mineral soil (our loam is generally 4'' deep). Our mineral soil is also sandy with a decent mix of clay, so depending on water content it either puffs right out or is heavy.

    If we are in an especially rock area, I will ask a couple folks in-front of or in back of the corridor clearing crew to pop up and out the bigger rocks in the trade with a digging/rock bar. If its too big to move, we leave it, ramp it, or adjust tread.

    B) gloves: old DH gloves with kevlar palms and knuckles because of the sheer amount of rock (nearly lost a finger working rock) or raw hide with reinforced fingers. The cotton+rubber is too tacky to work rock efficiently (great otherwise) and anything else the fingers wear on the granite in one work session.

    C) Recovery: I DH and try to DH on days before build or weekends with out building, otherwise grip on the bike and number/speed of runs suffer. Ice is best, Kiehls Ultimate Strength Hand Salve really helps get the moisture and comfort back into the hands (especially when working dry clay and rock that sucks moisture out).

Similar Threads

  1. No Hands
    By Enduramil in forum Eastern Canada
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-17-2013, 05:06 PM
  2. Need help for my hands
    By Thumpy69 in forum General Discussion
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 03-27-2013, 05:03 AM
  3. Brakes for big hands ?
    By keen in forum Clydesdales/Tall Riders
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 07-04-2012, 02:24 PM
  4. riding no hands... fs vs ht?
    By light3monkey in forum Beginner's Corner
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 08-13-2011, 10:56 PM
  5. I might be getting my hands on an M9...
    By dans160 in forum Intense
    Replies: 17
    Last Post: 08-11-2011, 06:31 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •