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Modifying a   carving tool for age related problems

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  • Modifying a   carving tool for age related problems


    Many moons ago I bought this 3” roughout blade minus the handle from a vendor up at the Caloosa Woodcarver’s Annual Show, in New Port Richey, Florida. It’s got to be at least 20 years ago, if not more. At that time I had no problems with hands (or hips or knees or any other of my joints for that matter) and when I returned home I mounted in a very slim streamlined oak handle that Ron the stick maker, here on the forum, had sent me along with a number of other slim handles.
    Since that time I’ve used the knife less and less because the arthritis in my hands has made it extremely difficult and painful to hold. This past week I decided that I’d try to take the old handle apart, clean up as much of the epoxy on the tang as possible, and remount it in a handle configuration that I know will work better for me.
    Removing that seasoned oak handle and epoxy without losing a finger or thumb in the process was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. However, somehow, I prevailed, at least somewhat!
    In full disclosure, the new handle is my take of a Helvi design. I have a couple of Helvi knives with this handle design and I find them very comfortable to us. The thickness, due to my on personal limitation of supplies and tools is about the same thickness as a Helvi pistol grip handled knife that I also own.
    The blade is 3” long, just barely legal using the old “lay it across four figures” measurement. About the only carving that I use it for is roughing out wood wider than 2”. However, now that I have the extra grip of the new handle it may get used even more than it has in the past. The handle itself is poplar with an oak stain on it.
    And finally, since the current trend is to name your knives (Rich Smithson at Helvi is a fantastic artist and will add custom woodburning if ordered), I decided to call it the “ZAITOICHI” after the blind Japanese Yakuza.

    The moral of this story is that anyone getting into carving should fully think through what kind of knife blade and what kind of knife handle they want before making any purchases. I only wish that someone had pointed me towards Helvi's when I first started out. The chances are I'd own less knives today and the ones that I did own would mostly likely still continue to meet my needs.

    3 inch roughout blade. (Small).jpg


    3 inch zaitoichi (Small).jpg

  • #2
    Nice design and workmanship there Eddy, and I know a bit about falling apart as you age. So far I can use the various handles I have and feel blessed about that. So far...
    Bill
    Living among knives and fire.

    http://www.westernwoodartist.com

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    • #3
      Yes Sir, you are so correct. Some of my first knives are unusable, too small. Some I have made new larger handles for. The diameter of a steering wheel is as small as my fingers can grip, fist just won't close anymore. I couldn't use the first pictured knife, but now I really like what you did with it, very useful!

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      • #4
        I never would have guessed that this is a problem! ! !
        In a fist grip, palm up, the tips of your second and third fingers should just touch the fat ball part of your thumb. Well, do they?

        This is how you figure out the best size for wood carving handles in the Pacific North west.
        The simple prototype is to beef up the handle with cheap "vet wrap"sticky bandage stuff.
        Brian T

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        • #5
          I too suffer the visit of Arthur & his cousins Ideaus boys, The knives I make for myself, I've started using this shape, it is about 3-1/2" in circumference. at the thickness point, the shape let me get a better grip
          Last edited by Claude; 08-05-2019, 06:09 PM.
          . . .JoeB

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          • #6
            Nice job Ed!

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            • #7
              Well done Eddy. I have two Helvi knives with that handle. Good grip for old bones.

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              • #8
                A tip for remounting knives which I have done many times: Wrap the blade with the blue tape used for masking when painting. I did it at first to protect the tool or blade's edge from damage when removing the handle. I found out that it gave me extra protection even as I was handling the blade with kid's gloves so I wouldn't get damaged.

                Usually I take a strip of 2" tape and start at the handle, go to the point and then back to the handle--so th blade is encased completely by the tape and the tape sticks to itself. Then sometimes I'll wrap it enough to fold over the loose edges and keep everything neat and snug and to give it that added protection.

                When you're done finishing the knife handle, then you can remove the tape and clean off any residual glue with a little WD-40 and then rubbing alcohol to remove the WD-40 from the blade.

                Hope this tip helps. And WCI I'm submitting this as a tip!

                Bob L

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                • #9
                  P.S. Nice job on the handle Eddy!!

                  Bob L

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Brian T View Post
                    I never would have guessed that this is a problem! ! !
                    In a fist grip, palm up, the tips of your second and third fingers should just touch the fat ball part of your thumb. Well, do they?

                    This is how you figure out the best size for wood carving handles in the Pacific North west.
                    The simple prototype is to beef up the handle with cheap "vet wrap"sticky bandage stuff.
                    Yea this is a major issue with arthritis, damage joints equal pain sometimes in the severe dept.....as joints get damaged so does your grip....means major changes in the size, shape and even your grip on the knife and or chisels. I was changing the shape of handle major when I first got arthritis....bigger handle makes easier grip do to change of pressure on the joint. Today it is changing the grip to a new way....not easy to learn but a must. There are also soft grips of foam you can buy to wrap various items. My thumbs are gone which means no major pressure on the damaged joints, which in my opinion are so damaged they may break or come out of joint....so I use the little fingers to wrap around the knife handle...which means going back to using the smaller handle and using the palm completely for grip. My biggest issue with the arthritis is the joints will lock and then cramp up....poor muscle do all the work instead of the bones and joints....then I have to stop and massage out the muscle. We do what we have to do....anything is better than stop doing it. I do have the thumb joint completely at a 45-degree off-angle, it keeps moving that way it will fall off the joint and will be impossible to use. I have big tie bandages for support....but it is all a pain in the rear end issue.

                    In my spare time, I force those joints to move as they used too ....damaged bone really makes that hard. If you do not force them back into the position then, they grow new bone making that movement impossible. I have very severe arthritis and I tell people do not worry they will never be like me as it is rare. But doctors are shocked as the fingers are a mess to look at but I can still move them back to old positions. As it not about grip.....but how much pressure I can put on a joint that really is no longer functional, which then makes your muscles the only support it gets... So the moral of the story do not get rid of all your too small handle knifes as you may go back to using them in the future.

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                    • #11
                      I know that I don't really need them for wood carving.
                      BUT
                      Going home with BOTH my legs from every hospital appointment is a big deal for me.


                      When I made some knife handles too small, it was always my intention to fix them = bigger.
                      Never got around to it so I have every experiment still in my tool box.
                      Brian T

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Brian T View Post
                        I never would have guessed that this is a problem! ! !
                        In a fist grip, palm up, the tips of your second and third fingers should just touch the fat ball part of your thumb. Well, do they?

                        This is how you figure out the best size for wood carving handles in the Pacific North west.
                        The simple prototype is to beef up the handle with cheap "vet wrap"sticky bandage stuff.
                        Brian.... That's the problem exactly. For some odd reason all the fat in my hands has relocated to my belly and now it hurts to try and make a fist. ( Of course twenty-five years in the martial arts beating my fists against a makiwara post and breaking pine boards has not helped! "Hence the need to change the design of the handle. I could have used a half a roll of vet tape and beefed up the handle but to me that's "jury rigging!" However, my wife claims that some of that fat has gone to my head. She keeps calling me a "fat head!"

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by joepaulbutler View Post
                          I too suffer the visit of Arthur & his cousins Ideaus boys, The knives I make for myself, I've started using this shape, it is about 3-1/2" in dia. at the thickness point, the shape let me get a better grip
                          Joe... What ever it takes to keep on making chips!

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                          • #14
                            That's the advantage of "vet wrap." Easy to vary the size and the shape of the knife handle for experiments.

                            I carved some cedar "quickies" and actually carved them down until they were too skinny! Went right past 7/8" for me to 3/4"and less.
                            I learned a lot. Very satisfying to feel the differences in size. Applied to all the adze handles as well.

                            You'll learn that the handles on farrier's hoof knives show the same variations.
                            Hall fit me OK but Mora and Diamond are small. Ukal/Supervet would be OK for a 12 yr old kid (but for $12, what can I say?)
                            Brian T

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                            • #15
                              Part of the equation for reducing stress to our hands is reducing how much blade we put to the wood. For most of our carving the cut could be 1/4" wide or less. If your knife has a 3" blade and you're using only the tip, the leverage on your hand and wrist is significantly increased compared to a knife with a 1" blade. If you are carving with gouges, are you trying to push a #5-35mm thru the wood? I like fishtail gouges - probably because I use only the corners most of the time.

                              To reduce the stress on your hands, consider shorter knife blades and narrower gouges. Don't expect to use all of the cutting edge on any single cut.
                              Last edited by pallin; 08-04-2019, 02:13 PM.

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