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JOEL Joel's Blog

Getting a Grip On Things


Getting a Grip On Things 4
While I was demonstrating our tools at Woodworking in America 2009 several people picked up one or more of our Gramercy saws and suggested that the handles were too small. While I am sure there are people for which our handles ARE too small, in just about every case at the show the problem was the grip the person was using on the tool.
The correct grip for handsaws, planes, and most tools is a three fingered grip with the index finger pointing straight out in the direction of the cut.
There are two reasons for this: If you use a tool like a saw or a plane with all four fingers wrapped around the handle the tendency will be to grip tighter and tighter. Tools don't need to be held so tight and the stronger the grip the less control you will have, and more importantly, your hand will tire faster and possibly cramp up. With the index finger extended you can't grip anything in a death grip, so it becomes a much more comfortable grip which is less tiring with greater control. In addition by pointing your index finger you get a certain consistency in the direction you are working - which makes it easier to cut accurately, and the tool can't rotate in your hand (which it can do with a four fingered grip - which makes you want to hold it even tighter).

Consequently handles are traditionally sized so that a three fingered grip feels comfortable and a four fingered grip feels crowded.

When you extend your index finger on a metal bevel down planes rest your finger along the side of the frog, this allows you to relax. One of my biggest complaints about bevel up planes is they have no frog, there is no comfortable place to rest your index finger, and consequently all four fingers hold the handle in a tiring death grip.

Try it, you will like it.

PS- the saw in the picture is a hand made prototype of our new sash saw - which we showed for the first time this last weekend at Woodworking in America.

Join the conversation
10/06/2009 David Gendron
Good evening Joel, for people that think that your saw handles are to small, let me say this; I have your dove tail saw and the tote fit my hand really well... My hands are rather big, 8 1/2" from tip of fore finger to end of palm, 4" wide palm and 1 3/4" tick... The most comfortable tote for me is on old Disston #7, the one with the lamb tong, the one on your DT saw and the tote on Bad Axe Saws!
best regard
10/07/2009 Nathan Beal
Though a little awkward at first, I have found that I like the pointing ability of a three fingered grip so much that when I am using a bevel-up plane I extend my pinky finger and only grip with my first three fingers. I have found that that is the only way I can keep myself from taking a death grip on those planes.
10/07/2009 Tim
I think gripping saws and handplanes is a lot like gripping a golf club. You naturally know or you have to work at it like a freaking mule dragging 150 pounds of gear up cliffside switchbacks. To me, it doesn't matter if I wrap three or four fingers....If I'm a death grip kinda fella, I'm gonna grip to death. If I'm a natural, I'll hold with just enough pressure to get the job done.

Luckily, I don't suffer from a slice :).
10/10/2009 Peter Brown
Joel, what are the specs for your new sash saw and when can we buy one?
10/11/2009 Dave
I enjoyed seeing you guys. After a week of dealing with a family emergency, I will be making an order for the vise and a few other items. I have a feeling I'll make the situation on my saws worse, but I gotta try...
10/11/2009 Stuart Hough
Joel, I stopped by your booth at WIA several times, and was amazed at all the really nice tools your company carries. After attending Ron Herman's saw-sharpening class I decided to look into the cost of the tools needed to "set up shop" for doing my own sharpening. After visiting your website, I was wondering whether or not you had considered offering the full set of saw files as a purchasing option, and maybe bundling that with the saw vise as another option. Thanx for all you do!
Stuart Hough
The specs on the sash saw are as follows:

Saw Plate 0.020"
Blade Length 14"
Depth of Cut 2.87" at the toe - 3.29" at the heel (just in front of the cheek)

TPI/ppi: 12/13
Rake: -5�
Fleam: 5�- 8�

The brass back is 0.75" tall.
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.