Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tools should pass the 'feel test'

Selecting the best gardening tools for you ...

"Gardeners with painful disabilities needn't have such a tough row to hoe.

About 46 million U.S. adults have arthritis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. So it's not surprising that scores of ergonomic toolmakers target this group.

Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association, said most gardeners are older than 55 and "looking for garden tools that are easier to use and help prevent aches and pain."

A great many garden tools are marketed with the word ergonomic on the labels, meaning they're intended to maximize the efficiency and quality of someone's work.

But claims are one thing and performance is quite another, said Bob Denman, a blacksmith, tool designer and consultant from Boring, Ore.

"Some garden tools are developed without a great deal of study," Denman said. "The manufacturer builds in a bend here and incorporates a twist there and calls it ergonomic."

There are several factors to consider in choosing a proper tool. First, you should know that grip strength declines an average of 15 percent by a person's early 50s, said Jeffrey Hoyle of the Ergonomics Center of North Carolina, a research and consulting arm of North Carolina State University.

And while women are about two-thirds as strong as men in general, studies indicate that their grip strength is about half that of men.

It might seem logical, then, to focus on the tool's grip. But weight and power make a tool truly ergonomic, said Olavi Linden, chief designer for Fiskars Garden & Outdoor Living.

"Handles are actually a very small part of the equation," Linden said. "More power is what helps you avoid tendinitis. Extra long lightweight handles help prevent back pain."

Gardeners shopping for ergonomic tools can weed out a lot of discomfort and expense by "feel testing" in stores before they buy.

"I've spent a lot of time watching people shopping for garden tools, and most are bewildered," said Denman, a consultant for tool manufacturer Corona Clipper."    (Continued via The Columbus Dispatch)    [Ergonomics Resources]

 Ergonomic Tools- Ergonomics

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