Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hand Care for Woodworkers

(Before I start blogging, let me say that Blogger, the website where I post my woodworking thoughts, is apparently having some technical issues. I can't seem to get the fonts to behave correctly, so the appearance of this post is going to look a little odd, especially down toward the bottom part of this post. I swear - it's them, not me!)

My friends must be sick of hearing me complain about my sore hands.

Let's face it, the days of my hand modeling career are long over, especially since that belt sander incident last Christmas. And that drill press mishap a couple of months ago. And that screwdriver going all the way through my palm of my hand last summer.... the list could go on and on.

It’s really not a case of if you’ve gotten hurt, but when was your last injury.

One of the most irritating things are the small cracks one can develop in your fingertps - sometimes so small you can’t even see them. If you've had one, then you know they hurt enough to bring tears to your eyes. Ignoring them is the worst thing you can do; early prevention is smart.

So when I received these hand care goodies recently,

it reminded me that I've been meaning to blog about hand care for woodworkers for a long time. And I think I might have found the perfect one-two combination for healing my aching fingertips.

At the last Sin City Woodworker’s meeting, I brought this up for discussion, since I was suffering with three cracked fingertips. Almost everyone in the room nodded with compassion, and many held up band-aid covered fingers, in sympathy.

Solidarity, dudes!

I’ve been dealing with this for a long time. The worst was when I was working with glass block a few years years ago, using mortar and grout. Both products pull the moisture right out of your hands. My respect goes out to any concrete workers: you have the nastiest mitts on the planet.

Speaking of mitts, Lupe gave me this pair of gel gloves, apologizing for the color.

Hey, I do pink!

It is hard to describe what these feel like when you're wearing them - sort of like your hands are submerged in a bucket of slime. It is very odd! But - from the few times I've worn them, they seem to work.

Interestingly enough, this month’s issue of Fine HomeBuilding has a small Q&A about that exact question, and the answer they gave was - lame.

So what’s the real solution?

Without a doubt, keeping your hands and fingertips hydrated is far and away the best preventative solution. Your fingers usually won’t crack if they’re hydrated. Ask most people who work with their hands and they'll agree that Bag Balm and Corn Huskers are their favorite weapon again dry hands. Now I’ve tried both, and while Bag Balm doesn't feel as greasy as Corn Huskers, I still don’t love that oily feeling on my hands. And even worse - if I apply one of these at my shop, I leave tell-tale fingerprints on the wood I’m handling. Not cool.

Here are some of the lotions I've tried, Except for the Neutrogena, these lotions weren't that helpful.

If you catch one of those cracks in time and apply a liquid bandage product to it, you can stop the damage before it gets too bad. I've found that liquid bandages, such as the ones below, really help.

Of course, when you apply them, they sting like a mutha!

You're basically “gluing” the crack closed. Trust me, this works.

Skin Shield is my go to product. None of the other products work as well, in my opinion.

There are tons of tips and solutions out there, here is one that is mildly helpful. Some people even use Super Glue for finger repairs, but whenever I open a tube of it, it is usually dried up.

Now this will sound weird, but my secret weapon is to sand the skin surrounding one of those cracks a little bit. I use a piece of medium grit paper, or an emery board, to sand those areas where the skin around the crack is getting too thick. Sometimes I even use my random orbit sander to do a quick job of it. That might sounds extreme, but it works. I think that thinner skin is less prone to drying and shrinking and cracking than those hard leather paws.

Someone also mentioned Gloves in a Bottle, and I found a link for a free sample here.

Finally, my favorite lotions are Bag Balm and Neutrogena. Hands down. (no pun intended)

The Neutrogena never leaves a greasy film, and it comes unscented, for any of you out there worried about smelling like girly-men.

The Bag Balm works well, too, but leaves a slight residue that I can't have when working with wood.

So there you have it - keep your hands hydrated with Bag Balm or Neutrogena. And if you develop a crack, repair it with Skin Shield. I've been using this hand care regimen for about a month now, and my hands have been silky smooth and crack free.

Now if I could only find something that erases scars.....


Anne said...

Great story of the woodworkers hand care. I am so glad that you have found products that work for your hands. If you visit our website you can request samples of our healinghands lotions and soap. Made with the best organic ingredients we promise your hands will be nourished, hydrated and healed.

Wood It Is! said...

Thanks, Anne!

I just signed up on your site for some free samples for the woodworking group that meets at my shop once a month. Even burly guys like smooth hands!

Anne said...

Awesome! I am going to send you enough to try with all your burly guys. Be sure to let me know what you think after you have tried the lotion a few times.

Aaron Nobel said...

It is an informative post.

October Knights said...

I found this on a search. I need help with the wood and dust from this dirty cabinet shop in NJ. I also am a female wood worker 😀 I use lotion to no end. Still my hands are dry. I do vinegar and olive oil soaks ( this helps alot) thanks for the tips.