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repetitive stress and tools


bonewalk

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Hey all;

 

Janel suggested I start a topic here about the tools I use, and some of the effects they cause. I have a problem with numbness in the hand after carving just a short while, and am looking to alleviate this. Obviously, I'll need to talk to health pros also, but some of the tools I use, or the way I use them, may also be a problem. I'd appreciate comments about the tools that others use.

 

Most of my carving is done with a power tool. I use a Foredom "S" series, with a flexishaft and a #8A handpiece. The motor hangs above and to one side of my work area. I find that when guiding the handpiece into position I am always fighting the "spring" of the shaft, and that puts a lot of the stress on my hand. There is a small amount of vibration to the handpiece, but not some thing that I find annoying. The handpiece itself is small in diameter, which I find easier to hold than a thicker handpiece.

 

Some of my finishing work is done with files and chisels, and of course there is lots of sanding. I try to keep the work at about eye level, with my elbows on the bench for support. I have a wooden post that holds the work. I move the carvings around alot as I work. I'm trying out some new shoulder positions, which has helped the numbness some; a massage therapist has suggested back exercises to balance muscle use.

 

Looking forward to your input

Lana Klassen

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Hey all;

 

Janel suggested I start a topic here about the tools I use, and some of the effects they cause.  I have a problem with numbness in the hand after carving just a short while, and am looking to alleviate this.  Obviously, I'll need to talk to health pros also, but some of the tools I use, or the way I use them, may also be a problem.  I'd appreciate comments about the tools that others use.

 

Most of my carving is done with a power tool.  I use a Foredom "S" series, with a flexishaft and a #8A handpiece.  The motor hangs above and to one side of my work area.  I find that when guiding the handpiece into position I am always fighting the "spring" of the shaft, and that puts a lot of the stress on my hand.  There is a small amount of vibration to the handpiece, but not some thing that I find annoying.  The handpiece itself is small in diameter, which I find easier to hold than a thicker handpiece.

 

Some of my finishing work is done with files and chisels, and of course there is lots of sanding.  I try to keep the work at about eye level, with my elbows on the bench for support.  I have a wooden post that holds the work.  I move the carvings around alot as I work.  I'm trying out some new shoulder positions, which has helped the numbness some; a massage therapist has suggested back exercises to balance muscle use.

 

Looking forward to your input

Lana Klassen

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oops!

 

First of all, I am currently suffering through the very problem of this topic. Due to years of heavy carving tools and blocking out the pain to meet deadlines, I have a rather nasty nerve impingment syndrome in my carving arm. The docs are still pondering a course of treatment, and my bench is growing cobwebs....As to your situation, it sounds like you are compressing your ulnar nerve, which is channeled through the bottom of the elbow, the "funny bone" nerve, which isn't very funny if you carve. Leaning on your elbow is probably compressing your ulnar nerve, and cranking your wrist to acomidate the foredom could be irritating the median nerve.

If the ulnar is irritated, and you are tweeking your wrist to accomidate it, then you are ripe for what we call "Monkey claw". The king of cramps. The muscles in the forearm fatigue from constant gripping, everything spasms. Try making a pad to rest your elbow on, and move your foredom so you minimize torquing your wrist.

I have a huge bonespur on my elbow, caused by leaning on my bench to steady my arm, a pad really helps out.

 

Feel better,

 

Derek

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Thanks Lana for starting this topic, and to Derek for your observations and suggestions. I hope that there is more to learn from the group, but that means more of us have experienced or are in the midst of a painful problem.

 

I worked against the flexshaft hanging like yours is, Lana. Switching to a machine that sends power to the hand piece through a coiled electric cord was a real delight and relieved stresses on my forearm. The machine swung rhythmically as I worked, much to my annoyance. It also was detrimental to the work. The new equipment allows much finer control.

 

My elbows rarely sit upon the bone on the bench. My wood peg is lower, but I adjust my office style chair up or down to bring the work closer to my eyes. My peg is a 4x4 inch, so the work is 4" above the table. There is much flexibility with the set up.

 

I do hope that you both find relief with your pain, and solutions that allow you to continue to carve!

 

Janel

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Derek;

 

I never thought of cushioning the elbow! I will have to give that try. I'm not sure how to go about repositioning the Foredom, though. I've tried higher, so the shaft is straighter - can't get the tip into the positions I need. If I go lower, I'll put too much of a kink in the shaft, and possibly damage it. Plus, then I'm hoisting the shaft and once again stressing the wrist.

 

Janel, what is the name of the machine you now use? What kind/size of burrs can you chuck into it? How powerful is it? I'm intrigued...

 

Thanks for the replies, and the advice,

Lana

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NSK Electer E-Max.

 

Description from a web site:

 

Advanced control unit. Revolutions digitally displayed. continuous speed control knob. 1,000-35,000 rpm. Can add second handpiece. E-max control unit, hadnpiece with one touch lever type bur replacement, NK 351 motor, 1/8 and 3/32 collets.

 

Sturdy motor and centered tool spins smoothly and is very nice to control.

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Glad to pass along the help. A friend loaned his machine to me for a little while so I could try it. I was sold immediately. It is a grand improvement from the old hardware store Dremel flex shaft I had used for roughing in pieces. I hope you will be able to manage to acquire a new piece of equipment.

 

To the members, do you have any suggestions about other machines that have the handpiece motorized, not on a flexible shaft which you might recommend?

 

Janel

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Lana- Like Derek mentioned, I would think it is a bad habit to be resting your elbows on the bench surface. :lol: I guess padding will help, but maybe you could try a new posture?

 

Perhaps you could rest your forearms on the edge of the bench? Many small-scale carvers use a large block of wood, with a beveled front edge to work on. The block is clamped or otherwise affixed to the surface of the work bench. It kind of juts out into one's chest and allows a better approach angle to the carving.

 

I carve seated on the floor, crosslegged, and while I realize this isn't for everyone (it takes a couple of months to loosen up one's hips enough :lol: ), I've noticed it alleviates shoulder and elbow stress. I think it's because those joints aren't kept as still and rigid...

 

I hope things get better for you. It's a shame when people have to give up the tasks they love because of injury.

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You can see my setup on the recent thread under New Work or Show & Tell: What's New? The lower the chair, the straighter the back. Detail work is lower chair time, gets the magnifiers close in. Just starting with the piece until detail time, I sit higher and have more room for working.

 

Janel

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  • 2 months later...

Hi all;

 

Thanks for all the ideas and support. I've been working on my carving set-up and getting arm massages- it is indeed the medial nerve. The school year is well underway and all my classes are going well, but as usual I'm saying "yes" to so many projects there that I have less time for my own stuff. So, little new work to report. I have been reading the forum and find myself inspired to find the time to get back to work.

 

Sergey, I have printed the dust collector pictures you posted, and my husband is going to make one for me. I think it's time to reduce the clouds of dust that usually form about my bench!

 

Lana Klassen

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Hi Lana!

 

Glad you are back, and it is good to read that TCP has been part of your reading time! It is good to know that you have some knowledge and help for your arm/nerve condition. I hope continues to improve.

 

You wrote about the school year and classes, are you teaching? What are you teaching, and are the projects mentioned related to the teaching?

 

Janel

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Hi, Janel;

I thought I replied last night, but it was late, and I guess I didn't click the right key.

 

I'm a full time high school art teacher- which is like someone let me write my own dream job description. They PAY me to do art all day long! Plus I get to work with the most fantastic talented kids (plus those who just thought that art class sounded easy/fun...)

 

The best part of the job is that I keep my own artistic growth pushing onward through finding new ideas, media, and techniques to use in class.

 

The projects I mentioned are linked to school through the other part of my job-Talent Development- which is kind of like Gifted Education, though we try to get to the kids before they are little prodigies, and help them grow in that direction. It involves a lot of paperwork and organization, neither of which I'm very good at. More time on school projects = less time for my own art. Sigh.

 

The Carving Path inspires me to get more done for ME and nevermind the laundry. I absolutely love the jade pieces that Donn posted recently- the sinuous curves beg to be held and rubbed. The translucency of the stone is very appealing, and the shimmering grain is magical. I have only worked in soapstone, as far as stone goes. That has it's own appeal, as well.

 

OK, gotta go.

long post, eh?

 

Thanks for listening, and for your support.

Lana

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Thank you, too!

 

Hmmm, I thought I wrote a post to Bobby Branton in the Who's Who introduction he did last night. Maybe there was a system hiccup or our messages zapped one another. It is a mystery.

 

I am so pleased to learn that working with kids, in art no less, makes you happy and that you feel it is a creative challenge. The kids will be positively influenced by your attitude and approach to teaching, and learn more with enthusiasm themselves.

 

Yay for you and your school working for Talent Development-Gifted Education! Our small town combined school is undergoing a difference between an expanding student population, community explosion in houses being built and those who do not want to see growth happen. The consequence is reduced funding, crippling the school district's ability to uphold the high, pace-setting standards which it was known for before the growth began in earnest. The funding for gifted and talented children has virtually disappeared, much to our dismay. Our son is one that would have benefited by having programs that offered and could offer more challenge in and outside of the classroom. If there is an advanced class, not all who qualify are able to get into the one allowed class in that subject. Consequently there are A students in the average classes, reading pocket books and being bored, having learned and done the homework before the end of class period. It is so frustrating.

 

Oops. Soap box. Not carving related. Sorry.

 

Have you seen the web site for the high school teacher out east that teaches netsuke carving for the sculpture curriculum? http://www.fmhs.cnyric.org/clay/curriculum...netsukeTRG.html

 

Thanks for the good work you do with the kids!

 

Janel

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Hi Janel;

 

Wow! The High School Netsuke project looks great! I've done a similar project with carved plaster, in the tradition of Henry Moore. They were quite small- we called them Mini-Moores. I like the idea of Netsuke carving better. Then, instead of a smaller version of the "real thing" the students will be making the real thing. Ooh! I can't wait to try this out!

 

I love what I do with the Talent Development, but we fight the budget fight all the time. And the public perception that we are somehow a "frill". My time is paid for, but I fundraise all the money I need to do the work in the school. It is slow and frustrating, but I'd rather be drumming up money so that I can work with these kids, than to have them sit with a paperback in class. And there is always so much more to be done. I'm caught between two passions- my teaching, and my art. When I can combine the two, life is good!

 

Thanks,

Lana

 

ps: I know that as a parent of a talented kid, it's hard to watch them be passed over by the schools. I'm sure that with your own talent you were able in some part to make up for that.

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I've experienced this also with my Foredom, its a real pain if you need to finish up a piece. my hand would go numb! and feel vibratey for 30 minutes afterward. I replaced the whole shaft? rubber/metal innner and it works alot better. Might be a balance thing? I also have been having trouble with hand rubbing my blades. My second knuckle locks up and becomes very sore. One time I actually couldn't grasp and carry a 6pack of coke cans! So I try to be aware if I'm holding on for dear life and take more breaks.

 

Rik

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  • 2 months later...

Lana,

 

I too suffer from the Ulnar/Elbow problem that Derek described. I do a lot of mallet/chisel work and I have found that using a velcro strap under your elbow helps tremendously! This is commonly used for "tennis" or "golf" elbow. It keeps the tendons of you arm tight to the elbow - which helps in preventing them moving and inflaming the nerve.

 

Another thing you might try is standing as you work. I know this is not practical for most bench setups - but if you can use some blocks to move up.. it will help keep your spine straight and thus support your upper body as you work. I'm sure the elbow pads will help also.

 

I so much admire your dedication to teaching! A great friend of mine is a truely gifted HS teacher - in Art... amazing in the way y'all can reach kids that others can't! Keep on going!

 

Rick

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There are many forearm rests for computer users. I have one that is as long as a keyboard is wide and about 4" front to back. It sits directly in front of a keyboard for supporting your wrists on. The filling is a kind of squooshy gel that gives wonderful support to your arms and wrists. Such a thing would be ideal for someone squinching trying to carve.

 

p.s., I stand at my workbench - can get closer to the work and can move about more to accommodate the working position of the piece(s).

 

Ralph

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  • 1 year later...

Just a couple of comments on "tennis elbow" and the foredom tools.

 

I discovered the hard way on the tennis elbow. I was carving a life sized figurative piece (6') out of northern hard maple or rock maple as it has been described. I was using a 2 pound mallet with tools that averaged 2 3/4" or 70mm. After doing this for 8 hours a day for a week or so my elbow started to hurt beyond belief and lose strength. In 10 years of carving this had never happened. After consulting with other people with the same problem and through observation of how I carved I reached this conclusion. Each time I struck the tool I was exerting as much swing as possible trying to get the biggest bite from the tool. In the process I was tensing up all the muscles and the concussion from the tool was being transmitted up my arm to be absorbed by the elbow and all the connecting tissue. When I relaxed and stopped trying to cut so deep the act of carving became more of a natural movement. The wrist was doing more work, the muscles were more relaxed with less strain and less concussion was taking place. Within a few days the pain was gone and the work was on track again. I have also noticed on other occasions that tensing up when trying to make a controlled cut will have the same sore result. I just needed to lighten up a little, relax. My take is that the combination of stress on the muscles is like winding a rubberband between two pints. The tighter it is wound the more the band is stretched and knotted at the same time and the greater the pressure on the two points holding the band in place. Cortisone injections help with chronic pain from what I hear but the initial injection can be extremely painful and doesn't correct the damage just helps make it tolerable.

 

I use two different Foredom rotary tools, both 1/4 horsepower. I was having trouble breaking shafts and having to hold the tool in less than optimum positions due to the shaft length. I called Foredom and found that they make shafts for my tools that are 50"+ or more versus the standard 30" or so. I also made a frame with a grid system that hangs over my bench. From this I have a hanger that I made that can be positioned anywhere above my bench and at different heights for the Foredom to hang from. The grid is also used to attach lights to so that I can control my lighting as well. It solved a number of problems.

The grip on the handpieces can also be cushioned using pipe insulation for hotwater heaters as long as the tool doesn't get to hot. It comes in several different sizes. This working may depend on the size of your hands and how you are holding the tool. According to my family I have troll hands so this may not work for everyone.

Hope this proves to be of help.

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  • 11 months later...
Guest ford hallam

rather than start a new thread just for this link I thought I'd stick it on the end here.

 

I'm sure we've all had those days when we've felt like we could use another pair of hands....perhaps these would do the trick. You may want to have a peek at the rest of this chaps work too.

 

Ford

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Does everyone here use power tools for the roughing out stage? I have a foredom pendant motor, but don't use it much as yet, as i hadn't found it sped things up much and made a lot of noise/dust/and it got hot. maybe i need different tool bits?

 

Simon

ps I'm thinking of making an elbow support with cushioned pads too, but with the pads concave so to stop my elbows wanting to slide outwards. I tend to hold my work at eye level wit the lamp directly above it so as to get the shadow showing the texture clearly, and also to be close to my loupe (SP?) - I find holding against this sliding tires my arms as much as anything.

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