Last week the company NoCry contacted me and asked if I'd be willing to test some of their cut resistant gloves. According to David from NoCry "The gloves minimise or completely eliminate potential injuries from sharp blades". Sounds great.
I let David know that I have never used such gloves and wouldn't really consider using such a product myself (more on why later). I was interested in testing out these gloves, so I agreed to have a couple of pairs sent over.
The instructions they come with contains one very important line: 'They aren't designed to be cut proof, but to offer protection against cut related accidents.' Which is kind of what I expected. However, in his emails to me David included a link to this video:
So the person in the video appears to grow so bored of the task of slicing carrots that they attempt to remove their own thumb. Unfortunately for them, they're foiled by the cut resistant gloves. Back to slicing carrots I guess.
I have a few points I want to make from watching this video.
- There's no point in wearing a glove on the hand using the tool, it's not at risk of being cut.
- Woodworking tools (in my house at least) are a great deal sharper than kitchen knives.
- There's more of a risk of stabbing/chopping injuries when woodworking
- No way will I try and cut myself wearing these gloves. Or to put it another way:
They are definitely gloves.
They're a little thinner than I thought they'd be, which I suppose is a good thing. More dexterity, less loss of feeling. The whole glove seems to be made of the same cut resistant material, so hopefully no weak points and the palm and fingers are covered in little grippy rubber nubs.
The fit is fine, they're a little tight around the base of my fingers but not so much to cause a problem.
But you don't care about fit and looks. Can I stab and slice my hands without fear of injury? Let's find out.
I have a whole bunch of sharp and pointy hand tools in my workshop: saws, drills, knives, augers, chisels, gouges, froes, turning hooks, inshaves, axes, mocotaugans, adzes, hatchets, scorps and drawknives. In fact, apart from some oilstones and a bendy ruler, nearly everything in the workshop is sharp and pointy.
With such an abundance of ways to
injure myself test these gloves I decided it would be easiest to limit myself to the three tools I use most often.
it was surprisingly difficult to think of how to best try and simulate potential mistakes with the tools. In my experience I've found 3 main reasons for why people cut themselves:
Not thinking about the path of the blade
Not only do you need to think about where the knife is likely to stop at the end of a cut, you also need to think about where it might go if the cut slips or the chop misses. This could be due to the wood suddenly giving way, or the tool not cutting properly into the wood. Which is usually a result of..
The tool isn't sharp
Sharp tools act more predictably. They require less force to perform a cut and bite into the wood more easily. That said, sharp is a relative term, a knife that's become too blunt to carve wood is still plenty sharp enough to cut into my pasty flesh.
Using a new tool or technique
This is pretty much the same as the first reason. When using a new tool or technique take extra time to consider where the blade might end up. One of the first times I tried to carve a hanging hook onto the back of a spoon handle I was using a technique I wasn't familiar with and didn't take the time to consider where the knife was going to go if it slipped. It did slip and cut into finger.
Not wishing to tempt the fates, I haven't cut myself for a while. I like to think that this is due to the care and consideration I take into my work. And that I don't relish the thought of being limited to only counting to nine. Since there are so many different ways you might sustain an injury with just these tools I decided the easiest way to test the gloves was to put a piece of wood inside and basically triy to carve it.
Here's a little video of the results:
I was impressed that some of the cuts and slices didn't do any damage to the gloves. The gloves completely stopped them. In addition to the cuts they stopped, those that did make it through would have done a great deal more damage with the gloves not there. The gloves managed to stop one of the axe cuts, which surprised me, the knife did get through but was certainly slowed. My favourite thing was that they completely chop-blocked the hook knife.
That's great. The hook knife can give you a very nasty cut, as it is a gouging/scooping kind of tool. This means you might accidentally cleave off a part of yourself, or at least leave a nasty flap of skin loose. It looks like these gloves can prevent that.
I also don't like the loss of sensation from wearing a glove. I rely a great deal on being able to feel the surface of the wood to see what kind of finish I'm leaving. They also interfere with my ability to judge the thickness of wood.
But this is true of any glove and these are worn for protection. On that note, they're virtually useless at stopping a misstrike with the axe and kind of 50/50 with stopping the knife from getting through.
If you make a mistake while carving with these gloves chances are you'll still sustain an injury. Which brings me onto...
These kind of protective gloves, for woodworking at least, are a crutch. At best a temporary supplement, at worst inappropriate support. To be clear, I'm not singling out NoCry, I feel this applies to all such cut resistant gloves marketed towards anyone involved with hand tools. In a best case scenario I could see them as useful for first time carvers, training wheels you want to eventually remove.
But my problem with them is that, like training wheels, they tend to promote poor technique. You don't need to be as mindful of what you're doing if the gloves are going to catch your slip ups. This summer I attended the annual Driftless Spoon Gathering again. A lot of people who have never done any sort of woodworking turn up, and the Driftless Folk School had a supply of cut resistant gloves on hand (no pun intended) for those that wished to use them. Along with a few other more experienced carvers, I was asked to help out these beginners whenever I could. I had to step in when I saw one lady using her gloved hand to stop each cut she was making with the hook knife. Without the glove she would have shredded the palm of her hand, but without the safety net of the glove perhaps she would have realised that such a technique isn't the way forward. With one of these gloves you can try too advanced techniques before you've taken the time to master the simple stuff.
I teach people how to carve, I've done countless demonstrations on how to safely work with an axe and a knife. And it always begins with the basics, with promoting good technique, understanding that these tools are dangerous, and that there is a risk of injury.
Take away people's perception of risk and they behave more dangerously. Give people protective clothing and they act more reckless. Unlike driving a car, or riding a bike, woodworking does not have the same risk of injury from forces outside your control. You're not going to get blindsided by a rouge axe. The injuries you might sustain will be inflicted by yourself, on yourself, due to the three reasons I outlined earlier.
If you wear one of these gloves are you less likely to draw blood? Probably.
If you wear one of these gloves are you more likely to do something to cause an injury? Probably.
Am I going to start wearing these gloves? No.
The NoCry cut resistant gloves resist cuts. In fact, due to their cut resistance I now need to sharpen my tools again. Thanks Obama. They're a chocolate teapot when it comes to the axe, but very effective against slip-ups with the hook knife.
The way the Driftless Folk School uses them seems to be where they fit best: Protection for people who are just trying carving for the first time, and might never carve again. The gloves take away some of the risks and can make the carving experience more enjoyable. For anyone hoping to do more carving, good technique serves as much better protection. If you're already carving on a semi-regular basis, these gloves aren't for you. If you find you're often cutting yourself, it's your technique that needs to improve and these gloves will likely hinder that progress.