Custom Ergonomic Handles




About: This author has not updated their profile. They might or might not get around to it sometime. If the kid wants a unicorn... Dangit, we're gonna make that happen. What little I know is dangerous, the rest I...

Create custom fit ergonomic handles for small implements or tools.  Use of soldering irons or even forks may seem simple but what if you had trouble holding them?  Make modifications to improve the grip or the way you can hold it.

I was in the dollar store recently and saw a bunch of coat hooks.  It instantly reminded me of the coat hook that gmjhowe found recently to use in his project which reminded him of bertus52x11's left handed dSLR holder.  This got me thinking to the application of the coat hook idea where people have a difficult time in using either hand. 

I am entering this into the Health by Design contest, but because it is so similar to gmjhowe's modification of bertus52x11's idea based on bertus52x11's original idea, the main reason I am entering it is so that if this instructable wins anything the prize will go to bertus52x11, giving him an extra extra chance of winning! Be sure to check out his other projects, a lot of them are simple ideas, but the kind it takes a genius to think up.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Hang on to Your Stuff

You will need a few things to create a custom ergonomic handle but not limited to what I suggest below.

Coat hooks - they can be the simple curved hook or the double elongated coat and hat hook.

nylon tie-wraps

cutters to clip excess length off tie wraps

Extras to pad and shape the handle if desired:

electrical tape

padded handlebar tape / spare mousepad / unused pair of insole liners to cut up

small diameter foam pipe insulation

epoxy plumber's putty - yeah, same stuff as the As Seen on TV magic putty but not at the sale price.
I don't think baked scupley or air dry polymer clay can take wear and tear.

Step 2: If the Handle Fits...

I had dabbled in the sport of fencing(epee) so the same principle of being able to control the point of your implement applies here.  I will be using a soldering iron to illustrate our modifications. In fencing foils or epees, the grips or handles are sometimes modified to give you greater control and improve the strength of your grip.

Ergonomics is getting the handle to fit the way it works for the individual.  Everyone is different and different configurations may or may not be suitable for all.

I will show you a few setups but you can adjust and modify so that it works for you.

The first is the simple one hook modification.

For those that cannot grip tightly or lack the movement to close their fingers completely, the coat hanger hook will provide an additional surface to bear on.

Position the coat hanger hook so that it sits comfortably in the nook of your thumb and forefinger or in a way that it can be used as a finger guard / thumb rest.

Secure a coat hanger hook to the top of the soldering iron.  Pass a tie-wrap through the screw holes in the coat hanger hook and wrap around the body of the soldering iron.  Use a second tie-wrap to secure it and to keep it from twisting about.

Turn it upside down to give you a pistol grip.  You may need to attach it further back to give you a comfortable grip.

Step 3: Italian Grip

This is the traditional Italian style grip which is a crossbar placed perpendicular to the main shaft or handle.  Fingers hook on to the crosspiece .

Just add a coat hanger hook to the bottom, opposite the coat hanger hook that is already attached.

Step 4: Belgian Pistol Grip

If you offset the coat hanger hooks on the top and the bottom, the bottom hook becomes a pistol handle and the top is a finger pull or grip.

You can play with the various positions of you coat hanger hook to find what is comfortable.

Also, there are many ways to place the fingers for the grip.

Step 5: Simple Tasks Simplified

So what else can you make easier to grip?

Everyday utensils like spoons, forks, knives, pencils, pens, ruler, etc.  can be modified.

I read that it sometimes helps those with "shakey hands" to actually weigh down the piece so that it can be held steadier.  Get a higher quality hook than I have which has some more substantial metal to it.   Use metal weights like washers to add to your implement.

Yeah, steampunk it if you desire...brass hooks...go all the steampunked ergonomic soldering iron in existence yet...

Once you have the correct placement of the coat hanger hooks, you can pad with electrical tape or anything else to make the grip smoother.  You can take some epoxy putty to build the joints up for a seamless piece.  Use cloth friction tape to make it non-slip and easier to grab.

This instructable is really just touching on the surface of designing ergonomic handles but it shows how easy it is to try solve a problem.   I hope this inspires a lot of people to look, listen, learn, and do something.  (I may do ergonomic Garden tools but I invite everyone to do their take on it :-) )

Humana Health by Design Contest

Participated in the
Humana Health by Design Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Book Character Costume Challenge

      Book Character Costume Challenge
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge

    17 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea but it looks a little dangerous for those with spastic movements.  Is there a way to make the parts that stick out a little shorter.  I love it though.  A truly new way to hold things.  Great job! (Organizational tips for the parent who has a child with special needs)

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    These are metal coathooks so they are easily cut with a hacksaw and a file or emery paper to smooth out the cut edges.  As long as the base of the coathook is secured, you can cut it down to a stubby post or just enough for the grip.

    I don't know of any actual people with that condition to try it on but it seems a rapid jerky movement might catch on something so you can cut the ends shorter to fit.  Thanks for commenting.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    If I were to try this, I would dip the new handles in this:

    It might not work for something that heats up, but it would work for a fork.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    You could also try that "liquid electrical tape" brush on stuff.  Both are kinda toxic to use with the solvent they have to put in it to liquidize the rubber.

    Really nice. I never would have thought of using an epee-style grip on a tool, but it makes perfect sense. I think I'll put one on my Dremel flex shaft and see if my fine carving gets any less haphazard.

    2 replies

     Thx, I'm sure it would help controlling the vibration and fighting the heavy flex shaft if you had a better or more comfortable grip on it.  Please let us know if it helps.

    OK, so I just happened to have all the materials already. I went out to the studio, lashed a couple of coat hooks to the Dremel in the Belgian configuration, revved it up and started to carve a bit on a piece of scrap wood....

    aaaand the drive spring broke.

    I'm sure that the new grips had nothing to do with the breakage. It was an old flex-shaft, and its time had come.

    The good news is that the tool felt much more controllable, and the couple of passes I made before the shaft died were very encouraging, but it remains to be seen whether my carvings will improve.

    The downside is that if my carving fails to improve, I don't think I can blame the tool anymore,  I'll have to shift blame to the tool holding the tool....


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Great! I can see these being great for people with Alzheimer's, Parkinsons, or other conditions that result in unsteady wrists and hands.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    A quick glance at products out there, just a bigger cushioned grip on the handle.  It seems a hook would indeed help with positioning and gaining leverage.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Well, sure Gmjhowe and you are embarrassing me with your qualifications about me, but thanks anyway.

    I like the fact that ideas go around and get modified / improved. I think you have a great idea.
    About the contest, same reaction as with gmjhowe, no need to worry.

    Finally, just out of curiousity, why is it called  a Belgian grip? One of the prejudices here agiants Belgian people (and I emphasize prejudice, because I'm one of them) is that they are not very smart. Are you saying your grip is not very smart?

    3 replies

    We try to encourage and recognize those with great ideas, but enough about us...haha

    Belgian pistol grip should really be called an Italian pistol grip but sometimes called English pistol grip by some manufacturers...
    The Pistol grip (otherwise known as the anatomical or orthopedic grip) was originally developed for a nineteenth-century Italian aristocrat, L.Visconti, master of fencing, who lived in Belgium and had lost fingers in a tram accident.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I think he means style/ way it is held.
    I could be wrong, wait for "caitlinsdad's" answer...