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A Simple Fix For Improving Tool Ergonomics

by J.Edwards

One of the stranger items on last year’s list of stocking stuffers for watchmakers was a mouldable, silicone rubber known as Sugru. I mentioned then that I’ve used it to improve the ergonomics of some the tools I use. One of those tools is a hand tool designed for installing and removing pushers in Tissot’s T Touch line of watches. For years I found the standard levered handle uncomfortable to use repetitively or on pushers that are a particularly tightly fit. So, when I first heard of Sugru, improving the ergonomics of this handle was one of the first applications I thought of applying it to.

Before & After

The red handle on the following tool, from a different watch brand, is nearly identical in construction to the original handle on the tool from Tissot. In fact, the two tools are so similar in construction, I am convinced that both were likely manufactured by the same Swiss tooling company. This tool is one I haven’t improved the ergonomics of yet, so it offers an idea of what the “before” picture of the Tissot tool would have been had I taken one.

I applied two packages of orange Sugru over top of the red part of the handle, increasing its thickness, and then sculpted it to conform comfortably to my fingers when gripped. Here is the result:

I am really pleased with the way it worked out and now find the tool much more comfortable to use than it was previously.

Some Useful Tips

If you decide to use Sugru to improve the ergonomics of any of your own tools, here are a few tips I think are worth sharing based on my experience working with it:

  1. Sugru comes in a specially sealed package and begins to cure as soon as you open it. I found it lost much of its plasticity within 30-40 minutes of opening it. So it’s important to have a good idea of what you’re aiming to sculpt with it before tearing a package open.
  2. Although it cures to the touch within 24 hours or so, I’d recommend letting the Sugru set for 72 hours before applying heavy pressure in areas where the product is built up more than a millimeter or so. I used the tool to install some pushers a little over a day after forming the handle and noticed that it caused the Sugru in the thicker areas of the handle to deform somewhat from the way I had originally sculpted them.
  3. Bits of Sugru will tend to stick to your fingers as you work it. To achieve the smooth finish I did on the handle, I routinely dipped my fingers in warm, soapy water as I shaped the final surface.
  4. Sugru has an expiry date. Don’t order more than you think you’ll use over the course of a few months.

One Comment

  1. William Thompson
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Great idea!…

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