Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Importance of Glove Wear - WARNING! Graphic!

When it comes to glove wear, there are two schools of thought: old school and new school.  A lot of the old school mentality is that gloves are for pussies or you don't wear gloves due to dexterity issues or they are too hot and sweaty, etc.  Well, with the kinds of gloves available 40 years ago, much of that thinking was valid.  Indeed, the big thick leather gloves of the past did present dexterity issues and overheating problems because they were bulky and weren't breathable.  As for being a pussy because you wear gloves, well that's an opinion, and in my humble opinion, it is based on ignorance.  I say that because no matter what you think about gloves, they do protect your hands, and your hands are probably the most important parts of your body.  Without them, you can't turn a wrench, hold a gun, type on a keyboard, tie a knot, or even hold a pencil.  Hands are important, and they are important enough to be covered whenever possible.

Welcome to the new school.  This mentality is that of support for glove wear, and knowing the options you have nowadays as well as what to look for when you buy a new pair of gloves.  With new fabrics, faux leathers elastics, spandex materials, rubberized nylons and cottons, there are certainly a lot of options out there for you to choose from.  These aren't your Grandpa's old leather gloves.  Modern gloves are geared toward safety and dexterity as well as comfort and ruggedness.  From the pictures so far, you can probably tell what my favorite brand of gloves are, but in case you don't, I like Mechanix brand gloves.  For me, they are the best of all worlds with very few compromises.  Of course, in my line of work, I wear what my company provides because it's a requirement, but when I'm spending my own money, I turn to Mechanix 99% of the time - and I have good reason.

Now, before I get into the specifics of what you need to look for when choosing a pair of gloves, I want to show you what can happen if you don't wear them. WARNING: The next couple of pictures may be graphic to sensitive readers, so if you are squeamish, please turn away now.

4 stitches. Needed to get them after cutting myself when a steering shaft slipped and I found my hand split open by the inner fender of my Dodge Ramcharger.  It was painful. What was worse was when the doctor had to clean it out because there was grease stuck in it.
Ouch! This one still makes my stomach turn a bit. This photograph was taken less than a month ago (June 2012). I was cutting something and my knife slipped, sending a very sharp VG10 blade through me like a hot knife through butter.  Required 8 stitches, as you can see below:
The irony is that I normally wear gloves 99% of the time.  However, in this instance, I was not thinking and forgot to put on my gloves before engaging in a cutting task.  Now, a month later, my wound is healing up just fine, but there is still some tingling in my hand and a bit of numbness on top of my index finger.  It'll go away in a year or so, but in the meantime, it still sucks.  The point is that glove wear can save your hands from unnecessary injuries, pain, trauma, hospitalization, therapy, and the healing process.  This last injury of mine was bad because the doctors had a hard time getting the bleeding under control after they irrigated the wound (it was 4 hours old by the time I got to a hospital). A hematoma developed, which created this golf ball size swelling on my hand, requiring the doctors to remove stitches and find the source of the bleeding and clamp it off.  Unfortunately, they could not, and I had to be subjected to compression therapy, which is not fun, and after they were able to get it under control to the point where they could close up, the bleeding continued a little bit, causing the palm of my hand to appear bruised and swollen.  Had I been wearing my gloves, the cut might not have been as bad as it was.  And yes, this did cut to the bone, for those who are interested in knowing.

Okay, so now that I have you convinced that wearing gloves is right for you (and if you're not convinced, scroll up and stare into that cut for a few minutes until your face turns green, then keep reading), I'm going to list the things that I look for when purchasing gloves.  Also, remember that one glove does not fit all tasks.  For some jobs, the tan gloves at the top are ideal, like shooting, hiking, etc, and for other jobs, having a padded palm, leather fingertips, etc, are ideal.  Also, if you're splitting wood, you are going to want a thick heavy pair of leather gloves for that task.

So, instead of a long list of stuff that may work for some things, but not for others, I'm going to put out requirements needed for the tasks I engage in, which is probably more or less than you engage in, but you'll be able to figure out your needs based on these items.  Some qualities and features may repeat themselves, so use that cross-reference to help you build your own list based on what you do.

Mechanic/Technician Work
I'm a generator technician/diesel mechanic by trade and I work on my own cars.  Here's what I look for in gloves when I'm doing this type of work.

1. Dexterity. I should be able to pick up a dime or a nickel while wearing gloves.  Also, if I'm shooting, I want to be able to load a 380 magazine without taking the gloves off.
2. Durable palm/finger area. The bulk of the action takes place here. I don't want to wear holes in the fingertips or palm area prematurely.
3. Well placed seams. I don't want the seams right at my fingertips per se because I need to be able to run a bolt with a head as small as 5/16" in tight places. A bulky seam at the tip makes that task all but impossible.
4. Breathable, yet tough materials for the back of the hand and wrists. I want the back of my hands protected against abrasions when trying to wriggle them into tight areas under the hood.  In addition, I want air to get to them so a breeze will keep me cool and dry while working.
5. Security. Either Velcro closures for the wrist, or in the case of my second picture, an elastic band of sorts to keep the glove on my hand.
6. Lightweight. I don't want to feel like I'm wearing boxing gloves. I want them to feel like a second skin.

Yard Work/Handling Debris/Dump Run Work/General Labor
The gloves I want for doing general work, like yard debris cleanup, running a lawn mower, handling garbage or removing materials (basically work that doesn't require fine dexterity), I look for gloves that are a bit tougher than basic gloves with faux leather palms.

1. Leather (or close to leather) palms and fingertips. Even better if the palm area is padded to help keep vibration or palm impacts to a minimum.
2. Breathable, yet tough materials for the back of the hand and wrists.  I want the back of my hands protected against abrasions when handling debris or working around old nails or screws, or whatever the case may be.
3. Security. Either Velcro closures for the wrist, or in the case of my second picture, an elastic band of sorts to keep the glove on my hand.
4. Dexterity. Though I don't need to be able to pick up a quarter, I still might need to work a screwdriver or small wrench, so I want to be able to do that without removing the glove.

Wood Processing
When I chop wood, only the thickest and toughest will do.

1. Full thick leather. When I'm running a chainsaw, using an ax, batoning wood with a knife, or doing anything where my hands are in the vicinity of fast moving sharp things, I want the armor qualities of good solid leather.  Dexterity is not an issue here.
2. Good fit. Even though dexterity is not an issue, I still need a good fitting glove because I want it to be secure on my hands so it doesn't feel like it's going to come off or feel like a boxing glove.

Snow Caving
This is pretty straight forward.

1. Gore Tex waterproofing. It's waterproof, or at least very water resistant.  Keeps your hands from getting soaked with water, helping to keep them warm.
2. Removable fleece liner. Fleece is good stuff, and I want to be able to remove the fleece liner from my gloves to help with drying.
3. Thick insulation.  Go do some research on Thinsulate because there is a lot of information out there already.  Needless to say, you don't need full dexterity when you are digging snow cave.  You need to be warm.
4. Security. Nice thick Velcro closures as well as draw cord closures to help close the glove down to keep the snow out.
5. A second pair of dedicated heavy fleece gloves to use when you are finally in your cave or tent and don't need waterproof qualities.  They also offer dexterity so you can cook food and do minor camp chores.


Gloves don't need to be expensive. The gloves I buy run between $15 and $30 depending on the type.  My snow caving gloves cost me $50, but they are waterproof, have a removable liner, insulation, etc.  Typically, your high-use gloves will last between 6-8 months with regular use/abuse.  Don't buy expensive ones because you'll waste money.  Buy smart.

If you are doing stuff like camping or backpacking, it behooves you to have a glove system.  If you are going to baton wood right now, but go to handling other debris in a minute, or need a layer of warmth to take the edge off a cool morning, you'll need to bring multiple pairs of gloves.  I like the Mechanix gloves for camping because I can bring 1 pair of my shooting gloves, 1 pair of hard use gloves, and a pair of leathers for wood processing.  On colder days, a pair of heavy fleece gloves will come with me as well.

Also, if you're going to be handling fluids while wearing your gloves, get a larger pair of nitrile gloves to slip over them to keep them clean.  I wear a large Mechanix glove and then slip a XXL nitrile glove over it for fluid work.  Then tear the nitrile glove off without removing the base glove.  It helps them last longer as well as keep fluids from being held against your skin.

Breathable gloves can be worn in weather hotter than 100 degrees F.  I know this because I've been working in 100+ temps and I wear my gloves at all times, especially now that I have a nice scar to remind me to put them on.

If you need to remove the glove to get ultimate dexterity, remember to put it right back on when you're done with the small task at hand.

Be safe!



  1. Okay ...Good thoughts James. I don't do a lot of machine work, but dude, that slice has convinced me. Only good news is that whoever placed those stitches is an ARTIST. Heal fast bud. Craig

  2. Still makes you a pussy. I'm a diesel mechanic too and I'm 32 so I'm not from the old school. But I'm not a pussy so I don't run around with gloves on

  3. gloves are very important during work. without glove you may be hurt. This is informative post.
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