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Guest Blogger Barbara Howell on The Gift of Grip
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Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is Barbara Howell: woodworker, business owner, and author of the 2009 book ''Splinters: The Pain, The Passion, The Point''.

Hands come in all sizes and shapes!

But if you are a woodworker there have probably been times you wished your hands could do more. Good grip is a major requirement.

For me, as a woman, when I had to take over my husband's thriving woodworking business after an illness struck him, I was dumbfounded by my own physical handicap — small hands. The type of woodworking I was doing required me to use a Radial Arm Saw to cut through several strips of plywood at a single time, and hope they would all line up properly after the fact. Unfortunately, because of the size and lack of grip in my hands these pieces would continually slide somewhat out of my control and leave me with crooked and unusable pieces of shelving for the display cases I made. Thankfully, after sharing my problem with a fellow woodworker, he suggested that I purchase a small quick grip clamp, to hold my pieces steady. So, I found the smallest one I could — an Irwin Quick Grip. It worked! As you can see, once the quick grip clamp is attached to the pieces, I can now easily hold the wood in place while the clamp does all the "hard work" for me. Thus, saving my hands from the constant strain of attempting to manhandle the pieces into submission. I found this small, simple tool gave me the gift of grip! Regardless of your gender or your abilities, never underestimate the power of using a tool to solve a difficult problem.

About Barbara Howell:
Barbara Howell is the owner of Southern Ladies Showcases, a woodworking business specializing in custom, hand-crafted display cases with locations in Tennessee and Oklahoma. Most recently, Howell has began penning her tales of woodworking and her book, "Splinters: The Pain, The Passion, The Point" shares her stories of life as a woodworker. More information about Barbara and her book can be found at

posted on February 5, 2010 by Kim Adams
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5 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Barbara Howell on The Gift of Grip”

  • Tom Hudspeth

    I agree with the power of a good grip. I have been woodworking for nearly forty years. Three years ago I lost my dominant arm in a head-on car accident. With the use a prosthetic mioelectric arm I am able to turn baseball bats, safely work in my workshop and build great furniture for friends and family. It is a lot slower to do anything, but being able to grasp something and hold on to it brings me great joy. Woodworking has become a great joy in my life as I have been forced into retirement do to the severity of all the injuries. I find great solace in bringing the beauty out of the wood. It works with you as you work with it. I have posted my travertine and oak fireplace on the project site at This was all done before I received my prosthetic arm. The world has opened back up to me and I am able to keep life within reach these days.

  • Edouard Poitras
    Edouard Poitras March 8, 2010 at 10:50 am

    It is with my own great pain due to a construction accident about 30 years ago that I write to you Barbara.
    I have had my left arm(which is my major arm)slowly stop being of any use to me without great pain. Due
    to that and my love of woodworking, I found my self being inventive on how to get the same thing done
    that would be easy to someone with both arms working. How I get around this shortfall is to look at what
    I want to do and what is stopping me I.E.. holding, Carrying, hammering and so on. Then I think on what
    I need to resolve the issue and proceed to make or buy what is neccesary to get the job done. Yes it does
    slow the process down some what but it will be there next time I need it with no delay .
    good luck with your venture and hope tht your husband gets back on his feet asap.

  • Lloyd Acup

    I have a rolltop style computer desk which the hinges on the key board tray door got broken. After searching several hardware stores, especially the big chain stores, I found the exact replacement at Rockler. Several other suppliers on line would not even answer my emails or questions. Thank you Rockler.

  • pat

    You can never get enough quick grip especially when using power tools. I will use it with my Bosch Table saw. Thanks

  • Woodworking Lover

    I just wanna thank you so much for this great post! I've just appreciate some valuable reading on it ! keep this gems coming ! thanks again

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