Sep 152010

When a body is weak, you can often find help by returning to basic physics. I have found that leverage, gravity and momentum are all incredibly useful tools when trying to get a job done. Today I will show two simple examples of leverage.

A workshop vise with a 4" handle.

The handle on my vise is too short and very hard for me to grasp.

I occasionally need to tighten a vise when I’m making a gripping hook or other tool. The little handle that comes with the vise is only 4 inches long and very difficult for me to get a good grip on since my fingers don’t bend.
A length of pvc pipe over the handle of a vise.

Adding a length of pvc pipe gives me four times the strength I had before.

But when I add a 16 inch long piece of PVC pipe, I can apply four times as much pressure, not to mention that the pipe is much easier to grasp.

Another example: I have taken up sewing (a lot more about that later) and from time to time find it necessary to change attachments on the machine. The manufacturer provided a special screwdriver for that purpose, however it has a handle just one half inch in diameter. Again this is almost impossible for me to grip and twist.

Using a visegrip to hold and turn a screwdriver.

Securing this tiny screwdriver with a visegrip lets me use it on my sewing machine.

The solution? A small visegrip. When it is attached to the screwdriver I have a 2 inch wide handle giving me four times the turning power as before, plus a shape that I can hold in my palm.

In a future post, I will show how I use gravity and momentum to solve problems around the house.

  2 Responses to “The Mechanical Advantage”

  1. I am always amazed at the tools you have created for use around the house. I am sure this information will prove useful to others in similar situations!

  2. Yes….. YES! Incomplete quad for 30 years. I have been using gravity and extension bars (mostly found objects) for decades! I never thought of the vice grips — that is brilliant. A truly all purpose tool of increased leverage is the well-nigh indestructable steel break extender from and an old EJ chair. In addition to fitting perfectly of a beverage pop-top, it can be used as an ad hoc police baton.

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