Product Reviews

The Dirt: My favorite work gloves

In this series of posts called “The Dirt”, we highlight some of our favorite homesteading products.  In our first edition, we reviewed our favorite wood splitting tool, the Chopper1 Axe®.  In this edition, we will look at another homesteading essential, the work glove. 

Even as a little kid, I quickly learned the value of a good pair of work gloves.  Be it raking the grass after Dad mowed our 1 acre yard, raking apples from our three huge crab apple trees in our back yard (which I hugely undervalued at the time…wish I had those back!), to splitting wood with my Dad and brothers, nothing was worse than the blisters that I would get in the webbing between my thumb and forefinger if I wasn’t wearing gloves.  Fast forward to some labor jobs that I took over summers during college, and work gloves were not only nice for comfort and avoiding blisters, but they were really important for safety when working around power tools and high energy sources.  Now, I wear gloves almost every time I go to work outside.  Even if it is just for some light gardening, I like the feeling of security and comfort that they provide.

The problem is, I am hard on gloves.  Really hard.  Truth is, most gloves that I have owned are lucky if they last a month or two, and if a glove was durable enough to endure the beating that I put on them, they tended to be bulky, uncomfortable, and useless for jobs that require any kind of tactile feeling in my fingers.  The most common failure point for my gloves is just at the inside tips of my right pointer finger and middle finger.   

Another blow out!!

Another blow out!!

I started going through gloves so fast that it became a habit to just pick up a new pair every time I was at the hardware store; whatever the latest/greatest happened to be.  That became an expensive habit.  You name it, I have probably tried it.  While there is some prudence to the saying “you get what you pay for”, no matter how much they cost, almost every pair of gloves I have owned has blown out at that same point; inside tip of pointer finger and middle finger.  Until now!  Read below for a quick run-down of my favorites.

Carhartt®

I used to own a pair of old school leather Carhartt gloves.  Nothing fancy, just tough, rugged leather work gloves.  These used to last me the better part of a summer working construction, but I found that for more moderate work that I did around the house, they were too bulky for routine use so I don’t get them out too often anymore except for really heavy duty jobs.  They are a also a little on the pricy end, usually in the $20 range.

Wells-Lamont®

My local hardware store carried a few nice versions of these gloves in a fitted variety.  Made with deer hide, they were soft, comfortable, and snug; allowing for a tight fit and good dexterity.  However, these were among the least durable that I have used, lasting only a month or so before the soft deer hide wore down, rending the gloves near useless. These were a little cheaper ($12-$15), but not worth replacing every month or two.

Mechanix®

I saw these at the bigger box-hardware store, and figured that because they cost more, they must be better.  Ehhhht. Really nice fit and dexterity, and perhaps very slightly more durable than the Wells-Lamont (by a few days maybe), but not worth the extra price (most around $20).

Workright®

Eventually, I decided to search online for whatever the great masses of Amazon had to say about the search for the “best work gloves”.  This search yielded a hit on Workright gloves, which ended up being my favorite for a couple of years.  Again, good fit and dexterity, reasonably priced ($15), and lasted twice as long as their other “form fitting” contemporaries of Wells-Lamont and Mechanix.  Eventually, these too yielded to the finger blowouts, but I enjoyed a few pairs of these. 

Madgrips®

Close to a year ago, I was at the hardware store and saw a pair of these Madgrips gloves, which are basically a cloth knit glove with a soft rubber coating.  I tried them on, and while they looked a little more “Terminator” than I thought was necessary for a work glove, they had a really nice fit, excellent tactile feel, and as you could imagine, an amazing no-slip grip.  On further research, it seems these gloves are popular among obstacle racers (think Tuff Mudder) due to their extreme grip and snug fit.  I found them to be extremely comfortable, and after nearly 9 months of pretty hard use, show very little sign of the normal blow outs.  At $12-$15, the only downside to that I have seen with these guys is that they don’t breathe very well (get a little stinky after a long day of hauling mulch in the summer) and are not as puncture resistant as leather gloves might be (not unheard of to get stuck by a briar when pulling out bramble bushes).  So they are not ideal for all applications, but for 95% of my jobs, these are my go to gloves these days.

 

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One tough glove!!!

 

Here is a quick summary of my thoughts.  In short, there is probably no glove that is perfect for all situations.  If you are doing a big, nasty, rough construction job, the old school heavy duty Carhartt style leather gloves are probably your best bet.  For almost anything else, it is hard to do better than the Madgrips, especially for more moderate work around the homestead.  That said, if you have a favorite workglove that I haven’t listed, let me know!  I’m always up for trying something new.

gloves comparison

 

The Dirt: My favorite wood splitter

There is a saying that there is a tool for every job, and that is as true in homesteading as it is anywhere else.  When we first got started on this adventure, we were a little overwhelmed by exactly what tools we needed, which products offer the best value for our money, and which ones to stay away from altogether.  To share our experiences, we plan to do a series of product reviews that we are calling “The Dirt”, where we will review the best and worst of the homesteading products that we have tried.

Today, I am highlighting one of my all time favorite tools…the wood splitting axe.  Specifically, the Chopper1 Axe.  With the winter over and us being solidly into our springtime routine, it feels like an odd time to be writing about splitting wood.  But, such is life in homesteading.  No sooner are we through one winter before we start preparing for the next.  Spring is actually a great time to split wood, giving your logs plenty of time to season before you need them to burn clean and hot when the cold winter sets in again come fall.  In fact, I have not yet finished all of my wood splitting for next year, and I am feeling a little behind about it!

The Chopper1 Axe is made by a small company in Phillipsburg, NJ, and is one of the toughest axes that I have ever used.  I use this for almost 100% of my wood splitting needs, except for making kindling, where I use a smaller, lighter axe, or sometimes a hatchet.  This ends up being about 3-4 cord per year, consisting mostly of oak, beech, and maple, including logs that are 24″ or more in diameter.  Most of my neighbors use hydraulic splitters, and they wonder how (or why) in the world I do all of mine by hand.  In addition to my sheer love of splitting wood by hand, this axe is my secret.  Here are a few specific reasons that I love it…

1) It can split almost any piece of wood – The axe uses a simple technological enhancement in the form of spring loaded wedges that, when the head strikes a piece of wood, exert a tangential “sideways” force that greatly enhance its effectiveness.  With a little experience in knowing where to strike a piece of wood and a little technique in how to swing a slightly heavier axe (more like a maul than a standard splitter), this axe is capable of splitting all but the most gnarly and knotted logs.

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Figure courtesy of www.Chopper1Axe.com

2) It is extremely durable – This is one seriously tough tool.  From the solid head to the finely crafted wood handle, everything about this tool is built to last.  The only part on the tool that has failed in all of my years of using it is the springs that attach to the wedge.  I break about one per year, which are cheap enough that I just keep a bunch on hand and won’t have to worry about it for another 10 years or so.  This is actually the same kind of axe that I grew up using…my Dad still has his, which is >20 years old at this point, and it still works as well as the days that we chopped wood together when I was still a little boy.

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My Chopper1…a little weathered and rusty (shame on me), but always ready to work

3) Not only is it made in the USA, but it is fairly local to us – It is really important to us that we support local family owned businesses.  This is a great opportunity for us to do that, with the benefit of getting a great tool that will last a lifetime.

At $90, the Chopper1 is a little more than you will pay for a regular wood splitting axe at the local hardware store, but the extra money is well worth the splitting power and the durability of the axe.  If you split your own wood, and enjoy doing it by hand, this axe comes with my highest recommendation!