Years ago, I would have been disappointed to receive kitchen utensils as a birthday gift, but this year, when I was given a set of new knives, I was quite excited. In the past few months, I’ve noticed that cutting is more work than it used to be – I worried that this was a sign of aging. I even started buying hard veggies like squash and turnip already cut up.
As soon as I started playing with my new toys, I realised why I’d gotten so “weak”….the difference between these knives and my old ones was remarkable! (And – hurray – it’s not an age-related decrement in my upper body strength that was causing my difficulty – at least, not yet!)
Like any ergonomist, I was curious about how these new knives performed, in comparison with the old ones. I dug out my force gauge (which was, of course, handy in my work bag, right by the door), and took a few measurements of the downward push force to cut through my dwindling celery supply, just for kicks. It turns out the difference is measurably better! My old knives required 12 kg average downward push force. (I stopped short of a full biomechanical analysis of that force, but rest assured, it’s a lot for one hand in that posture.) My new knives required only 5 kg of force. I can’t stop chopping! Squash, carrots, meat, nuts…bring it on! (And thanks, mom and dad, for the amazing gift!)
Next, I will need to learn how to keep them sharp……a good knife sharpening program is a key ergo program component for our meat processing clients. Knives need to be sharpened frequently, right at the side of the line. In the past, companies needed to train employees to use a “steel” to sharpen their knives; this was a skill that was difficult to master. Now, sharpeners mounted at the side of the line allow employees to sharpen fairly consistently and quickly. Knives also need to be machine-sharpened (“honed”) periodically. I’ll be working on my own sharpening techniques over the next few months, to make sure I don’t lose my “edge”.
Meanwhile, if there’s anything that Taylor’d Ergo can do to help you to evaluate or optimise the design of a tool or job in your workplace, please let us know!