From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Second Handles

Dan MacLeod, CPE, MA, MPH

Shovel1 Grinder
A second handle can help

Principles affected

Related pages

Tool grips


Second handles on hand tools help to:

  • Increase control and maneuverability
  • Enable use of more muscle groups
  • Gain mechanical advantage
  • Enable better working posture: wrists, arms, and lower back

As a result, it is possible to improve accuracy in using the tool, generate more strength, reach further, and/or bend less.


Depending upon the situation:

  • Reduce hand and arm exertion
  • Reduce bending and reaching

Ideas and Options

Traditional examples

TradDrawknife TradCutter
Draw knife with small blade Hay cutter

Adding a second handle to a tool is a time-honored technique that helps make work easier. These examples are valuable today as models for scrapers (left) and long, awkward tools (right).

Less exertion

HighTorque PowerWash
Second handle on pistol grip tool for extra high torque Tommy gun grip on power wash

A second handle allows not only use of both hands on a tool, but usually also with increased mechanical advantage. Thus for torquing tools (above left), it is easier to control torque reaction.  Similarly, pressurized water or air (above right) can create a reaction force that can be hard to hold without the second handle.

Detachable1 Detachable2
Detachable grips

Detachable grips are readily available on the market, making it easy to add a second handle as needed.

Better height and reach

Shovel2 Pitchfork
Two-handled snow shovel Attached to pitchfork for compost

A second handle on a snow shovel eliminates the need to bend and thus saves on the back. Furthermore, extensive field studies* indicate that the two-handled shovel is the tool of choice for steps (where control is needed to access corners) and when there is need to throw the snow a long way (better leverage to toss the snow over high piles).  For small amounts of light snow on level surfaces, such as driveway, push shovels are better, but for deep, wet snow the type of two-handed shovel shown above excels.

Several styles of second handles are commercially available. The type shown in the photo above connects to the shovel at two points, thus creating a rigid triangle for stability. It is detachable and can thus be applied to other tools, such as a pitchfork for turning compost.

*Conducted personal by the author who was raised in Northern Minnesota and consequently a highly qualified expert on this topic.

Long raking tool

Adding a second handle makes it easier to hold and manipulate long tools, such as the home made rake above used to pull items closer and making them easier to pick up in large containers. Note that the forward handle in the photo above puts the wrist in a good position, in contrast to the posture it would be if holding the rake without it.