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A guide to buying work gloves for first-time home remodeler

I just graduated from college and am wet behind the ears. I’ve never bought work gloves before and would like your advice on what kind to get. They need to last and to protect my hands. I just bought a house that needs lots of work, and I can’t afford to injure myself.

— Scott G., Somerset, N.J.

I remember when I was your age. There were probably three to five types of work gloves made specifically for the residential construction worker. Now there are scores of highly specialized gloves for do-it-yourselfers and the residential construction trades.

Because construction and building is my vocation, when I see all the different work gloves I can purchase, I feel like a kid in a candy store. The fabrics, designs, features and quality today are simply astounding. There’s a glove for just about every task, and that’s a good thing.

What you will quickly discover as you start different tasks is that no one glove offers all you need. That was the problem back when I was your age. I could get heavy gloves that protected my hands when I was doing heavy work, but grit got down into the gloves through the open cuffs. You couldn’t easily find a work glove years ago that kept your hands dry.

When I needed dexterity to handle small tools or parts, the old gloves available to me offered little warmth or protection. There simply was no silver bullet when it came to work gloves.

Now we are blessed with gloves made from newer synthetic fabrics that are breathable, stretchable and, most importantly, comfortable. My idea of the perfect pair of work gloves is one that fits and feels like you’re not wearing gloves at all.

A few days ago, I wore a new pair that really impressed me. These light-duty gloves were made primarily from nylon. This fabric, as any woman will tell you, can be very durable, breathable and comfortable. Nylon fiber can also be spun to different thickness and smoothness.

The palm side of the gloves I wore were coated with a special nitrile foam. The best way to describe this is a very thin rubberized coating. The coating wrapped up over the finger and thumb tips as well as the sides of the fingers.

This coating is waterproof but offers incredible dexterity. The ultimate dexterity test for me is my hand-held ham radio. If I’m able to push the small buttons on the radio without fat-fingering them, then the gloves pass the test.

It’s important to match the glove to the task. For example, if you will be handling hot materials or, say, burning wood that could still be smoldering, traditional leather gloves will probably work best. The last thing you want to wear around a fire, in my opinion, is synthetic fabric that can easily melt and cause severe burns.

Leather is tough and can withstand embers. Firefighters wear special gloves made for this purpose. Stop by a firehouse and ask the shift commander to show you the gloves he wears. You can bet they are tough, waterproof and offer superior protection.

If you’re going to be working around sharp metal, look for gloves that offer superior protection from cuts. Some newer fabrics are very resistant to slices caused by sharp metal and knives. Years ago, I tested a glove at a convention that you could actually score with a new razor blade but the blade would not cut through to your hand. Testing that glove freaked me out.

Tim Carter is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. He can be contacted through his Web site at


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