Here is a wonderful article written for us by our good friend Pete Anderson, of Anderson Detector Shafts! Thanks Pete for taking the time to share this great information with our customers! Enjoy…
Ergonomics in Metal Detecting. Why it’s important to YOU!
The term ergonomics is described by Webster as “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely”. When we stop to think about this statement for a minute, we realize that, as metal detectorists, we are in our detecting environments for several hours at a time swinging our electronic instruments that often times weigh in excess of 4-5 pounds. After a couple of hours doing this, the efficiency and therefore safety quickly disappear. The arm and wrist become fatigued, shoulders get sore, existing conditions like Tennis Elbow and back pain rear their ugly heads. These conditions are magnified substantially in those people that are water hunters. Trying to swing a detector against the resistance of the water is not an easy task at the best of times and when you throw larger heavier coils or pounding ocean waves into the mix, the results are like a workout in the gym. And if this isn’t enough, how about those of us that are 50, 60, and 70 plus years old! Lord have mercy! You guys and girls know what I’m talking about so let’s take a look at our trinket finding machines, see how they are designed, and look to see what we can do to help make them feel, as much as possible, like an extension of our own bodies.
In our quest for oneness with our machine, we will look at the various components of our detector and see how they influence our goal of achieving an ergonomic state. As this article is authored by Anderson Detector Shafts, we will show the steps that our company has taken to improve the ergonomics of the machines that you use on a daily basis using such matrix as weight, balance, and others.
Big coils, small coils, double d’s, concentric, elliptical, co-planar, mono, donut, spider, open spoke… the list is endless as are the sizes, the weights, and the compositions. As a general rule, coils for land machines are supposed to be light and use technology like foam fill, and coils for water machines should be at or near neutral buoyancy and use epoxy fill technology so they don’t float. These are generalities and there are always exceptions. One exception is a water or waterproof machine that is used on the beach (light weight coil) and is then configured for scuba diving or shallow water wading, still using the foam filled coil. The coil will fight you all the time while being submerged and this is exactly what we don’t want. This situation will cause fatigue, frustration, and ultimately loss of concentration. One particular machine of mine comes to mind regarding a buoyant coil. The machine has a large 12” coil and was so buoyant that if you let go of the machine while diving, it would torpedo towards the surface. Talk about aggravation! Anderson remedied the problem by developing a coil weight that fastened to the center of the coil with tie wraps.
Shallow water wading has its own unique problems vs underwater detecting when it comes to coils even though they are both classified as water hunting. Besides the coil floatation issue mentioned above and the difficulties you may encounter using a large coil around certain obstacles you may encounter on the bottom while diving, once you are under deep enough water your coil will basically stay where you put it and be unaffected by the action of the surf. On the other hand, wet sanding and wading in even mild surf conditions can make your coil control extremely difficult especially with machines that have a donut coil. These large surface area coils catch a lot of water and are more susceptible to being flopped around. Also, because you are more apt to being pushed around by the surf, you are more likely to be using your detector as a stabilizer to help keep your balance and therefore increase the chance of physically moving the coil and even breaking your lower rod. A coil stabilizer, as shown below, will help maintain your coil’s stability and preferred angle of use.
For the dirt fishers, coil control and stability is a lot more manageable. Once the coil bolt is tightened sufficiently, there is not much more to worry about. For heavy coils, there are solutions that will be covered later in this article. One thing worth mentioning about coils is the placement of the coil lugs, or ears, in relationship to the center of the coil. I have personally found over the years that using machines with coils that have the lugs in the center feel less tiring at the end of the hunt. It’s all about weight and weight placement or balance. Even those who use coils with lugs that are not in the middle of the coil may want to flip the coil around so that most of the coil’s weight is closer to your body. It just may feel lighter for you. If it feels lighter and gives you a positive mental attitude then your attention will be focused where it should be, and that is the task at hand.
Don’t think that lower rods play a part in ergonomics? Think again. Today’s lower rods come in a variety of lengths, configurations, and materials. Materials range from ABS, glass reinforced nylon, FRP, fiberglass, Zero Flex fiberglass (pat.pen.), carbon fiber, etc. All of these materials have very different properties and characteristics. Even the clevises at the bottom of the rods have special differences and design features. Ergonomically speaking, the biggest issue affecting lower rod performance has to do with the material it is made from. We all know that as costs go up manufacturers often source cheaper materials to remain competitive and to keep profits as high as possible and sometimes forget that the end product may not be up to snuff when we start adding our larger, heavier coils and start to increase our swing speeds because the processors are faster and have a quicker recovery speed. The faster we swing, the more flex is induced into some of the plastic lower rods. The coil is actually still moving in one direction while you are attempting to reverse your swing direction. Even though this movement may be slight, you can see how this movement adds up during the course of the day. It will tire you out and add to the fatigue that a poorly ergonomically designed system has. Make sure that your coil cable is well secured to the lower rod or you can experience some falsing under these conditions as well. We addressed this very condition with one of our dealers who was having an issue with some large imported coils being used on a stock factory lower rod. The weight of the larger coil was causing the lower rod to flex and therefore making the machine chatter because of falsing. We designed one of our Zero Flex lower rods to fit the factory shaft and eliminated the problem. Our company constantly works with our dealers and customers to help solve issues such as this. Another minor issue that is eventually encountered by users of detectors is the wearing of the rubber washers that fit between the coil and the coil clevis. Dirt, sand, silt, and friction take their toll and wear down the rubber material causing the coil to lose its friction fit and become sloppy. Exclusive features of the Anderson lower rod include oversize 22mm OD washers for maximum friction fit, included nut and bolt, and a shim kit that allows for a custom just right fit and compensates for wearing of the washers. The clevis features injection molded glass impregnated nylon for super duty performance and durability. The Zero Flex series is also now available in colors and our carbon fiber lower rod provides the ultimate in light weight, space age technology.
Here’s where things are really happening on the ergonomic scene! This is where you will find the terms S rod, straight shaft, 2 piece travel shaft, One Piece Surf Stick (pat.pend.), carbon fiber shaft, Zero Flex fiberglass shaft, aluminum shaft, Over/Under shaft (pat.pend.), long shaft, regular shaft, hip mount, chest mount, Ausie Stick, etc. Don’t be worried about all the confusing terms. Once you are involved in the hobby for a while, these terms will make perfect sense as you begin to find the short comings of your factory shaft setup. You will find that your detector may feel nose or coil heavy, or that your wrist and or shoulder ache after only a short period of use, how about that loose feeling between the upper shaft and lower rod or the fact that your detector feels like it weighs as much as a cinder block. These are the areas that aftermarket shafts and mounts address.
When we start talking about shafts, we will be considering … (1) Balance…. how long is the shaft, where are the handle/cuff/electronics mount located and how are they fastened and are they adjustable. (2) Weight… what is the shaft made out of and how strong is it. (3) Adaptability… is the shaft longer than stock to accommodate taller users or those requiring a longer reach, can the shaft collapse enough to suit the needs of shorter people/children, does the shaft fit the needs of those with handicaps and is it suitable for both right and left handed users.
Let’s start with the most important consideration, (1) Balance. We consider this to be THE most important aspect of a well-designed ergonomic shaft system. System? Yes. The shaft is comprised of many pieces that must orchestrate together to provide an efficient interaction. Where these pieces are located on the shaft as well as how they are designed and materials they are constructed of all contribute to a well-balanced package. The basic idea of balancing the detector is to have a neutral feel in the hand grip. By that I mean you don’t want to feel as though the coil is pulling down on your wrist making it nose heavy and also you don’t want the coil to feel as though you can’t keep it down because there is too much weight behind your wrist. The detector should swing as easy as possible with very little effort required by the operator to keep the coil placed where they want it. Anderson shafts have the handle, cuff, and mounts located at strategic locations for the average user while also allowing for adjustability in the handle and cuff for those that wish to ‘tweak’ for optimum results. For item (2), Weight, we will consider aluminum, Zero Flex fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Aluminum has been the standard for many years. It has good strength, cheapest cost, and is the heaviest of the three although some companies use very light thin wall tubing. There is a trade off with thin wall tubing and that is strength. Not related to our discussion on ergonomics but worth mentioning is the fact that aluminum is prone to oxidation/corrosion when used in a salt water application. The finish can blister and peel when subjected to the salt. Even anodized finishes will oxidize over time. These oxidizing effects occur inside the shaft as well adding to the problem of jammed lower rods when the shafts are not taken apart after each use and cleaned. The next material we will discuss is Zero Flex fiberglass. As the name implies, shafts made from this material are very rigid. They surpass aluminum in key areas in that they are lighter, are resistant to oxidation/corrosion from salt water, have a very good strength/weight ratio, and are available in the same colors as our aluminum shafts. Zero Flex shafts can also be obtained in one piece configurations known as Surf Sticks. One piece shafts offer the ultimate in strength as there are no lower rods and therefore no weak link between upper shaft and lower rod. Zero Flex are mid-range priced shafts. For the ultimate in strength, durability, weight savings, and technology, there is carbon fiber. This material has been used by Anderson’s for over 10 years with 100% customer satisfaction. It is extremely durable, even in salt water but as with all detector shafts, must be taken apart after each use to rinse out the accumulating sand, silt, and salt. These premium shafts carry the highest price tag but also offer the longest life span. Their extreme light weight is very evident especially when doing hands on comparison to shafts made from aluminum. Section (3) is Adaptability. We receive numerous inquiries asking about the length of our shafts. Our shafts are generally longer than the stock shaft allowing for a broader sweep and a more comfortable reach for taller users. Our shafts are telescopic allowing the lower rod to slide up the inside of the upper shaft for shorter users/children. Two piece shafts are also available for those wishing to have the most compact form factor possible for air travel. These shafts are designed to serve the needs of vacationers with periodic use and are not a substitute for the regular shafts we make which have been designed for everyday use.
Another important consideration for some users is the shaft finish or color. We have several customers who have vision impairments and require a brightly colored finish to aid them in their detecting. Our company offers this service as a special order.
When we design a shaft system that incorporates the electronics into the hand grip, we take extra steps to insure that the finished product is equally at home to both right and left handed users. Our mounts allow the electronics to swivel left and right for that just perfect viewing angle. We also optimize the viewing angle so that the display is easier to see without bending your neck.
We will sum up by saying that there are improvements available to detectorists that will help reduce the fatigue and pain encountered in our hobby, and through these improvements you will enjoy the ability to hunt longer and therefore improve the number of finds you make and do it with the benefit of more comfort.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!
If you would like to view more Anderson Products, visit their website @ https://www.andersondetectorshafts.com