Backboard Hand Grip

The goal of this project was to redesign a grip or handle for an existing product. I wanted to continue my exploration from What's Your Cup of Tea? and further develop an ergonomic and functional grip for a disposable plastic iced coffee cup to manage my essential tremor by minimizing spilling and making my cup easier to hold. Different from the previous project, I will be attempting a more organic design with more consideration for aesthetic.

Final Product (Clay Model)

press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

Process Summary


Here are the sketches I made during my initial brainstorming for a grip or handle. I ideated possible grips for water/soda bottles, eyeliner/pencil grips, and a plastic disposable cup. After receiving feedback and suggestions on construction from my peers, I ultimately decided to move forward with designing and fabricating an ergonomic and organic hand-guard for a plastic disposable cup I drink my iced lattes from.


I used a plastic disposable cup and traced the outline of my natural grip on the cup (below) to standardize how I held it in my hand for designing as personalized a hand-guard as possible. I also constructed a more high-fidelity view of how my final product would look (right).

Internal Skeleton

Here are the sketches of my designs for an internal skeleton for my coffee cup hand-guard. The goal is for this hand-guard to serve as a sort of backboard for my hand at the strongest point of my hand tremor, so, as shown in my sketches below, the internal skeleton will consist of a stack of increasing rings and half rings to form a shell for the contour of my hand.

I then used the markings I had drawn as a guide, I held the cup while a peer measured the inside diameter between the cup and the outside contour of my hand with a caliper. These measurements are outlined in the schematic below.

I laser cut these rings and half rings out of quarter inch plywood and hot glued them together, to start creating the shape of my hand. After testing it with my hand and the cup, I realized I needed more height to effectively act to backboard my tremor.

I laser cut another set of identical half rings and hot glued them to the skeleton in decreasing size order to create a curve to match the back of my hand.

Once my internal skeleton was constructed, I started packing on clay until the whole structure was covered.

I started using a loop tool and wood modeling tool (shown below) to take off some of the large chunks of excess clay and begin smoothing the surface. I removed enough clay so I barely reached the wooden structure underneath so that there would be as little additional clay on the inside as possible.

In order to create a more organic shape, I needed to remove the edges of the wooden internal structure. I used a box cutter to score the outside of the clay model and cut away the clay and edges of the wood to reveal a more appealing silhouette.

I packed clay onto the expose wood and continued to use a loop tool and a ribbon tool to smooth the surface and reveal more of my desired shape.

Finally, I applied a wet sponge to the surface to give the smoothest finish possible for my final clay model.

I tried using the hand-guard with a plastic disposable cup. It worked to effectively control my grip and manage my tremor, even at different orientation. 

I also flipped the hand-guard and it also worked to align my fingers and "backboard" my tremor. 

I also tested my clay model with different household objects. It could serve as a stand for a snack bowl and a handle for a large cup. Additionally, my dad (who also has a hand tremor) was able to use the hand-guard while he was writing.