Get a Grip – Wooden Prosthetic Hand

Prosthetic limbs have evolved significantly over the years. From 3D-printed prosthetics to mind-controlled ones, the advancements in this field are remarkable. Today’s featured object dates back to the early 1900s. Despite its simpler design, it showcases the exceptional craftsmanship of that era.

The wooden articulated prosthetic hand is made from blonde wood, possibly beech, birch, or elder wood. All fingers move at the joints except for the thumb joint between the distal and proximal phalanges. Nails hold all the pieces in place, and the fingers move smoothly on wooden mortise and tenon joints. The wrist is oval-shaped and has a slight indent in the base, which was probably intended to attach to a prosthetic arm or base.

The hand was made by Charles Baghurst, a skilled carpenter and pattern maker from the Swindon region of the United Kingdom. It’s worth noting that the design of the hand is similar to those created by James Gillingham, a bootmaker from Chard, England. During World War I, James Gillingham made numerous prosthetic limbs for servicemen who returned from the war.

This piece will be on display during South Australia’s History Festival, 1-31 May 2024.

Written by Margot Way, CALHN Health Museum