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Forum topic by Oldelm posted 07-02-2012 08:36 PM 1653 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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75 posts in 2372 days

07-02-2012 08:36 PM

Some of us start to loose the ability to do something we like and need to adapt our work area to help us out. For myself I have some severe back problems that limit my time in my shop to sessions of an hour or so. If I do something I should not do it could be days before I can get back on a project. I had t o retire because of it and I don’t want to loose it altogether I have had to adapt. For myself I have. To work standing upright. As much as possible and stay balanced on my feet. I have my bench at elbow height and try to use lite tools and cut materials to length to make the reach as short as possible. That is not all. I would sure like to see what you have done to overcome some issues you may have and maybe help anyone else to stay in the shop. Give me your thoughts if you think this is a good topic.

-- Jim, Missouri

13 replies so far

View planeBill's profile


506 posts in 2606 days

#1 posted 07-02-2012 09:31 PM

Damn Jim, sorry to hear that. I recently had two surgeries to make my right thumb work again and it has impacted my strength in my right hand to a larger degree than I had imagined and I went to see my surgeon today and he said that that just may be all of the strength I get back. I have been to physical therapy and have worked hard on rehabbing my hand but the strength is slow coming back. I have restricted myself to smaller projects lately and turning tool handles. I am supposed to be leaving to go to boatbuilding school soon and am hoping for better abilities in my right hand. Otherwise, it may be rough going. This scks. I feel for you though, mine hopefully will be temporary.

-- I was born at a very young age, as I grew up, I got older.

View Oldelm's profile


75 posts in 2372 days

#2 posted 07-02-2012 09:59 PM

Thanks Bill
I really not shinning here, it is what it is. I have the ability to do some nice work and it is appreciated. I am just looking for ideas for myself and others. I am gradually retooling as I can. I just bought a dewalt 611 to use in place of my 690 which is not that heavy but I started dreading to pick it up.most of the router work I do is light so I think it will work out. I have been dealing with that thumb thing for a while too. Keep at it it will come back at least some. In the past two years my wife has had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders and carpel tunnel surgery on both hands. She can swing that pan almost as good as 30 years ago now. Tell me how you are working around that thumb.
Thanks Jim

-- Jim, Missouri

View Woodmaster1's profile


1070 posts in 2784 days

#3 posted 07-02-2012 10:17 PM

Try a tall padded stool on wheels to help out with the back. That is what I plan to do.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2686 posts in 3118 days

#4 posted 07-02-2012 10:51 PM

I have no problems like you do but still I have mounted all my various tools at the best height for me to use them. I have benches along the walls of my shop with equipment at different heights to make my time in my workshop easier. Some tools I sit to use (scroll saws) and others I stand when using them.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2887 days

#5 posted 07-03-2012 02:18 AM

Raising my workbench and all my power tools has been the most helpful thing I have done for my terrible back. Putting that black soft matting where I stand has also been helpful

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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3261 posts in 2872 days

#6 posted 07-03-2012 02:34 AM

I think most will recommend the mats like gfadvm talks about. Those do really help.

View bruc101's profile


1260 posts in 3738 days

#7 posted 07-03-2012 02:38 AM

Keeping your fingers out of saw blades, router and shaper cutters. I got this last week from a woodworking buddy that had a fight with a 3 wing panel raiser on his router table. Seems, he lost the fight and lost the ends of two of his fingers from behind the nail and cut another one. He now has two stubs and $1000’s in medical bills. I took him to his doctor today for his weekly follow up and saw the hand without the bandages…made me hurt all over when i saw the damage that cutter had done. He was raising 22 panels and one of the panel edges blew apart and pulled his hand in under the guard and into the cutter.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View Paul C.'s profile

Paul C.

154 posts in 3442 days

#8 posted 07-03-2012 03:50 AM

My hands are so damaged now from neuropathy and arthritis that I couldn’t sharpen anymore. So I bought a veritas power sharpener, and a belt grinder. Makes woodworking much more pleasant when I don’t have to choose between sharpening or woodworking in a given day. Now I can do both.
Woodworking is easier with really sharp tools now too.

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2698 days

#9 posted 07-03-2012 10:26 AM

Jim, I think this is a great topic.

I think you are on the right track with increasing the heights of work benches and reducing the size of your projects. gfadvm is also right about rubber matting and you may, in time, need to look carefully at the grips and handles on your tools.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8546 posts in 2525 days

#10 posted 07-03-2012 12:36 PM

Thanks for posting a good topic Jim,

There’s another side to this that probably affects all of us…. that being… what should I do to change my shop/equipment and work practices now, to avoid having problems in the future.

I’m blessed to be in pretty good health in my late 40’s …. but the three issues that I can see coming down the road are 1.) vission deteriorating, 2.) rotator cuff in right shoulder and 3.) corpal tunnel / tendonitis in right wrist.

Improving my shop lighting (which is pretty good, but can still be better) may help one.

Listening to my wife and swearing off of construction projects may help the other.

...but there’s that three season porch I want to build next year…. and I still hope to build another timber frame some day….. :^(

Keeping images like the one Bruce put up in mind helps address what’s probably the most important thing…. being hyper vigilent about safety and avoiding an accident.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2483 days

#11 posted 07-03-2012 01:14 PM

Broke my back 3 times, had my neck fused, shattered a leg from the knee down. So… I have some limitations in terms of what I can (or should) carry/lift and how long I can be on my feet. I have a couple long saw horses for sheet goods. I can drag a sheet out of my van and right onto the horses by myself. I never have to lift it. Just slide it. Get it on the horses, lift and edge enough to get a 2×4 cross piece in and I can use an edge guide to break them down into manageable sizes to carry back to the shop. I have no access to drive right up to the shop. Everything gets carries or wheeled.

I have a padded stool. I built a slant board for when I’m doing relief carving so I’m not hunched over a workbench. You can adapt a lot of your procedures to make them more YOU-friendly. I saw a plan for a bench that can telescope up and down. A height adjustable bench? Yeah baby…. I think I’m going to do that.

But first I have to rip out my kitchen. We just started packing it up yesterday. I built all the cabinets (still have 18 doors to build but I can use the cabinets without doors so as not to slow this project down). Adapted things so I could manage everything. Once in a while got help from my son moving a big cabinet, but I mostly work alone.
Think about what you do and how you do it. You don’t have to give this up. I don’t think I’ll be doing many big cabinets after this. At least not a whole kitchen full. But I like woodworking. Even if all I had left was carving I’d still be in it. :)

View Oldelm's profile


75 posts in 2372 days

#12 posted 07-03-2012 02:23 PM

Thanks everyone.
Charlie that slant board sounds like a good project. Can we see it?
These things are just what I was trying to get started.
Bruc101’s safety comment is a big deal also. I know that I think about doing some risky things to stay in the game when I should be asking for help. We are an independent lot aren’t we.
Keep the ideas coming it will help someone.
Thanks again LJ’s

-- Jim, Missouri

View dbhost's profile


5767 posts in 3429 days

#13 posted 07-03-2012 02:52 PM

For me it is back care. I admit it, I’m a fat dude, and working on losing the weight, but I got that way due to the back problems in the first place, this just makes it worse… I work with my physical therapist to strengthen the muscles where I can, and I avoid doing anything stupid lifting / twisting wise. I have to realize I am not 20 years old any more, and ask for help, or use moving devices when I need to.

My tool stacker system in my shop is getting a serious rethink due to the lifting / stretching required, I just haven’t come up with a workable solution that allows me to keep the tools out of the way when not in use, but prevents me from having to lift 100 lbs of lunchbox planer when I need to work either…

I wear good quality hiking boots in the shop, and try to keep the floor clean of any pokey things. The boots are FAR more supportive than any work boots I have ever come accross, and help reduce fatigue to my lower back. Likewise, stations where I spend a LOT of time like the lathe, and workbench, have these nice, big Craftsman Anti Fatigue mats down on the floor by them. The bright red color gives me good contrast to see anything I may have dropped on them, and they offer good cushion, again reduces the impact to my back.

I also have a pair of padded shop stools that I use for various tasks. I do tend to take a load off my feet / back at the lathe and workbench by at least resting a leg on a stool…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

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