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Forum topic by MrRon posted 10-30-2012 11:42 PM 1750 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4764 posts in 3238 days

10-30-2012 11:42 PM

I am 78 years old with a bad back and other complications that restrict my shop experience. Although I am not considered disabled (wheelchair, crutches, palsy, etc) I have tried to design ways to work in my shop comfortably, safely and painlessly. To do this, I have incorporated devices of my own design that aid me while working. Speed, naturally is not something I want or need to work. It just has to be a relaxed, safe and comfortable place to work. I’m sure there are lots of old folks out there who share my situation. Certain tasks require some muscle power for example, and that is where I have to devise an easy and safe way of accomplishing it. A sprained back or other injury can put me out of commission for days and even weeks; so If so let’s hear from you.

I like to post on this forum because I feel I have an obligation to share my knowledge with those just starting out. I even learn something new all the time.

15 replies so far

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 3033 days

#1 posted 10-31-2012 12:18 AM

While I am somewhat older than you. I do share your back problem and have since I was in my early thirtys. I had to work with it until my retirement at age 65. Than I had obligations that required that I keep going, The two things in my shop that help me the most are a good radio and a padded stool with a lumbar back rest. When the pain gets unbarable, sit down and sand something or count wood screws. We must know by this time that the shop and all the projects are going to outlast us. Enjoy as much as you can as long as you can. God speed, Nils

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View Smallcrafter's profile


36 posts in 2092 days

#2 posted 10-31-2012 10:36 AM

Hey, Nills…

I’m 61 with a bad back and can’t stand for very long. I made 3 workbenches…one large one, one medium sized as a ‘clean’ assembly bench, and a smaller bench for working that has a vice attached to it. The small bench is where I do cutting, chiseling, etc. while seated in a comfortable deck chair. I do most all of my work with hand tools and I minimize the standing time that way. Now if I could find a comfortable stool to use at my big bench, I will just about be set.


-- 'The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.' - Chaucer

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3279 days

#3 posted 10-31-2012 12:22 PM

I have cushioned work mats at each work bench and behind the table saw. I build a lot of cabinet type projects, so one workbench that I built for assembly is only 18” high. I found trying to lift and assembly a cabinet on a regular height bench was awkward and sometimes too high, so the lower bench works great so I don’t have to either be on my knee’s or standing on my tip toes to reach the top of a cabinet.

I also have a shorter bench I use for spraying my finishes, again a regular height bench put cabinets too high or sitting them on the floor I had to stoop over too much to spray.

Also had a friend that worked for a construction crew that was remodeling a bank and he got a couple of their old teller chairs, More of a bar height, swivel, cushioned with adjustable back and on casters…..perfect for when I need to get off my feet for a while or just sit and sand.

-- John @

View kepy's profile


293 posts in 2268 days

#4 posted 10-31-2012 01:02 PM

I have found that having a stool at each tool makes working easier with less strain on my back which doesn’t appreciate my standing for long. Haven’t figured out a way to use a stool at the table saw but fortunately, I don’t spend a lot of time there.

-- Kepy

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3429 days

#5 posted 10-31-2012 01:23 PM

I, like many others seem to be in the same boat. Sadly, like just about everyone else, I think we must have been in denial as to that one day, we would not be able to do the things we took for granted, thus when hit with medical issues and plain old age, we didn’t prepare ourselves for this situation.
I wished that I had given thought to the future and made my shop very user friendly to overcome the inevitable time when health and age issues played a major challenge.
I have now made everything I could mobile by adding wheels, several stools/chairs located at strategic locations and having the wheelchair handy as a last resort. Envision smaller size projects where heavy lifting is minimal, and try to maintain a working environment conducive to you health and age limitations which keeps fatigue and pain issues to a minimum.
Bottom line is that I should have made all the accommodations before, when I had the energy to make the changes, but that denial of getting older and sick someday is really a foolish idea. It will come to everyone eventually, so the best advice I know is to prepare for it, not ignore it.
On the skill level, when you actually do find yourself n this situation, it is extraordinary how inventive you become at solving work issues and hope you have enough energy left to instigate them. Pity we seem to get wiser only when the crap hits the fan.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2978 days

#6 posted 10-31-2012 01:32 PM

While I’m not as old as you young pups, I do suffer from back and leg problems. Besides a good stool or padded chair, or floor mats to help aid in comfort while working. I have found that being able to change the working height for some tasks makes a big difference. For smaller items or projects I have made small tables/extensions to put in my vice to bring work to a comfortable level. I also took some adjustable height folding table legs and made a 3’x4’ assembly table that ranges from 12” – 36” in height to allow me to work at different heights for different projects so that the work is at a comfortable height instead of doing a lot of bending or stretching. Which has been a lifesaver for my back.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3080 days

#7 posted 10-31-2012 01:34 PM

Roger, I do not think that the to soon old, too late smart problem will ever be overstated, but I am learning to
cope with it. I have a couple of rolling stools with the hydraulic adjustable center post in the shop. One has
a special large base with 6” swivel caster wheels under it, the main problem with it is when I stand up and
bump it, it rolls forever and I have to chase it. Somedays, just setting and sanding a project makes for a nice
day in the shop.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2287 days

#8 posted 10-31-2012 01:36 PM

Three suggestions: (1) rubber mats in front of tools and work benches; (2) cushioned shoes that absorb impact (walkin/running types; and, (3) stretching really helps back problems, but get some professional help to learn it correctly.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View scrubpine's profile


14 posts in 2453 days

#9 posted 10-31-2012 01:51 PM

I’m 72. been disabled over 30 years now. Open heart surgery (tripple bypass), PAD in both legs. Had bypass on both from groin to feet, had some toes amputated. 7 eye surgeries, Have high PB,emphysema and the list goes on. But I’m like a Timex I keep on ticking. I’ll probably go while working with wood my favorite hobby.

-- Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Live it ti it's fullest.

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3429 days

#10 posted 10-31-2012 01:55 PM

I made this a couple of years ago, works like a charm.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View MrRon's profile


4764 posts in 3238 days

#11 posted 10-31-2012 08:08 PM

A regular stool didn’t work for me because it required me to tip forward over the bench which put stress on the back. I made up a “rocking” stool that is not as tall as a standard height stool and added rockers. This enables me to shift my weight forward while maintaining a comfortable distance from the bench. I had to make changes to it to find the optimal height. Although I made mine from scratch, A standard wooden stool could be modified by shortening the legs and attaching rockers. The bottom of the rockers would be flattened a bit to sit upright on the floor. I have rubber padding on the floor and my benches are taller so I don’t have to bend over so much.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2364 days

#12 posted 10-31-2012 08:15 PM

I’m a young’in (31 in a couple weeks). Had my laminectomy/discectomy at the ripe age of 28 (paying for those early years of living invincibly). I don’t have many issues now, except a lot of heavy lifting or standing around for hours will cause mild sciatica. My garage is my shop, and I have made mobile bases for all of my heavier tools. I have a padded mat in front of my bench. I built my shop cabinets and bench to put the work surface at the best height for me to work on.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View dbhost's profile


5708 posts in 3226 days

#13 posted 10-31-2012 08:36 PM

I am considerably younger than the OP at the ripe old age of 43, and have had back problems for the last 12 years since an inattentive driver decided to see what happens when a 1985 full size Pontiac moving at 70mph hits a 2000 Ford Ranger at a stand still for the wreck in front of them… (Mostly muscular problems), weight issues top off the thrills for my back and I can not stand for long periods of time without moving around.

I keep sufficient clear spaces by solid objects like walls etc… to let me stretch my back out when I feel the muscle tightening coming on. Have padded stools to sit on and work, and I wear very supportive hiking boots, and stand on anti fatigue mats when in the shop.

I get help lifting, and moving things as much as I can.

And I am working desperately to get the medical issues squared away. (dropping weight, slowly, but it IS going down, and working with the doctors, and PT people to build up the muscles.

I do have a goal in mind, and it’s not just woodworking related. My other big passion in life is hiking / backpacking. I want to get back into shape so that I can strap my pack back on and at the least do the Lone Star Trail before I am 50.

There are things in my shop that are problematic for my back. My tool stacker for example. It is ideal for storing tools in limited space, but terrible on my back. One of my long term tool dreams is to replace my planer and jointer with a 12” combo unit, specifically for my back. and shop space sake…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2070 days

#14 posted 10-31-2012 10:34 PM

43 here also, and hit with a mystery illness 18 months ago that led to progressive neuropathy. I have chronic pain, in my feet and hands and can no longer trust any of my extremities to relay the proper hot/cold messages to my brain. My proprioception affected and fatigue is a major problem.

I’m a newby woodworker, so whatever I set up in the long run will have to accommodate my challenges. While I’m still hopeful they’ll find the cause of my illness, the reality is that the nerve damage is now likely permanent to some degree.

I have to work efficiently and budget my energy. Apart from the safety issues, I try to keep the garage as tidy as possible and put my tools back each time. Then I’m not wasting precious energy looking for something. I also keep a notebook in my purse with a running list of supplies I need so that I’m not making unnecessary trips to town. I usually work alone, but have had to swallow my pride and leave something for later when I know I need an extra set of hands.

The biggest lessons I’m trying to learn are to focus completely on the task at hand and to recognize when to walk away. As dysfunctional as they are, I’m still partial to my digits and extremities.

Thanks for starting this thread, I’ll be following it.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Joseph Jossem's profile

Joseph Jossem

492 posts in 2263 days

#15 posted 11-01-2012 12:50 AM

My landlord is 74 and works 7 days a week like a bull.Dont know how he does it but I think the beer helps.

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