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Early onset Parkinson's disease and woodworking

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djellworth

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Hi All.

I have a student in my beginner woodworking classes who has early onset Parkinson's disease. She is around 50 years old and has been diagnosed for 5 years. The condition is having an impact on both cognitive and physical abilities - the most obvious being shakiness.

The biggest impact on her work is probably being able to place a chisel accurately as she pares back and then finally placing the chisel in a knife line. This is just an example however as there are obviously other issues as well, marking out accurately for example.

I did a quick search on this forum and have googled fairly extensively but cant find anything relevant

I have a few ideas as to how I can help her do work she can be proud of (she will be making a simple single dovetail box using hand tools, so all the usual processes....) but I was wondering if anyone on the forum faced similar challenges themselves and can share any tricks/tips/strategies to hep counteract the impact of the condition?

Thanks very much in advance for your help.

Nick Thompson

(I have taken over Chris Tribe's workshop in Ilkley West Yorkshire following his retirement)
 

dickm

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Oddly, only yesterday found some correspondence from an old friend (once a Rugby international) who developed Parkinsons 7 or 8 years ago. He mentioned one drug which prevents the tremors, but presumably your student has been offered this by her consulant. The other general point he made was that daily and brisk exercise has helped control the progression of his condition. My Sister in law and one cousin also have Parkinsons, and the differences between their conditions is considerable, so it's difficult to generalise.
Can't think of the names at the moment, but there are charities and individuals who do adaptations/add-ons for tools to help people with physical problems. Will ask my wife if she can remember them, as she worked for several years facilitating work for engineering graduates with such problems.
 

SammyQ

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Parkinson's drugs for tremor control are sensitive to dosage (obviously!) but also timing. Your pupil may find she can adjust her time of swallowing her pills to coincide with class time later?
 

Droogs

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Perhaps you could make some saddles to hold the chisel much like a honing guide that has an adjustable side fence to help place and hold the chisel. Also maybe have the saddle should be a friction fit to allow the chisel to move when hit androtatable to be able to set at different angles for bevels. An adaptation of a veneer slicing gauge perhaps

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Also congrats on taking over from Chris, wishing you well and every success in keeping his much respected shop going
hth
 

Stanleymonkey

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Afternoon

Can you substitute different joints if the precise chisel work is becoming tricky? Rebates cut with a rebate lane with a plane instead of dovetails, halving joints instead of mortice and tenons or even dowel joints? For some projects - brass screws and screw cups can look quite attractive. Similarly exposed contrasting colour dowels can look good.

Some high end hand mitre saws with guide rails can be set up with depth stops allowing you to cut out waste from joints to the required depth. If you are painting the finished piece then halving joints and mortice and through tenons can be built up in laminated layers. It's a different approach, but still requires woodworking skill from the student. There always used to be magnetic saw guides advertised - some for cutting dovetails. Have never used any though. You could probably rig up something like a moxon vise (or make some over-sized wooden vice jaws with angle guide slots) for cutting the dovetails.

Is there any benefit in investigating different saws? Japanese pull saws might be better if she is stronger on muscle groups that pull (back and biceps) as opposed to pushing a western saw (chest and triceps muscles) There are lots of styles of handgrip out there as well.

If you were teaching in a school where a student had a condition that caused shaking, they would probably have 1:1 support (not financially viable for you - unless you have someone who can volunteer) or you would adapt the task for that student so they wouldn't fail. I love the fact you are doing this for your student and reaching out for ideas to support them. Kudos to you and I think we'd all like to know how you get on with this.

Best wishes
 
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AJB Temple

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My father had Parkinsons. The tremors are very unpredictable in timing and severity, but in many sufferers the tremor is continuous and often worse on one side.

Before it got too bad, as he was very fond of DIY and things requiring dexterity, such as playing chess, we experimented a lot with with bean bags and sand bags of the kind used by photographers to keep cameras steady. These would be used as close proximity arm rests.

When holding a chisel on a marked line before knocking with a hammer, the sand bag could be placed under her forearm or wrist. It reduces and absorbs some tremor movement.

The other issue with Parkinsons is people tend to over grip. Encourage her not to hold the tools too tightly. If you can get her to be aware of this, it should help.

And may I say - good on you - for taking the time and trouble to think this through. I wish you all success with your new venture. I wish her success too.
 

Inspector

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I wonder if a bench hand chisel mortice machine along the lines of the old foot operated sash versions could be made. No motor just pull a chisel down by hand operated lever.

Pete
 

djellworth

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Just a quick note to thank those who gave ideas here.

The various tips really helped; she was also very happy to hear that others with her condition were fine working with sharp tools

Her work may be a little slower than others in the class but she is actually producing really accurate work compared to the other students which appears (quite rightly) to be causing her immense satisfaction!

Many thanks
Nick
 

dickm

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Well done to you. From our experience, all too many employers used to be inclined to find any excuse not to employ anyone with a disability, relevant or otherwise. As in your case, many of the engineers with whom my wife worked were better at their jobs than fully able peers, once they had the right assistive technology.
 
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