Breast feeding, lipstick and estrogen are all well and fine, but I am talking to the silent minority here, the MEN with RA!
I have been an avid woodworker for nearly 30 years. When I developed RA several years ago woodworking soon became very hard, and frankly, kind of dangerous as well. Painful, numb fingers, shaking from Pred and high powered stationary saws and whirling blades just do not mix well! I admit I was dealing with the acceptance of RA as well, along with depression, all this together soon had my wood shop shuttered and unused for quite some time. As I grew to accept RA and come out of my depression I started to miss the smell of sawdust and the satisfaction or making something with my own two hands.
I opened up my shop again! I realized, like many other things in my "new" life, my woodworking would have to change to accommodate the RA. I sat down to make a plan! Big tools were out, I just couldn't trust that a) I would not hurt myself or b) I could successfully use the tool without ruining the project. The Radial Arm Saw, Planer, Jointer, and a few other tools were OUT! I called a few buddies and offered my prized tools to them for free if they would come help me rearrange my shop. I kept my 14" band-saw, table saw, floor mount drill press and lathe. With clamps and braces I can still use these for simpler projects. Large furniture and complex projects were out, hobby style items and (my favorite) toys for the neighborhood kids were IN!
My buddies and I decided a Hobby/Man Cave was in order! We added a desktop computer (that I am using now!) a HD flat screen tv and DVR, A/C, a "0" scale train set that runs along the walls nearly at ceiling level and many many manly decorations! Pirate ships and skulls, shark jaws, my Great Grandfathers antique tools, shark teeth and sports memorabilia. Tools were downsized to a Scroll Saw, Blade-runner (sort of an upside down jigsaw) power sanders, and many dremel items with acc. We added walls of peg board to get my hand tools out of tool boxes and make them readily accessible to me. "Carpeted" the floor with large remnants to make it easier on my feet, and widened between items to make it possible to get my power chair around everything.
This was one LONG process! But I tell you what, we had a BALL doing it! Some days we worked hard, other days we decided we should drink a few beers and "plan" out the next step!!! LOL! :) This process also brought me a lot further into acceptance of RA and out of a dark place. When I had to retire at 44, and basically give up life as I knew it....... I spiraled HARD!! Spending this time with my remaining friends and looking forward to what we would do next gave me a sense of purpose I was in desperate need of.
I am not saying you should run out and start woodworking, but after going through all this, I am suggesting you should certainly think hard about a hobby! It will give you that "job" you may need, something to look forward to, and maybe something you can do to make others happy as well.I think all of these things are important, emotionally, to all of us. I know I sure feel better by getting back something that RA had stolen from me. When I am engrossed in a project, I am not thinking about that horrid pain in my feet, or the throbbing nagging pain my spine. I am worried if that little part is going to fit right on what I have already made!
Well, the Hobby/Man Cave has been pretty much finished for a month or so. And I am happy to report that I have completed a small fleet of wooden airplanes, everything from fighter jets to bi planes, all have been claimed by neighborhood kids and a few have even been back for repairs! Watching those kids eyes light up when I invited them in to pick out the plane they wanted was worth every last little pain and ache I had while making them!
I am on to Dinosaurs now, and hope they go over just as well.
In my next post we will talk about tricks and tips for using tools, and how I was able to overcome some of the things in the shop that are a bit tough to do with numb fingers. I would love to hear any Tool tips you may have as well!
Published On: August 24, 2011