Handicap Friendly Nightstand




About: http://senseless.livejournal.com/ I've been attempting to build a house mostly by myself for the last five years... I finally more or less finished it before the bunker project and after recovering from cr...

If you have someone in your life that needs an extra hand someday's this is a handicapped grab bar disguised as a night stand with some easy to reach switches that control outlets on the backside so you can plug in a table lamp or other electrical device. The switches are mounted so they can be easily reached and since they stay in the same place they are easy to find in the dark.


Step 1: In the Beginning

This started cause my wife had knee surgery and needed a grab bar on the side of the bed to hang on to.

Being OCD enough to seldom throw things away, I had a piece of Mahogany left over from when I turned a old side board into a Vanity for the Master Bathroom. It was about 24 inches by 60 and had a piece of trim to match on one long side and the two short ones. This being a very old piece of furniture so the moldings were screwed on not nailed or glued so the first step was to remove it and then stare at the pieces until I came up with an idea.

I realized I had more than enough to make a good sized top for a nightstand with enough left over for a drawer front or I had enough for two sides. I also knew I had several sheets of Oak 3/4 furniture grade plywood leftover from when I trimmed the detail work I did to the ceiling of the great room and dining room from 2x4's.

The choice was obvious so I then focused on how to maximize the piece of Mahogany and how to also possible reuse the moldings that match it.

Since this isn't really an instructable on cabinetry and this isn't a one sized fits all project I'll let the pictures do the talking on how I cut it.

I then glued clamped and screwed the top together and set it aside to dry bottom facing up.

To determine the height the rail I measured the height of the walker my wife uses. Since that will vary in range for whoever you build one of these for, most likely the patient used the walker for some time it has been adjusted to fit them to a height they prefer. I got a measurement then placed the grabrail I had chosen on a flat surface and measure how high it was, subtracted that amount and the thickness of the top from the walker height measurement and was left with how high the night stand needs to be to end up at the same height as the walker. I also measured the inside the molding dimensions to get the correct size to build a box for the base. I added 2 more inches of overhang to the front to be sure there was an unobstructed area of floor and no danger of stubbing her toe.

Step 2: The Basic Box

Once again this isn't really about cabinetry but generally you want to make a box.

I cut some thin strips from the scrap of mahogany about 1/4 wide to trim over the cut edge of the plywood and cut a piece out to fit into the top and bottom of your now 3 sided box. This would be a good time to add shelves if desired or a drawer or two. I chose to make a single drawer and started by attaching a strip of wood ripped from a 2x4 that was about a half inch thick and glued it to the inside of the left side at the height I wanted to mount my drawer hardware. On the right side since I wanted room to wire switches and outlets and the intercom I made the spacer about 2 inches thick but as wide as the left side and glue it at teh same hieght as the one on the left so it would accept the drawer hardware on the right side and leave me plenty of room for the electrical boxes.

The intercom needs about 2 inches and I figured that ensured me it would fit and leave me a 3/4 inch safety margin.

The bottom of the box was glued and held in place with finishing nails because I had a long strip of the Mahogany that I routered one side of so I could run a band around the base and tie it in visually to the moldings around the top.

The drawer is simply another box made of such dimensions that it fits inside the spacers previously glued to hold the slide hardware. After it has been tested to fit you just drill two 1/4 inch holes spaced horizontally though the front of the drawer then after aligning the finished drawer face you just screw it on from inside the drawer. This let me leave a longer overhang on the right side so the drawer looked aligned when closed since the center of the drawer itself shifted left.

Step 3: Finish It

To finish things up so I can get a finish on it and be done I made a test fit next to the bed. I wanted this to be a true grab rail mounted solidly I used my stud locater to find and mark the wall studs and measured how wide a gap to the wall there was. I made a spacer from a 2x4 since I had intentionally allowed a 2 inch over hang on the back so as not to cover up an outlet and make it unusable. I made a pattern with masking tape on the floor then sat and lay in the bed to determine the optimum placement for the intercom and switches and penciled them in roughly. Then I moved the almost done nightstand and using the tape on the floor and the mark on the wall where the stud is did the simple math and drilled 2 holes through the back that would let me use 6 inch lag bolts to screw the nightstand firmly to the wall.

Once I had those holes drilled I marked space for a double gang box on the back, carried the whole thing back to the garage and used a jig saw to cuts all these hole and mount the bracket to hold the intercom speaker, sanded everything a bit, brushed on some walnut stain inside and out the put two coats of polyurethane on with a light run over with fine steel wool.

After it was well dried I wired in a double set of switches meant to fit in one gang, two outlets on the back for the double gang box and wired a plug and flexible line long enough to plug it in. This lets me plug in a desk lamp and a fan, 1 to an outlet and have 2 switches in easy reach to turn lights on or off or fans or a vaporizer etc, whatever item an invalid might wish to have some control of activating without having to call for someone to do it.

I then wired the intercom speakers so they stayed clear of the AC lines and left a pigtail out the back long enough to tie it into the system, and brought it back to the bedroom, lined it up with the tape on the floor and put two lag bolts 2 inches into the stud using the spacer I had made to keep it square to the wall. The table won't tip when someone tries to pull on the rail even if I test it myself by hanging off it with my 170 pounds.

Its surprising how far a solid handrail in the right location will go to making someone with difficulties walking feel secure.

I also made the optional cup holder which also makes for a good place to keep pens and pencils or phone books medications etc.



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    14 Discussions


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Slick! And it wouldn't be American Made if it didn't have a cupholder! XD


    9 years ago on Introduction

    My wife is definitely getting one of these, although I'll probably use MDF instead. She needs something to replace our well-worn, plastic storage drawers on wheels that have served as our dressers for too long now. I think I'm going to try and add some sort of tray on a swing arm, so she has something to write on or what-not while she's in bed. I'm going to work on a mock-up in SketchUp today. Thank you for the wonderful inspiration, Senseless. ~adamvan2000

    2 replies

    9 years ago on Introduction

    I love this. Seems like it wouldn't be too hard to use an existing night table, bolt it to the wall, and just mount a rail on top! I think this would come out uglier but it would be easy to do.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yes exactly anything could work that fit the spot. I just made it from scratch because I didn't have the right sized nightstand but I had the materials left over from building the house. I always save scraps if it's good wood. If your furniture is lower with the handrail attached than the persons walker you could just space it up to fit, and I used the walker as a guide because my wife had used it at that height for a long time so it reasoned the hand rail would be comfortable for her at the same height. cheers, mike


    10 years ago on Introduction

    cliff042 ...That is freaking cool! I will try to make one for my gramma who has a walker.Your ideas are inspirational, and very detailed .Please keep posting. Peace


    I too, am handicapped and have to use a tripod walker now to get around. It wasn't that long ago that I was in a wheelchair and then had to use a walker for many years. This idea would be great for anyone with even balance problems when they first get up, and this is coming from a nurse! redlady54


    11 years ago on Introduction

    this is a very good instructable. it made me sad a bit because my uncle was handicapped a few months after he was born. so he had to use the electric cart driving things/ crutches. he just passed away recently.. and this just makes me wish i could have done this for him. great instructable. +1 rating.

    5 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    That's the best time to start learning this stuff. Back in the middle ages, kids were often working as apprentices in trades by the age of 12, so it's not as if its impossible for someone your age to do this kind of stuff. Senseless's idea is a really good one -- a lot of people in nursing homes would treasure something like that, especially knowing that you worked so hard on it. It doesn't have to turn out perfectly or anything; if it's sturdy and functional, someone will appreciate it very much.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I was allowed to use my dad's table saw when I was 12 if I first called him at work to ask permission. This would be an expensive project to learn on but it's never to early to start learning. Get some popsickle sticks and glue and build some bridges, then add weights to them a bit at a time and see how much weight it takes to break them and you'll begin to understand how to design buildings.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Nice table. That would've come in handy when my back was busted. My dad let me use the powertools and drive when I was 12. I crashed the car and almost cut my thumb off. The moral is : if you're not used to dangerous stuff, get someone experinced to help or supervise until you get the hang of it.