This is called the incredible elevator stick, but it is very versatile for many many uses. Sometimes the simplest inventions are the most useful. Back when I was in high-school, I would often have to use an elevator to get from one floor of the school to the next. As I am in a wheelchair, it was very difficult to maneuver in this very tiny elevator to reach any of the buttons. Unfortunately, the elevator in the school was an old model with the elevator buttons high out of reach. Even with the newer elevators, with my particular disability, in most instances I can not get close enough to the buttons to reach them. To solve this issue, the Incredible elevator stick was created.
My first incarnation of the elevator stick consisted of simply a dowel stick cut to a comfortable lenght with a rubber thimble used for sewing stuck onto the end with a rubber-band. This worked quite well. It allowed me to easily reach and press the button on the elevator. This worked well for me through High School.
In college, people would frequently ask me about this curious looking dowel stick with the rubber thimble rubber-banded on the end. It would often get strange looks. I started to realize that while it was practical, the ugly looking stick was somewhat a funny looking item to carry all about.
Thus we come to the new and improved Incredible Elevator Stick, which I might add is far more versatile than using for pushing elevator buttons alone. I can't tell you the number of times I've used this stick to simply reach, push and even pick up items that I have dropped. I've added a strong magnet to mine so that I can pick up small metal items like paper-clips, screws and nails. Because it is very lightweight, I frequently carry it with me and have had many times in which it has come in very handy.
There are a number of ways to make this item, but you will need the following basic supplies for which substitutions may be possible.
1) Dowel stick - You want to find a dowel stick that is comfortable to grip in your hand, thick enough that it won't bend too much, and not so thick that it is heavy to carry.
2) A rubber cap (rubber feet)- Various sized rubber caps are made for fitting onto dowel rods for the purpose of making dowel legs for tables. These feet can sometimes be hard to find, but are available in many hardware and retail shops. You want one that is slightly bigger than your dowel rod. A substitute for this is the rubber thimbal, though this is not as nice looking.
3) Electrical or Duct tape- You will need some electrical or duct tape in the same color as the rubber cap.
4) Paint or stain- You can use either acrylic paint, spray paint, or stain to paint your dowel. The paint should be water resistant and durable. (For most paints, you should use a disposable sponge brush)
5) picture frame eye loop- A very tiny eye loop of the sort that is used for picture frames.
6) leather- Either leather lace or scrap leather
7) Hot glue and hot glue gun
8) Optional: A lanyard
9) Optional: A small strong magnet that fits within the rubber cap. Rare-earth magnet.
10) Optional: A saw
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Step 1: Step 1 Stick Length
The first step for making this elevator stick is determining how long you need it to be. Typically, dowel sticks will me much too long left un-cut. You want the stick to be long enough to reach the highest elevator button for the elevator(s) you are most likely to use, but not so long that it will be difficult to carry. The best way to determine how long the stick should be is to take an un-cut dowel stick with you, go into an elevator, and see what length it is most comfortable to hold the stick to reach the button. Another good way to determine ideal length is to sit the tip of the stick on the floor. Generally, the stick should not be much more than two or three inches above your knee from the position of sitting in a wheelchair. For myself, I am making a short elevator stick to go with my longer stick. A short stick is easier to carry, but will work with fewer elevators. A longer stick will work with more elevators, but be more difficult to carry.
Mark the length of the stick with a pencil, than saw off the excess if necessary.
Step 2: Step 2: Paint
The first decorative elevator stick I made, I took a wood burning tool to do some intricate designs, then stained a dark cherry. You can do all sorts of things when it comes to painting to Jazz up your elevator stick such as cover it in glitter or cover it in decals. Keep in mind what you plan to use the stick for. If you want one for getting about the mall you may want a more decorative version than one for getting about at work. The easiest thing to do is simply spray paint the stick a color to match your wheelchair so it looks like it is a part of the chair. Don't be surprised to get a lot of questions about your elevator stick as it does have a crop-cane like appearance.
Step 3: Step 3: Rubber Tip
If you want to make your stick have a magnetic tip, take a small round strong magnet, and tape it to the end of the stick. You need to use a very strong magnet, one that will still work through the rubber cap. Make sure the rubber cap will fit over the end of the stick. If the rubber cap is loose, wrap tape around the end until the cap is a very tight fit on the end of the stick. Next, after the cap is in place, tape around the bottom edge of the cap so that the cap can not fall off. This cap is what will be pushed onto the button. It should be rubber so as to grip the button when it is pressed into it. If the cap does not provide enough grip, you can dip the end of the stick into liquid rubber.
Step 4: Step 4: the Loop
Carefully screw a small loop onto the end of the dowel stick. Usually the eye-loop has a sharp tip, so with some force you can screw it into the wood... or try to pre-drill with a tiny dremel tool taking saftey precautions to secure the dowel. The eye-loop is what will be used to connect a lanyard that will go over the person's wrist to help the individual carry the stick and prevent dropping the stick.
Step 5: Step 5: the Grip
To make the grip for the dowel, you will need either leather lace or scrap leather. If your using scrap leather, you will want to cut a long strip about a half inch wide. You can make the strip narrower if you like, but it will be difficult to cut straight. Take your hot glue gun and apply a generous amount of glue to the end of the dowel that has the eye-loop, and then stick the end of the leather strap or leather lace to this area. Wind the leather around the dowel adding a drop or two of glue as you go making sure the leather is flat against the dowel. Use a piece of tape to hold the leather to the dowel tightly as the glue dries.
Take another long strip of leather. Tie the leather to both the upper and lower part of the hand grip and apply glue to hold it in place. This will prevent the leather grip from unwinding.
Step 6: Step 6: the Strap
There are several ways to make the lanyard or strap that attaches to the end of the dowel. The simplest way is to take a piece of leather lace approximately 16 inches long and tie it into a loop. Then thread it through the loop and knot. You can also use lanyards made for cameras or skip this step completely.
Step 7: Step 7: Safety and Use
There has been several occasions upon using this elevator stick in elevators I was unfamiliar with in which I nearly got stuck inside the elevator because I could reach the button to open the elevator door on the outside, but not operate the buttons on the inside. Raised buttons and some very old elevators have buttons that are extremely hard to push and will make it difficult to use this stick. It is recommended that the first time using an elevator, be accompanied by an abled body individual until you are comfortable that you can operate the buttons yourself. If this is not possible, be sure to carry a cell phone or let someone know where you are going. As you enter an unfamiliar elevator, quickly look at the buttons. If they look as if they will be difficult to reach, exit the elevator before the doors close.
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