Walker Workbench





Introduction: Walker Workbench

About: The seat of my pants has grown a pretty robust set of wings as a result of heavy usage.

A lot of folks around me are getting older and having trouble walking, one of them my wife's grandmother (grandmother-in-law?). Thanks to Medicare, every time she falls and goes to the hospital she gets a shiny new walker to help her get around. Suffice it to say she's developed quite a collection so far (five, by my count). She gave me two of them (one wheeled, one standard) and said I'd be able to find some use for them. After scouring the interwebs and finding really nothing (gasp!), I began to look around at my own needs. Usually any horizontal space I have (work bench, tables, car, sleeping house pets, etc.) quickly becomes storage or the start of a new project. I figured a steady, portable and compact work bench would work perfectly around Casa de Jiggsy. And here it is!

Since a walker is designed to support much (if not nearly all) of the weight of an elderly human, the table is surprisingly strong and stable. I was able to stand my Clydesdale-like frame upon it during testing, though I don't recommend this as a substitute for a ladder. The design uses ordinary components from hardware stores and can be built for very little cost. If I were to make a Mk. II version, I'd find some way of attaching the work top to the walker once the walker is folded. Since this is such a basic design, it leaves a lot of room for customizing (larger or smaller work surface, small vice, tool storage, etc.) but this is my first go at an Instructable and I hope I did well! Comments and criticisms welcome.

Step 1: Materials

These are going to be the basics of what you need to get started. Since walkers come in many shapes, sizes and styles, I will not be providing detailed measurements or figures. Often I'm winging it just as much as you might be. Links will be from McMaster-Carr (their pictures clear up many a dispute as to what something is and should be called), but definitely feel free to support your local hardware store (I did).

* A walker, preferably four legs with rubber caps (no wheels or skid pads) and currently not in use by someone (Aunt Edna and Uncle Sal will thank you)
* Four (4) split ring clamping hangers for 3/4 inch pipe (measure the diameter of the tubing near the walker's hand grips to make sure this is the right size; if yours is larger/smaller, purchase the correct size hanger for your tubing)
* Four (4) socket head cap screws , 3/8-16 thread, 1 inch long OR four (4) standard hex head bolts, 3/8-16 thread, 1 inch long
* Utility knife
* Screwdrivers, Phillips and flat head
* Plywood, 3/4 inch thick, 2' by 2' square or similar (used counter top section, butcher block, reinforced sheet metal, etc.)
* Drill or drill press with various metal and wood bits (Forstner bits if you want to make the bolts flush mounted)
* Hex key, 5/16 or sized to fit the bolt head (alternatively, you will be using a socket set for hex head bolts)

Step 2: Release Your Grips

1. Begin but cutting along the length of the walker's grips (handles) with your utility knife. I've noticed some walker's have a foam style grip; you may have to get creative in removing it (adhesive remover, fire, sanding, more fire, etc.) The grips on mine were a gray rubberized plastic and were cut through easily.

2. While it cuts easily, it has been formed tight to the metal through manufacturing and multitudes of hands bearing down on them. Slip a screwdriver under the cut and pry off.

Step 3: Time to Get Clampy

I'll tell you right now: I never really was good at math. I could go on about how a failed attempt at algebra in seventh grade plummeted me into a dark and sinister world where numbers routinely beat me with sticks but truth is I pretty much use math as method of  last resort. I'd rather go by eye or build a mock up than labor over fractions of an inch on a scale drawing. Those nerds with an abundance of math skills (or even some l33t machinery skills) can probably think of better ways to do the next step.

3. Using two of the clamping hangers, mount them loosely on one side of the walker. You will have to completely remove the screw from the clamp, put the clamp around the tubing, then close it back up using the screw. By leaving them loosely you can lay the plywood on top of them with the bolt thread section pointing up.

4. Slide the clamps along the tubing until you find that sweet spot that keeps level contact with the board while providing the widest distance between the two clamps. This will provide the most stable configuration for the work top. If you want to ply your dark arts of math and numbers on this section, do so. Have fun!

5. Oh, you're back! Have a nice time in Numberopolis? Once you've got the ideal spots located for the clamps, crank down on the clamp screws and secure them tightly to the frame. Repeat with the other two clamps on the same side.

Step 4: Topping It Off

6. Once you have the four clamps secured to the frame, it's time to determine the drill locations for the cap screws. I was using a 2' by 2'  section of 3/4 plywood and discovered through a bit of trial and error that the clamps laid down neatly with a 2 inch border on either side. I then measured the center of the board, the center between the two clamps and then matched them up. Using a tape measure, a pencil and some luck, I located the approximate center of the hole and drilled through with a 3/8 wood bit. I temporarily anchored the top to the walker using this hole then drilled out the remaining three holes, temporarily attaching each hole using another cap screw. With a temporary attachment, it allows for some "wiggle room" in the design as well as the current placement of the clamps.

7. If you are channeling the great flannel shirted marvel known to mortals as Norm Abrams, remove all screws and break into your Forstner bit set. Forster bits will drill a clean flat bottom in wood, allowing you to flush mount items like bolts and cap screws with ease. One thing I didn't think through (or photograph) was that, by flush mounting the cap screws, I did not take into account the height of the bolt would change the depth of the screws overall. You can go with one of two easy fixes: get shorter cap screws or (what I did) torque down on the screws once you encounter some resistance when it hits the bottom of the threads and starts to hit the frame. Back the screws out completely and remove the clamping hangers. If you've done it right, you'll have a slight circular score mark where the end of the screw "bit" into the metal. Drill out the walker frame with an appropriately sized bit, reattach the hangers, top and cap screws. The drilled openings will now give you plenty of room to fit the screw down flush to the surface and helps to anchor the top since you're now incorporating the frame into the equation and not just "floating" above it.

That's pretty much it. I've already used it a few times in my shed for supporting boards to cut, holding tools off the ground and generally enjoying my creation while mentally listing ways to improve upon it. Hope yours turns out just as awesome!



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    30 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Thats a clever idea!

    I often need a smaller surface for Field Work, will be looking for a walker!


    I have my aunt's old walker since she went to the deluxe model with seat and brakes. I have been using it for display purposes at craft shows--I make walker bags. Your tute has given me a new use for my old walker. I have long needed a table for my knitting machine and have despaired of finding one the right size, demountable, and low enough to suit my 5' 1" height. I'm off to Ace to get some hardware and a board. By this time tomorrow, I'll have a knitting machine table that I can shove under the bed or sofa when not in use, and I can still use it at craft shows. Win-win.

    Oh my gosh I LOVE this! I can see the perfect manageable fold-up sewing table with height adjustment for different users. I would even cut in the space for my machine in the top with a little fold-down shelf for the machine, as seen on the Gidget & Gidget II sewing tables by Arrow.

    2nd great application- college dorm room living- need a Microwave table? Laptop desk? Extra worktable that you can put out of the way at times? This is perfect for 2 projects for me right now. I will post back with any hardware ideas I come up with as variations. THANKS SO MUCH!

    Don't anyone feel bad, you haven't ruined it for use when you might need it down the road, just keep the parts. Sooner or later, it may come in handy for it's original use.

    3 replies

    Well, there is a bit of ruination involved, as my original method removed the hand grips and drilled through the top thus weakening the overall structure. Although I'm pretty certain that with a bit more ingenuity and skill (and possibly hose clamps) you make be able to make a walker table that is completely free of damage and can go back to its original use.

    Despite all the wonderful comments on here, my family can't stop mocking me about it! They consider it far too redneck to even consider the practicality of it.

    Hi Jiggsy,
    What about using any of the variety of conduit clamps applied to some (rough size variable)18" x 4" pieces along the sides of the swing-out handles, thus creating side supports without cutting the handles at all. They could be attached to the outsides just above the crossbar (below the handles). You could leave these in place even when folding. The top could then be attached to these side pieces with some latches, catches, L-brackets, or 90-degree hasps for a quick-release. So much fun hardware out there to choose from. I looked up some new ones with a google image search for each of those terms. I will probably make mine this way, since I would want to keep the original use intact for future. Getting older.

    I too get a lot of grief from my family, as they seem to dislike my inventiveness, & prefer "new" & "store-made" things. Where is the fun in that! I say use your brain people, design something new. There are so many wonderful discarded materials out there now in abundance. I spent my childhood in my G'pa's workshop & was allowed to create anything I wanted with his materials; best times ever. Would love to get my kids off the video games & get them inventing instead. They are quite skilled relative to their peers...but still, hope they will do more.

    Conduit clamps is an excellent option (and something I have a bunch of sitting around as well). I simply went with the clamp hangers because they are cast instead of extruded, making for a sturdier setup. And, unless you're looking to make a very long/wide table, I don't think you will need swing out arms. The frame of the walker itself is pretty sturdy by its very nature.

    If you want to survive in my family, you have to be pretty thick skinned. I think they tease me more for it's redneck qualities rather than its usefulness. Maybe just to get back at them, I'll make a goldfish pond out of a discarded toilet bowl!

    I have a walker after an injury one of my kids had, I'm thinking that it will make an awesome camp table and with the two lockable wheels, it will be easy to maneuver.

    1 reply

    I've used it several times as an extra table while working at the grill. Despite getting plenty of ribbing about it from my oh-so-supportive family, it is surprisingly stable and easy to move around. You'll have plenty of fun with it in camp!

    I like the idea, but I would alter the bracket instead to some sort of open bracket that is small enough to slip over and lock around the bars, so you can pull the plywood off, close up the walker, and store it. Great idea, and I'll be looking for one of these in my travels to Goodwill/Salvation stores!

    3 replies

    To that end, You probably could leave it in the current configuration and simply unscrew the clamps and then reattach the base to the front of the walker when folded. Something I'll have to try today (especially since my 5/16 hex wrench has gone walking). I'll post pics if it's a success.

    Update: moderate success with it collapsed. Because the walker has a slightly wider taper as it approaches the bottom of the legs (more stability) it didn't allow me to attach all four brackets back on to the frame. Also, the longer bolts would mean drilling additional holes in the frame just to store it. I borrowed my neighbor's hex key to dismantle the bench, collapsed the walker, then reattached the two clamps using just a screwdriver and turning the cap screws finger tight. It means I can only carry it with the "holding clamps" facing up (too loose otherwise) but it's more of a "proof of concept" than a solid working idea. I'll likely shorten the hex cap screw length and find something other than a 5/16 hex head size. That will let me use a smaller hex key (plenty 1/4 inch and smaller lying around) and save me from drilling more holes.

    Walker Workbench, now in version 1.0.2! :) Keep us informed of course of your refinements.....

    oooh I feel a new work table coming up in my immediate future. I know my local thrift store has gobs of these walkers available for nominal fees. Grreat Job !!

    I love your portable posing table for cats. Five stars, three cheers, two thumbs up, and a round of drinks. An excellent photographer's assistant.

    Froggie says:
    Thank you professor2005 for bringing up the subject of used Assistive Technology (walker) and Jiggsy for taking the pro-active approach of trying to find out about recycling a used walker. You are both right. The solution? Check to see if your state has an Assistive Technology (AT) Re-use Center and if not, start one. The U.S. Department of Education established Grants for AT Re-use in all states. I work in such a place in Maine (TEC Assist) and we add value to those products that are donated to us by cleaning, sanitizing, repairing, and reselling them at 50-80% off the MSRP. Our suppliers are people, organizations, institutions and others who have gently used AT items on hand not being utilized. Our customers are Maine citizens who have maxed out their insurance, don't have insurance, or need items that are not covered by insurance. Our product line consists of walkers, wheelchairs (manual and power), commodes, canes and crutches, exercise equipment, standers, bath equipment, devices for people with impaired sight and hearing, ramps, stairlifts, and any other type of technology (provided it fits in the shop) that helps individuals adapt to their world. Please ask and find out about us. For poor people, recyclers, anyone who pays for Medicare, anyone concerned about depletion of natural resources, and the loved ones of those who need AT, it's a win, win, win, win, win. (nice Instructable, BTW)

    1 reply

    I had no idea, Froggie. There's a very large senior population in my area of NJ and I did find two in the state here (http://passitoncenter.org/). None near the shore area by me though. Hmmm, time to look into this more...

    Great instructable for making a table and re purposing. This could become the root of a whole bunch of ideas.

    I am wondering if there is a quick release clamp that would allow this to be folded up very quickly.