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Tools Needed for Making Wheelchairs

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 66: Designs for 6 Basic Wheelchairs > Tools Needed for Making Wheelchairs

Ideas for setting up a workshop for disabled workers are discussed in Chapter 57 and Chapter 64. How you equip your workshop for making wheelchairs will depend on (1) how much money you have (or can borrow) to do it, (2) the kinds of chairs you hope to build (metal or wood), (3) the skills, physical and mental abilities, learning potential, and responsibility (regarding safety) of the workers, (4) the availability of electricity and power tools, (5) how many persons will be working, and (6) how many chairs you hope to produce.

Here we list the basic equipment you will need for making the 6 wheelchairs described in this chapter. Many choices are possible. More specialized parts of the work can be done by outside craftspersons. For example, in a wheelchair production center in Belize, axles must be machine tooled on a metal lathe. Local machine shops cooperate by doing this free.


AN – Absolutely necessary
N – A big help, but you might do without it
(N) – Necessary only for axles

? – Depends on model
wood chair re-bar and woven plastic square metal tubes with wood seat and back wheelchair with lying board plywood round metal tube
bench vise N AN N AN (N) AN
tubing bender AN AN
welding (brazing) equipment (N) AN N AN (N) AN
metal saw (N) AN AN AN (N) AN
wood saw AN AN AN
hammer AN AN AN AN AN AN
wrench (set or adjustable) N N AN AN N AN
metal file and/or grinder (N) AN AN AN (N) AN
screwdriver AN AN AN AN AN AN
sewing equipment (hand or machine) ? N? N?
drill (hand or electric) N ? AN AN N AN
drill bits for metal AN AN AN
drill bits for wood AN AN AN
spoke wrench ? ? N N ? N
bicycle pump ? ? ? ? ? ?
center punch N N N N N N
tape measure N N N N N N
carpenter’s square N N N N N N

Terms for metal tube or bar used to build wheelchairs

  • Thin-wall refers to thin steel tubing often used for electrical wiring work and sometimes for lightweight metal furniture.
  • Thick-wall refers to heavy weight pipe such as the one used in plumbing.
  • Re-bar refers to solid metal rod, usually used to reinforce cement.

Metal wheelchair part shaped like a letter U with a short stem.

Jigs or guides for more exact welding

For making the metal tube chairs and the welded wheel mounts and handrims of any of the chairs, your work will be easier and more exact if you make or purchase certain ‘jigs’ or guides to hold parts in the right place while you weld them. For example, to weld the front caster fork you can make a ‘jig’ like this. Details on ‘jigs’ and other techniques for making different wheelchair parts are well described in Ralf Hotchkiss’s book Independence Through Mobility. We strongly recommend it to any group planning to make wheelchairs.

Notes on measurements
For some of the wheelchair designs in this chapter, we give the measurements for a standard child’s or adult’s model. Be sure to adapt the measurements to the size and needs of the particular child.
In many countries inches (") are used for measurements of certain things, and centimeters (cm.) for others. We therefore also use both. Centimeters is abbreviated cm. and inches is abbreviated ". Two inches is written 2". 1" equals 2.54 cm.

This page was updated:19 Jan 2018