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Thread: Has anyone tried a DIY approach to custom-fit back cushions?

  1. #1

    Has anyone tried a DIY approach to custom-fit back cushions?

    Just thinking crazy ideas here. My wife has a crazy arch in her back (metal rods), and the wheelchair backs she's used so far just don't work. In order to fit her back appropriately the back would have to be almost half-tube shape. She's used very short ones, since anything else just doesn't even touch most of her back. But when they're that short, they don't support her much. Catch 22 at that point. I *think* what she really needs is something that fits her back arch. Then it can be taller w/o getting in the way, and support her better. I've been looking at some of the wheelchair backs out there, haven't seen ones that look like they'd work well at all. Even the customizable ones (ie. the foam wedges) aren't enough.

    I had this crazy idea; what about a DIY custom molded seat back? I'm curious what options there are out there (DIY and non-DIY), and also curious if anyone's tried this before.

    My first thoughts:

    * Mold her back using paper mache
    * Pad that mold with foam/clay/etc to build up thickness (and also alter the shape)
    * Fiberglass the inside to make a hard shell
    * Remove paper mache & padding, leaving just the shell
    * Add back foam padding & cover with fabric

    I'd also have to make mounting brackets too, which doesn't seem too hard (few mounting points, few L brackets, clamps on the seat posts). I think ideally she'd have something that fits the vertical profile of her back, but is relatively flat horizontally (ie. no side "wings" that keep her in place). That way she can lean side to side and not feel trapped, but at the same time be very well supported when she leans back.

    Any feedback? Is this just a bad/crazy idea?

  2. #2
    Senior Member elarson's Avatar
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    I can't help on the fabrication, but have you tried contacting ADI (www.ADIRides.com) to see if they can make a custom carbon fiber back? If not, maybe you can buy the hardware and cushion from them to use on your own shell.
    Partner of an incredible stroke survivor. Limitations: hemiparesis and neglect (functional paralysis and complete lack of awareness on one side). Equipment: TiLite ZRA 2 and 2GX, Spinergy ZX-1, RioMobility Firefly. Knowledge: relative newbie for high-level equipment (2012), but willing to try to help others who are new with similar limitations (definitely not a guru, but inquisitive).

  3. #3
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    If I can contact a group nearby that build custom chairs, I might be able to get specifics in how they do molds and materials used. A lot of their clients have bad cases of scoliosis.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by unlaterico View Post
    Is this just a bad/crazy idea?
    Nope, sounds pretty sensible to me - my son has a similar arch issue (but with no rods), as have several other teenagers that we know, and I've thought of doing something similar to what you are describing. We looked into custom backs, but they were extremely heavy....

    I'm not sure that the paper mache part will work though...but I can't think of a better idea at the moment!
    Gordon, father of son who became t6 paraplegic at the age of 4 in 2007 as a result of surgery to remove a spinal tumour.

  5. #5
    mold her back with rolls of plaster like they do when molding for a orthosis

  6. #6
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    Maybe something like this might work. http://www.smooth-on.com/Life-Castin...185/index.html

    Carbon fiber would be a good alternative for strength and weight.

  7. #7
    This is what I use: http://www.amazon.com/Mesh-Back-Lumb.../dp/B000RZNC0I It is amazing and cheap. Click through the pictures on the left to get an idea. I zip tied mine to the uprights of the cloth back.
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  8. #8
    You could start with this:



    https://www.drhonow.com/perfectback-rest

    I saw it on a late night infomercial a few weeks back and bought three. Buy two get one free. I've been using one in each of my cars and one to lay on. I have scoliosis and been slouching for many years now and it makes me sit up straight. I feel like I sit about 3 inches taller in my car because it doesn't allow you to slouch.

    I've been thinking of doing what you are talking about with one of them. I think you could probably use a heat gun to reshape it if necessary.
    Anyway they are well made, durable and pretty comfortable as is but a layer of foam and a cover would be better.

    BTW they sell a roho type cushion for cheap that I got for my car.
    https://www.drhonow.com/air-wave-cushion.html

  9. #9
    It looks good, but do those little buttons dig into you Pat? I started to order, but it asked for a coupon. Is the coupon needed for the buy 2 get one free?
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  10. #10
    Senior Member ~Lin's Avatar
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    Someone does completely custom rigid backs, I want to say it's Ride Designs

    I hate those Mesh things, they don't provide any support for me at all. Mine are now laptop stands, they work pretty good for that a d the airflow keeps things cool.
    Board Member of Assistance Dog Advocacy Project working in Education. Feel free to ask me any service dog questions!

    I am not paralyzed. I have a genetic connective tissue disorder with neuro complications and a movement disorder.

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