Artist’s Easel with Arm Stabilizing Devices

Designers: Chiu-Yu Chen and Fran Lebajo

Client Coordinators: Caroline Warren

Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry N. Bohs

People with ataxia often have trouble performing certain tasks independently. In our case, the client desired to draw and paint without assistance in controlling her tremors. An easel was designed with various features to help her accomplish this. The two major components for stabilizing her arm are a peg for her left hand to grasp while drawing, and a magnet glove. Both components have adjustable features and, depending on the degree of her tremor on a given day, either or both of the devices may be used.

How this project helped
Since the magnet glove and left-hand peg reduce the tremor to a certain degree and stabilize the arm in the event of a tremor, the client will be able to draw or paint without someone supervising her and controlling her tremor. The client’s mother commented, “This is going to be really nice because it’ll allow [her] to draw what she wants to draw without someone being there to help her.”

Several widely varied ideas were considered for reducing the client’s tremor. After numerous trials, we found that magnets attached to her wrist, combined with a metal drawing surface, provided some resistance to tremor motion, but still allowed her to slide her hand around the drawing surface. The wrist magnet idea was modified into a magnet glove. Magnets were sewn under pieces of cloth onto a form-fitting fingerless glove (Figure 2). Thirty 1/8″ diameter rare earth magnets were sewn into fifteen positions on the glove (two magnets in each position). The positions were determined by observing what areas of the hand/palm the client would rest on the drawing surface while she drew.

During early trials, we also observed that our client often used her left hand to steady the ataxia in her right arm, either by pressing down hard on the table or by tensing it and raising and pulling it back towards her shoulder. We then gave her an object to grasp with her left hand while drawing, and it further alleviated the ataxia. A grasping handle was therefore incorporated (Figure 1), with seven positions from which the client can choose.

Commercial table-top easels were considered, but we built a custom device because it appeared difficult to modify a commercially available easel for the arm stabilizing device. To provide adjustable tilt angles, several notches were carved in the base, into which the steel rod attached to the drawing surface would fit. The resulting tilt angles were 0, 20, 35, 46, 51, and 53 degrees. The drawing surface measured 17.5″ x 23.5″ and consisted of a layer of painted sheet metal on top of a polycarbonate sheet for support. These two layers were mounted in a wooden frame with molding around the top edges. The base was constructed as a wood frame, into which the drawing surface would recess to minimize thickness and weight. Large rectangular magnets were provided to hold the paper on the drawing surface, accommodating a wide range of paper sizes.

The cost of parts for the Artist’s Easel was approximately $135.

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