Better Ingredients, Better… (Hint: not pizza)

I often get ask the obvious question… “How did you build it?” I wish there was a simple answer, but there’s not. My wheelchair has been built, rebuilt and rebuilt again; each time learning and improving. Each component has been replaced at least once with trial and error being the guide. I will, I suspect, need to strip and do a full rebuild one day because of my base materials, which I will address in this article.

Do You Say… Wood?!?

Yes. I used pine and poplar strips from Lowes for the majority of the build. This gave me a lightweight and flexible structure in order to house the components. Later I added to it by creating the large sides of the chair. I used what I knew I could work with, I suppose a metal frame would have lasted longer; but I don’t know how to weld or have tools to work with metal, maybe one day.


Plexiglass has been a primary material for the same reason, I can work with it. I never really liked the look of painted wood. Painted plexiglass gives me a really glossy look that many have commented however, the trade off is it’s not a structural material. Plexiglass can crack, like glass unless you get the really expensive stuff. It also makes a good base for adding the vinyl wrap stickers.


I have used wire from just about everywhere: old wired from broken machines, house wiring, 12 volt wiring, speaker wires… what I had here and there. For whatever reason the wire you get from China off Amazon is really cheap, so beware. The shielding is soft and the copper you can practically pull apart with your hands… cheap, cheap, cheap. For most projects this would probably be ok, but when you are constantly plugging and unplugging, moving components and retracing wires; they are brittle and break.


Get the best materials you can afford. As I started this as a silly hobby I never expected that this would turn into what it had. I constantly find myself upgrading parts that I went cheap on that if I would have built this with the end result in mind; would have spent more the first time to get better parts and less maintenance. I have sat in front of Disney World, Busch gardens and even Lowes Speedway making aggravating repairs because of a cheap switch or connector broke. Look around and get the better parts to make sure that your build will be less problematic and more enjoyable.

Palm Phone – A Disabled Vet’s Best Friend

Not too long ago I started looking into devices that would “extend the leash” of mobility for myself. I looked at several alert pendants, bracelets and such; all with their features and prices. The problem is they always either alerted the EMS or an expensive call center, none of them gave enough info for someone to assist me if a public episode came on.

Then I came across the Palm Companion Device from Verizon. With this phone I was able to add popular apps that made for greater visibility for those who might overreact if they came across a Veteran with nerve damage such as mine.


  • Small and light so I can wear this around my neck.
  • It can work independently from a main phone.
  • Offers apps and phone functionality
  • Works with my Bose hearing aides.


  • Battery Life is low, but as an emergency use I got 2 days between charges.

Here’s is what I did to make this phone become the perfect medical alert companion:

1. Got the device through Verizon, added to my plan for $10 a month extra (WAY cheaper that alert devices)

2. Got a clear case so I could add emergency info on the cover of the phone (see image) CLICK HERE FOR CASE

3. Added 2 apps:

a. SOS app – This allowed me to call my specified contacts with an emergency text with a GPS location – Click Here

b. A medical info alert App – This allows a good descriptions of conditions, allergies and more – Click Here


I went to the dentist recently to have a broken tooth extracted however, during the procedure the infected nerve hurt so badly that it triggered an episode. Because of the Palm Alert Phone it was able to educate the staff on how to react in the event of an episode. Additionally, the Paramedics were also informed from the info contained on the apps on proper response treatment. My wife was notified and I was able to get home without an expensive and unnecessary trip to the hospital.

The Right Chassis

Perhaps the greatest challenge you are going to have is answering the question: “Where do I put my accessories?” Some wheelchairs like the Hoveround and Go-Go chassis, there is an ample amount of room between the seat and the chassis; however some others have no room at all to add batteries, wiring or extras. So the chair itself can often dictate what you can do.

Looking for Room

For Example, The Jazzy ES or Elite series use a 4 point mount for the seat. This allows the seat to be vertically adjustable, depending on the model. However, because of this low center mount configuration, adding something under the seat… not so much. In these cases you need to look to mount a seat back system that will at least give you a power source and space for wiring and some lights.

Now Compare that to the area under the seat for these models:

The Next Option

Thinking outside the box Can help you get YOUR chair customized without needing to upgrade. Most small power wheelchairs and scooters have a place to put a basket, oxygen tank or other accessories. This is nearly a universal size and looks and works like a Reese style hitch. Now the Clever person would just use the basket as the frame, adding sides and top; then adding your batteries and wiring.

Get Connected

With RadioShack gone 😥 I have had to find a way to get the connectors I need to get the many builds properly assembled; enter Amazon. I am a prime member (I’m sure they hate me for it) so I get free, 2 day shipping on just about everything. This is key when you run across a need and your project is at a stopping point because of it. 

Finding good connectors is a pain. Most are Chinese cheapo’s, but now-a-days; there isn’t much else. So you spend as much in trial and error on buying sight unseen connectors as you do installing them. Below are the ones I have found that have held up.

3 Different Types of Connections

Getting something easily in/out for transport, repairs or upgrades is key. Especially as your project grows you may need to reconfigure to get more features into your project. In my mind there are 3 different types of connections: Quick, semi-permanent and permanent

Quick Connectors

There are a few different quick connectors that I use that I have found work well. For most of what my box pulls, low amp, 12 volt wires and connections work fine. In fact, may be a must. (see later article on wire gauges) Sometimes you need to get creative when you have multiple related accessories that need to get plugged in. For those I am using a modified Ethernet cable and in the past I have used a old computer serial cable. I will get more info about those as we go. For batteries and other 2 wire connections like the smoke machines I use 18awg wire barrel quick connects.

If this retailer doesn’t have them, there are dozens on amazon and Ebay that do. These support 5amp current well and I have spiked to 10amp on the 2 main power supplies and I have seen them work just fine (although it exceeds the manufacturer speccs)

Semi Permanent Connectors

Semi-permanent connectors are those that need to be able to be removed, but not very often.

These Screw Terminal Strip Blocks not only allow for semi-permanent connections but help you keep things clean and organized inside your project.

Once you get everything mapped out and wired you can take a picture of it, put in in MS Powerpoint and add labels to remember what is what.

Additionally you can use blue painters tape to label the post important wires. The little red #6 fork is ideal for the small gauge wire you will use.

Permanent Connectors

Permanent connectors are connections that need to be soldered in place or direct wired. I will admit I started off using permanent techniques and quickly switch over the frustration to quick and semi-permanent connections, but there  are connections at certain points where this will be necessary. Components that have motorized parts and vibrate should be soldered. Close, closed or small areas that don’t have the room for connectors should be soldered.

Note: You should always use some form of connection. Just running a bare with through an eyelet connector is just an event of failure waiting to happen. I ONLY use electrical take as a temporary fix.

Soldering kits these days are pretty cheap. I use a large kit I purchased from Radioshack before they closed. Cheap however doesn’t mean good. For the soldering iron cheap ones only last for 30 hours or so of use. For a project guy that is about a year.

Here is a cheap starter kit.

More Power

Anytime you are wanting to put a project together like this on any level… you need batteries. 12 Volt wheelchair batteries are perfect as you place them in any position AND because they are 12 volt; they are compatible with automotive things like lights and LED strips.

I have tried batteries from all over and have found this supplier to be awesome. SUPER fast deliveries and the batteries last.

The 3 Main Power supplies I get are:

Small project

Main platform

Wheelchair itself

I have a total of 9 of these batteries powering all my toys on the wheelchair.