Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pimp my chair!

Ok so as most of you know, I have had several knee surgeries. I have thus needed a wheelchair for my many Disneyland trips as well as the occasional other event, (street fairs, zoo etc, basically anything requiring a lot of walking) and so I was blessed to have been given one from a friend. She had it from before her mom had passed away a few years back. When her mom was sick her dad had bought it used from a medical rental place and than she gave it to me. Here is a picture; (Note the stylish purple accent tape that doubles as a securing device for the arm pad)

So I have been using this chair for awhile now. For awhile I also had on hand a borrowed Rascal electric scooter from my grandma. It was my stylish ride for sure. it was nice because than I didn't have to rely on friends for my "power" to get around the park (or other locations) So since I have had to return the power chair i've been periodically checking on craigslist to see if someone happens to be selling one for cheap. Oftentimes people think it would be too expensive to replace the batteries etc and so they mark em cheap. The batteries cost around $200 for the pair depending on the size you need. (I know because I had to replace the batteries in my grandma's in order to use it) one day recently I found a post for a wheelchair that said $15 and it was in Oxnard. So I emailed in response to the ad and said that I work in Ventura and would come get it anytime if they had it avail. I even mentioned when I would be in the area etc. I didn't hear back for a couple days and thought to myself "how rude that they didn't even bother to tell me if they sold it to someone else" Than that night on my way home from work I got a call. They had posted it than went out of town and didn't check emails untill that day. (oops sorry for the false judgement) I was the first email he had received (and I had actually sent 2, although I am not sure when he got the 2nd in the list)   So we made arrangements for me to go over the next day after work. In the 1 picture in the post the wheelchair looked like it was newer and possibly in better condition than the red one I was currently using so for $15 I figured I ought to check it out.

I went to meet the guy (I can't remember his name now, I think it may have been David so I'll just call him that) So I went to David's house after work. The wheelchair was out front. on the phone he had told me it was a little rusty because his kids had played with it and left it outside. It was dirty but didn't actually look that bad. It did look really small so I sat in it to make sure my big ol booty would fit and it does. He said he wasn't sure where the foot rests were but I didn't mind. I gave him the cash, put it in my car and drove home. That night after I got home I used a small can of Clorox disinfectant that I had and sprayed the entire thing down. The seat and back padding, the wheels, brakes handles etc. Everything. After all I don't know what it may have been exposed to when he used it for his mother (I think that's why he said he had it) This is what the chair looked like at the time I purchased it:

So after I had gotten home I decided to do a little research to see how much my chair was worth. David had told me that after he had already posted his ad he saw some people selling the same chair for close to $400. He said that he hadn't realized it was worth that much more ( I wouldn't have paid that much personally for it, partially bc I don't have that much, plus even if I did I had a usable wheelchair already, in fact I probably wouldn't have even looked at that ad) He even said to me that if I didn't need it, or it didn't work out or something I could sell it for more and make a profit off of it. (funny that he would say that, I think a lot of people pick up and get stuff from the "free" postings and immediately post and sell them for profit) Anyway I looked up the model #, it is an Invacare 9000sl  and if you look here on the Invacare site Invacare you see that through them directly you pay $925 for the chair! Oh my gosh did I get a bargain! Not only that but on their site you don't even get the legrests! Maybe that's why David didn't have them! (By the way I have since done some research and for about $30-$40 I can get some leg-rests I just havent ordered any yet) Which even buying those I still got a heck of a deal. But like he said used from most sites I was seeing more like $225 ish for them.

So I was looking at it and was thinking how it's all black, and basically looks like a lot of other wheelchairs. When you get off a ride at Disneyland it's going to look just like some of the other chairs there. I knew it still needed to be cleaned up. I knew I had a secret "rust removing weapon" that I had used with success on my bike. I was thinking about my options and decided to do some painting. I decided I would in essence "Pimp my Wheelchair" I am sure you have seen or at least heard of the show "pimp my ride" where they take a beat up vehicle and give it a make over. They clean it up, give it boosts, fix any technical or mechanical issues and give it a complete upgrade, So I was thinking how I could upgrade my wheelchair and make it look different from the rest. The wheels! That was the key. So one night I was at Wally World (aka Wal-Mart) and was looking at the spray paints. My favorite colors are purple and blue. I saw some colors I liked but most were kind of darker colors which I knew may just blend in against the black. Than I saw a color called "watermelon" it was a pink color that I really liked. Look on this page in the box under "summer" here: watermelon I knew it would be the contrast I was looking for against the black and was going to buy it. Than I noticed some spray paints that said "for plastics" and I looked at the regular paint cans they said they spray wood, metal, yada yada, and more... but even in the fine print on the back it never specified plastic. So I didn't buy anything that night. The "for plastics" colors were few and far between and mostly dark. unless I wanted yellow. I guess it would've given me a contrast! I decided I needed to check in to the "plastics" colors at Home Depot or another specialized store.

I also in the meanwhile spoke to my co-workers, I learned that if I didn't want to purchase a "for plastics" spray paint I would need to purchase a plastic primer spray paint. They said the "for plastics" cans had some sort of different chemical composition so that the paint will stick and not flake off. With the primer than the paint will stick to that. So I made a trip to home depot. They had "for plastics" colors in hot pink, hot yellow hot green etc. I decided again that although I wanted contrast I didn't want to stand out tht much! I got a paint primer and was looking at colors. I was looking and there was a purple plum like color I liked, and a blue than I saw a color that kinda caught my eye. I looked and it was called "Lagoon". The home Depot sells "Rustoleum" brand paints. So I has not only more options than Wally World but the colors were completely different. I didn't see one similar to my Watermelon color I liked :-( The purple I liked was kinda light colored and I wasn't sure. I kept going back to the Lagoon. I was talking to my mom on the phone and explaining to her about it and she said "if you like it get it" I was still hesitant. Than she said "ok do this: get the color the 2nd shelf down 3rd from left" that was a black or really dark color and wouldn't work, but it was right above the Lagoon. I told her that it was a dark color but the Lagoon I was looking at was 3rd and 3rd shelves! She said "that's what I was going to say but changed it to 2nd". So I bought the Lagoon!

So here were my new supplies: the Bar Keepers Friend being my secret rust removal weapon! In fact just to be funny since I don't drink I thought about naming this post "Bar Keepers Friend" since I don't drink. But the focus of the blog is the chair not the cleaning supplies I used. And here are some more "before" pictures of the chair and it's stages of being cleaned etc:

I did start by obviously removing the wheels, than the seat and backing. While doing this I realized that this is a model of wheelchair where the arm rests flip up/back so that it is easier to transfer patients/people to/from the chair. Those were always nicer as an EMT because if the patient was sitting on a sheet you could slide them right over instead of having to either lift them over the arm rest or from each side transfer the patient towards their feet and over or however onto your gurney etc. Anyway it's a nice feature! I also noticed the handles on the back for your "pusher" are adjustable! You can move them up or down to I guess help based on their height. I don't know where it is set versus how much it goes in either direction, I left it where it is. But now I know if needed i can move them! So than I also realized (as shown in a picture above) that instead of having to completely tape off the rubber on the wheel I was able to pop it off the rim! Sweet! Especially since the painters tape didn't like sticking much to the rubber and it was a pain trying to round it to match the rim! I cleaned them first and got all the dirt out of the small edges of the "spokes" etc and let them dry. The next thing I had to consider was whether or not to paint the ring that as the person in the chair you use to wheel yourself around. I was looking at it and it is bolted on at regular intervals to the rim and I decided it was going to be more of a hassle to remove and replace it than to just spray it. (now I kinda wonder if I should've taken the trouble, I will explain why later)  so I obviously started with the paint primer... here are some more pictures of cleaning and primeing:
So than obviously I had to paint both sides of the wheels. I wiped down the seat and back for the chairs. they are made with that fabric that is thick kinda canvas like but kind of like what you find on outdoor furniture. Anyway its not soft like cotton clothing but its not rough either. It is very durable. I thought about busting out the sewing machine and making covers for them, but decided that might be going a little overboard. ;-) Besides I can still do that later. I may do something for the back that I can slip over and snap on or something that way it is removable for washing etc.  So than once the primer was dried for both sides, or at least dry enough to paint some color, that's what I did:


But I must warn you, those pictures are not very accurate. They make the color look too blue. It is actually kind of a dark teal color. You can kind of see it better from the Rustoleum website here: Rustoleum Lagoon or on this picture from my phone

So than I left those to dry. Later as it got darker and the wind started to pick up I brought them inside to finish overnight. The next morning instead of leaving it all in pieces I had to put it all back together. Easier than it sounds let me tell ya! The rubber wheels popped right off the frame with a little single flick of the flatheaded screwdriver. But it was a heck of a time putting them back on! As I tried to stretch it around it would pop off the other side. So finally I did part of it than zip-tied it in place so I could keep working it. But I was still having trouble getting it back on. Finally I put the wheel on my legs, and with my feet pulled on the rim and with both hands stretched the tire until it basically popped on, but it was difficult because I was trying not to smash my fingers in between in the meantime. So a few times it seemed once I almost had it I messed it up because of my fingers. Need less to say I eventually got them both back on. but not without some battle wounds :-( My arms were so sore the next day because of the muscles used for the pulling. Also the zip-ties kinda scraped the paint where they were used and rubbed the rim. It may not have happened if there had not been as much mositure in the air when I did it and/or if they had more time to dry, But the spots were fairly small. I mostly kind of touched them up with a similar colored Sharpie, that at first seemed really closely to match but ended up not really being a close match afterall! Plus a few spots mostly on the "push yourself around" ring thingy there were some spots the paint ended up a little heavy and so there are basically like "drops" of paint in those spots, so because those also take more time to dry some got messed up and show little white spots (the primer) So that is why I was saying maybe I should've removed the ring and left it black. Plus I wonder how it would look if I had. I have thought about using a fleece, leather (or fake) or other fabric that won't fray and wrapping it kind of like you would a steering wheel. but I haven't decided yet. But that would possibly also make it more comfortable when pushing yourself (myself) If I do that I will either pick a black or if its a fabric a fun fabric that coordinates. I think the leather or "pleather" (pretend-leather as I like to call fake leather products) would probably be best if I use anything since it won't get all dirty and if it gets wets etc it won't be as bad.

One last thing that I did was spray the small plastic knobs that cover the bolts for the wheels with just the primer. So that instead of black they are white in the center of the wheels. As I put the chair back together despite its slight paint mis-haps and mistakes I love the way it turned out! I think it looks incredible! Defintitely worth the time and effort and approx $15 I spent in paint, cleaners and brushes for the details of the cleaning. So for about $30 I ended up with this:

Funny thing is after I was all done my mom said: you didn't paint the small wheels!  Oops.. I didn't even think about that! But I like the way it turned out, and I didn't have any extra paint anyway so i am not going to worry about it! I think the small wheels might be overkill anyway! 

And since this post is sooooo loooooonnnnngggg  here is a quick before after photo line-up so you don't have to scroll to compare:

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