Love for woodworking won’t keep a bad back down.

It’s about time I, Wanda, start a blog here! I’ll continue updating my Fiberjoy blog about life in general but this one will be mainly dealing with what’s happening with Ed and Jenkins Woodworking.

Thanks for everyone’s concern about Ed’s back that forced him to significantly slow down for a couple of weeks after his leg collapsed several times in one day. It’s doing better though he will always need to be mindful of it.

For a decade Ed made wooden bowls for our main income. The years of harvesting old trees from orchards, chainsawing the trunk just above the ground level then hauling those often huge and heavy chunks of wood home was very demanding on his back. Though he was always careful about using his legs to lift the wood there were some awkward to wrestle chunks that demanded much strength and physical force.

He loved turning bowls with the special lathe he’d made that was big enough to turn massive bowls as well as small ones. But his body was in a slightly torqued position in relationship to the lathe in order to have the correct angle for bowl turning, which slowly over time also took its toll on his back.

There came the day when he lifted his gouge to make a bowl and his back protested in howling agony. For several discouraging years he was completely unable to stand at his lathe and turn a bowl.

During a short period of time in 2003 his right leg atrophied at an alarming rate, to the point where he finally was willing to consider surgery. (I was working at the library and had decent health insurance.) Unfortunately the MRI revealed bone spurs, arthritis, bulging discs and considerable degeneration of several vertebrae. When the first surgeon looked at the MRI he shook his head and referred Ed to the head back surgeon who after consulting his team also declined to operated due to mixed up nerves. For some mysterious reason Ed’s nerves in his back are crossed in a way that sends signals opposite of what the damage indicates. From the tests and MRI it’s the nerve to Ed’s left leg that is pinched but his right leg is the one that’s damaged. Understandably, no doctor wants to operate and risk permanent damage.

He was referred to the head of the physical therapy department who worked with Ed for several weeks only to cause more problems. Ed did find a couple of back exercises which help to a small degree. He’s also found a couple of other coping mechanisms: A top of the line mattress with excellent support and cushioning is essential as are Z-Coil shoes. Those heavy duty springs under his feet go a long ways to helping with his back and the pain. After 4 years they were no longer effective by this autumn but the store in Portland had closed. We heard about one at the coast and knowing we would be there in November he figured he could wait until then to get a new pair. The store was closed so it was back to finding a source where he could try them on. But when his back seriously rebelled a couple weeks ago he called the headquarters and ordered a pair direct. They mailed them out immediately and he’s been wearing them which has been a big help.

He is able to stand directly facing the lathe when turning straight object without it bothering his back for the most part. Especially if he’s able to mix standing at his lathe, sander, tablesaw and bandsaw with sitting on his padded stool to do as much of the hand work as possible.


Ed is cutting up the apple trunk from a local tree that needed taking out. Kneeling with the chain saw is by far the easiest on his back! This was the piece that has the spalting.

Woodworking is his first love. Even when he needs to take time off he pines to play with wood. (pun intended!) After only a couple days he was back in the shop doing a few fun things for short periods of time. Thus the kuchulus and few Aegeans that were put on the website today. 🙂
He’s like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to a new dream and there’s been one percolating in his mind for over a year. Several months ago he started working at it whenever he could squeeze in the time, it’s now nearly finished.