Athritis Foundation Certified Aquatic Instructor, Donna Amos, had a chance to speak with regular attendee of the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program, Bob Cummins, about his love for woodworking and how it has helped with Parkinson’s. Read the questions and answers below to see how his love for woodworking spilled over to his pool classmates.
Donna Amos: How long have you been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease?
Bob Cummins: About 10 years. I started the Cantrell Wellness Program in the spring of 2016 following lower back therapy at the Cantrell Center
Donna Amos: Have you always had a love for woodworking?
Bob Cummins: Yes, but it is a story with many twists and turns. I grew up on a farm in a small town in Pennsylvania where everybody in town knew everybody else. The farm offered many opportunities to explore different venues of craft. In high school, I had a Super Shop multipurpose power took very similar to the Shop Smith of today. A few of my teachers had me make custom pieces of furniture like bookcases, nightstands, end tables, and picture frames. Wood ship in school was among my favorite classes. Over the years I enjoyed working with wood. In September 2016, when the Cantrell pool was closed for renovation, I tried their exercise program, but was unable to do it so I looked for something else to do to fight Parkinson’s. I had a wood lathe in my backyard building so I put it on wheels so I could work outside because a wood lathe is a very dirty tool. Grandma Moses started painting at 76. I started turning wood at age 79. When I first started turning, my hands were shaking so bad that I could barely hold the chisels. In effect, I had to begin rewiring my brain to get motor control back. MY production numbers would exceed 200 pieces from 2” earring holders to 13.5” lazy Susans- all made from scrap wood. Some of the wood is identifiable and some is a mystery to me. I also make wood jigsaw puzzles for kids that I give away as well as adult brain teasers that most adults wish I’ve never made.
Donna Amos: You mentioned all of your pieces are made from scrap wood— that’s a lot of wood! Where do you find it all?
Bob Cummins: Family members and friends in the constructions trade give me pine which is pretty and is very easy to turn. Richard Cleghorn, owner of Cleghorn Cabinets in Warner Robins, gives me both high grade plywood and hardwood scraps that are too small or not suitable for their high quality cabinets. I don’t think he knows how well he helps my Parkinson’s therapy. People say nothing nice can be turned out of plywood, but with cutting and gluing, I prove them wrong. I also glue smaller pieces of wood together by stacking or glue pieces edge to edge.
Donna Amos: You are so generous in gifting hand crafted wooden creations to your fellow pool class members. How many pieces have you given out so far?
Bob Cummins: Since I turn wood as therapy for my Parkinson’s, I do not keep tracking, but all the regular members have something to remember me by. Only some of the newest members have not received one yet, but they will.
Donna Amos: How does time in the pool do anything for your Parkinson’s?
Bob Cummins: Balance is a real concern with this disease so the pool activity helps me maintain balance.