Catastrophic fall from tree sends man along road to woodworking success

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Catastrophic fall from tree sends man along road to woodworking success

The smell of maple and pine hangs thick in the air as George Woodworth sands down a nearly finished cutting board. 

The hand-sander he uses whines loudly, coating everything in his Fredericton workshop with a thin layer of sawdust. 

But he leaves no footprints in that dust, only tire tracks. 

Woodworth suffered life-altering damage to his body 10 years ago.

He was climbing at night during a hunt for raccoons when a branch broke under his weight. He landed on his back, cracked his skull, broke some spinous processes and lost circulation to his spinal cord below his chest.

Barely remembers

All he remembers today is feeling the crack of the branch beneath his foot, then waking up in the hospital four days later.

The fall left him a quadriplegic with only partial use of his arms. 

But now Woodworth is fully able to pursue his passion for woodworking. 

"I'm living a life now that you couldn't have convinced me of back then," said Woodworth. 

By carefully strapping power tools to his arms and working with unlimited patience, the former contractor and renovator has made hundreds of wood products from his electric wheelchair. 

Orders from afar

Cutting boards and serving trays are his specialty. He's shipped orders for them as far away as British Columbia and France. 

It was when he crafted his own transfer board that he really drew attention. Transfer boards, used in transferring people with physical limitations from one chair to another, are usually made of plastic.

Woodworth made his of wood and laminated it.

Occupational therapists and physiotherapists at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation thought the board was a really good idea.

"They loved them and some of their clients loved it," Woodworth said. "So, I started making them for there." 

Woodworth estimates he's carved, sanded, lacquered and laminated well over 300 separate trays, platters, transfer boards and other pieces. 

Like other woodworkers

Although Woodworth has overcome his limitations, his wife, Catriona, said he still brings problems home.

"Obviously he can't leave his boots at the door, so the chips and the sawdust come in on his wheels," she said.

Woodworth is on the brink of getting another set of wheels that will give him even more independence.  

For months, he and his family and friends have been raising money for a van that Woodworth can get in and out of himself as well as drive. 

"We just made it over the $40,000-mark last night, said Woodworth. "So, we've got just over $3,000 to go."

Woodworth said the used accessibility van will allow him more freedom and give him transportation to take part in peer-mentoring and counselling programs for people who have suffered injuries similar to his own. 

Knows where he wants to go

He also wants some independence back.  

"People say, 'Where are you planning to go? A big trip?'" said Woodworth. "I am like 'I'm going to Tim Hortons. Why? Because I can." 

Woodworth also plans to use the vehicle for his woodworking business, since the accessible transportation systems and cabs in Fredericton don't always allow him to transport wood and rarely go outside city limits. 

"And I don't know many people who have bandsaw mills inside city limits," he said.