Book Stand for John Willis

When John Willis came to Dean Close School to take part in a sponsored swim in 2014, he did not imagine that he would be back a year later to collect a bespoke piece of furniture built for him by a Year 10 pupil.

John was born with virtually no arms or legs and originally visited the School to raise money and awareness for the charity, Power2inspire, which unites the disabled together with the able-bodied in sporting activities. Jonny Woods approached John after he had given an inspirational talk to the School to ask if he could invent something which would help him in some area of his life. John had a think and said he would love a book holder. He has a particular seat that he sits in to read, cuddled up with his dog Cocoa, but finds it hard to hold the book for long periods.

Jonny joined forces with fellow pupil, Rei Chin, to produce a number of drawings. John then came back to Dean Close one evening for them to chat over the designs and help with some careful dimensions.

Jonny and Rei have spent a year working on the project using their Thursday afternoons and Monday Afternoon Activity slots to craft the bespoke piece of furniture. As a pair, they have worked well together, bouncing off ideas and discussing the mechanics of the piece which involved a lot of physics and mechanical engineering, with many cantilevers.

On receiving the new bookstand, John said: “I didn’t imagine that it would be that beautiful. I am genuinely very impressed with the attention to detail, it is really well thought out. The confidence to come up on stage and wait for a convenient moment to approach me was really impressive, and the pug will be really pleased!” Jonny was very happy with John’s reaction saying, “seeing the appreciation John had for the work I’d done while handing it over to him made it all worth it and that it was a pleasure to make something for such a worthy cause and inspirational man.”

Head of Design and Technology, Dom Evans, said: “Jonny has instigated and undertaken the book standproject completely under his own direction. He has had support from the DT department staff in terms of technical assistance with tools he is unable to use (table saw, router), training in using a range of machine tools including a milling machine, sanders and so on. He was supported by his good friend, Rei Chin and they have been highly autonomous in their approach to the work; it has been very enjoyable to watch them work together on this project.”

Jonny says that his next project will be an electric cello. The DT Department is looking forward to the challenge!