This section is from the book "Feeling Better? Amusements and Occupations for Convalescents", by Cornelia R. Trowbridge. Also available from Amazon: Feeling Better.
A BED-TABLE is the equivalent of an old-fashioned lap-board put across the lap in bed and supported so that the weight does not rest on the knees. It should be easily lifted into place, firmly supported, long enough to go across the lap over the bedclothes, wide enough to hold all you will want to put on it. If the supports are on hinges, it can be stowed away more snugly when not needed.
The usefulness of such a table is so evident that many varieties of it have been placed on the market. Very substantial ones, which some invalids prefer, do not rest on the bed but are attached to an iron post with a heavy base which extends under the bedstead. They can be adjusted to any height and the better ones can be tipped to answer for a book-rest or a writing desk. They are not so easily handled as other kinds but they are firm and they allow the invalid more freedom of movement. They must be ordered from firms specializing in hospital appliances.
Bed-tables standing upon the bed and supported at the ends are for sale in many forms. Some of them are fitted with removable trays for serving meals. But neither such a combined table and tray nor a tray by itself on legs is a wholly satisfactory substitute for a bed-table pure and simple. The nurse is apt to want to set it for the next meal just as you want it for something else and this means both interrupting and disarranging what you are at work on. It may be very useful to have such a tray in addition to a bed-table but not to take its place.
Dealers supplying hospital equipment offer bed-tables of various sizes with either rigid or foldings legs and some of them adjustable at an angle for writing or reading desks. Each makes its own claim to superiority. Some of them are light enough to carry in a suitcase yet strong enough to hold a typewriter. Some can be used in an armchair by flattening out the supports and resting them on the arms of the chair. Your own needs will decide your choice among them. If you are interested in the occupations for the hands described on this book, you will want a table large enough to work on and firm enough to hold the equipment needed.
But a bed-table can be made by anyone at all handy with tools. A wooden crate long enough to reach across the knees, like an orange crate, can be made into an emergency table by knocking off three sides and the middle partition and sawing the ends down if they stand too high. Nine or ten inches is a good height for a bed-table. The ends should be braced if they are not strong. If the wood is rough, spread a towel over it. For a very light table a blotter holder can be nailed on two pieces of wood, like the ends of packing boxes or, until good end-pieces are found, it can be propped up on piles of books. A lap-board or a bread or drawing board can be similarly converted into a bed-table. Sawing a half circle out of the ends will make the table lighter. The end-pieces can be hinged but should then be braced with a batten and fastened in place by a long hook fitting into a screw eye.
If a bed-table is to be made from boards by your handyman or by a carpenter, three-ply wood, 3/8 of an inch thick, makes a strong light table. Good dimensions for the top are 24 x 16 inches. For a wide bed or with ambitious projects to carry out, the dimensions may be larger, say 27 x 18 inches. A curve hollowed out in the side to be set next to you will make any table more convenient. A narrow rim around three sides will keep small articles from slipping off. In case reading and writing are your chief resources, you might like a lap-desk with a slanting surface. An ingenious workman will make a table with a top that can be raised at an angle. Always a bed-table should be light enough so that it can be lifted with all your equipment on it, if you want to take up your work again just as you leave it. A card-table with the legs cut to eight or nine inches is very light but almost too large for convenience.
An oilcloth cover for the table will often be useful. You may like linen ones to spread freshly over it at other times. Covers may be held in place by narrow strips of elastic across their corners to slip over the table or by thumbtacks or pushpins.
You will wonder how invalids ever get on without bed-tables when you find how endlessly useful one can be. You can begin the day by using it as a dressing table to hold a basin of water and the accessories of a comfortable toilet. And how it docs simplify the ordeal of teeth-brushing! The trays for your meals can be set on it. You can stand your book-rest on it, your typewriter and desk telephone, write and draw on it, play solitaire, fold and paste paper, arrange flowers, carve and model and do jigsaw puzzles.
Knauth Brothers, 87 Fifth Avenue, New York.
Manufacturers of all kinds of hospital appliances. Hospital Supply Company, West 23rd Street, New York. Kny Scherrer Company, Long Island City, New York. Farrington-Outing Manufacturing Company, 1116 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Makers of Farrington Lap Desk and Reading Table, 12" x 18", light and portable. Mitchell Moulding Company, Forest Park, Illinois.
The Mitchell Lap-Table measures 12" x 17" and can be adjusted for a book rest and extended over the arms of a chair.