Pirate Pup Gets Pegleg

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Pirate Pup Procures Prosthetic Willow Wood Pegleg

Humane Society Benefit

Each year the Parkersburg, West Virginia, Humane Society holds a “Walk Your Paws” fundraising benefit. This year, Woodcraft had the woodworking opportunity to be a small part of this community event with the making of a prosthetic leg for a canine costume contest during the event. Keating, a male boxer mix, belonging to Woodcraft employee Nancy Miller, won a 1st place prize basket of treats with his pirate’s outfit, complete with a handcrafted willow wood pegleg.

About Keating

What makes Keating and this costume special is that Keating is a congenital amputee, which means he was born without a complete right front leg (photo right).  Although he gets around pretty well on three legs, it is much easier for him to scamper about at full speed with an artificial limb, more commonly known as a prosthesis.


Keating is the perfect family member with the active Miller lifestyle and a great inspiration to the patients at Mark Miller’s Prosthetic & Orthotics business as a therapy dog in Parkersburg, WV.  Learn more about the adventures of Keating and Mark at MillerPO.com.

Pegleg History

The first prosthetic limb creations, dated 1500 B.C. are credited to the Ancient Egyptians.  Early designs were made of fiber, followed by wood, bronze, iron and other metal components throughout the ages. Shields, hand hooks and peglegs emerged during the dark ages, 476 to 1000 A.D.
During the 16th century, artificial limbs were associated with the maritime history of the golden age of piracyand that’s how the idea came about to create Keating a pegleg and pirate costume for the Humane Society Event.

Today’s devices are much lighter, made of plastic, aluminum and composite materials to provide amputees with the most functional devices.  Mark stated, “Every patient’s situation is unique, making the prosthesis or orthosis design an individual challenge.  Engineering, fit, form and function are different for every single device created.”  So we took a little idea from the past, combined it with some of today’s technologies to come up with a pegleg prosthesis for Keating.

Creating Keating’s Willow Wood Pegleg 

Mark has fit Keating with new prosthesis five times during his growing spurt to adulthood throughout his first year.  But a pegleg is no ordinary paw apparel item, as it still required the same fit, form and function as his regular prosthesis (left).  In addition, attaching the willow wood peg limb would also be a challenge.  The idea to use willow wood was based on three things.  1- Early peglegs were made from various woods.  2- An information search uncovered that this light weight wood was used for artificial limbs by a local prosthetic company in Ohio called Willow Wood which has been making prosthetic parts since the early 1900′s.  3- Woodcraft just so happens to carry willow wood!


Willow wood sticks at Woodcraft come in at about 5 feet in length from which we cut off 10 inches to use for the turning.  I mounted it between my chuck and live center and started to design the pegleg like an old furniture leg with a couple details.  I found that the wood needed to be turned at 2500-3000 RPM due to its soft open grain structure.  Once turned to my desired design, I sanded it with Abranet 220 grit to 400 grit.  The wood is a very white wood, comparable to basswood or even holly and it was very dry.


Using 3 applications of General Finishes Shaker Maple Stain, left the pegleg with the old fashioned color I wanted.  Once the stain was dry, I lightly sanded it with 600 grit with some Doctor’s Woodshop Walnut Finishing Oil, followed by 1 coating of Doctor’s Woodshop High Build Friction Polish and 2 applications of the Doctor’s Woodshop Microcrystal Wax Bowl Finish.  Parting it off was really easy with my Mini Dozuki Japanese Hand Saw.

No need for sanding or finishing the parted off area, as a rubber foot pad was added. The final piece was left at about 8″ long, plenty of extra length for the final height measurements needed to fit Keating’s limb into the boot socket.


Making Keating’s Prosthesis

Mark begins with a casting of Keating’s residual limb and forms a soft 1/8″ thick black volara rubber boot lining around the cast, which will be a comfortable insulated fit for Keating to walk and run with.

Next  a fiberglass wrap covers the insulated boot in a two part creation to make a hinged boot backing with a separate tongue flap covering the front of Keating’s leg.  Both the boot and the flap covering become a stiff exterior cast molding to support Keating’s front leg.  Mark cuts the front flap and boot to size using the Fein MultiMaster and sands the top of the pegleg to match the contour of the boot assembly area.

The 2-part boot is complete and orientation is measured for proper vertical placement with the pegleg.

The boot is assembled to the willow wood pegleg with 2-part epoxy.  During the entire build process, the boot socket engineering involves a 4-axis design alignment covering the sagittal, coronal, transverse and z-axis or length from Keating’s residual limb to the floor which needs to match the length of his left front leg.  Keating is now ready for a trial run with the boot temporarily taped together.

With the achievement of a happy dog in his new pirate pegleg, the boot would be completed with a leather covering.  Mark’s son and assistant Alex made this happen using a special rubber cement to apply the leather aesthetics to Keating’s new boot.  Heating up the leather allowed it to become pliable, stretch and form around the boot.

Holes were drilled for three rivets for Velcro straps to hold the 2-piece boot together.

It’s off to the Humane Society Fundraiser!  During the event, Keating ran with Nancy around the City Park track with no problems as the new prosthetic worked perfectly.

Proud owners Mark & Nancy Miller with their #1 winning pirate pup Keating!

Thanks Mark, this was a fun and interesting change of pace using some familiar woodshop tools mixed with some medical technologies in prosthetics, stepping outside the proverbial box to help make wood work and the dog walk on all fours….very cool!

You never know what Woodworking Adventure we’ll be on next, so stay linked!

auf Wiedersehen!…Frank

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