Ed.: 080917 – Words: 1185 – Audio: 11:46
My ex-mother-in-law had a fair number of traits that simply got under my skin but one of the lesser ones was telling me from time-to-time when she had an idea for an invention… that I should market.
Why she always handed those gem-of-an-ideas off to me mystified me. She was good at making me look like the jerk in somehow refusing her overtures of benevolent goodness and opportunities to vast wealth. “How about inventing an attachment for the vacuum cleaner to allow you to attach the TV remote controller? I bet you could get rich on that one!” Uh-huh. She would have been great feeding those worthless ideas to the late night infomercial people.
Well, she’s dead and I’m living, so I won. But be that as it may, I was always interested in science and gadgets and gimmicks and there were a few instances where I did in fact think of an idea before anyone else put it to market. For example, in the late 60’s while in high school I worked part time for a now-defunct local power tool manufacturer, WEN Products in Chicago. If you did anything electronic you might recall their name on soldering irons and soldering guns in the 50’s and 60’s, but they also made drills, saws, buffers and grinders, similar to the Sears’ Craftsman line, and Skil Saw Products. In the late 60’s the tool manufacturers started moving away from the cast aluminum housings in favor of the safer and less hazardous plastic.. or what they called “double-insulated” products. This made the tools lighter in weight as well.
Well, one day I was doing some tree trimming with my mother, which meant I had to use the manual tree saw in odd positions as I dangled oddly from some ladder against a tree limb. I mentioned to my mother that they (it was always “they”, whoever “they” were) should build an electric chain saw. An electric motor with a typical chain saw blade on it. Mother would of course encourage me to run with it (um.. the idea, not the saw) but, yeah.. fat chance of that at my age. But I did run the idea past my best buddy at the time, Lee. Now, Lee was another more cerebral guy like myself but far more academic in his approach to things. He thought for a moment then said what I had already thought… if it were a practical idea someone would have thought of this already. There were likely issues of torque stresses in cutting through certain limbs and tons of safety issues in using a chain saw with one hand. Oh well.
Then one day at WEN the research guys came up with an electric double-insulated chain saw. Hey, that was MY idea! Ok.. no one will ever believe me. Back to trimming the trees.
Another tree trimming day (we had too many trees) I was using that long wooden extending tree trimmer.. you know, the one with the rope you pulled that made a scissor-like blade at the top snap through a small limb. Again I told my mother, “They need to put an electric chain saw on the top of these poles rather than doing all this rope pulling and manual effort.” “Oh.. you poor boy. You’re so overworked.”, replied mom. Thanks for the encouragement, Mom. You could have had a rich son if you listened to me that first time!
I went over to Lee’s house and we sat around evaluating that idea. “Can you imagine all the limbs being cut off (not tree limbs) because of some unwieldy chain saw mounted ten feet up a pole?” “What happens when the saw locks onto a limb and stops and the pole gets yanked out of the user’s hands?” “What happens if the chain saw cuts through the electric cord going up that pole?” Oh, well.. another idea bites the dust. About 10 years later I saw an electric chain saw mounted on an aluminum pole at a local K-Mart. Go figger.