"I have invented a lot of stuff" Have you ever heard that necessity is the mother of invention? I thought that question was all I'd need to start this topic. I wanted to give a short definition of "inventor" so I could demonstrate how well I fit the definition. I figured the Encarta Encyclopedia on this computer would give me just that; a short definition. I soon got side-tracked, reading the likes of a book on the subject. After enjoying half the life of Ben Franklin all over again, I concluded this was the wrong approach. So I'll talk about "devices" I built from scratch, and if they are not all inventions I won't have to argue the point.
While it was not the first "device" I ever assembled, my 'Handy-Dandy Dashboard Measuring Stick' is the first thing I built that I thought should be patented. This project took place in 1954 while working as a woodsman for my father-in-law. During that time I bought my first power chainsaw and began logging and harvesting pulp wood for the paper industry.
The pulp wood was cut to five-foot lengths and stacked neatly on trucks to facilitate measuring volume at the mill. The five foot length required actual measurement of every piece to meet contract specifications. Most workers used a wooden stick and marked off several cuts before starting the chainsaw. About one hour was used up to measure pulp wood every day. I saw this as an unnecessary step and began planning how to attach a measuring stick to the side of the saw. The saw could then be placed on the intended cut so the stick lined up with the end of the log.
The saw had to lay sideways to cut a tree down, and walking through brush would be difficult with a rod sticking out the side of the saw. Therefore, the stick had to fold out of the way for general use of the saw. The first measuring stick made use of a metal radio antenna hinged so it stood vertical when not in use. That got in the way of undercutting a log and was easily damaged while moving about. All the other wood cutters wanted to know what station I was listening to. After breaking the antenna a few times, I made the next model from a fiberglass fishing pole. The fiberglass was very strong and limber, making it forgiving when it got bent. I decided to hinge the new measuring stick back along the side of the engine when not in use. That way it didn't look like an antenna, and it easily swung into position for measuring, but the next week everyone wanted to know where I was going fishing. There is something about inventors that makes people burst into laughter. I knew I had a good thing going, because I was saving about an hour every day not measuring the old way.
This final version hinged to the rear of the saw and fit under my right arm for most cutting and walking. It was out of the way when felling the tree and swung into position quickly for measuring pulp wood. I just had one problem left. How would I keep people from calling it my fishing pole?
I heard a joke about some kind of handy dandy dashboard gismo. That seemed adaptable enough, so the new measuring stick became as named, the Handy-Dandy Dashboard Measuring Stick. My dad asked me three times before he was sure he was hearing right. Just when I may have filed for a patent, I decided to go to college. As far as I know, no one has patented such a device, and I never saw one on the market. If I had to cut pulp wood again, the first thing I would build is a Handy-Dandy Dashboard Measuring Stick.