Thursday, May 3, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Ask about the genesis of the items that debuted Wednesday at the National Hardware Show and the most common response is that necessity is the mother of invention.
From rotating lawn chairs to a device that removes seeds from fruit, the majority of products unveiled at the Las Vegas Convention Center were born out of sticky situations: a mother tired of tearing apart plumbing to remove clogs, a contractor looking for an easier way to measure pipe and, most literally, a man with a mouse in his house who grew wary of tangling with glue traps.
Here are some of the innovative products on display, along with a look at what sparked the inventors’ creations.
A chance encounter with a length of dental floss led Jennifer Briggs, a Utah stay-at-home mother of five, to invent the Drain Changle, a metal chain that removes hair clogs from bathroom drains without having to lift the drain covers.
A piece of floss had fallen down into one of Briggs’ drains. As she pulled out the string, it brought a massive ball of hair with it. So Briggs started dropping dental floss down every drain to catch her family’s stray hairs.
Sick of having to keep removing the drain covers to fish out the floss, she asked her husband to fashion a stopper device from one of her earrings. The couple had tried to tie the floss to a black rubber stopper, but Briggs kept mistaking it for a bug.
The Drain Changle features a flat decorative metal fixture with a chain hanging from it. The chain is fitted with sticky rubber attachments to catch loose hairs. Dangle the contraption through a drain grate, wait a few months, lift it out to remove the hairball, and throw away the bottom section of chain. Briggs sells new chain attachments to replace dirty ones.
Oil Mouse Trap
A plastic cat with a wide, gaping mouth stares down a mouse. The mouse, attracted to the scent of vegetable oil that has been poured into the cat’s belly, scurries into the fake feline's mouth and falls down its throat. The rodent lands in the cat’s belly, where it drowns in the oil. But the liquid prevents its carcass from decomposing. Up to seven mice can remain in the cat’s stomach for months with no stench or messy clean up.
That’s the idea behind the Oil Mouse Trap, invented by a family of Russians frustrated by conventional traps that use springs or glue. Place a cat trap in your home and keep the mice away, the inventors promise.
The traps come in three colors — “Russian Blue,” “Smokey” gray and “White Kitty” — and can be customized with paint and jeweled accessories.
Dix Frampton of Pahrump has five daughters, including “The Voice” star Dia Frampton, who love to eat pomegranates. He was happy to give his girls the fruit as a snack but had no easy way of removing the edible seeds.
An Internet search revealed that the seeds are best dislodged if the pomegranate is cut in half, then tapped with the cut side down. But Frampton hated the mess the process made and the red juice that stained his kitchen.
Enter the Pomegranate Deseeder. The plastic device sits on a plate and replaces a person’s fingers as a cradle for the pomegranate while it is being tapped.
Goodbye, red fingers, and hello, profits. Frampton already has sold a quarter million deseeders and is poised to sell more. They are scheduled to appear on Walmart shelves this fall.
The landscape architect who invented this tool used to rely on duct tape to secure tape measures to the end of pipes. Then one day while working in a ditch, he had his aha moment.
He invented a small, plastic fixture for the end of measuring tapes to secure them to objects so that a single person could measure long distances. No longer is a partner needed to hold the loose end.
One Tape-Ease design features a small peg that fits into a pipe to hold the tape measure in place. Another includes a rubber bumper to secure the tape measure to the edge of a piece of wood or cement.
“It snaps onto any 1-inch tape measure, and it’s recessed so it will measure accurately,” said Lisa Johnson of New Mexico, a partner in the venture.
StayDri Pet Shower
Loren Broady of New Hampshire got tired of backaches and drenched floors every time he washed his two border collies.
“I got fed up with getting soaked, making a mess and bending down,” Broady said.
So he invented the StayDri Pet Shower, a plastic tent-like enclosure on an adjustable base that keeps pets from splashing in the bath. Armholes allow owners to scrub their furry friends, and adjustable legs allow for customizable height. A small pet version designed for cats and toy dog breeds fits on a kitchen countertop.
“I’m working with Creative Technology Industries now to bring it to market,” Broady said.
Retail: $99.95 for small model, $199.95 for large model
Porta Fire Pit & BBQ
California recreational vehicle enthusiast Jim Kuenzinger needed a grill for on the go. But he didn’t want to have to lug around both a barbecue and a fire pit.
So he built a portable two-in-one system to meet both needs.
The Santa Maria Porta Fire Pit & BBQ includes a fire pit bowl, collapsible grill and cover. It breaks apart and folds flat for easy storage.
“It will slide in the belly of an RV,” Kuenzinger said. “Everyone can sit around it and barbecue, then you can pull out the barbecue and everyone can still sit around the fire.”
Kuenzinger plans to market the product to fellow RVers, campgrounds, parks and apartment complexes.
Need help lifting heavy beams or logs? Then the SideKick Lift is for you.
It’s a hydraulic pedal leg that hoists objects up to 250 pounds waist high and rotates them side to side. A user need only slide one end of an object onto the device and pull backward. The lift brings it up for placement on shelves, work benches or vehicle flatbeds.
Bob Sieblink of Michigan invented the SideKick Lift after he grew tired of asking for help in his home workshop, said his wife, Cheryl Sieblink.
“He designed it so he could work alone,” she said. “Men don’t like to call anybody. They don’t like to ask for help.”
Omega Tree Stand
The inventors of this Christmas tree stand call it “the marriage saver.” No more arguing about dead, dry trees, tipped-over timbers or scratched floors.
The Omega Tree Stand is a tree base and watering device in one. It uses plastic clamps rather than screws to hold up a tree — meaning one person can install it — and an attached water bin keeps the tree hydrated. The water container is disguised as a wrapped present.
Earlier models of the tree stand sell at Target, Lowe’s and Ace Hardware. Developers expect this version to hit stores in time for the holidays.
Retail: about $40
Suntracker Swivel Lounger
Inventor Bob Findlay of Illinois created the prototype of the Suntracker Swivel Lounger for his wife, who liked to lie in the sun but had a hard time watching their kids from a traditional lounger. He spent $2,500 building his first swiveling lounge chair.
Now, he’s bringing an entire line of loungers to market. Each Suntracker swivels 360 degrees while flat or in a chair position, and they come in various models, from basic to high-end with canopies and pillows. Each weighs about 10 pounds and is fully portable.
“People can use it to watch boats,” Findlay said. “I use it as a babe tracker.”
Retail: $60 to $149
Wrox Water Indicator
Never kill a plant again, even if you have a brown thumb.
Canadian company Plastair is introducing several new products to make the art of watering a plant pure science. At the lower end of the price spectrum is the Wrox Water Indicator, a small rock that turns blue when hydrated. Pour water over it when you irrigate a plant and watch it change color. When it turns white again, it’s time for more water.
The Pulse line of products serves a similar function but alerts a plant’s caregiver that it needs water by flashing an LED light. A hooked version allows people to gauge the condition of a hanging plant’s soil without the need to climb up a ladder while a jumbo model is designed to be used in grass.
“In southwestern states like Nevada, water is at a premium,” developer Tom Milligan said. “With this, you don’t have to water everywhere. It will tell you when the deep soil is dry before the grass dies.”
Retail: $60 to $149