Ron Hickman, the inventor of the Black & Decker Workmate, has died in Jersey, where he had a design factory. Hickman died after a long illness that followed a serious fall five months ago. blackanddeckerworkmate Hickman, who lived in Jersey, was 78. His design for the wood-and-steel foldable workbench and vice was rejected …
If I could level one criticism of the workmate, it is that if you do saw through it (or between the wooden clamps) then your saw hits the metal framework and instantly becomes fit for sawing only butter - something that isn't true of a wooden saw horse.
But a true inventor, and should be better represented in the Design Museum.
I've got two big grooves through the metal on my Workmate after I forgot to check the saw depth before a cut. Workmate still fine to use, saw blade undamaged. Mine's a newer one though, and the metal is nowhere near as thick as it is on my dad's 30+ year old model. Mine is about 1/4 the weight though.
We have a very old Workmate that cost quite a lot at the time, but it's proved to be one of the best DIY buys ever, still going strong today even with many accidental saw cuts in the wood. Got another one a couple of years back, can't remember if it was an official one or not, but the build quality of it was shite - the frame turned out to be quite weak and one of the pieces of wood snapped! Cost-cutting manufacturer had used chipboard instead of plywood... instant refund on that one!
In a world where a foetus like Justin Bieber is admired and has a biographical movie at the age of 17 ( FFS! ) , people like Ron Hickman go largely unnoticed. People like HIckman are the real heroes who make the world turn and give something to humanity. Alright it was only a portable workbench, but how many of us have used one to make just one job a little bit easier?
To be fair, a movie about a pre-pubescent You Tube star is a bit easier to make interesting than a movie about the trials and tribulations of designing a workmate.
On a similar point, I doff my hat to all the dads and grand-dads who are currently sitting through Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D with their daughters and grand-daughters, you are heroes for going through that kind of audio visual torment just to keep your offspring happy...
Stanley (maker of many hand tools and knives) "know" it won't sell more than 100s.
B&D (I've never seen a piece of B&D kit that didn't have a motor in it) take on the design and the rest is history.
Very few people manage *one* iconic design in their lifetime. I'd say he managed 2.
He had nearly 40 years to enjoy his success, which is more than a *lot* of inventors get.
I think I will raise a glass tonight.
Let me tell you, when these things first came out they were made of aluminium castings and had fifteen ply jaws. (I know, I've just been and counted them on the one I was given by my wife thirty five years ago).
It's seen some action in that time too and the only thing that broke was one of the handles that wind the jaws in and out - easily remedied by adapting the handle of a Stanley hand drill. Easily the most useful bit of DIY kit I've ever owned.
The prescience of Stanley et al., convinced that "we know our market", was matched in the 90s by cellphone service providers who believed inter-network SMS was more trouble than it was worth.
Long live those like Hickman, with the confidence to recognise an "expert" in a rut.
I've got one of these, that folds into a loading dolly with wheels. I've seen these on worksites where anyone who has to travel with tools for short-term work sets up. I use mine for everything from small home improvement, to a workbench for small gunsmithing projects. I live in an apartment where space is at a premium and there's no garage.
Engineers design something brilliant that enables others to do things great and small. But they get much less recognition or compensation than the average unrepentant dirtball dog killer in the NFL or talentless plastic thespian wannabe on a "reality" TV spot.
Something's really wrong here. We need to celebrate genius in practical things not just ephemerals like art and music.
More so when all these "shit for brains" corporate types call it a losing proposition and the creator goes on to sell millions of them...
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
"The Hairy Potter Chick"
"Martina Nat??? something over" the Tennis Champion...
"Alan Turing - who rode his bicycle 60 miles rather than be obstructed by the general strike"
If you care to look up some of the history of Ron Hickman, there is a considerable amount of material available.
Very Interesting - as are so many other people and subjects.
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