Larry Grubbs tilts back a 55-gallon drum, then kicks a red metal frame under it. With a quick pull, a lever device lifts the drum off the ground and positions it on the dolly, ready to be moved around with relative ease.
When people first see the ingenious little device, they often wonder why everyone who handles 500-pound drums doesn't have one, he says.
Information about the Easy-Load Drum Dolly is available from Mike Trask at 541-582-2287.
"Everybody loves it, but they're not willing to pay our costs to build it," says Grubbs, a 67-year-old resident of Grants Pass.
The Easy-Load Drum Dolly, protected under U.S. patent 6863489, is the brainchild of Grubbs and Mike Trask, owner of Trask Industries Inc. in Rogue River.
Grubbs' father, who owned a trucking company about 10 years ago, planted the seed when he told his son it was difficult to move drums around the shop area.
Grubbs put his thinking cap on.
He wanted to build something simple but easy enough for one person to handle.
"I had to visualize how it works," he says.
The metal frame was fairly straightforward, but he needed a simple solution to lift it off the floor.
His nephew suggested a lifting mechanism that has two casters that serve as the fulcrum attached to a metal plate with a metal pipe used as the lever.
"When my nephew came up with the idea, I felt like such an idiot," Grubbs says. "It was so obvious."
He says it took him about two weeks to get the basic idea down.
Then he approached Trask, his boss, who helped him perfect the design.
They had trouble with the casters that left black streaks on some floors. They also needed casters that would stand up to oil and other harsh chemicals.
Because the frame would be subjected to regular abuse, they ended up powder coating it for durability.
Each dolly is made of three-sixteenths-inch plate steel and is designed to hold weights of up to 1,200 pounds.
"It'll last a lifetime," Grubbs says.
When they showed it to friends and others, there was initial excitement. They decided to patent the device, spending $10,000 for an attorney and to pay the government fees. They invested another $30,000 on an inventory of casters and other parts to assemble the units so they could keep the cost down.
Trask, 52, spent hundreds of hours researching patents to make sure their invention was something new.
When they finally contacted the attorney, Trask says his research helped speed the process along. The patent was issued on March 8, 2005.
"When we actually got the patent done, that was cool," Trask says.
Grubbs adds, "We said, 'It can be done.'"
With patent in hand, the two hoped people would snap up their dolly.
To date, they've sold only two dozen, Trask says.
He's taken them to California, showing them to various businesses. While his attempts at marketing have generated positive responses, they've produced few buyers for the $230 dolly.
Trask says he hasn't sold a dolly in some time and is now hoping someone will buy their patent. A large manufacturer would be able to bring the costs down, he says.
"Everybody seems impressed by it," Trask says. "It's the cost of it that's holding people back."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.