For Bill Brewster, the mother of invention was an expensive slab of stone. Or the necessity to move it, that is.
Owners of Stonetech approached Brewster, a retired welder from Butte Falls, six years ago to fashion something they could use to maneuver slabs of granite and marble weighing up to a ton or more. The Medford company designs and fabricates countertops, sinks and other fixtures using stone pieces that each costs thousands of dollars.
Using his decades of experience in hydraulics and welding, the 73-year-old fashioned a metal frame "tilt table" that allows two to four people to maneuver stone pieces safely to avoid potential injuries and costly breaks.
"They explained they had trouble with extra heavy countertops, taking them into new buildings, and wanted a tilting table to stand them on one end," Brewster said.
"They would need at least eight men holding on to the counter while they tilted it down flat. The problem was they only had a couple employees, so they would borrow construction workers and hope no one got hurt. It was just never easy to do what they needed to do."
After a career in the U.S. Marines and nearly as many years as a welder, Brewster said his foray into the role of amateur inventor has been well received.
He's sold a half-dozen of the tables already, most of them priced under $2,000. The industry's typical mechanical hydraulic tables are often priced at five times as much.
Customer Becky Sapp, owner of Cornerstone Granite in Central Point, said managing slabs measuring 6 to 8 feet in length is "much, much easier" with Brewster's table.
"It pays for itself if it prevents one broken piece of stone," she said.
"The funny thing in our case was we thought we were going to need an apparatus that cost around $20,000," Sapp said.
"A few years ago, when we got a new business location, we were pretty happy to find out we didn't need a $20,000 setup. We just needed Bill's tilt table."
Brewster is glad he could solve a hefty problem for stone workers.
"With the table, no matter how heavy the slab is, just two men can move it if they have to and no one will get hurt or break the slab," he said.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.