Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 7, Issue 3
   January 2013
 
   Featured Patents
 

Fitton's patent
When first spotted on a garage sale table, this item evoked the first rule of tool collecting — quickly get the item in your hands, inspect, discard or negotiate, and then move on to the next suspected treasure. There is no time to dawdle during a full-bore tool-pillaging quest. Our initial thought was that we had discovered a new form of retractable plumb bob with an internal reel, but this was not the case. Yes, it looked like a bob and had a strong resemblance to the flat style favored by paperhangers and others who use a vertical surface for reference while working. It had a shaped pin at the end of the cord that obviously was for sticking into something. Once we turned it over, however, just like Casey in Mudville, we struck out.

Frederick Fitton and Edward Milnes of Rochdale, England, sought with their U.S. patent #996,476, dated June 27, 1911, improvements to tape measures used on bowling greens. The primary improvement was a method to retain a fixed measurement using a distinctive clamping device to hold the tape by friction, thus enabling the judge to determine the closest bowl to the jack. A second improvement was the provision for storing the pin in the tool's body. A further search uncovered that on June 22, 1909, provisional specifications were filed in England. It was not until January 18, 1910, and finally June 22, 1910, that the patent #14,574 was completed and accepted. Fitton and Milnes listed their occupations as sanitary engineer and pawnbroker, respectively; a rather strange pairing for inventors, who no doubt came together due to their love of the game of bowls. One can't help thinking that in today's reality-based television world, their names combined with their occupations would make a great premise for a TV show.
 
 
                   
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