Lee Valley & Veritas
Woodworking Newsletter
 
  Volume 8, Issue 1 - September 2013    
 
Featured Patent
The Claw
 
Coal-lifting implement
The intent of this patented implement was to provide an improved means, as compared to tongs, to lift and manipulate coal.
 
Leonardo da Vinci once stated, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." The item shown certainly exemplifies that sentiment, with a form that may have been copied from nature. It is an example of how a device can be created by using a simple mechanical advantage (lever) and embellishing that form with attachments to create a purpose-built tool.

Oscar P. Fitzgerald Jr. and James Ross Thomas of Nashville, Tennessee, sought with patent #567,087, dated September 1, 1896, to improve or modify the method popularly used in lifting and manipulating coal for use in a fire, namely tongs. It was also meant to effect a less cumbersome system for placing smaller-sized quantities of coal upon a fire grate. This scoop-like device was especially good for transferring the smallest lumps in the coal scuttle to the fire. The device also allowed a certain protection from burns while placing the coal by having a spot for the fingers on the hand not used in closing the device. The item was basically constructed with two dished sides and finger-like projections that could grasp the coal firmly. These two sides were hinged and held open with a spring, so the operator had to press the two halves together to grip. The entire object, including the fingers or claws, is constructed of light-gauge sheet metal, formed and riveted together. The object does resemble the drawing shown in the patent papers but is constructed in a much different manner. This is somewhat common with inventions, as the transition from concept to reality exposes the difficulties in producing what is drawn on a piece of paper.
 
Markings
The markings read "P. & B. Mfg. Co. Nashville Pat • 9 • 1 • 1896"
 
No mention of a production assignee is made in the patent. The example shown is clearly marked with the Philips & Buttorf Manufacturing Company (P. & B. Mfg.) of Nashville, Tennessee, a large company that produced cookware and related goods in metal, most notably stoves and other cast-iron items. There is some ambiguity regarding the founding date of the company, but during the 1860s seems likely. An aggressive company, it faced many lawsuits during the earlier part of the 20th century. It appears that the company, or the derivative of the original corporation, ceased trading in the late 1950s.

When I pause to think how this form of tool was conceived, I am reminded of the grizzly den I saw some years ago at the Houston Zoo. I was fascinated by the ability of one very big and relaxed bear to snatch a piece of popcorn out of the air with ease and then eat it. It might be sensible to surmise that a bear claw was the inspiration behind this invention.

D.S. Orr

D.S. Orr has been a collector, user and student of woodworking and metalworking tools and practices for more than 40 years. Recently retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.
 

 
United States Patent Office.

Oscar P. Fitzgerald, Jr., and James Ross Thomas, of Nashville, Tennessee.

Coal-Lifting Implement.

Specification forming part of Letters Patent No. 567,087, dated September 1, 1896.

Application filed June 15, 1896. Serial No. 595,643. (No model.)
 
To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that we, Oscar P. Fitzgerald, Jr., and James Ross Thomas, citizens of the United States, residing at Nashville, county of Davidson, State of Tennessee, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Coal-Lifting Implements, of which the following is a specification.

Our invention relates to coal-lifting implements, and our main object is to provide a coal-lifting implement which can be manipulated effectually by the direct engagement of the hand with the operating parts in contact with coal, dispensing with the ordinary extended handles used in tongs for this purpose. It is frequently desirable, especially where open grates are used, to put coal upon the fire in small quantities, and for this purpose tongs are ordinarily used; but it is found that such implements are more or less cumbersome in operation, and as a result the lumps are quite often taken up with the hand, thereby soiling the hands; and one special object of our invention is to obviate this objection by providing a coal-lifting device, which will be directly grasped by the hand and will protect the same from direct contact with the lump of coal, or with the coal in the hod or other receptacle, and will also sufficiently protect the hand from heat when putting the coal on the fire, a further object being to provide an implement that can act as a scoop in the hand to take up the smallest lumps or particles of coal, and at the same time serve as a lifting device for the average-sized lumps.

With these general objects in view our invention consists, essentially, of the novel construction and combination of parts hereinafter described and claimed with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which—

Figure 1 is a perspective view of our invention. Fig. 2 is a vertical longitudinal view on the line 2 2, Fig. 3 is a top plan view.

In the drawings, where the same characters represent the same parts in all the views, A is a dished plate forming a scoop, preferably of sheet metal, to which is connected a plate B by means of an ordinary strap hinge-joint d, the said plate B being normally pressed away from the scoop A by means of a suitable spring interposed between the two, such, for example, as the leaf-spring D, connected at one end to the scoop A and having its free end in engagement with the inside of plate B. The outside of the scoop A is preferably provided with a projection a, constituting a handle with which the fingers engage, the said projection, in the present instance, being formed by plate a1, riveted or otherwise suitably secured to the outer face of the plate or scoop A and rolled over at the end to form the projection a. The plate B is likewise provided with a suitable projection b, constituting a handle for engagement with the thumb, the said projection, in the present instance, being of a sheet-metal strip b1, soldered, riveted, or brazed to the outer face of the plate and curved outwardly to form the projecting handle b.

Both the plate B and plate or scoop A are preferably provided at their free ends with projecting angular prongs or teeth C, which are arranged to interlock, as shown in Fig. 1.

Covering the outer face of the scoop A is a sheath or guard E, secured along its edges to the face of said scoop and so shaped as to form a cover for the fingers, thereby protecting the same from the coal-dust when in the act of taking the coal from the hod or other place. As shown in Fig. 2, the device is illustrated in the natural position of lifting the coal, a lump L being shown in dotted lines, and when the lump L is put on the fire the hand may be turned over, so as to present the sheath E toward the radiant heat of the fire, thereby, in a measure, protecting the hand from said heat.

By providing the two parts of the device with the projecting prongs or teeth the lumps of coal may be more effectually held or grasped, and by making the plate A in the form of a scoop, as shown, the smallest particles of coal may be readily taken up.

The operation of our device may be readily understood without further description; and it may be observed that it can be manufactured at a small cost and finished in any suitable manner, and in its use it not only effects a saving of time over the ordinary tongs, which are operated at a considerable distance from the coal handled, but is more easily manipulated, since in our device the point of application of power is as close to the coal as possible.

While we have shown the preferred form of our invention, it will be understood that various changes will suggest themselves to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit thereof; and its use, of course, is not restricted to handling coal, as it may be utilized wherever it is found desirable. We may further observe that while we have shown the plates A and B as imperforate, it is obvious that either one or both of these members may be perforate or slotted, as in ordinary tongs in common use, if desirable, and by the term "plate," we wish to be understood as including such changes as are within our invention.

We have shown the device as made of sheet metal, but of course its parts may be cast, if desired, or otherwise suitably made.

We claim as our invention—
 
  1. A coal-lifting implement consisting of an imperforate dished plate forming a scoop, a second imperforate plate hinged thereto, each of said plates having projecting angular prongs or teeth at the free end thereof, the said implement being adapted to be operated by direct contact of the hand therewith, substantially as described.

  2. A coal-lifting implement, consisting of two plates hinged together, and a spring interposed between said plates and normally pressing them apart, with projections forming handles on the outer face of said plates with which the fingers and thumb of the hand may engage, substantially as described.

  3. A coal-lifting device consisting of two plates hinged together, and a sheath or guard covering the outer face of one of said plates and adapted to cover a portion of the hand in the manipulation of the device, substantially as described.

  4. In a coal-lifting device, the combination of a dished plate forming a scoop, a second plate hinged thereto, a sheath or guard covering the outer face of the scoop, and adapted to cover a portion of the hand in the manipulation of the device, substantially as described.

  5. A coal-lifting device consisting of a dished plate forming a scoop, a second plate hinged thereto, a spring interposed between the two plates normally pressing them apart, projections on the outer faces of both plates forming handles for engagement with the fingers of the hand, and a sheath or guard inclosing the outer face of the scoop adapted to cover a portion of the hand in the manipulation of the device, substantially as described.

  6. In a coal-lifting device, the combination with a plate provided with a projection on the outer face for engagement of the fingers therewith, and a second plate connected thereto by a hinge-joint and provided with a projection forming a handle for engagement of the fingers therewith, substantially described.

  7. A coal-lifting implement consisting of an imperforate dished plate forming a scoop, a second imperforate plate hinged thereto, and projecting angular prongs or teeth at the free ends of said plates, and a spring interposed between the two plates normally pressing them apart, substantially as described.
In testimony whereof we have signed out names to this specification in the presence of two subscribing witnesses.
 
Oscar P. Fitzgerald, Jr.
J. Ross Thomas.
Witnesses:
C. A. Ferguson,
D. Bush.
 
Diagram
 
 
 
 
     
Lee Valley Tools on Facebook
Lee Valley Tools on Twitter
Lee Valley Tools on YouTube
Subscriber Services: Subscribe | Privacy Policy | Newsletter Archive