Lee Valley & Veritas
Woodworking Newsletter
  Volume 9, Issue 1 - September 2014    
Featured Patent
The Why and How, but Mostly the Why
Featured Patent
From the first time humankind held a rock to present day, there has always been a need for a hand-held tool or device to amplify force. First it was human power, then animals and then mechanical additions. With the advent of steam, water power, pneumatics and finally electricity, there have been numerous methods devised to apply force to an object while allowing for a predictable result. The object shown is essentially a hand-held, medium-force striking implement designed to do one thing: its purpose is to either drive a fastener or, where applicable, remove it.

Mou-Tang Liou of Taiwan sought with patent # 5,280,738, dated January 25, 1994, to improve the versatility of the basic western-style hammer. His patented hammer had a head that could pivot and a positioning device used to angle the head with respect to the handle. This patent was especially long on pictures (nine pages), with a rather short written description noting earlier abandoned applications in 1991 and also 1992. The claim was that the angular adjustment of the head provided a greater versatility in difficult situations for the user of the hammer. The head and the robust locking system are made of steel, while the handle is an alloy. There are three detents for the different positions.
Featured Patent   Featured Patent   Featured Patent
Most designers and inventors employed in a company's research and design department work within a fluid world when it comes to developing a concept (a blatant generalization). In some companies, the designer can be assigned a project and told to work it through to fruition, no matter the result. From concept and design, it moves onward to the technical department, which must implement the realization of said design. This becomes the bottleneck, as it is at this point that the walls go up. It may be too expensive to manufacture, with serious materiel and process research to be done prior to realizing the final product, a separate cost that must be factored into the final price. One might suspect the most common retort from any technical department when dealing with innovation is "you can't do it that way", with the obvious response being "why not"? This can and does create friction between the design and engineering teams.

It is clear the inventor of this tool either had a personal experience or observed a circumstance where an adjustable head on a hammer would be advantageous, so the design was developed and the patent pursued. This hammer was collected some years ago and I have never seen another; however, there is a wrecking bar/crowbar currently available that has the same basic mechanism.

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.
Patent (PDF)
Lee Valley Tools on Facebook
Lee Valley Tools on Twitter
Lee Valley Tools on YouTube
Lee Valley Tools on YouTube
Subscriber Services: Subscribe | Privacy Policy | Newsletter Archive