Professional Builder meets plasterer Gary Hanmer, who has a new solution for site clean-up.
When you’ve been waving at walls since as far back as 1987 you’ll inevitably have encountered all the perennial on-site problems. It’s those little things, that might not amount to much at the time but, add it all up, and finding a better way could see a far from insignificant chunk of your working day retrieved. That was just the experience of one Blackpool-based plasterer – and the result was Holdalot.
“I’ve been filling up rubble sacks on jobs for years and it can prove very fiddly, especially if you’re on a job on your own, and you don’t have someone to keep the bag open for you. Clearing up is usually the last job of the day and, if you’re already tired and looking to get home, it can be pretty frustrating if the lot collapses and spills everywhere, so it’s something that’s always driven me mad. Eventually I bought some steel bars and got to work in my shed to find a solution.”
What emerged was a device for keeping those sacks open, which sits on four sturdy legs, can be folded for easy transportation in the back of a van, but is robust enough to withstand the rigours of a building site. Not only that, but Gary’s invention is also strong enough to hold builders’ buckets with the likes of Artex in, for instance, which means less bending down to retrieve the material.
But the journey to the Holdalot proved to be a protracted process of trial and error, where a prototype was perfected only for it to flounder on site. “Being a tradesman myself I’m in the fortunate position of being able to test every small detail, and my daughter’s a plasterer as well, so she got involved from an early stage. Some of the early examples had problems with rust, for instance, so we powder-coated the legs, whilst it needed to be strong enough to be able to be thrown in the back of a van. It’s actually taken around two years to get to a finished product and what we now have is a stainless steel Holdalot made in Lancashire. That was important to me from the outset – to make sure we found a quality local manufacturer, where we could be more in control of the process.”
Like many inventors, Gary has discovered that bringing a product to market is a road with many an unforeseen pothole along the way. “It’s certainly been a revealing experience, and in many ways the odds are stacked against the little guy. If you take the patent process, for example, that is in itself expensive, but if you then want to defend an infringement you’ll need the support of some very pricey lawyers. When you have a product, and get to the distribution and sale side, there are big companies that want to force you down a particular route, which is something you need to resist.”
Despite those complications, Gary is determined that Holdalot will be available to the trades, and is presently selling through local builders’ merchants, with ambitions to expand. “Because I’m still on the tools, I’ve been devoting weekends and evenings to Holdalot, so it as always going to be a slow process to get the concept out there, but I do believe there is big potential. With the addition of biodegradable bags the appeal would widen to the festival, and camping sectors, for instance, and it’s not just about saving time. Because the Holdalot sits on four legs, with the bag attached, you’re not bending down as much to fill it up. Back pain is also a big issue for builders so the more you’re keeping it straight, and the less strain you’re putting on that part of your body, the better. It’s a simple solution, but an effective one, and as a builder myself I can say with confidence that it does the job.”