The Space-Plug might have originally been developed to fit kitchen base units, but since then it is a product which has found a multitude of uses amongst the trades. Professional Builder’s Lee Jones talks to inventor, Cliff Petit about his time-saving fixing system.
Many of us might be quietly incubating an idea in the back of our minds that we’re secretly convinced is viable, but few have the determination to nurture it into existence. Kitchen fitter, Cliff Petit is one such exception, however, and, over twenty years after he first conceived of a new system for fitting kitchen base units, the Space-Plug is now set to become a fixture on the market.
“It was something that I’d carried around with me as a concept for some time and eventually felt I had to do something about it,” recalls the 49-year-old tradesman, “but my brother Nigel and I only really started in earnest a few years ago. Today, we’ve sold three million units, in twenty countries, have won innovation awards, and now have some of the kitchen industry’s largest suppliers in support. The beauty of our product is that the more tradespeople use it the more uses they find for it. In fact, there are probably hundreds of different applications, and we know that it’s already been used for fitting toilet cisterns, boxing out, inside dot and dab walls, installing roof windows, and much more.”
So just how does it work? Cliff’s brainchild is essentially a telescopic and adjustable spacer, with a cross thread that allows it to be wound in or out, and that accommodates a fixing through a central bore. In its original application of securing furniture units, when the cabinet is in the desired position, it’s a simple process of drilling a pilot hole through the cross brace, and at the same time directly drilling into the wall behind. Once that’s achieved insert a wall-plug into the wall. With your Space-Plug wound together, so that it’s smaller than the gap to be bridged, pass a screw through the cross brace, through the Space-Plug and locate it into the still visible wall-plug. Bridge the gap by unwinding the Space-Plug until it firmly contacts both surfaces. Once the screw is tightened you have a solid and accessible fixing.
“From a carpenter’s point of view its infinite adjustability is a real bonus,” continues Cliff. “The builder can work straight on instead of struggling in tight spaces or at angles with small screws. It allows you to decide how many fixings to use and where to place them, and the fixing remains accessible for the homeowner. Fewer fixings are required – as well as eliminating L brackets – and they can be installed much quicker, whilst there’s also the neatness of the finish to be considered.”
If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication then the Space-Plug has it in spades – a quality which is exemplified in Cliff’s original prototypes. “All I needed to demonstrate that it actually worked was a piece of rolled up DPM and a couple of old black poker chips. From there we had a few samples handmade on a lathe by an engineering firm, and subsequently brought in a local plastics firm to take on full scale manufacturing, and to this day the product is still British-made.”
Of course, most budding entrepreneurs will find the road to realising an original concept rather more winding than they’d anticipated, and Cliff’s journey was, in that respect, a well-trodden path. “Everything takes so much longer than you think,” he admits. “When you have a good idea, and you’re sat in front of a decision maker explaining it, you expect them to just agree and move on but, of course, it doesn’t quite work like that. There’s a whole money and marketing machine that you have to satisfy. We’ve equally been determined not to move too quickly, and overstretch ourselves, which has ultimately left us in the enviable position of having minimal overheads and no substantial debts. We recently had to pack 24 pallets of stock for a merchant in the lounge of a two-bedroom flat in Eastbourne!! But 2019 sees the end of our little cottage industry as new premises and new systems are in place to satisfy our growth and increased popularity.”
Given its versatility in quickly, neatly and accurately bridging any number of gaps, and providing a secure fixing in the process, this is one journey into space that Cliff and Nigel Petit look set to continue!