Professional Builder’s Kieran Nee visits two decorating buddies, Louie Martin and Tony Gerrard, who have gripped the decorating world with their simple invention.
Last January, two Romsey-based decorators, Louie Martin and Tony Gerrard, were working on a house together when they struck upon an idea that could help decorators everywhere – or rather, they snagged upon it.
“We were working together on a bungalow, for one of my clients, who said he wanted to keep the gripper rods down as they were nearly new,” explains Louie, “and we both shredded our fingers on them. We were screaming and shouting in separate rooms.
“The whole bungalow was like that. So we looked at each other and decided we had to do something about it. We looked around for a tool in all the shops, but we couldn’t find one.”
Thus was born the idea for the Gripper Buddy.
The simple invention – essentially a long piece of curved plastic – was designed to cover the gripper rods whilst you are sanding the skirting boards once a carpet has been taken off.
Tony chimed in, detailing the manufacturing process of the tool: “The tool is formed using a simplified version of thermos-forming called vacuum-forming. This is where the plastic is heated up and pulled down over a mould by a vacuum.
“The tools start off as a large sheet of ABS plastic, then that big sheet gets cut into pieces, by a CNC machine. They at the plastics plant put the digital image on it too. You get twelve out of each length of plastic and then each one is cut out individually. It’s a long process – therefore a costly process. But they can make about a thousand a day.”
Louie told me about the tool’s distinctly devilish logo: “Before getting Mimtec to make it we were working for people who turned out to be graphic designers.
“We told them we’d designed a tool and showed them the label we’d come up with, which we were quite proud of to be honest. It was a vicious looking devil. They took one look and said it was rubbish!”
But it wasn’t all bad news, and what happened next goes to show that getting your product in as many hands as possible is the most important step to success: “They told us to leave the logo with them and they’d sort something out for us. They came back with the logo we have now and we absolutely loved it. It was a little less bloodthirsty than what we had come up with.”
The pair have been manufacturing the tool since November, so not a huge amount of time in the grand scheme of things. However, it doesn’t feel that way to them, as Tony explains: “it feels like we’ve been doing it for ages, we have to sit back and take stock and remind ourselves we have come a hell of a distance.”
Tony continues telling me about the feedback they’ve received so far: “Twitter has been a fantastic way to reach people. People take it more seriously than other platforms. People love it.
Every day the phone flashes because someone is telling us they like the product. We run competitions occasionally and we even get people asking us when the next competition is going to be. We get pictures sent to us of work done using the tool – which is great! We love it.
“If you cut yourself when you’re a decorator, especially the fingers on your good hand, it’s sore for two or three weeks. People tweet us when it happens to them and send in photos of their gory pictures. We love that too!”
Decorators long in the tooth, taught by older decorators even longer in the tooth, are used to shredding their fingers the old way, and are thus less inclined to change their ways.
But it’s their loss, as Louie explains: “We’ve had people tell us they just flatten the gripper rods down or rip them up. That takes a good 20 minutes, and it damages the floor. What’s more, you still have to bend down to rub down the skirting board so you have to get down on your knees again.
“Then you have to fight to get the rods in the black bag and on top of all that you have to replace the rods once you’re finished! It’s just more work and more stress on your body.”
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It just goes to show that sometimes the simplest ideas are the most gripping.