To Ingenuity Add a Shovel: Meet the Wovel
By PETER APPLEBOME
NEW CANAAN, Conn. - Like Albert Einstein, like Isaac Newton, like Thomas Edison, Mark Noonan had an idea....
The Wovel (rhymes with shovel), looks like one of those high-wheeled 19th-century bicycles incongruously transported to that pile of snow in the driveway. It relies on two simple principles of physics, the wheel and the lever, to revolutionize the humble art of shoveling snow — at least the part that hasn’t been revolutionized out of existence by the plow guy who does it for you.
For those of us who actually take pride in getting rid of snow ourselves, the Wovel really is something new. It acts as a lever using as its fulcrum the axis of a wheel three feet in diameter. A shovel blade 26 inches wide and 18 inches deep and a handle extend in opposite directions from the wheel’s hub.
Rather than bending down and using your back to lift and throw 30 pounds of snow, you simply push the snow along, as if pushing a baby carriage, and then push the handle down, throwing the snow wherever you like. Think of pushing down on a seesaw with snow on the other end.
A study at the University of Massachusetts found back strain from the Wovel is roughly akin to walking, reducing the risk of lower-back injury from shoveling snow by 85 percent. This is not insignificant in that the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that nearly 76,000 people a year are treated for injuries from shoveling and blowing snow, not to mention the deaths from heart attacks. And it’s a way to get rid of snow without burning fossil fuel. (It’s available at the Web site Wovel.com and online from retailers like Hammacher Schlemmer and Home Depot.)
“It’s the most amazing machine,” said Richard Lechner, 53, a dentist in New Britain, Conn., who spent much of the winter cursing the blue sky and wishing for snow so he could use his new Wovel. “The most astonishing thing is that someone didn’t come up with this 50 years ago. All it is is a wheel, a handle and a snow shovel, but it makes shoveling snow at least 10 times easier.” [more]
We gave the Wovel the "Harris Epstein Award for best invention of the winter in 2007." My neighbor Henry bought one of these. Each year we say we may need to borrow it soon...