• Peter VanderPoel

Between a Box and a Hardware Place


I planted a cherry tree in my yard that was to serve two purposes: to produce cherries and shade the first floor window from the summer sun. For years, the tree never produced a single blossom, but the energy it saved in fruit, it put into growth. It was as tall as the second floor roof before it a cherry appeared. Now, it has a small, but much appreciated annual harvest. The problem is, I can't reach most of the height of the tree.

The Big Box solution would be to buy a corrosion resistant, turbo-charged, cordless cherry picker just off the boat from China: Bling for Bing.

I'm fortunate to have a old-style hardware store in my neighborhood where nails are still sold by the pound and screws are arranged in drawers and are purchased one at a time.

I understand why the old hardware store model doesn't work. Spending 15 minutes to help someone figure out the proper screw to attach their license plate for a $0.25 sale is inefficient.

What's lost in the era of plastic packaging, large quantities and out-of-the-box, plug-and-play items, however, is that there is no creativity allowed of the consumer.

I decided to make my own cherry-picker from what I could find at the hardware store.

The greatest advantage in an old-fashioned hardware store is being able to repurpose items, using them in a way not intended, i.e. the 'Macgyver' way. This takes a certain mindset - wandering through the aisles, really looking at what was available, creating and modifying the design based on present stock.

The Criteria:

1. Extendable to reach about 15' high + me + extended arms = 23'.

2. It would be nice to have the shaft adjustable so I don't have to horse ar0und a 15' pole.

3. Provide a slot that can be maneuvered over a cherry stem 15' away. A 'throat' might be appropriate, where I can get it generally in the right place then advance the device to tighten on the stem.

4. A gentle tug to dislodge the cherry.

5. A basket to catch it.

After wandering around in the hardware store, I came up with this:

1. A telescoping paint roller handle.

The head is made of a paint roller with the roller cage removed.

The 'picker' is made of a pegboard display hanger (it actually wasn't for sale, but I got a great deal) I bought two plastic wire hangers and nuts and bolts to hold onto the paint roller handle. The display hanger already had the flare at the end. With pliers, I bent the standard to provide an opening for the cherry stem and put an arch in the standard so that the cherries would tend to drop from the same location on the device every time.

The shortcomings are rotation of the hanger when I pull on a more stubborn cherry and I never got around to making the basket. I would just pick them up off the ground.

And the result? It's pictured on the banner at the top of the post.

#hardwarestore #designthinking