Ingenuity, Innovation, Safety, and a better way….
Delivering Material Handling Solutions and Safety for Industry, Woodworkers, and more…
Bow Products started like all good companies do. Necessity!
Mixed with the creativity, dedication, and passion, and the Bow Brothers (Keith and Ron) are changing the game with their innovative products.
Keith, a fork lift operator, had for years searched for an easier and safer way to transport large, heavy odd shaped loads on his fork truck. The old fashion way was not good enough in his mind. Blocks of wood and carpet were simply not good enough and presented unnecessary hazards. There had to be a better way. Ron, involved in the shoe industry, shared Keith’s passion for fixing things and two brothers share a long history of working together on solutions. For Ron, the shoe industry taught him that you need to “stay on your feet” with innovation or you fall behind quickly. Creativity and imagination are a constant in the shoe industry. Always close, the Bow Brothers often shared dilemmas, ideas and worked on solutions together. “It’s what we like to do in our spare time”. Unknown to them at the time, their professions were more similar than they thought. And after countless hours of brainstorming, research, trial and error, an unlikely marriage of technology sparked ideas, set off innovate thoughts and ideas, the “I wonder ifs”… and so it began.
What do Shoes and Forklifts have in common? They both carry heavy odd shaped objects.
And in each application, the base material requirements are similar. The material needs to endure: keep its shape despite constant pressures, endure in weather extremes and harsh working environments. And naturally it needs to be formed to accommodate the load and stress while moving.
EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate), the base material that in many applications provides support in shoes, was worth a careful study. They carefully researched EVA, it properties and capabilities. From that point on, Ron and Keith’s Passion for innovative solutions combined with this new material, set them on a path to apply EVA in places and products where it hasn’t been considered.
Material Handling Challenges
When you’re moving heavy cylinders or odd shaped objects made of steel, and you put them on steel forks, well, not a good mix. Short of “over the top expensive” solutions, most material handlers solve this challenge the good old fashion way: wood blocks, carpet or whatever is nearby that you can place between the fork and the load. As an operator, handling these loads carefully and safely over bumpy terrain requires great skill, precision and regard for safety. Keith knew there had to be a better way. A safer way. And it had to be affordable and easy to use. And whatever he came up with, it needed to handle the heavy loads and last for more than a few uses, or people just won’t use it.
And so it was done. Keith and Ron developed the ForkSaddle….
Using proven EVA material capable of holding tons, they formed a fork attachment in the shape of a saddle (one for each fork), that supports the heavy load, separates the load from the steel fork, centers the load in the saddle, stabilizes it, cushions it, and has a degree of pliability that adapts to the load shape. And after use, it recovers instantly. These are product qualities that act to hold steel loads better than a steel fork, wood chalks, or carpet. There is a grip factor that fights slipping.
The solution needed to be lightweight, convenient, easy to use and most importantly – safe. The method of attaching the ForkSaddle to the fork had to be simple fast and easy. The solution they came up with was magnets. Keith and Ron were familiar with on/off permanent magnet products from Magswitch via their woodworking hobby. Applied here, the ForkSaddle quickly attaches to the fork. And when not in use, it easily stores on the side of the forklift using the powerful on/off magnets. It’s right there when you need it. When it comes down to it, the ForkSaddle offers a higher measure of safety for the operator, and it protects the load at the same time.
A true Win/Win solution.
As you can imagine, Ron and Keith’s wheels kept turning. And today, the Bow Brothers have added Fork Blocks to transport flat or odd shapes, and also provide custom solutions for companies who have specific shapes they need to transport, protect, separate or support. As Ron puts it, “The forklift just needed a good pair of shoes”. In a world of material handling challenges, where the need for a way to transport heavy yet sensitive materials is growing, EVA is an effective and economical means.
The beauty in the EVA material is that it has a wide range of grades to meet performance specs. Another application challenge is minimizing damage and avoiding cross contamination of materials transported. Bow Products can save “tons” of money in damage avoidance, let alone safety improvement. The Bow Brothers are adapting EVA to solve many challenges in material handling. Whether you are a sophisticated corporation needing a precise solution, or small shop who only occasionally handles odd shapes, the Bow Brothers have a solution for you. Custom Solutions has become an important part of the business.
In his “extra” spare time, Keith is in his shop applying his passion for Woodworking. In his never ending conquest for a better way, Keith again discovered a better way in a common woodworking tool. As with any other conscientious woodworker, safety is paramount. And too often Keith found himself close to danger when traditional featherboards didn’t really protect him in a kickback situation. Through the years of woodworking, as Keith encountered kickback, he recalls how scary it is. “It’s always there, always on your mind”. Yet this phenomenon was accepted in the industry.
Keith noted “In our research, we saw statistics estimating hundreds of thousands of injuries, many serious, which are a consequence of kickback”.
Putting his new found EVA material to use, Keith tinkered with its behavior on a featherboard. He knew the material would endure, and porosity versus a hard plastic wasn’t a factor. He knew that both materials could easily be damaged if they contacted a blade. He confirmed that EVA could apply and hold consistent pressure on an infeed. So the accepted minimum performance standard, as with plastic featherboards, was the same. In fact, EVA added an anti-vibration element that plastic does not. But what Keith wanted to really wanted to know, is if EVA could be used to grab the wood better in a kickback. What he came to was a combination of design and EVA that together might work. Designing hinges for the feathers, Keith discovered a way to significantly restrict the flow of wood in the direction against the hinge, essentially adding a mechanical advantage to the EVA. Something to their knowledge was never done before.
Keith and Ron recall their amazement to see wood flow toward the blade with the same ease and feel as any other featherboard, but then to grab with ferocity in a kickback direction…Up to 5 times stronger than traditional featherboards.
Keith recalls the fun of creating kickback scenarios for testing. Shooting wooden projectiles using innovative techniques that make woodworking instructors cringe (Please don’t try this at home). Traditional featherboards simply didn’t offer enough protection while Keith’s design worked like a charm against kickback.
The Bow FeatherPRO was born. Check out the video demonstration on kickback and see for yourself.
Today, the Bow Brothers have developed 8 woodworking related products and have their sights on more.
Keith and Ron will tell you what all inventors tell you, finding a better way to do something is always gratifying. But for the Bow Brothers, there is nothing like the feeling of improving safety.
“You think about it every day. Who could have been hurt today, and wasn’t because of a Bow Product. To help reduce that number is the most gratifying part.”