Saturday, September 28, 2002

Creativity doesn't retire


Inventors still love making something new

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

[photo] Charles P. Wood, 90, holds his latest invention, the Mixstik.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        Charles P. “Chip” Wood prides himself on mixing a mean martini. Demonstrating his acumen recently, the nonagenarian placed a footed plastic rod into a tumbler, pointing out three rubber rings arranged on the rod. He poured vodka to the level indicated by the first ring, added gin to the second ring level, and finished off with vermouth.

        The secret to Mr. Wood's consistent success is his invention, the Mixstik.

        “The base of the rod does the mixing,” he explained, gently plunging the device through the liquid several times. “What I've done here is strictly to my own taste. There's not the same martini for any two people.”

        The Mixstik, currently having its trademark registered, is Mr. Wood's 11th patented invention.

        “I've invented all my life, even when I was a little kid,” he said.

        Mr. Wood, who lives in Hartwell's Evergreen Retirement Community, is a creative person who didn't put his problem-solving skills in “park” when he reached traditional retirement age.

[photo] Chuck Mitchell, 73, president of Conveyor Technology, with his FlexLoc Convertible Holder System.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        Chuck Mitchell is another. At 73, he is the president of Conveyor Technologies, a Loveland company that manufactures specialized conveyors for high-speed packaging and automated assembly systems. Recently he received a patent for his FlexLoc Convertible Holder System, an invention that allows parts to be held at just the right position as they undergo precise assembly procedures. It's his second patent since founding Conveyor Technologies in 1997.

        “We've had very good response,” he said. “It's quite rewarding to see the enthusiasm this product has generated.”

        An engineer, Mr. Mitchell spent much of his career working for Milacron and Clearing, receiving his first patent more than 50 years ago. Leaving Milacron to avoid a transfer to Chicago, he established a machine tool distributorship with two partners. As the world of conveyors beckoned, Mr. Mitchell left his first company to help start a new enterprise that catered to assembly production. Conveyor Technologies grew from that, as its founder pursued automation applications for his conveyor engineering.

Mixing business, pleasure
    Like fellow inventors at Conveyor Technologies and Ferrarelli Inc., Chip Wood comes up with better ways of doing what he likes to do. Most of his patented inventions involved ammonia refrigeration, the specialty of his family's company. But now that his son runs Aardco Advanced Ammonia Refrigeration Design Co. in Camp Washington, Mr. Wood is free for his leisure pursuits.
    The Mixstik is in production and should be available before Christmas, Mr. Wood said. Its rubber rings are impervious to alcohol and can be moved on the plastic rod to allow the user to adjust measurements.
    Information: 821-9177.
        When many contemporaries use traveling, pursuing hobbies or struggling to fill the time, Mr. Mitchell finds that his work energizes him.

        “I get up at 5:30 a.m. and love what I'm doing,” he said. “I love creating things and solving a problem. There's a certain amount of pride in knowing we can do something a little better than the other guy.”

        Cheviot innovators Ray Sanders, 62, and Joe Ferrarelli, 75, focus their talents on automating the tedious and time-consuming process of sending certified mail. Their company, Ferrarelli Inc., sells its products to government agencies, banks, insurance companies.

        Said Mr. Sanders: “We sell to people who do anywhere from 1,000 to 25,000 pieces of certified mail a year.”

        One invention allows office workers to generate completed envelopes by computer. It takes a clerk a few seconds to add information before printing the envelope, which is ready to stuff and seal. Accompanying software allows the senders to keep records of mail they send, and track every piece of it. The time saved can add up to hundreds of hours per year, Mr. Sanders said.

        “We like to think that if there's a problem out there that deals with certified mail, we can solve it,” said Mr. Sanders. “There's always a better way.”

        Although Mr. Ferrarelli is past normal retirement age and Mr. Sanders is approaching it, they don't feel they're missing out on leisure life.

        “We still get our golf and our vacations in,” Mr. Sanders explained. “We cover for each other.”

       



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