Who’d a thunk a tree stump could be the basis for so much creativity – and pain.
The creative part came to Tucson-area’s Andrew Farley in a dream. He awoke one morn with the grand idea to create a self-contained, safely burning campfire log by drilling out the center of a tree stump and lighting it from within.
He dubbed his invention the Far-log and has been promoting it since 2008.
The pain came when he when one of his pals dropped in for a visit earlier this year and told him he saw the same dang idea being sold as a Stump Stove at a general store in Verde Valley.
Farley then learned Stump Stoves were not only in stores in Arizona, but various locales throughout the United States and Canada, as well as promoted online at StumpStove.com.
“Yeah, I’m pissed,” Farley admitted in an e-mail. When asked if he punched anything in his fury, he said no. “But I did kick the hell out of a punching bag dummy right outside my door.”
Tree stump creativity had also apparently been hewn in longtime Canadian logger Rich Blackmore, who has lived his life in British Columbia. He’s been working on his Stump Stove idea since 1997, he said in a phone interview, and finally started the patent process in late 2007.
His Stump Stove was granted “patent pending” status in fall 2009 and he started selling his product in January.
So where does that leave Farley?
Although Blackmore did graciously offer to help Farley market and sell the Far-log once he heard about it, and Farley may have a few options for getting his own patent if there are enough differences between the products, the whole patent process seems set up to shaft the little man.
The patent process
Money is one of the most painful obstacles facing an inventor wanting a patent.
“I never patented the thing because of the cost,” Farley said. “(It was) $7,500 plus other costs so I took the ‘Poor Man’s Copyright’ idea from my brother. He says, ‘Put (the idea) in a sealed box, and mail it to yourself and don’t open it when you get it, put it on the shelf and forget about it (until you need it).”
Blackmore added to send the idea to yourself registered mail, with photos, so it holds even more weight.
He also said $7,500 to start the process is just a start. His patent process, which includes lawyers since he learned what can happen when you don’t go by the books, has already cost him at least $15,000.
Once you’ve amassed thousands of dollars in cash, next up is the research.
The government is kind enough to let you do all the research yourself once you file a patent search. This worldwide search lets you check for any and every invention that could have any similarities to your own.
“There was stuff coming up from the early 1800s,” Blackmore said of his search for patents for inventions similar to the Stump Stove. “They were not the same idea but a similar type of procedure of a fire burning on the inside of a wood.”
Once your massive research and tedious paperwork are complete, the government reviews it all while they grant “patent pending” status. This, too, usually lasts several years.
Unfortunately, both Blackmore and Farley know what it’s like to invent an item – only to see the same or similar product marketed and sold by someone else.
Blackmore saw one of his inventions blatantly stolen. He came up with a bag packed with sawdust meant to stop erosion, another idea from his logging work.
He skipped the patent process and went right to a marketing company to market the bag. The company, however, took the idea and ran to the patent office.
“They came back to me and said they would sue me if I kept making my own product,” Blackmore said.
“I probably could have gone through all the fight of lawyers and dates but at some point it is more costly to fight it than to not and move on.”
Farley has never had an invention stolen per se, but his big ideas always went to line somebody else’s pocket.
“The only ones that were stolen I signed off on and received $10 and I could keep my job.”
One of his top inventions was a wallpaper pasting machine he calls the “Farley-bar” that kept the paste mixed as it zippily slathered it on the wallpaper. This was at a company later gobbled up by 3M.
He also worked closely with inventor Daniel Poole at P.C. Manufacturing, assisting with inventions that ranged from a toothpaste squeezer to a toilet paper dispenser that eliminated that bothersome spring-loaded tube.
“I found a snap of our toilet paper line in a movie still. It was ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ with Danny Glover sitting on a toilet rigged to explode and behind him is the toilet paper holder.”
Even if the invention makes it to a movie scene and the inventor doesn’t, neither guy would give up generating new ideas. They probably couldn’t if they tried, as coming up with better ways to do things – and creative gizmos with which to do those things – is in their makeup.
Both also offer closing advice for any would-be inventors.
“Patent your thoughts as fast as you can no matter how small or ridiculous,” Farley says.
“People think an idea is not worth it and don’t pursue it,” Blackmore added, warning folks not to give up. “Keep at it and eventually it will be worth it.”
Besides, he added, it’s not the fame, fortune or cameo in a movie toilet scene that make your invention worthwhile.
“The key to being successful,” he said, “is enjoying what you do.”
Far-log vs Stump Stove
Tree stump is hollowed out and burned from the inside, keeping flames contained in its own handy dandy ready-made outer wood casing.
Far-log: Hollowed out stump features a “crossfire X” on the bottom to let air rise inward and an “asterix” hole on top to let air escape. Asterix design includes small wedges of wood that catch fire easily.
Stump Stove: Hollowed out log features a front opening to let air enter and open top to let air escape. Inside design includes “kindling fins” that catch fire easily.
Far-log: Branded with Far-log name atop log, available in variety of sizes and natural formations, different wood types – including a Far-tiki-log of palm tree – and with a “Johnson attachment,” a long, metal chimney placed atop the FAR-log to warm general area.
Stump Stove: Comes with starter kit that includes starter chips and in variety of standard sizes: 12″ Expedition; 10″ Hide Out; 8″ Explorer; 6″ Little Hiker. Shapes all the same, like a mini-chimney.
Far-log: “The secret to the FAR-LOGS is this: I never have sold one, not one,” Farley noted. “I give them away to people who enjoy them. If someone is interested enough to listen to me explain it, I outright give them away. It’s just a dream I had and I want toe world to call them by my name when I’m long gone off this planet.”
Stump Stove: Prices vary by size and location.
Far-log: Andrew Farley, 53, Tucson-area resident, longtime inventor. Lives on large ranch with dogs, FAR-logs and the Moon Dance Saloon.
Perpetual inventor with very cool girlfriend named Diane, four children, a dad who “looks like Lincoln if he would have survived the shot to the head and always had the ‘Abe’ look as we all grew up.” Oh, Farley also has quite a hat collection, ranging from Viking horns to his favorite, a silk opera top hat.
Far-log on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/far-log/335405179688
Far-log video on Rynski’s Blogski: www.tucsoncitizen.com/rynski/2010/03/03/what-the-heck-is-a-far-log/
Stump Stove: Rich Blackmore, 34, British Columbia native and resident. Married to Rachella at age 19, six kids, worked in family logging business entire life until branched out, pun intended, into his own custom log home and log trim business.
Has come up with dozens of creations while logging and camping. He said he doesn’t consider patenting a lot of them as they are all part of a day’s work. Unsure if he has any hat collections although we bet he has plenty of scarves and gloves.
Stump Stove online: StumpStove.com
What do you think?
Have you ever invented anything?
Was it like the Far-log or Stump Stove?
Have you ever seen something you created also created by someone else?