29 Sep Blades of Glory
Professional Builder’s Kieran Nee travels to Leigh-on-Sea to meet a plasterer who’s fixed his sights on success.
As I approach Karl Dorn’s house in suburban Eastwood down in Leigh-on-Sea, Karl waves at me from the open garage where, I soon learn, he has built himself a makeshift workshop. It’s in for a quick cup of tea and a tour around the cattery his wife runs in the back garden and then back out to the garage-cum-workshop, where Karl is eager to show me the capabilities of the Bladefixer – a plasterboard fixing he has invented, and is now selling through Select Products. “This is one I set up earlier,” Karl tells me, pointing to a plastic swing hanging from a square of plasterboard fixed to the ceiling, “and just look what it can hold.” He then proceeded to place a 25kg bag of plaster on the swing and let it swing back and forth with no support. “Now,” he asked me, visibly beaming with pride, “have you ever seen a plasterboard fixing, fixed into 12.5mm plasterboard, do that?” I had to admit it was impressive, and Karl’s pride was well-placed. What was especially impressive however, was just how simple the product was. Punched out of a thin sheet of steel, each fixing is essentially a flat, thin strip of steel with various holes and lines etched into it. As Karl told me: “most people that look at it assume it’s a template for marking things out,” and it’s true, it looks too simple to trust hanging heavy items such as a radiator or a kitchen cabinet off of it. But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so what better way to get the skinny on the Bladefixer than see it being fixed from scratch.
Easy to fix “The best thing about this fixing,” Karl tells me as he tears open a packet and removes a Bladefixer and two accompanying screws, “is you don’t need any tools to fix it that you wouldn’t otherwise need to hang something – i.e. a screwgun basically. The fixing has a pointed end, this enables you to simply push it in through the board. You can use a knife to cut the board, but honestly it’s just as easy to use the fixing itself.” Karl explains each step of the process, explaining the logic behind every part of the fixing – Bladefixers for dummies, if you will. But unlike me, the tradesmen and women who will use them are not dummies, and should immediately see the potential behind this simple strip of metal. From opening the packet, to bending the fixing and pushing it through the board, through to offering up a coat hanger to the right holes and driving in two screws so they catch the back of the strip, compressing the board in between and forming a tight hold on the board with plenty of purchase, the whole process took Karl not much more than a minute. I remarked that it was the plasterboard equivalent of the Rawl Plug – simple, effective and quick. He replied: “I want this to be in every tradesman’s tool box. You might not need to use it every day, or even very often, but there will come a time when you encounter something and you think, ‘ah, I have just the thing in the tool box,’ and that’s where this trumps all the other fixings out there.” There is a useful secondary purpose behind the fixing too, as Karl explains: “If you have a damaged plasterboard, say a small hole formed from the previous fixing failing and ripping out of the board, the Bladefixer can help you with that problem.
Because the two screws can be set quite far apart, and the strip bridges the gap between them on both the front and back of the board, the fixing effectively eliminates any structural weakness presented by the hole and an installer can easily fix something in the same place.” Often with a new product, even one so simple and clearly useful, the pain and the struggle involved in getting it to market and making it successful is often a hurdle the humble inventor simply can’t jump, or if they do, often break their legs on the way. I ask Karl whether this accurately describes his tale: “I spent £60 getting a prototype made up right at the start, and any money I’ve put into making it I have already made back. Of course I’ve put a lot of my time in, but I believe in it 100 per cent. As I’ve always said, if the idea is good, then let someone else pay for it, not you!”