We expect to make pots
Someone once said build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. Two men from Lancashire have taken the old adage and applied it to a very different creature
Bob Norburn has been inventing things – very worthwhile things – since his teenage years. But the lobster trap he and business partner, Steve Simpkin, are about to launch on the world should be the most significant by far, saving lives and, hopefully, making pots of money.
The first time Wigan bornand-bred Bob demonstrated his knack for practical creativity was as an apprentice at De Havilland in Lostock, when he designed and built a device that let one man manoeuvre and work on key components of an aerospace engine where previously it needed four hefty lads to turn it. ‘I was made apprentice of the month and given 50 shillings,’ he recalls. ‘It was the first money I
made from an invention.’
Later, a neighbour’s golf practice in the garden saw Bob create a net that kept golf balls where they hit it, allowing the player to assess shot accuracy. Patented and licensed (for cricket and baseball too) it paid nicely.
Living in Canada where he and his family emigrated in 1982, his engineer’s eye saw another opportunity. ‘Canada had mountains of sawdust that were made into fuel pellets, but they doused the fire in wood-burners. The makers came up with an Archimedes screw to feed pellets in. I installed a home-made stainless-steel basket used for cooking on my fishing trips and it burned them perfectly.’ The patented device was licensed by the biggest stove maker in the US for $100,000 and a royalty on each one sold.
It was sea fishing trips off
Nova Scotia that started the 20-year journey now reaching its end. When a calm sea suddenly turned to a life-threatening swell he headed his small boat back to the safety of Halifax harbour, passing lobster boats going the other way. ‘It’s a hard life, and very dangerous. Every year boats are overturned and the fishermen drown or die of hypothermia.
The traps are heavy and have to be stacked high on the deck, making the boats unstable. And if someone gets snagged in a rope from a 100lb trap being dropped they’ve little chance.’
Traditional traps, it seems, have changed little in thousands of years. Made of wood, they
ABOVE: LEFT: The new style pots save space on deck and are lighter
Steve Simpkin and Bob Norburn and the new design lobster pots at Fleetwood Docks