Lead-Filled Anchor Is a Low-Tech Gadget

In part two of our series on favorite gadgets, we hear from Alex Lee, president of Oxo International. You might have one or two of their black-handled ergonomic kitchen tools in your house. Lee describes his favorite gadget: an anchor for his fishing boat that's made of two bags full of lead shot.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This week at this time, we're hearing about gadgets from people who are experts on the subject. Today, a man who is likely responsible for at least one gadget in your kitchen. He's Alex Lee, the president of Oxo International. Oxo makes those vegetable peelers and graters and spatulas with the thick, black rubber handles.

Mr. ALEX LEE (Oxo International): When we're trying to develop a product, we always start with trying to identify a problem first. We believe that trying to look for the problem is kind of 70 percent of the way there. Coming up with a solution to those problems is actually much easier.

A few years ago, we introduced a product called angle-measuring cup. And if you look at a measuring cup and you ask people what problems do they have of measuring liquids. They would tell you perhaps, you know, my cup is glass. It breaks if dropped on the floor and the handle gets hot, and all that.

But - then, you ask them to show you how they do it and you see them kind of repeatedly bending over, adding liquid into it, pouring some out, bending down again and look at the level and pouring back in, a highly inefficient process that takes three or four times. And they never would tell you that that's a problem because they have accepted that that's the norm.

So those type of problems are especially kind of interesting because they are hidden needs if you will.

About six months ago, I was trying to find a solution to put an anchor in a canoe that I was going to use to fish. Well, if you're trying to approach an area where you're trying to fish quietly so you don't spook all the fish in that area. But often if you just drop a single metal anchor, it makes a thunk that may sometimes scare the fish. So I was looking for the perfect solution. I went to the Internet and I found an article written by this guy named Joe Hyde who in my view has developed the perfect anchor system for fishing off a kayak or a canoe. And his system consists of two anchors on the front and the back of the crafts. The anchors were actually made of nylon sacks filled with lead shots. And to be more environmentally friendly, you can buy nickel-plated lead shots so that the lead doesn't seep into the water.

So when you have two sacks of lead beads basically, it tends to land much more quietly. That's important for a fishing application.

One of the other big problem with a conventional anchor for a canoe is that with a single line when you anchor in place, your canoe, whether it's in the river or on a lake with kind of wind blowing at it, will swing at a wide arc. So you can't really stay in one place. With two of these anchors in place, you actually can't move at all. You stay stationary in one place. So far, I've installed this system to two canoes and one kayak and they seem to be working perfectly.

SIEGEL: That's Alex Lee, the president of Oxo International.

If you have a favorite gadget you'd like to tell us about, go to our Web site, NPR.org. We'll broadcast some of the suggestions we received later in the week.

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