Small State Offers Up Another Big Idea

Thu March 20, 2008 - National Edition
Jennifer Hetrick

Little Rhode Island, taking up just a small portion of the southeastern corner of New England, has been the home of many big ideas throughout its history. The first discount department store in the United States was located in Rhode Island. Newport’s Pelham Street was the first street in the country to be illuminated by gas streetlights. T.F. Green Airport in Warwick was the first state-owned airport in the country.

Another big idea, this one for the construction industry, is set to come out of Rhode Island in the near future. William Tucker, of Wordens Pond Excavating LLC, Wakefield, R.I., has invented the first retractable excavator thumb.

“Our retractable thumb is a device that can be utilized with any piece of equipment with a bucket assembly. Typically its use will be for excavators and backhoes,” said Tucker.

Despite the vast number of thumbs already on the market, Tucker is confident that the innovation he has come up with at Wordens Pond Excavating is well worth exploring.

“There are many different thumbs already on the market hydraulic thumbs and stationary ones. Having operated many makes of backhoes and excavators over the years, with and without thumbs, I saw a need for the type of thumb I’ve designed. Most thumbs, hydraulic and stationary, are cumbersome and can be in the way of operation when not in use. My thumb is inside the stick of the machine, out of the way, utilizing the full range of the bucket when not needed,” Tucker said.

The retractable thumb, according to Tucker, also is more versatile than other thumbs in the types of things that it can pick up and move.

“Many thumbs can’t effectively and efficiently pick up small objects. My thumb can pick up large rocks, whole trees, even small items such as a split piece of wood, for example. In other words, given the need for a thumb, this one is very versatile,” Tucker said.

Another feature of this invention is that it is designed for the convenience of the operator.

“The working model we have built is flush with the stick and is operable with a push of a button inside the cab. The operator never need get out of the cab to utilize it,” Tucker said. “What makes this one nice is all the components for operation are stored within the stick. Not only keeping it ’out of the way,’ but protecting its components at the same time.”

The retractable thumb is still in its infancy with regard to getting it out on the market. Finding the right outlet for this product, like for so many other new products, is a process of trial and error for Wordens Pond Excavating.

“I am just now getting DVDs out to manufacturers. I’m convinced if a company wants to work with me to get this to market, the companies that haven’t gotten back to me will wish they had,” Tucker said.

With the state motto of “Hope,” the history of big things coming out of a little place and the inventor’s firm belief in a good idea, equipment operators should keep their eyes open for Worden Pond Excavating’s retractable thumb as an option on their next piece of equipment with a bucket assembly.

For more information, call 401/862-3281. CEG

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