Labor of Wovel

or: How to re-invent the shovel by adding a wheel

Copyright © 2005 Republican-American

Had the driveway that leads to Mark Noonan’s New Canaan home been just a bit shorter, none of this would have happened.
But Noonan’s driveway is 100 feet long and clearing it of snow and slush is a major project that must be tackled at least a half-dozen times a year, even during the mildest winters. And the truth of the matter is that Noonan had simply grown weary of the job.

“One day about five years ago I was out there shoveling away and I began thinking about alternative ways of getting this done,” he said. “My arms hurt, my back hurt, I was sore and tired… “I kept thinking, there has to be an easier way to get rid of all this snow.”

So Noonan invented the Wovel, a 6-foot long wheeled snow shovel that leverages the user’s own weight to make the snow removal process a lot easier on the back, arms and upper legs.

Like a shovel, the Wovel has a handle at one end and a blade at the other. But the similarities pretty much end there. Between the handle and blade Noonan’s Wovel is equipped with a large wheel that has an adjustable fulcrum point at its axis. The fulcrum allows the Wovel to work like a seesaw, enabling the operator to use his own body weight to lift and throw snow and slush with relatively little exertion.The mechanical advantage provided by the fulcrum, plus the Wovel’s large 26-by-18-inch blade, makes it possible for users to lift and throw three times as much snow as a traditional snow shovel and create 4-foot piles of snow with ease, Noonan said.

“Most of our customers have found they can get their driveways or sidewalk shoveled two or three times faster and with only half the effort,” he said.

The Wovel also reduces some of the health concerns commonly associated with shoveling snow.

The machine is designed to “minimize upper body and arm as well as lower back and pelvic strain,” said Steven J. Weiss, a sports medicine specialist and the medical director of The Medicine Lodge Clinic Inc. in New York City.

“While it will not remove all risks of strain or injury, it appears to have made shoveling much more efficient, safer, less strenuous … reducing the risks of either musculoskeletal or heart-related injuries,” he said.

The Wovel’s wheel is 3 feet in diameter, roughly the size of a large truck tire. The device, which is made of steel and injection-molded polypropylene plastic, weighs slightly more than 26 pounds.

After tinkering with the shovel’s design for a few years, Noonan, 46, brought eight investors together two years ago and established a limited liability company to make and market the new invention. To that point, Noonan had spent most of his professional life on Wall Street, where he developed complex financial and tax products for corporate clients.

Noonan’s new company, Structured Solutions II, has two full-time and two part-time employees.