At first glance it looks like an antique garden tool, but a snow-removal gadget called the Wovel (rhymes with shovel) has found a place in some Wisconsin garages right next to the rock salt and ice chipper.
The Wovel consists of a 34-inch wheel attached to a long shovel. As you roll the wheel down a snow-covered driveway or sidewalk, the shovel picks up snow. With a flick of your wrist, the Wovel is supposed to dump snow where you want it.
Tom Boyce of Baraboo uses a Wovel to clear his sidewalk. A Texas native, this is his first Wisconsin winter.
“When I moved up here, I had seen all of a half-inch of accumulated snow in my entire life,” Boyce said.
Boyce has a physical disability that makes it difficult for him to use a conventional shovel. He did not want to spend $600 for a motorized snow-thrower, so he bought a Wovel for about $120.
“I can clean my sidewalk in five or 10 minutes and hardly ever work up a sweat,” Boyce said. “At first, my neighbors and friends all kind of laughed at this thing. But now they’re interested in it.”
The Wovel was created by Mark Noonan, a Connecticut inventor who hurt his back while shoveling snow. Noonan put physics to work and came up with the snow shovel that uses leverage as its strength.
The Wovel has a big scoop that carries up to 60 pounds. Its skinny wheel rolls through fairly deep snow, according to Noonan, and the wheel’s tall height helps when going over curbs.
“It’s like having a car with bigger tires,” he said
In developing the Wovel, Noonan experimented with several prototypes. He tested one in the middle of the night, clearing snow for his children’s ice rink.
“It was really cold out,” Noonan said. “I was talking with my wife on a cell phone and said she really ought to come outside and take a look at this. She said, ‘Are you nuts?’ ”
Noonan persevered and finally went back to his first prototype for the Wovel’s design.
“We just happened to hit on a lucky configuration,” he said. “Last year, we test-marketed it, and this year we have gone national with sales.”
The Wovel is available direct from Noonan’s company, Structured Solutions II LLC. It’s also sold through catalogs, such as Skymall, and it has been featured on cable television shopping channels.
Popular Mechanics magazine wrote that the Wovel was “a unique alternative to snow-throwers and conventional snow shovels.”