an ingenious idea which saves you time, effort and fuel!
Isn’t it funny how things go around sometimes?
Long ago I met my future wife after mooring up next to her. We spent the next few years being young ‘love-aboards’ and enjoying Narrowboat life.
We then did the ‘house thing’ and 30 years later, after ending up with the neighbours from hell, we decided to return to Narrowboat life.
We revelled in the freedom of it all again and, once we’d got used to the space, settled down to the usual daily routines of boaty life.
One of these was the stove. The good old glow in the corner.
It was while going through the usual faff of coming in and getting the stove going that I thought that there must be some way of improving this procedure.
You know what it’s like - bits of paper, firefighters, carefully stacked kindling and the precarious balancing act of the coals. Then watching it all fall apart and trying to jiggle things about and re-stack etc etc only for it to go out and start again.
It suddenly dawned on me that if it had a basket of some sorts I could just bung it all in and it would take the faff and balancing act out of the procedure.
I got the pliers out and made a rough prototype out of an old fire guard and, guess what, it worked a treat!
I couldn’t believe it! It worked and it was so simple.
All of a sudden I had a stack of glowing coal that looked good and all I had to do was top it up. In fact what I soon realised was that I could actually put an amount in that would last me all day with no constant topping up and no over-filling of the stove base. The pyramid of coal was no more!
I couldn’t wait to tell my wife when she came home.
All we could do was sit and look at it! It was better than telly!
Surely, I asked myself, there must be something available already? No - nothing. Nothing at all like it was available as a stove accessory for coal.
I wanted to tell my acquaintances in my boaty world but it dawned on me that I may have stumbled upon a potential future income that needed more thinking about.
The original prototype lasted a week!!! I didn’t realise that metal burned!
This meant getting into the qualities of materials. I learnt more about physics and metallurgy over the next few weeks than I had at school!
Stainless steel and sturdy construction was the way forward. Another prototype - and this was the answer.
Wherever we moored we would be off sneaking about in stove shops measuring grate sizes to get the most appropriate size for a mixture of stoves.
Next it was off to Birmingham to have a chat at Birmingham Library with the Intellectual Property team and access to a free interview with a Patent Lawyer.
All the while this process was going on it was the hardest thing to keep quiet! We we’re so excited with how it was working and improving our stove experience. Visitors to the boat were kept at a minimum whilst we tried surreptitiously to draw any attention away from our stove. We now couldn’t imagine life without it!
I was constantly trawling the internet and trade magazines in case I’d missed it somewhere but, no, it appeared that we had definitely stumbled onto something.
The big leap was taking out the Patent Application and the costs, plus trademarking the name and registering the design.
We went through the usual ‘think of a name’ scenarios and decided that ‘Coalcage’ was what it was, and what it did, so decided that this was it. This is what we’d called it from it’s inception anyway!
I wanted it to be a UK product so searched for a supplier and, after few brush offs, I found my saviour up north and a fabulous Victorian family business who could produce the quality the product needed.
Getting the first batch was so exciting as it suddenly became real. Boxes and labels agreed with a local printer and we were away.
It’s hard to believe that it’s taken two years to get this far!
The way things are going with the government's clean air policy we are being encouraged to use smokeless fuels and wood. Smokeless fuels are being better regulated all the time so using it in conjunction with a Coalcage can only benefit future emissions as it doesn’t encourage you to overload your stove and waste coal. It allows you to quickly establish a deep fire-bed that feeds itself with better control. As it’s open ended it also doesn’t impede any riddling mechanisms in the stoves grate. It could also prolong the stove's life by reducing ‘hot spots’ and stove fractures.
We’ll be out and about selling from the boat wherever we are throughout the year. Price is £20 plus £4 postage. They’re also available from Midland Chandlers & Venetian Marina.
Hopefully you’ll catch us at some point but we are also able to sell via the website www.coalcage.com
or EBay, or you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for individual enquiries.
Rosie & Wayne Sharman live aboard their narrowboat James Arthur and if you are lucky enough to spot them on the cut, you can buy directly from their boat.
Alternatively you can order one direct from their website, by phoning Wayne or by emailing them.
Coalcage is also available from most chandleries, and on Ebay.