Little snow leaves him in the cold

January 26, 2002|By ROB KASPER

I HAVE a bad case of ice envy. Yesterday as I scanned the weather forecasts from cities around the globe, I got jealous when I saw that the folks in Fairbanks, Alaska (11 below zero), probably have ice coating on their car windshields this morning.

I have been feeling chippy since last week, when I started packing an ice-busting piece of business named the IceDozer. It brings a no-nonsense, three-pronged attack to the task, indeed the civic duty, of clearing ice off your windshield.

It has been available to the general public for only two weeks. I have been packing one for seven days, four hours, hankering for some ice to tussle with. I thought I might have had some action when last Saturday's storm dropped a couple of inches of snow on us. But shucks, it wasn't even close to a fair fight. I put the IceDozer in its least combative position, made one jab with it and all of the snow and ice scooted off the windshield, like a whipped dog turning tail and running for cover.

I was careful not to let this bad boy touch the car's paint or window gasket, because it would, I had been told, take them out, too. I also stored it in the trunk, not the back seat. If anybody's rear end came in contact with the sharp edges of the Dozer, he would be hurtin' for weeks.

In case you haven't figured this out by now, the IceDozer is a tool for people like me, who, as our loved ones have informed us, have inordinately deep feelings about the importance of removing all the frozen precipitation from cars. (If I ruled the world, anyone who failed to clean all the ice and snow from his vehicle - INCLUDING THE ROOF! - would be cast into leg irons.)

In addition to maintaining a commitment to the cause of clean cars, owning this tool requires a willingness to shell out $15 for what some people - those content to drive around with itty-bitty openings on their windshields - might regard, in their ignorance, as too much tool. You must also be willing and able to go online. The IceDozer, and its companion auto-cleaning tool the SnowMover (more on that later), are sold only on the Internet, at www.innovationfactory.com.

What you get for your $15 is a cool tool that resembles the toy yellow bulldozer many of us spent many happy hours playing with as a kid. It has a flexible scraping blade, an impressive snowplow-style front and a set of fierce teeth underneath, for the rough stuff. It takes two hands to operate this baby, and it sports multiple, gimme-some-leverage hand grips.

Yesterday I called Hanover, Pa., and spoke with Marvin Weinberger, who, along with his partner, Tucker Marion, dreamed up the IceDozer. It quickly became apparent that Weinberger was also pining for bad weather. "There is a blizzard in Finland," he told me for openers. He had just spoken with his brother, Bruce, a saxophone player, in Helsinki, where the lucky duck was in a snowstorm while waiting to perform in concert.

Weinberger told me that for a time, he tried his hand at playing violin but then went on to get an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Boston University. His partner, Marion, has a degree in mechanical engineering from Bucknell and is perusing a master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

The IceDozer was born, Weinberger told me, on a flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco, where the two men were headed to raise money for another of their inventions, a toy decoder ring. On the morning of their flight, Weinberger had trouble clearing the snow off his Nissan Maxima and Marion had trouble scraping off his Volvo station wagon. On the flight to California, the two men talked about what an ideal windshield scraper and snow remover would look like. By the time they landed, they had the concepts and some preliminary sketches.

Later, when the dot-com collapse flattened their chances of launching the decoder ring, they turned their creative energies to battling ice and snow. They came up with IceDozer and the SnowMover, a shovel with rubber-covered lips mounted on a 3 1/2 -foot-long telescoping stick designed to clean snow off the tops of vehicles without scratching the paint.

During our phone conversation, Weinberger gave me a short tutorial on the three types of windshield ice: the annoying frost, the deep ice that pushes back when you push forward, and the thick, virtually immovable ice formed by freezing rain. He told me, in great detail, how each facet of the IceDozer was designed to defeat each type of ice.

He had me salivating as he described how, during the testing process, he had taken the IceDozer to a laboratory outside Philadelphia and "tested until destruction" - breaking off sheets of ice formed by the lab's liquid nitrogen until the device cracked. Then, he said, he went back to the drawing board, fixed the flaw that caused the crack, and returned to the lab, with the now unbreakable Dozer, to tussle with more ice.

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