For the last two decades, David Skadeland has been tinkering. Then one day at Griffin Lake, as he watched someone on a jet ski, he had an idea.
He’s been working on that — and another project he’s more hesitant to discuss — ever since.
Skadeland is developing a flood control system based on the principles used to power jet skis.
“I quit working on it so I could focus on the skimmer,” he said, referring to his other project. “The principles exist already. We have just become used to luxury.”
Skadeland also was inspired to continue working on the invention, the “redneck jet ski flood control siphon system,” as he’s tagged it. He figures, had it been in place as Hurricane Katrina’s effects overwhelmed the New Orleans area, it could have alleviated some of that area’s flooding.
“They could have perfect control of that river by taking five-foot pipes, running them from one side of the river to where they wanted the water to go, put both ends under water, and then you pull a vacuum on the top,” he said.
A scaled-down version has been working for more than a year at a McCall Road pond.
His last test with one jet ski, pumping into a 10-inch line 100 feet long and up a five-foot bank, moved 76,000 gallons an hour. Had he put a vacuum on it, Skadeland estimated he could have moved 150,000 gallons an hour.
But none of this creation can be placed under a patent, Skadeland said. The same principle he employs with the jet ski can work just as well with a garden hose, he added.
Skadeland had two patents back in the 1980s but the patent process today, he said, is broken.
“Ninety-nine point nine percent of inventions never make their inventors any money,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the inventors who go to litigation lose. The patent process now is $10,000, plus or minus, plus a couple of years to get it.”
Skadeland isn’t looking to strike it rich on his jet ski pump system; instead, he wants to be able to employ that apparatus wherever and whenever it’s needed.
He’s loquacious about his jet ski system. But he’s reticent about the skimmer project.
“I’m trying to keep that under wraps,” he said.
A manufacturer has approached Skadeland about producing his skimmer, but he doesn’t have a patent on it. Without it, he says, “I have no protection right now.”
“As an inventor, it’s like the old Navy thing — loose lips sink ships,” Skadeland said. “How do you market something when you’re afraid of telling anybody?”
Skadeland has been working on the skimmer for nearly 10 years, and he brought a prototype to the Effingham Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Classic. But he couldn’t get any interest in it.
He started working with the Creative Coast, and they directed him to a venture capitalist who also helps exchange ideas.
“His main problem was I didn’t have any protection and, without any protection, it’s hard to get anybody to invest,” Skadeland said.
“My challenge is, I stink at business,” he added. “I’m good at creativity. But entrepreneurial business sense, I have none or very little.”
Skadeland also has a patent attorney working on the skimmer. He’s hopeful he can show what he is working on to the rest of the world.
“My goal is to release what I’m doing to the world, to share it, and to educate, to help people understand and help them put into process,” he said.
He calls his invention a declining plane skimmer. “It’s so simple,” he said.
The skimmer can be made as big or as small as needed, Skadeland explained, and it requires no moving parts.
“It’s a skimmer that will skim just about anything that floats, from ice flow down the river to tomatoes to oil to Styrofoam,” he said. “It can be pulled. It can be pushed. It can be stationary.”
Skadeland had to overcome another obstacle a few years ago. He went through a class, when he was 64 years old, to help with his dyslexia.
“You know the comic ‘Calvin and Hobbes’? I’m Calvin, every day,” he chortled.
Once he gets his skimmer off the ground and in the water as a viable invention, he wants to put videos of it on YouTube. He has videos of his jet ski flood control siphon system.
“They’re sort of redneck-ish,” he said, “but that’s me all the way.”
He hopes to make a little bit of money off a Web site with a blog about the skimmer. But he won’t charge people for instruction on how to make the skimmer.
“If you see it on YouTube and you think it might help you, you go to the Web site and it has links to the guys who make pipe or make valves,” he said. “If you buy anything from them, I would get a commission. For the people who are going to need it, we’ve gotten to too much ‘what’s in it for me’ instead of helping people. Everybody wants to get rich quick.”
Skadeland got a lot of his idea from his garden pond, and the invention process has served him well in other areas.
“The challenge with inventing is you fail a lot. It teaches you persistence,” he said. “You don’t give up until you’ve proven to yourself it’s not going to work.”