Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 3, 2003

Local inventors ready to market hands-free level

By Julie Yurek

Two local inventors' determination has finally paid off for them.

Ervin Pundsack of Winsted and Calvin Dolezal of Lester Prairie are the inventors of the Universal Level, a hands-free level that can be clamped to various shapes and sizes.

The level can be used on a variety of materials such as posts, pipes, and tubing, Dolezal said. Potential customers include fabrication shops, machine shops, plumbers, farmers, and private citizens.

Patent on the tool is pending, Dolezal said.

It may take up to three years for the patent to be finalized, Pundsack said.

The duo is marketing the Universal Level nationwide, Pundsack said. They have been sending out brochures and letters to companies, informing them of their invention and its uses in their spare time.

No price has been set for the level.

The two are hoping a company is interested in the tool so it will take over the patent and manufacture it, which would relieve the men of that cost and also the duty of setting a price for the level, Dolezal said.

Also, if a company buys the patent, the men would get a balloon payment right away, and then royalties afterward, Pundsack said.

If not, Pundsack and Dolezal will have to spend money to manufacture the tool, Dolezal said.

The men have spent about $8,000 so far in the patent set-up, he said.

Because the men have full-time jobs, they can wait for the right company to come along, Dolezal said. "I always believe that if you wait long enough, something good will come along."

Like many other inventions, the idea for the Universal Level came about to make a specific job easier.

While at work one day, Dolezal was using a T-drill machine on a piece of tubing, and needed something to keep the tubing stable and indicate the starting point of the holes Dolezal was drilling.

Dolezal and Pundsack came up with the idea of creating a tool that would keep the tube level and clamp on to let Dolezal know where the first hole was.

The two had met at work and became friends.

Work on the first prototype, a wooden one, began in January 1995, Pundsack said.

It took nearly five years until blueprints and a working aluminum prototype were finished, all while the two men worked full-time jobs, he said.

They chose an aluminum finish because of the light weight of the metal, Dolezal said.

Pundsack worked on the blueprints with Tom Holsapple of Silver Lake. Pundsack had experience with drawing components; he attended vocational school in Hutchinson from 1984 to 1985, he said.

Holsapple is a machinist and knew what kind of items were necessary for the blueprints, Pundsack said.

Once the two had blueprints, they found a company, Scrüblin, in Eagan that manufactures solely prototypes, Dolezal said.

People at the company told them they had good prints and that they worked right away, he said. "Not all prints work right away," they said.

After the aluminum prototype was made in December 1999, Pundsack and Dolezal contacted a patent attorney Bill Anderson of Vidas, Arett, Steinkraus in Minnetonka, to begin the process of getting a patent in February 2000.

Anderson searched the patent library in Hennepin County and Washington DC for more than one year to make sure there was no other level exactly like Pundsack and Dolezal's.

The two also did their own preliminary search in the Hennepin County Library, Pundsack said. They spent about two weeks looking at microfiche, he said.

Once the patent is approved, the Universal Level will be protected for life, Dolezal said. Anderson "helped us make sure we covered our bases," he said.

The patent will protect the complete unit, as well as if anyone took the unit apart and used parts separately, Dolezal said.

The experience of inventing and patenting an item has been quite an experience, Pundsack said.

"We've had to sign and date many documents," Dolezal said.

"The most important thing is to keep records," Pundsack added.

The pair wrote up their own non-disclosure document and had everyone who has been involved in the patent sign it, including the printer who created their brochure.

"We can't be too safe," Dolezal remarked.

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