Three guys in Oakfield think they've hit the nail on the head when it comes to their new business.
They've put a new twist on an old German game. They introduced the concept at a tournament yesterday held at the Caryville Inn.
The game is MöbileSchlägen, a portable version of hammerschlägen.
In schlägen, you get a cross-peen hammer and a nail and you get one whack at the nail per turn, hitting it with the wedge (or peen) end. The starting position is with the hammer on the table outside the wood block, making it harder to aim. The nail is tapped in to a depth equal to a line on the hammer, so everybody starts at an equal distance.
The first person with the head of the nail flush with the wood wins.
"Being first is pretty cool, but the last thing you want to do is be last," said Marc Johnson, one of the co-inventors of the mobile version of the game.
Last means ridicule from your buddies, at the least, and if alcohol is involved, it might mean buying a round of drinks.
Teasing and harassing is part of the fun of the game, because if you can goad a competitor into talking while he or she holds the hammer, (the rule is, "no hammer talk") that person loses a turn.
Johnson said for years, every time he hosts a party at his house, he and the guests play hammerschlägen, but hauling around the giant tree stumps needed for the game made it impractical for tailgate parties or picnics.
A few years ago, he brought two logs to a family gathering in Vermont and that's when he started to think there had to be a better way.
"Everybody loved it, but it killed my back," Johnson said. "It was a bad idea. You’re on a mountain and you’re rolling those stumps around."
When he got home, he and his friend James Betters started imagining a mobile version of the game, but lacked the engineering background to make it a reality, so Dan Mangus joined the team.
They formed a company, drew up their plans and filed for a patent, which was issued in March.
The end-grain wood plate, which can be laser etched with any possible logo, fits snuggly in a hard plastic base, which rests on sturdy, but foldable, legs.
"Basically, it fits in a bag that looks like a big banjo and you can throw it over your shoulder and carry it a lot easier than a 300-pound stump," Mangus said.
It took a few prototypes to get the right design and then a long search to find the right end-grain wood with the right density to take in a pounded nail easily, but not too easily.
And lest would-be competitors might think they can make their own log inserts (the inserts need to be replaced after they fill up with nails), the design requires a properly cut and fitted log into the reverse-cupped holder. This design not only improves safety and durability, but with the patent, it also prevents copycat manufacturers from making replacement parts.
Some 40 or 50 people showed up for the game's public debut at the Caryville Inn yesterday to compete in the first official MöbileSchlägen tournament.
There seemed to be no shortage of fun nor frustration during the tournament.
The next big step for the entrepreneurs is a Kickstarter campaign to fund the manufacturing of games for consumers. If that does well, they hope to ship the first games to customers by Spring.