Lutts Family Patents

Most people in the Lutts family know that Cabot Farm was bought with the royalties from Carlton Lutts Sr.’s patents on chain manufacturing. But few people know that four other past and present members of the family have also received patents.

The first was Carlton’s father (my great-grandfather) Henry Lovewell Lutts, born in Kittery, Maine, in 1849. Henry was a carpenter and house-builder; every time he built a new house, he’d move the family into it, and finish it off while starting the next one. As a result, Carlton lived in 26 different houses as a child!

While he was building these houses, Henry, of course, was thinking of ways to do the job better, and one result of that was a design for an improved window latch, for which he received patent No. 669,365 in 1901.

H.Lutts-patentThe accompanying text, which is a little more than one page long, begins,

“My invention relates to improvements in fastenings for window-sashes whereby the meeting-rails are securely locked together when the windows are closed; and the objects of my improvement are to automatically lock and also prevent lateral or vertical vibration of the sashes and by its attached position to insure non-accessibility from the exterior, altogether an efficient and inexpensive construction.”

To my knowledge Henry’s window latch was never manufactured.

The second patent, No. 1,753,941, was issued to Carlton Lutts Sr., Albert Leahy and James Reid, Carlton’s colleagues at the Boston Naval Shipyard, for a method of chain manufacture. That was in 1930.

This patent was four pages long, and it’s interesting to note that Carlton’s name on the illustration was tacked on after the original two names.

By the time the patent was awarded, the chain had already been in production by the Baldt Anchor and Chain Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, which signed an exclusive commercial agreement with the trio on March 14, 1925. Also, in 1928, the U.S. Navy, convinced of Dilok’s superiority, accepted it as their standard.

There were numerous refinements to the process over the next two decades that resulted in several additional patents. The one granted in 1934, below, has Carlton’s name first.

patent-2Baldt made lots of chain, much of it for the U.S. Navy. But one interesting use was in laying underwater telephone cables.

“In 1938 Baldt manufactured, on the old 2500 hammer [Joe Boyd, Chainmaker], one continuous 4200 ft. length of l” DiLok chain used by the vessel “Lord Kelvin” to lay the international cable between Ireland and the United States. When the chain arrived at the Irish coast to begin laying the cable, it was discovered that an additional 1800 ft. of chain was required which Baldt supplied. It was necessary for the Kelvin to plow a furrow on the ocean floor for a distance east [west?] of the Irish coast to prevent fishing trawlers dragging the bottom from fouling the cable. Baldt’s DiLok chain with the plow attached was fed from the stern of the “Lord Kelvin” and plowed a furrow with Western Union Company’s international cable played out simultaneously.”

The royalties from all this chain manufacture were instrumental in enabling Carlton Sr. and my grandmother Grace to buy Cabot Farm in 1941.

A few years later, as WWII was raging, business at Baldt was booming, but Baldt went slowly downhill after that, and today, DiLok chain has been superseded by flash butt welded stud link chain.

Note: the chain on the large anchor at Cabot Farm was obtained by Carlton through his Navy connections but the chain on it is not DiLok chain; it predates any of Carlton’s work by many years.

Patent No. 3,970,017 was issued to my father, Carlton Lutts, Jr., and three other men, all employees of USM Corporation of Beverly, Massachusetts, to whom the patent was assigned. The others were Edward S. Babson, Oliver C. Brett, Jr. and Warren A. Cavicchi.

USM, by the way, originally stood for United Shoe Machinery Corporation, which at one time—thanks to acquisitions—had a near-monopoly on the business. But as the monopoly was broken up and the industry moved to Asia, the company changed its name and diversified into related fields, including fabric-handling machinery.

This patent, issued in 1976, is six pages long, and the abstract reads:

“This invention relates to automatic mechanism for processing the edges of pile type fabrics and the like from which thinner or non-pile margins are to be removed. Fabric edge finishing machines are provided with a means for sensing relative thickness of work piece portions, such as terry material as distinguished from thinner or marginal non-terry portions. Accordingly washcloths and the like, as directed by an edge guide and corner turning mechanism, are under the control of a sensor and are automatically guided through the operating localities of instrumentalities, such as the needle and trimming mechanism of an overedge stitcher, or other edge treating machines, to provide for removal of the non-terry material and processing directly along the edge of the remaining terry material.”

In other words, it’s a specialized industrial sewing machine. I remember my father in those days discussing his work at dinner with my four siblings and me. He’d describe the problem, and ask for our insights, which was a great way of letting us know what he did. But I don’t think we were any help.

Here’s one of the illustrations from the patent:

patent-3I assume the invention was produced, but I don’t know. Because in addition to working for USM, my father was also working for himself (the Cabot Market Letter), and by 1974, he was doing so well with that that he left USM. In 1976, USM was bought by Emhart Corporation and the Beverly facility was soon shut down, eventually to be revived and repurposed as the Cummings Center.

The next patent, No. 4,502,871, is mine, from the five-year period when I worked at GCA Vacuum Industries in Somerville, Massachusetts.

GCA originally stood for Geophysical Corporation of America, but the plant where I worked specialized in the development and manufacture of vacuum furnaces, which used electricity to create high temperatures inside vacuum chambers so metal products could be processed.

Simple processes included heat-treating and brazing. A more complex process was the sintering of powdered metals, and the most complex of all for us was the sintering of powdered metal turbine blades about the size of an artichoke. When done properly, the powdered metal or ceramic would be transformed into beautiful and durable turbine, but there were many ways to fail. The trick involved balancing the ramp up in temperature with the level of vacuum, so that the wax that initially bound the powder together was removed from the product at just the right rate—too slow, and time was wasted; too fast and the piece exploded.

The problem we were focused on was capturing that molten wax between the furnace and vacuum pump by using a combination of devices assembled into a condenser.

Listed as inventors on the 1985 patent are Ingar F. Andersen (my boss—we called him Fred), myself and Eddie W. Lam.

This patent is nine pages long (note how they keep growing) and its title is Apparatus and Method for Separating Wax From an Entrainer Gas.

The abstract says:

“Disclosed is a wax condenser for separating wax from an entrainer gas (or sweep gas) which is introduced into a sintering furnace and then pumped out in order to remove the wax from the furnace. The condenser includes a hot chamber and a cold chamber. Wax is removed by the condenser in three ways. After the entrainer gas enters the hot chamber of the condenser from the sintering furnace, it will pass through a heated filter. The heated filter will capture a large percentage of the wax present in the entrainer gas. The entrainer gas passes from the heated filter through a flow-restricting aperture which is located in a barrier separating the hot chamber from the cold chamber. This flow restricting aperture causes a pressure drop across the barrier. When the entrainer gas passes through the aperture, an expansion of the entrainer gas takes place due to the drop in pressure associated with the passing of the entrainer gas through the flow restricting aperture. This expansion causes a cooling of the entrainer gas and wax which in turn results in the formation of solid wax particles. The entrainer gas carriers these solid wax particles to a centrifugal separator which provides further separation of the wax from the entrainer gas. Finally, the wax particles are further removed from the entrainer gas by a flow-line interrupter before the entrainer gas reaches the pump.”

patent-4From today’s perspective, the device looks a bit Rube Goldberg-ish, but that’s partly because I still remember that a lot of our developments were based on educated guesses and trial-and-error. In the end, the device worked, but it didn’t change the world. I left the company a year later to join my father at Cabot, and in 1986, Vacuum Industries merged with Centorr Furnaces of Suncook, New Hampshire, which is still in business.

Not only that, but I was shocked, doing the researching for this article, to find a picture of “my” condenser on their website—and on the homepage, no less! The picture of the NEW Totally Redesigned “Next Generation” Sinterbar Pressure Furnace shows the furnace, the condenser and the control cabinet. I can hardly believe that 29 years after the patent was issued, this is still state-of-the-art!

patent-4-bIf you’re in the market for a vacuum furnace, here’s a handy link to Centorr’s web site.

The last patent (so far) takes us back to the single investor/owner model. It’s owned by my cousin, Craig Burnham. It’s fairly short and it’s basically for a toy.

As I recall, back in our high school days, Craig used a short piece of stiff black plastic pipe and two hose clamps to connect two large soda bottles end-to-end, having previous partially filled one bottle with water. The construction was stood upright, with the water-filled bottle on top, and when the top was swung in a vigorous circle or two, a whirlpool appeared, which quickly drained the water from the upper into the lower bottle.

For years, the device was just a plaything, but more than a decade later Craig got serious and in December, 1986 he received patent No. 4625780.

The abstract reads:

“A vortex connector for threaded plastic bottles is provided in which the connector has a pair of opposed recesses, each connecting with an inner female helically threaded recess, the recesses connecting to one another through an axially elongated constriction venturi. One of the bottles is partially filled with water. The so-coupled bottles are pivoted so that the water containing bottle is on top, the upper bottle is given a circular swirl or two and the water flows in a clearly discernable whirlpool or vortex from the upper bottle to the lower while the displaced air flows from the lower bottle to the upper through the thus-formed vortex in an educational or entertaining display.”

Two illustrations help:








But what helps even more is that Craig found a manufacturer and began producing these connectors by injection molding and selling them as Tornado Tubes. To date, more than 50 million have been sold. You can read more here and you can buy some, too!