Burt Weinstein
Photo: Mercurial Editorial Burt Weinstein

Tradesmen are problem-solvers. We all have "Aha!" moments – those instants of clarity and understanding when you see the solution to your problem, right in front of you. Burt Weinstein has made a career of such moments. The big difference between him and the rest of us is that he patents his solutions and turns them into innovative products that help solve everyone else's problems. "Inventing is simply identifying a need and then fixing it," he explains. "The trick is to identify the need."

An engineer by trade, Weinstein is a "professional" inventor. Over the years he's produced an amazing variety of tools that carpenters rely on today, like board straighteners, doweling jigs, and pocket-hole jigs. In the 1950s, he created a shop tool that combined a table saw, lathe, drill press, and disc sander in one unit. "I sold that patent to Toolcraft for $2,000," he says. "It seemed like a lot of money at the time."

He's created so many useful, practical products, you've probably got one in your toolbox – or in your sports closet or workout room. He holds patents on ski bindings, exercise machines, boating equipment, even medical devices.

Although retired, he's still brainstorming new tools of the trade. Most are marketed by General Tools & Instruments, which bought his company several years ago. Recently, he developed a unique one-piece aluminum dovetail jig, the Dovetailer, which has already won industry praise as a practical, inexpensive solution to a familiar woodworking challenge.

His advice for other would-be inventors? "Don't get emotionally attached to your idea," he says, "and don't think for a minute that someone else hasn't already thought of it."

– Mike Morris