Father and son solve tangled flag challenge

Father and son solve tangled flag challenge

By Pat Kumpan, Rancho Bernardo News June 17, 2004

Two inventors — a father- and son-in-law team — hope to end the frustration that many flag lovers experience when their flags get wrapped around a flag pole — and don’t fly proudly.

Bill Riordan of Rancho Bernardo found that he was constantly unwrapping his flag, going out into his yard several times to fix the situation.

So he turned to another flag lover — his father-in-law, Alan Laird, who lives in Mission Viejo. Together the duo tackled the problem.

They decided that the simple and most obvious solution was incorporating the use of a bearing into a cleverly designed product that would look good esthetically, yet do the job.

The flag gets attached with a tie-wrap to the ball bearing, which is completely concealed inside a flat metal doughnut-shaped device that fits snuggly on top of a three-fourths inch flag pole.

Meanwhile, at the end of the pole, a small section of ball chain attaches to the bottom of the pole to prevent that end of the flag from getting tangled.

Riordan works at Hewlett Packard, and Laird, now retired, was a mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry. Together, the duo knew they could find what they hoped would be a viable solution to a perplexing problem.

“I love tinkering with things,” Laird said. “I just knew we could come up with something that works.”

They also devised a package that makes it easy for people to install on their existing flag.

The “untangler,” as the family calls it, costs $12.95 online and all the parts are manufactured in the United States.

Debbie Riordan is making the project a family affair by helping to market the product locally, but she expects many of the orders will come from the Web site: flagfree.com.

Once the start-up company gets going, the family will donate $2 for every kit sold to the QUAD foundation, a recently formed charity to help survivors of quadriplegic injuries.

This new invention is being test marketed as part of a flag accessories display at a hardware store in Mission Viejo, Riordan said.