It’s a ‘cinch’

Manistee County man invents device to make trimming trees just that — a cinch

Trimming blossoms from fruit trees for the Miller family has become a cinch — literally.

Phil Miller, a longtime Manistee County produce grower, has invented an odd-looking device that removes blossoms quicker, and thus, helps to reduce labor costs.

Jeanne Barber/News Advocate Phil Miller (left) and Lance Miller are helping to make tree trimming easier with “The Cinch.”

Called, quite appropriately, “The Cinch,” Miller’s patent-pending invention connects to any hand drill. When used in the field, it safely and quickly removes blossoms from the trees.

“The more blossoms you have, the less fruit you get,” said the 55-year-old businessman. “So, you want to trim the blossoms so you get more peaches. Less is better — less blossoms, more peaches, pretty simple.”

Miler’s son, Lance, 26, helps in the family business — Miller’s Produce. So does his wife, Lynn, and 23-year-old daughter, Amber. Phil graduated from Manistee High School in 1975, Lynn graduated from Onekama High School in 1979, Lance graduated from Manistee Catholic Central in 2004, and Amber graduated from Manistee Catholic Central in 2007. Phil is a fourth generation Miller from Manistee County, though older records show a Miller family lived in the Pierport/Onekama area as far back in 1886.

‘CINCH’ ALREADY GETTING WORLD-WIDE ATTENTION

Introduced at a trade show in Grand Rapids in December, “The Cinch” is already getting world-wide attention.

“Our order numbers are very good,” Lance said. “We get two or three orders every day. We’ve gotten orders from South Carolina, Georgia, California, Texas, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as from Canada and Brazil.

”Dad started working on his invention five years ago. He has kept it ‘in house,’ with myself, my sister and my mother, until he was able to get it protected so he could actually go about telling people about it and not have to worry about his idea being stolen.

“It took Dad over 3 1/2 years to get it to where he wanted it to be effective and the best. He had to have had five or six different models before he finally found the one he wanted.”

By simplest definition, “The Cinch” is a long, solid aluminum rod from which several small rubber tubes are connected. When inserted into a hand drill and used at a slow speed, the turning tubes strip the trees of their blossoms in a delicate, but very specifically-directed manner.

“It’s soft, just like hands,” the elder Miller said. “It’s forgiving, it won’t damage the trees when used properly.”

Besides peach trees, “The Cinch” also can be used to thin blossoms from cherry, apple and other trees, as well as pine cones from Christmas trees. And because it comes in different lengths — 3-foot, 4-foot and 5-foot — it can be used to reach branches located at different levels.

“Geographically speaking, California, South Carolina and Georgia are the biggest peach producing states,” Lance said. “What you see here in Michigan is not what you see there. Three hundred to 500 acres for Michigan is a big peach farm, whereas in South Carolina they have orchards that have over 5,000 acres. With 125 trees on average per acre, your talking 625,000 peach trees that need to be thinned.

“Their peach trees, on average, range from 10-12 feet tall, where ours are 6-9 feet on average. The 4-foot and 5-foot rods make ‘The Cinch’ more effective for the sizing of their trees. The different lengths gives them a different approach to thinning on their own terms.”

And if a rose by any other name is still a rose, so it is too, with “The Cinch.”

“It lives up to its name,” Phil Miller said. “It’s a ‘cinch’ to operate. It’s much, much faster than having to trim trees by hand. What normally might have taken weeks for a farmer to complete, now takes just a few days.”

‘THE CINCH’ TOOK YEARS TO REFINE

The elder Miller said that while he had the concept for the device in his head for some time, it took years to find just the right material and tubing to make “The Cinch” the product it is today.

“We tried weed whacking tube and solid rubber tubing,” Lance said of his Dad’s invention. “Finally, we go to the hollow tubing we have now. (This tubing) is the best for the work, lighter, and does virtually no damage to the tree.”

And how exactly did they come up with the name?

“Dad wanted to keep it simple, and by simple, I mean over three weeks of writing different names down until finally he said, ‘I want to have it work and have them think, wow, that was a cinch.’ And the light bulb flashed and ‘The Cinch’ was created — simple, catchy and  true.”

To say “The Cinch” will be used on the Miller property is an understatement. The extended family has over 200 acres of farm land, ranging from strawberries, peppers, potatoes, cherries, peaches, apples, pumpkins, blueberries, raspberries, pears and Christmas trees.

“Dad does not own all 200 acres, but is involved with them,” Lance said. “Rob and Greg (Miller) do a vast majority of the farming.”

Miller said the products that make up “The Cinch” are purchased from Harbor Steel in Manistee and online from other sources.

“We try to purchase all of our aluminum from Harbor Steel,” he said. “We have a great relationship with them. We produce ‘The Cinch’ right here in Manistee County in our own shops, as well as at Bowling Enterprise Inc. out of Bear Lake.

“Floyd Bowling Jr. is the owner there and he has been more than willing to help with anything. Phil makes them, cuts them, and drills them. I do the same, as well as Amber and Lynn.

“It is quite a process, cutting, threading, stringing to go with all of the pushing of getting the name and product out there for the nation to see, “Lance said.

“Phil has tinkered with things his whole life. Just like any other inventor, he knows what works, why it works and how to use it!”

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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