Innovation against all odds

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  Posted by: electime      22nd October 2018

Michael Sebhatu, an Eritrean asylum seeker living in London, was forced to flee at the outbreak of the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.  Seeking refuge in the UK,  Sebhatu went on to invent the Quadsaw, the world’s first tool to drill square holes, which has just launched in the UK. Here we find out more about the quest behind the Quadsaw:

Michael Sebhatu was born in a village in Eritrean. Describing his background, Sebhatu says:

“We had no light and no running water, everything you need you had to make it yourself and that actually brings out your creative mind – you are always creative.“

When he was 15 the opportunity came to move to Ethiopia to work in an engineering firm opened by his eldest brother. “Within four months I was able to operate lathe  machines, welding machines and all kinds of work shop tools.” Sebhatu quickly became a fully-qualified engineer.

When the war between Eritrean and Ethiopia intensified, Sebhatu was asked by the Ethiopian government to join the army and fight against Eritean. Recalling this time, Sebhatu explains: “(The war was) against my people, against my brother, my sister, all I can think of is leave, just move somewhere where there is peace and opportunity.“

Sebhatu sought refuge in England. He started studying at college and then university, achieving a degree in mechanical engineering and a masters in product design.

“After that my first job was a kitchen fitter. Working as a kitchen fitter I saw an electrician trying to fit a electric box into the wall and I said to him ‘why don’t you use a cutter?’ and he said ‘what cutter?’ I said ‘a square cutter.’” His response was “get me one and I’ll pay you double.” 

It was then that Sebhatu realised that this was a tool that was not currently on the market, but could potentially save so much time for an electrician.

“The idea came from tissue paper in a coffee shop and from that into a sketch, prototype, to where it is now. It is like seeing your baby grow.“

Things developed further when Sebhatu was introduced to Ean Brown (co-founder) by Brown’s brother. Brown comments: “In my career as a lawyer and commercial guy I have taken a lot of products to market, and when I saw the Quadsaw I knew it was a winner.” Recalling this time, Sebhatu says: “Meeting Ian was like giving the product life. I needed somebody with comprehensive knowledge of marketing, business and branding as well.”

From here it took nearly five years to perfect the cutter and take it to market.

How it works

Quadsaw is a seamless attachment to a power drill that uses patented technology to convert rotary motion into linear motion – in four planes at once. It means that perfect square holes for electrical sockets and other boxes can be cut in seconds rather than minutes, saving the construction industry millions of hours of labour annually. Almost all construction projects require square holes but electricians currently create them with rulers, pencils and handsaws, which is time consuming and inaccurate. Quadsaw solves this problem thanks to its unique four-blade technology that enables users to cut square holes with minimal dust and absolute precision.

Quadsaw has a built-in spirit level and the blades can be changed in seconds at the push of a button enabling the user to switch between single and double socket sizes With 260,000 electricians in the UK cutting approximately three holes each working day, it could save over 16 million hours of labour and over £320 million per annum in the UK alone, and much more globally.

Seal of approval

Mike Perkins, an electrician from Maidenhead with over 40 years experience, was given a Quadsaw for the day on his latest project. He had an ambitious aim to cut 60 holes by the end of the day but ended up with 82 perfect single and double box holes by tea time.

“Using the Quadsaw makes the job of cutting square and rectangular holes easier than ever before,”says Perkins. “It’s precise, limits dust, has fantastic build quality and is going to save me and many other electricians a lot of money. The Quadsaw should be at the top of any workman’s tool wish-list.”

The first Quadsaw prototype was developed in 2016 and a pre-order campaign was launched, attracting customers from across the globe. Following a successful period of development and testing those pre-orders have been shipped to all customers from the UK, with customers around the world to receive their orders in the next few months.