Entrepreneur discovers tool for all trades
By Lois Henry
Californian Staff Writer
Dexter Meadows is hard to miss in a crowd.
Sure, the 15-gallon, black cowboy hat marks him, as well as his brightly-striped western shirt and his big-as-Texas smile.
But the most interesting accouterments Meadows sports are his always-present, new-fangled, clip-on knee pads.
"I always wear them," he said with a warm country twang. "It's good advertising."
The knee pads are the latest in a string of products Meadows has invented to ease the work of folks in the construction industry.
Over the years, Meadows has patented more than a dozen concrete and masonry tools. The tools were well received, he said, but obtaining financing to have them mass-produced proved difficult.
The Knee pads are different.
In fact, Meadows already has a Los Angeles-area manufacturer going full-steam on the pads.
They're simple to produce and can be used by anyone, not just construction workers, he said.
"People of all trades really like them."
Meadows, who most likely wouldn't be characterized as a quiet man, practically bubbles over with excitement about his knee pads. And he even quit his job as a contractor to concentrate full-time on selling his knee pads.
According to a brochure put out by Meadows the knee pads should be used by almost everyone, including soldiers.
"They're carrying heavy packs and guns, running and jumping and if they hit their knee, they're out of commission," he said. "Our knees don't have any padding of their own and it doesn't take much to hurt the kneecap."
The idea for the new pads came to Meadows, a 20-year veteran of the construction trades and former rodeo rider, when he was on his knees putting in a new tile floor at the Wattenbarger Do-It Center.
Conventional knee pads use elastic straps that go around the back of the worker's leg to hold them on.
"Everybody in the field hates regular kneepads," Meadows said. They're very uncomfortable after a while."
The straps cut off circulation, chafe at the back of the leg and tend to slide down, he said.
At the end of his first day working on that tile floor at Wattenbarger's he had the idea for the new pads.
Local inventor Dexter Meadows
off his new clip-on knee pads,
which he says are more comfortable
than regular knee pads
Unlike conventional knee pads,
which use elastic straps,
Dexter Meadows' new pads
are clipped onto the pants.
Note: The knee pads since this article
have changed and improved!
Meadows' knee pads clip on to the sides of the wearer's pants. Adjustable nylon straps are attached to the clips so the wearer can leave enough slack to prevent the clips from popping off when the wearer kneels down.
He's been selling the new pads through his company, Tru-Line Co., since February and said the reaction has been very good.
So good, that he's looking to modify the pads so they can be used by even more people.
He's planning a knee pad for welders that will come up a bit higher on the wearer's knee and have fire-resistant Nomex material inside and out. He also wants to make elbow pads and knee pads for children. Considering kids often do outdoor activities in shorts, Meadows is planning a version of the knee pad that will have the clips, plus soft stretch material so they can be slipped on or clipped on.
Meadows has been making the rounds to trade shows, farm shows and equipment shows in his unique knee pads drumming up interest.
At the recent Tulare Farm Show, he said he was mobbed by members of a Chinese delegation.
"One little guy wanted knee pads right then," Meadows said. "He handed me a box with shells and all kinds of things that he wanted to trade. I had a hard time telling them the knee pads weren't available yet."
Meadows has since manufactured a slew of the pads and even has them in a host of local stores including, Prime Equipment, Stockdale Tile, Wattenbarger Hardware & Brickyard, Floyd's on South Chester Avenue, B&W Flooring Supply, Home Depot and more.
Meadows credits his artistic nature with his ability to invent useful tools and equipment.
"I've always drawn and painted and made sculptures," he said. "When I see a problem I want to make better, it's like I can put the situation in my head and see exactly what I want and then draw it out on paper."
When asked if he invents for the love of it or to get rich, Meadows grinned from ear to ear.
"Both," he answered.
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