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July 18, 2008

The Combined Fish Harvester: vintage chain reaction project

Like the breakfast machine, this device comes from John Sweet's weekly column in the 1950s (page 104 of the 1953 Scout annual). He writes:

A rather more orthodox use for cast-off mousetraps is proposed by Patrol Leader Phillip Edwards of the 12th Stockport Mallory Patrol, but also breaks new ground by suggesting that we might all go fishing with baited mousetraps. What a fascinating idea!

J G Gardner, of the 95th Manchester Curlews, has had the same idea, which he has elaborated in his wonderful Combined Fish Harvester. This device can be set up on the bank of any stream when the water bailiff isn't looking. All you need is a couple of mousetraps, a few odd spares, a pair of pulleys, about half a mile of string and a fine day for it.

What happens is this:

The baited mousetrap A is anchored by means of a Highwayman's Hitch to the staple B, the releasing end of the string being tied to the spring-arm of the trap. When a fish is caught, the trap is released, from B and is hauled up by brick H, which also swings the pivoted pole D so that the arm O sweeps F aside and allows C (with the mousetrap and fish dangling from it) to the spring-arm of which is tied a match which strikes itself on the matchbox 1 and is plunged into the fuse of dry grass L, which lights the fire M, which boils the water in N; which cooks the fish (and the mousetrap), which is finally consumed by the scout Patrol. “Boiled mousetrap, if well seasoned with pepper and salt” writes J G Gardner, “should have no deleterious effect on the flavour of the fish, which will probably taste pretty horrible anyhow”'.

I now see that in copying Gardner's drawing for purposes of reproduction I have made a very silly mistake which will no doubt be at once apparent to one and all. No need, therefore, for me to draw your attention to it.

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