Wes Standfield’s Supreme mousetrap-making machine has been very popular with visitors to the Powerhouse Discovery Centre since 2007. Definitely a ‘cracking contraption’, it is making its debut appearance at the Powerhouse Museum in conjunction with Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention. It is the star object in Australian Inventions, a small display in the foyer and the kick-off point for an inventions trail through the Museum. Both exhibitions, and the trail, can be seen and explored until April 2013.
Arnold Wesley (Wes) Standfield made a group of four machines during World War 2, when materials and parts were in short supply. He scoured scrap yards to find what he needed, and he built his machines from scratch, without first creating drawings or prototypes. There are actually two machines in this photo, but his main machine is at the front. The ancillary machines cut wire and made springs to feed into this machine, which assembled and branded the traps.
The machine took just 1.5 seconds to make each trap, and it made 1000 traps each hour. A counter records that it made over 96 million traps between 1943 and 2000. The machines were never replaced or redesigned; Wes and his sons, Ronald and David, kept them going, repairing worn or broken parts as necessary.
When Wes died, his sons placed this framed photo of him on the main machine, and the company continued making traps until Ron and Dave were ready to retire. As a humble but fitting tribute to Wes Standfield, they attached the last trap made by the machine to his photo.
Wes was a self-made man, a country lad with an inventive bent and great determination. He grew up in dairy country, at Kyogle in northern NSW, and his first patented invention was the Kyogle clip for fixing a cow’s tail to a fence before it was milked; this prevented the cow from swinging its tail, annoying the milker and potentially flicking manure into the milk bucket. His second invention was the Westan metal mousetrap.
He moved to Sydney, set up his business in the inner suburb of Mascot, and made clips, traps and other small metal goods. His decision to make machines and move into mass production took the business in a new direction, kept Australia and our Pacific neighbours supplied with mouse traps, and created a legend. The Supreme machine has only been on display for a few days, but it has already attracted huge interest from visitors and the media.