The story behind it all.
When we were living out of the tiny caravan, building the bach at Bannockburn, the old cast-iron bath with the fire under it on the lawn was the only way to get clean. After things got more civilised it was still a major attraction, especially with a glass of local wine and the stunning Central Otago night sky overhead.
However, there were requests for something bigger. We could fit four of us in the bath, but only turned sideways, and your feet stuck out and got cold. I spent a couple of years looking out for a bigger stainless steel tank that I could build a BIGGER fire under.. I like making fires. And I was too mean to buy a spa pool, and anyway I get itchy skin from chlorine. Just never found a suitable tank.
I did have my Dad's old Thermette - an iconic water heating kettle with a fire up its middle invented in New Zealand in the late 1930s. And I can build in wood. And I knew about wetback loops - we have one in the bach where the woodburner heats our hot water cylinder just by the physics of rising, heated water.
I woke up one morning wth these pieces in my head all fitted together - no credit to me. I made a wooden tub out of macrocarpa and a giant copper Thermette from an old hot water cylinder, joined together by two radiator hoses making a wetback loop. This worked so well and so many people said, "Make us one" that I started to wonder if there was a commercial opportunity here.
That was eighteen years ago. It took seven prototypes of the burner and a shift from wood to light tough plastic for the tub to evolve to the present pinnacle of shed technology - showing what can be achieved by hard work and neurotic obsession. The greatest help has been from brainstorming with friends, and the minority of experts who told me not just what I'd asked but what I needed to know. Back then, I was amazed to find that there was nothing like it whatsoever on 400 internet or 600 patent sites.
We've sold over 2,000 Kiwitubs now. It went quite mad over the years of Covid-19. Everytime we went into any sort of lockdown, people would ring me up to buy Kiwitubs. I stopped all advertising three years ago to try and catch up a bit. It didn't work.
All the photos are real. We've just had such a lot of fun. My younger daughter Kitty, aged two, learned to swim in circles in the original wooden tub. She and her husband Sandy are now looking at taking over the Kiwitub business. I may get a life back yet.
There's another spinoff. I finally retired from treating patients as a physiotherapist in Dunedin. With all that free time on my hands, I had time and head space to invent again. My experience with the Kiwitub gave me the confidence to launch the Backpod - a cushioned fulcrum designed to stretch out the hunched, tightened upper back that is now the biggest upper spinal problem in the computer-savvy world.
This has gone moderately mad worldwide; we've recently sent the first container load to the US. It's bog standard New Zealand physio. I just hadn't realised how good this is on a world stage until we got the Backpod out there. See www.backpod.co.nz
So if you have a good idea, don't assume it's already been done. There's still plenty of Number 8 wire out there, waiting to be fashioned into something new. The rest is hard work, and nit-picking attention to detail. But you're allowed to have fun along the way.
It's all Keith's fault, anyway. I'd worked through the prototypes and the figures, and had got to the point where I either walked away from it as an interesting exercise, or pressed the 'Go' button and launched the Kiwitub on an unsuspecting world. Keith grinned his usual unflappable grin and said, "What's the worst that could happen? The children will still get fed and we'll all get hot tubs for Christmas." And the rest is history.
Enjoy getting into hot water.