Paint Brush on Wheels

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.



Take a paint brush in your right hand, or your left hand if you are left-handed, or both hands if it is a big brush. Dip the brush into a can of paint and raise it above your head, being careful not to let the paint roll down your arm. Dab it on the ceiling, repeat the process hundreds of times. Then—take a bath.

Before the advent of the paint roller in 1940, decorating a room – especially the ceiling – took a lot of time, paint and patience. And it was messy. That’s why professionals were often called in to do the job. But Norman Breakey’s innovation changed all that. Not only did the roller use less paint and take less time, it also was relatively easy to master even for amateurs. Although his invention ushered in the do-it-yourself age of home decorating, Breakey didn’t prosper from it. Unable to afford a patent infringement battle or to persuade Canadian investors to risk any capital backing the idea, he looked on as others copied and cashed in on his work.

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Janis Nostbakken