The amazing story of Didier Bazard and “Avant-trOu”, launched at Eurobois 2020!
We met Didier Bazard in February, 2020 at the last edition of Eurobois. He was demonstrating his ingenious Avant-trOu product to a host of professionals, joiners, cabinet makers, and other craftsmen, who were all captivated by this patented tool used for drilling screw pilot holes in wood simply, quickly, and accurately. After a tumultuous year the idea has reached its audience, but Didier Bazard is still on the lookout for partners who can distribute his product more widely.
Didier BAZARD, inventor of « Avant-trOu »
Woodwork is your passion. Where did you get the idea for this drilling tool?
I grew up amidst my joiner/cabinet-maker grandfather’s wood shavings and my father’s heritage was that of an expert handyman. Wood is in my lifeblood. I’ve never made a career of it but have kept it as my favourite pastime, forever throwing things together and fixing stuff. A few years ago, I couldn’t find a decent drilling tool for making pilot holes—one that would let me drive screws into wood easily, cleanly, and with no fear of splinters. Any professional who works with wood will know what I mean. I told myself I had to find a knack. I tried a whole load of solutions and then I found it! I just needed to adapt a metal drill instead of a wood bit! A wood bit bites too harshly into the wood, but a metal drill doesn’t! After that, I imagined a very special drill with that tapers down to a fine point. I ran a lot of tests before finding exactly the right taper angle.
And you decided to patent your product
Yes, the angle I identified is very specific and key to the concept. I initially kept the tool for private use. Then one day someone said I should patent the idea. I couldn’t see why— I hadn’t invented the wheel. But during a chance meeting, I showed my drill to an adviser at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who immediately sent me to see an intellectual property adviser. And this person gave me a real lift, saying “It’s simple but it’s wicked! You should get it patented without delay.” I was up on a cloud but wanted to go further still. I protected my innovation with a claim filed at the French patent office and baptised my product, quite simply, Avant-trOu (lit. “pre-hole”).
Box of "Avant-trOu"
Your next step was to put your product on show at the EUROBOIS trade show!
I wasn’t intending to industrialize the process myself, imagining some industrial toolmaker could take up production; but no industrial companies came forward. That didn’t discourage me, however. I heard there was a huge woodworking trade show called EUROBOIS in Lyon in February of 2020, and I decided to be a part of it. I was very well received by the organizers, who created a small space especially for me among the big stands. Next to the factory of the future, I did my market survey directly with the hot core of my target, with the Compagnons du Devoir training guild, with joiners, with cabinet makers. But there were also young apprentices, eager to find things out. These didn’t only have eyes for ultra-modern NC machines; they were also interested in my product. The experience was fantastic!
And you took orders directly at the trade show
Yes! I thought industrial manufacturers and distributors would let me through the door with all the pre-orders I’d had—but still no comeback. I didn’t think of giving up though. A month after returning from the show I got in touch with an e-Commerce website specialist, who quickly produced a sales site for me. But the country was now in full lockdown, making it hard to get known—no more exhibitions to sell at, no more “concours Lepine” competitions I was due to enter. All I had left was my site. I knocked on every door: influencers, press, certain of my customers blogging about me or mentioning me in forums. A year later, despite the crisis, I am still here, proud that my website is getting more and more hits and showing up on the first page of search results.
Demonstration of the "Avant-trOu" at the 2020 edition of the Eurobois show
How is the industrialization side coming along?
It’s still complicated. I had the good fortune to encounter a machinist from Bordeaux who pointed me to one of his colleagues. We are jointly finalizing a set of new prototypes that address all the feedback issues I have had, notably from a shipyard boss who is working on old riggings and from a young craftsman collaborating with a big designer of luxury products, who has carried out tests on oak. My aim is to offer the market a high quality product that meets the demands of pros and woodworking enthusiasts and can be used on all woods.
I’m currently having talks with a big French distributor. I place conditions on our collaboration though: preservation of quality at all costs and keeping production in France. I’m still open to partners for making and distributing my product so that as many as possible can discover and enjoy it!
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