Foundery member Jamie Hodges has been working on a new design for a dock leveler hold down mechanism for the past four years. In January his patent application was approved! He completed the design in The Foundery and now he’s beginning to manufacture it here as well. He says, “I’ve accomplished more in The Foundery in the last two months than I did without it in the two years prior.”


Dock-Levelers and Hold Downs:

               Commercial and industrial buildings that ship and receive product at a loading dock often require a dock leveler to facilitate the movement of materials. Trucks come in at varying heights off the driveway and buildings have varying dock heights. When a truck backs into the loading dock, the bumpers on the loading dock  come into contact with the trailer, leaving a gap between the trailer and building. A dock leveler bridges this gap while also accommodating the dock height and trailer bed height differential. The dock leveler hold down keeps the dock leveler in place so that a forklift or pallet jack is then able to traverse the gap to load and unload the truck. 

               Though the invention sounds specific, there are millions of dock levelers and hold downs in the United States and virtually every item we own has been transported using them multiple times from the manufacturing process to final distribution at retail outlets.


A Family tradition:

               Jamie and his family run an 82-year-old family business, Charles H. Hodges and Son, Inc., specializing in selling, installing, and servicing loading dock equipment, overhead doors, high-speed doors, freight elevators, conveyor systems, mezzanines, and pallet rack products bundled under the name material handling equipment.

              Jamie has fond memories of his father, Charles Hodges III, inventing his own version of the dock leveler, an airbag/fan powered unit, in 1993. His father woke him up in the middle of the night to show him a rudimentary  prototype involving a shop vac, a trash bag, and a marble slab, demonstrating the idea. Within two years it became the number one selling push-button operated dock leveler in the United States.


Jamie’s Invention:

              Jamie himself began an attempt at designing his own version of the dock leveler four years ago. Through his experience with his family business, he knows that most mechanical pull chain operated dock-levelers last for only a few years before the ratchet bar hold down mechanism on the leveler begins to fail. The existing hold down mechanisms use pawls and a ratchet bar with teeth broached into it. Over time the teeth chip off or round over causing the dock leveler to jump up unexpectedly, creating a dangerous situation at the loading dock.

              Jamie borrowed a piece of technology from a young engineer and inventor named Andrew Kellem who invented and patented the Kellem Grip, a mechanism similar to the classic children’s toy the “Chinese finger trap.” This grip is often used for cable strain relief and gripping, and Kellem’s original designs were used to pull the suspension cables on the Golden Gate Bridge. The basic premise behind the Kellem Grip is that lateral tensile forces are directly converted into diametrically compressive forces. Or in other words, the more you pull the grip apart, the tighter it constricts on the object inside. When you laterally compress the grip, the opposite happens and the weave expands, releasing the object inside.

               Jamie was able to find a manufacturer of these grips who would custom build one suitable for his hold down requirements.

Custom built Kellem Grip (Chinese Finger Trap)

Custom built Kellem Grip (Chinese Finger Trap)


                 Jamie’s new hold down mechanism costs significantly less to manufacture, weighs 85% less than the old style, and lasts 5-10 times longer. The hold down has been designed as a universal aftermarket replacement part and will fit on virtually every mechanical dock leveler with little to no modification. Installation is as simple as inserting two pins with cotter pins and then hooking a chain link to the dock leveler pull chain.

Caption: Hodges Industrial Universal Hold Down Mechanism

Hodges Industrial Universal Hold Down Mechanism


               He has already sold his product to Under Armour and other local businesses and is excited to expand more soon by doing most of his manufacturing in The Foundery. Check out his website for more information:

Caption: Hodges Industrial Hold Down Installed Under Dock Leveler

Hodges Industrial Hold Down Installed Under Dock Leveler


Jamie Himself:

                Jamie is a mechanical engineer who graduated from the University of Virginia and locally from Gilman School and Calvert School. He lives with his wife, Lexie Love Hodges, who is an IT engineer at Agora Publishing. They recently had a baby girl,  McKenzie, who was born in May. In the Foundery, Jamie takes a break from working on the dock leveler to make a coffee table for his wife as an anniversary present.

The coffee table!


               Jamie and Lexie, along with other members of their family, worked together to start the One Love Foundation to combat relationship violence after it personally affected their family. You can help the cause by going to Come by the Foundery to meet Jamie and learn more about his growing business!