Experiences using a fruit-picker tool with a grabber claw for apples

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Figure 1. Two Bramley apples growing back-to-back on a tree in England, September 2022. It can be difficult or impossible to take one apple in a grab claw without the other one falling.

A fruit-picker is a long pole with something at the end to collect fruit from high branches without climbing the tree. This article reports experiences of using a particular kind to pick apples.

In 2021 there seemed to be two kinds for sale on the internet.

The first kind is a bag or basket on the end of a long pole. Round the rim of the bag or basket are some kind of teeth that can be used to persuade the apple to fall into the basket.

The second kind is the one discussed here, which has no basket or bag. Instead it has three moving prongs arranged in a claw as shown in Figure 2. These can close to grip a single apple. The gripping action is under control of a handle on the other end of the pole (Figure 3).

Figure 2. The grabber claw of a fruit-picking tool bought in England from the internet in 2021. Squeezing the handle at the other end of its pole causes the three prongs of the claw to close around the apple.
Figure 3. The handle of a fruit-picker bought in England from the internet in 2021. Squeezing this handle causes the claw to close on the apple, but as soon as you stop squeezing the claw springs open again. The small catch seen here under a screw head can rotate to hold the claw closed but only when the claw is fully closed without room in it for an apple.

In practice, I experienced two problems with this tool, which you might not anticipate before using it. Harvesting of the apples on the trees was successful, but the result of both problems was that a significant fraction of apples fell to the ground in the process.

The first is that it is difficult and sometimes impossible to grasp a single apple without causing nearby apples to fall off. Figure 1 shows a pair of Bramley apples growing back-to-back.

The second is that after grasping an apple, it may be difficult to lower it to the ground without dropping it because there is no way to lock the claw closed. As soon as you release your grip on the handle the prongs spring open.

In cases where you have easy access to the apple you can swing the pole down in an arc while holding the handle without problems. But where you have had to push the pole up between branches of the tree to reach the apple, you want to withdraw it by pulling it backwards the same way, in a straight line along its length. If the grabber would lock this would be possible by passing the pole from hand to hand. As it is, you can do this only by moving yourself backwards to keep your grip on the handle.

If there is enough free space around the tree you may be able to walk backwards to withdraw the picker while still gripping the handle but if there are obstructions, or if you climbed onto some lower branches, then this will be a problem.

Figure 3 shows a catch on the handle of the Darlac picker which does lock the claw closed but it seems this catch is intended only for transport or storage of the tool. It locks the claw so tightly closed so that when I tried to lock it with an apple in the claw even squeezing the apple hard it was not practical to force the catch home.