It's that time of year again, and now that my apple tree is finally producing decent fruit, I'd like to be able to get it apple-by-apple without having to go get a stepladder or dropping an entire branch of apples on the ground. They sell two-claw grippers at the local Home Despot, but grabbing a sphere with two fingers requires more dexterity than I'm willing to invest. Also, those grippers are only three feet long at best, and I want the apples dangling six or seven feet from the reach of my hand.
This four-bar-linkage claw is driven closed by a sliding collar attached by another four-bar to each of the three fingers. The collar is sprung to return the fingers open, so it can be operated by pulling a cord. For simplicity, the cord has been knotted onto a sliding collar further down the pole to manage it better. At some point I may redesign this collar to a squeeze-grip lever, but for now, I just want my apples.
The best part? This threads onto a standard broom handle, which means you don't have to store a six-foot pole outside of apple season... or at all, if you already have a broom. And if you want a sixteen-foot pole, just duct-tape your broomstick onto another pole (or two?) and use a longer cord.
Also, a word to the wise- apples are best picked with a twist, not a pull. If you stretch some silicone surgical tubing over the fingers, or wrap them with the professional-grade uncured rubber electrical tape (not the cheap vinyl crap), you should be able to get a good enough grip to twist loose the apple without breaking the spur and hurting the tree.
So a few comments after using this thing... it does work, but it's not quite as plug-and-play as you'd hope:
-The jaws do not close completely because the first level linkages go vertical at about 1" apart... but that's fine for picking apples.
-It takes a good bit of force on the line to get the jaws to close, and the return spring that I used could do with a bit more punch. The apples pick best if you trap the stem between two fingers so you can give it a good twist.
-I'm looking for some of that good rubber electrical tape at my local hardware so I can better cushion the fingers, get a better grip and avoid bruising the apples.