Title:
Equipment caddy
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apron mounted to a storage container to form an equipment caddy with multiple storage compartments, and features for structurally reinforcing a storage container and for facilitating transport of a heavily-loaded storage container.



Inventors:
Ouimette, Donald G. (Hilton Head Island, SC, US)
Application Number:
09/992381
Publication Date:
05/08/2003
Filing Date:
11/06/2001
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B25H3/00; B65D25/04; (IPC1-7): B65D85/28
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BUI, LUAN KIM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Paper Mill, Village Building 23 Gardner Groff P. C. (600 VILLAGE TRACE, MARIETTA, GA, 30067, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An apron for mounting to the rim of a storage container, said apron comprising: a first inner panel; a first outer panel attached along one edge to the first inner panel; a second inner panel; a second outer panel attached along one edge to the second inner panel; and a reinforcing web having a first end attached to the first inner panel and a second end attached to the second inner panel.

2. The apron of claim 1, further comprising: a third inner panel between the first and second inner panels at a first end thereof; a third outer panel between the first and second outer panels at a first end thereof; a fourth inner panel between the first and second inner panels at a second end thereof; and a fourth outer panel between the first and second outer panels at a second end thereof.

3. The apron of claim 2, wherein the third and fourth outer panels comprise openings for allowing access to handles of a storage container.

4. The apron of claim 2, wherein the reinforcing web is attached to said first and second inner panels approximately midway between the first and second ends thereof.

5. The apron of claim 1, wherein at least one of the first inner panel, the first outer panel, the second inner panel, the second outer panel, and the reinforcing web comprise at least one storage compartment.

6. An equipment caddy comprising: a storage container comprising first and second sides and first and second ends; and a reinforcing web spanning between the first side and the second side of said storage container approximately midway between the first end and the second end.

7. The equipment caddy of claim 6, wherein the first and second sides of said storage container are longer than the first and second ends.

8. The equipment caddy of claim 6, further comprising a first handle on the first end of said storage container and a second handle on the second end of said storage container.

9. The equipment caddy of claim 8, wherein the reinforcing web is generally perpendicular to a line extending between the first handle and the second handle.

10. The equipment caddy of claim 6, wherein the storage container comprises an interior and an exterior, and wherein said equipment caddy further comprises an apron mounted to the storage container, said apron comprising an inner portion within the interior of said storage container and an outer portion overlying at least a portion of the exterior of said storage container.

11. The equipment caddy of claim 10, wherein the reinforcing web has a first end attached to a first location on the inner portion of said apron and a second end attached to a second location on the inner portion of said apron.

12. The equipment caddy of claim 10, wherein the storage container comprises a first handle on its first end and a second handle on its second end, and wherein the outer portion of said apron defines openings permitting access to the first and second handles.

13. The equipment caddy of claim 10, wherein at least one of the inner portion of said apron, the outer portion of said apron, and the reinforcing web comprise at least one storage compartment.

14. The equipment caddy of claim 6, further comprising at least one wheel for rolling said equipment caddy.

15. The equipment caddy of claim 14, further comprising a pull handle for rolling said equipment caddy.

16. The equipment caddy of claim 15, wherein said pull handle is pivotally mounted to said storage container.

17. The equipment caddy of claim 15, wherein said pull handle comprises at least one telescoping member.

18. The equipment caddy of claim 6, wherein said reinforcing web comprises a flexible element.

19. The equipment caddy of claim 6, wherein said reinforcing web comprises a generally rigid element.

20. An apron for attachment to a generally rectangular storage container of the type having a bottom, first and second sides, first and second ends, a handle on each of the first and second ends, and a rim surrounding an open top, said apron being mountable over the rim of the storage container with an inner skirt portion of the apron contained within the storage container and an outer skirt portion of the apron overlying at least a portion of the storage container.

21. The apron of claim 20, wherein the outer skirt portion defines openings for the handle on each of the first and second ends.

22. The apron of claim 20, further comprising a reinforcing web extending across a midsection of the storage container when said apron is mounted over the rim of the storage container.

23. The apron of claim 20, wherein at least one of the inner skirt portion and the outer skirt portion comprise a storage compartment.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates generally to storage and transportation devices and methods, and more particularly to a caddy that includes an organizer apron mounted onto a storage container and to methods of organizing items within a storage container.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Contractors and other workmen typically carry their tools and other equipment to and from a jobsite in a box, bin or other container. It is generally desirable to keep different types of items and tools in separate compartments so that they can be readily retrieved when needed. For example, a carpenter may find it useful to keep large nails in one compartment, finish nails in another compartment, and wood screws in still another compartment. An electrician may wish to keep wire nuts in one compartment, electrical tape in another compartment, and staples in still another compartment. In this manner, through repeated use, the user will come to instinctively remember where each item is stored, leading to greater efficiency.

[0003] Many previously known compartmentalized storage units, however, do not have the larger storage compartments or open storage areas that are needed to accommodate relatively large and heavy items. Also, many commercially available compartmentalized storage units often lack the durability and portability needed for daily use and for transport to and from multiple jobsites, and also tend to be relatively expensive. As a result, some persons have adopted common plastic buckets for use in storing and transporting tools and/or equipment. For example, five-gallon cylindrical buckets are readily available, sufficiently rugged and portable for the storage and transport of various tools and equipment, and are relatively inexpensive. Buckets of the standard variety do not include partitions or compartments needed for separately storing multiple types of items, as is commonly desirable. However, it is known to provide an apron of leather, canvas or other material that is mounted by a user to a bucket and which includes a number of pockets or other compartments for holding smaller items such as nails, screws, etc. These aprons typically are partially inserted into a bucket with an outer portion of the apron extending over the bucket's rim and partially down the exterior side of the bucket. Items too large to be stored in one of the compartments may be stored loosely in the interior of the bucket.

[0004] Standard buckets used in this manner, however, have been found to have a number of drawbacks. For example, the interior of a typical bucket is often too small to accommodate many larger items such as power saws, electric drills and the like. This problem is worsened by the attachment of a storage apron on the bucket, as the apron itself occupies a substantial portion of the bucket's interior space. Typical cylindrical buckets are also somewhat inefficient in space utilization, since their round shapes do not fit cleanly in rectangular corner spaces of pickup truck beds or other storage locations, and leave empty voids between adjacent buckets when two or more buckets are stored in a side-by-side array.

[0005] It has therefore been found desirable to utilize larger bulk containers such as plastic storage bins, cardboard boxes, milk crates, and the like for the storage and transport of tools and other equipment. Many such containers are readily available, inexpensive, and are sufficiently rugged for day-to-day use on the jobsite. In addition, many such containers have built-in handles that facilitate carrying, are large enough to accommodate larger power tools and other items, and have generally rectangular footprints that utilize space relatively efficiently. However, previously known storage containers of this variety typically lack storage compartments for separately storing multiple items. Known storage aprons of the type used with buckets are generally incompatible with larger bulk containers for a number of reasons, including size, shape and handle placement and configuration. It has also been found that some commercially available bulk containers are not structurally strong enough to support heavier loads of tools and equipment. For example, a plastic storage bin may be constructed of a material that has sufficient burst strength to hold heavier items without rupturing, but have a container geometry and/or handle configuration that causes the container to buckle under load. It has also been found that such containers, when fully loaded, are sometimes too heavy for a user to easily carry from one location to another.

[0006] Thus it can be seen that needs exist for a device and method for adapting a larger bulk storage container such as a rectangular plastic storage bin to store and organize multiple items. It can further be seen that needs exist for reinforcing such larger bulk storage containers to support heavier loads without buckling. Needs also exist for an apparatus and method for assisting in the transport of heavily loaded bulk storage containers. It is to the provision of devices and methods meeting these and other needs that the present invention is primarily directed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] Briefly described, in preferred form, the present invention is an equipment caddy having an organizer apron mounted onto a larger bulk storage container such as a rectangular plastic storage bin. The apron preferably includes one or more pockets or other compartments for allowing a user to neatly and easily organize and store tools and other items in and/or on the container. The apron preferably is readily adapted to use with standard, commercially available storage containers to provide a convenient and inexpensive, yet rugged and efficient storage and transport caddy.

[0008] In one aspect, the invention is an apron for mounting to the rim of a storage container. The apron preferably includes a first inner panel; a first outer panel attached along one edge to the first inner panel; a second inner panel; a second outer panel attached along one edge to the second inner panel; and a reinforcing web having a first end attached to the first inner panel and a second end attached to the second inner panel.

[0009] In another aspect, the invention is an equipment caddy including a storage container comprising first and second sides and first and second ends; and a reinforcing web spanning between the first side and the second side of the storage container approximately midway between the first end and the second end.

[0010] In yet another aspect, the invention is an apron for attachment to a generally rectangular storage container of the type having a bottom, first and second sides, first and second ends, a handle on each of the first and second ends, and a rim surrounding an open top. The apron is preferably mountable over the rim of the storage container with an inner skirt portion of the apron contained within the storage container and an outer skirt portion of the apron surrounding at least a portion of the storage container.

[0011] These and other objects, features and advantages of preferred forms of the present invention are described in greater detail herein with reference to example embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURE

[0012] FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a caddy according to a preferred form of the present invention.

[0013] FIG. 2 shows a caddy with structural reinforcement and transport features according to another preferred form of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0014] Referring now to the drawing figures in which like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout, preferred and example forms of the invention will now be described. FIG. 1 shows an equipment caddy 10 according to a preferred form of the invention. The caddy 10 generally comprises a storage container 12 and an apron 14. The apron 14 is preferably mounted to the container 12 by separately forming the apron and the container and installing the apron onto the container, or alternatively by forming the apron and container as an integral component.

[0015] The storage container 12 is preferably a generally rectangular storage bin having a bottom 16, first and second sides 18, 20, first and second ends 22, 24, a handle 26 on each of the first and second ends, and a rim 28 surrounding an open top. For example, the storage container 12 may be an eighteen gallon plastic shafter-resistant storage box of the type available from Rubbermaid Inc., of Wooster, Ohio. Alternatively, the storage container 12 can be a box, bin or other container fabricated from plastic, wood, metal, cardboard, or other material, such as a milk crate, a carton, a box, etc. Preferably, the first and second sides 18, 20 of the storage container 12 are longer than the first and second ends 22, 24. For example, the storage container 12 may have a side length of about 21″, an end width of about 15″, and a height of about 17″. As seen with reference to FIG. 2, in alternate forms, the storage container 12 can optionally comprise one or more wheels 30, such as rollerskate or suitcase wheels rotationally mounted on axle(s) and/or bearing(s), for rolling the equipment caddy 10. The container 12 optionally comprises a recess for accommodating each of the one or more wheels 30, so that the wheels do not project beyond the periphery of the container. A pull handle 32 is optionally attached to the container 12 to assist a user in rolling the caddy. The pull handle 32 is preferably pivotally mounted to the container 12 for ease of use, and preferably also comprises at least one telescoping member 34 for height adjustment.

[0016] The apron 14 is preferably mounted over the rim 28 of the storage container 12, with an inner skirt portion 40 contained within the interior of the container, and with an outer skirt portion 42 surrounding and overlying at least a portion of the exterior of the container. The apron 14 is preferably fabricated from leather, canvas, plastic, fabric, or other flexible or formable material.

[0017] The inner skirt portion 40 of the apron 14 preferably comprises a first inner panel 44 and a second inner panel 46. The first inner panel 44 preferably hangs over at least a portion of the interior of the first side 18 of the container 12, and the second inner panel 46 preferably hangs over at least a portion of the interior of the second side 20, when the apron is mounted on the container. Optionally, the inner skirt portion 40 further comprises a third inner panel 48, and a fourth inner panel 50, which preferably hang over at least portions of the interior of the first and second ends 22, 24, respectively. If four inner panels 44-50 are provided, they preferably adjoin end-to-end to form a box-like arrangement with an open top and bottom. A second end of the first inner panel 44 preferably adjoins a first end of the third inner panel 48; a second end of the third inner panel 48 preferably adjoins a first end of the second inner panel 46; a second end of the second inner panel 46 preferably adjoins a first end of the fourth inner panel 50; and a second end of the fourth inner panel 50 preferably adjoins a first end of the first inner panel 44. The inner panels 44-50 can be separately formed and attached to one another along all or a portion of their respective ends, as by stitching, or can be formed as a single piece. Alternatively, the adjoining inner panels 44-50 are separate panels that are not attached to one another on their ends. Preferably, the inner portion of the apron has dimensions approximately equal to or somewhat less than the inside dimensions of the container, to allow the inner portion of the apron to be received into the interior of the container with a relatively close fit.

[0018] The outer skirt portion 42 preferably comprises a first outer panel 60 and a second outer panel 62. The first outer panel 60 preferably hangs over at least a portion of the exterior of the first side 18 of the container, and the second outer panel 62 preferably hangs over at least a portion of the exterior of the second side 20. Optionally, the outer skirt portion 42 further comprises a third outer panel 64, and a fourth outer panel 66, which preferably hang over at least portions of the exterior of the first and second ends 22, 24, respectively. If four outer panels 60-66 are provided, they preferably adjoin end-to-end to form a box-like arrangement with an open top and bottom. A second end of the first outer panel 60 preferably adjoins a first end of the third outer panel 64; a second end of the third outer panel 64 preferably adjoins a first end of the second outer panel 62; a second end of the second outer panel 62 preferably adjoins a first end of the fourth outer panel 66; and a second end of the fourth outer panel 66 preferably adjoins a first end of the first outer panel 60. The outer panels 60-66 can be separately formed and attached to one another along all or a portion of their respective ends, as by stitching, or can be formed as a single piece. Alternatively, the adjoining outer panels 60-66 are separate panels that are not attached to one another on their ends. Preferably, the outer portion of the apron has dimensions approximately equal to or somewhat larger than the outside dimensions of the container, to allow the outer portion of the apron to be mounted over the exterior of the container with a relatively close fit.

[0019] The first inner panel 44 and the first outer panel 60 are preferably attached to one another only at their top edges, whereby the panels 44, 60 straddle the rim 28 of the first side 18 of the container. In similar fashion, the second inner panel 46 and second outer panel 62 (and if present, the third inner panel 48 and third outer panel 64, as well as the fourth inner panel 50 and fourth outer panel 66, respectively) are preferably attached to one another only at their top edges, whereby the attached inner and outer panels straddle the rim 28 of the container. Each attached pair of inner/outer panels 44/60, 46/62, 48/64 and 50/66 can be separately formed and attached to one another as by stitching, or can be formed as a single piece of material and folded to form the respective inner/outer panels. When the apron 14 is mounted to the container 12, the lines of attachment between the inner/outer panels preferably rest on or over the rim 28 of the container 12 to support the apron in place on the container.

[0020] The outer skirt portion 42 of the apron 14 preferably comprises openings to permit access to the handles 26 of the container 12. For example, openings 70 are preferably provided through the third and fourth outer panels 64, 66 to allow a user clear access to the handles 26.

[0021] The caddy 10 preferably further comprises a reinforcing web for resisting buckling of the container 12 when loaded and lifted by its handles 26. For example, in a first preferred form described with reference to FIG. 1, a reinforcing web 80 is attached to or formed as part of the apron 14, having a first end attached to the first inner panel 44 and a second end attached to the second inner panel 46. The reinforcing web 80 is preferably attached to the first and second inner panels 44, 46 approximately midway between the ends of the panels. In this manner, when the apron 14 is mounted on the container 12, the reinforcing web 80 spans between the first side 18 and the second side 20 of the container, approximately midway between its first end 22 and its second end 24. Often, when the caddy 10 is lifted by the handles 26 with a heavy load contained in the caddy, the sides 18, 20 will tend to buckle toward or away from one another. Provision of the reinforcing web 80 advantageously eliminates or substantially reduces such buckling by preventing the sides of the container from moving away from and/or toward one another. The reinforcing web 80 can comprise a generally rigid element fabricated from wood, plastic, metal or other substantially rigid material to resist both inward and outward buckling of the sides 18, 20, or can comprise a flexible element fabricated from leather, fabric, plastic, rope or other substantially flexible material to resist primarily outward buckling of the sides. Preferably, the reinforcing web 80 is arranged generally perpendicularly to a line extending between the handles 26 to most efficiently resist buckling of the container 12. In an alternate embodiment of the invention described with reference to FIG. 2, the reinforcing web comprises a crossbar 82. The crossbar 82 preferably comprises hooked ends for engaging over the rim 28 of the container 12 to secure the crossbar in place. In this matter, the crossbar 82 can be installed prior to lifting the caddy 10, and can be removed when desired for easier access to the interior of the caddy. In alternate embodiments, more than one reinforcing web is provided, the webs preferably spaced a distance from one another.

[0022] The caddy 10 preferably further comprises at least one storage compartment 90 for storing and organizing fasteners, tools and/or other items. For example, one or more storage compartments 90 can be provided on the inner skirt 40 of the apron 14, on the outer skirt 42 of the apron, and/or on the reinforcing web 80. In preferred form, a plurality of storage compartments 90 are provided on various portions of the inner skirt, the outer skirt and the reinforcing web.

[0023] The above description and appended drawings are representative of example embodiments of the present invention. The full spirit and scope of the invention, however, is not limited to any particular embodiment or embodiments. Thus, it will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that many additions, modifications and deletions can be made to the described embodiments without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.





 
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