Title:
Modular masonry-works system and method of manufacture
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A masonry system for marking area perimeters or entryways has at least two masonry columns, and at least one gate and/or fence section supported structurally between individual ones of the columns. The masonry columns are pre-manufactured columns supporting real masonry exterior, the individual columns lowered onto leveled foundation bases and anchored thereto using a substantially centered anchoring rod.



Inventors:
Gossett III, James Walden (Monte Sereno, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/213351
Publication Date:
03/01/2007
Filing Date:
08/25/2005
Assignee:
Retro Technology Incorporated
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04C2/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
BARTOSIK, ANTHONY N
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CENTRAL COAST PATENT AGENCY, INC (3 HANGAR WAY SUITE D, WATSONVILLE, CA, 95076, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A masonry system for marking area perimeters or entryways comprising: at least two masonry columns; and at least one gate and/or fence section supported structurally between individual ones of the columns; characterized in that the masonry columns are pre-manufactured columns supporting real masonry exterior, the individual columns lowered onto leveled foundation bases and anchored thereto using a substantially centered anchoring rod.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein the columns support one or a combination of brickwork exteriors, stonework exteriors, or stucco exteriors.

3. The system of claim 1 wherein the area perimeter is a property line boundary or a portion thereof.

4. The system of claim 1 wherein the entryway is a property entryway or exit way.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein the columns are rectangular in form.

6. The system of claim 1 wherein the column exterior is horizontally applied during pre-manufacture.

7. A pre-manufactured masonry column comprising: at least two support collars geometrically aligned and spaced vertically; a plurality of column boards forming walls of the column aligned and adhered to respective sides of the support collars forming a geometric enclosure; and a masonry exterior adhered to all or a portion of each of the external surfaces of the column boards.

8. The masonry column of FIG. 7 wherein the support collars are cross-braced and are of rectangular configuration having four sides, the cross-braces adapted with openings for facilitating the anchoring rod.

9. The masonry column of FIG. 7 wherein the support collars are geometrically aligned and spaced horizontally on an assembly truck adapted to facilitate pre-manufacture.

10. The masonry column of FIG. 8 wherein the assembly truck includes a geared rotary fixture and an opposing tail stop for staging at least one of the collars into position for mounting a column board leveraging a horizontal work plane.

11. The masonry column of FIG. 7 wherein the masonry exterior is one of brickwork, stonework, or stucco exterior.

12. The masonry column of FIG. 10 wherein the masonry exterior is applied to column boards in a horizontal work plane by rotating the rotary fixture of the assembly truck.

13. The masonry column of FIG. 7 wherein individual ones of the column boards have openings placed there through for facilitating a mailbox accessory, the mailbox accessory adjustable telescopically to accommodate different planned column width dimensions.

14. An assembly truck for building a modular masonry column comprising: a wheeled base, the base telescopically adjustable to predetermined length; a rotary collar-positioning fixture supported at one end of the wheeled base, the fixture for positioning a first support collar to accept a first column board; and a tail stop supported at the other end of the wheeled base for spacing and staging a second support collar at a pre-adjusted distance apart and in geometric alignment with the first collar.

15. The assembly truck of FIG. 14 wherein the collar-positioning fixture includes positioning pins adapted to support the collar at its corners.

16. The assembly truck of FIG. 14 wherein the tail stop includes a pin for centering the collar using an opening provided in a cross-brace of the collar.

17. The assembly truck of FIG. 14 wherein the tail stop is adapted for rotating to vertical supporting a completed column upright for removal from the fixture by crane.

18. A method for building a masonry column on an assembly truck, the truck including a length-adjustable wheeled base, a rotary fixture, and a tail stop, the method including steps for: (a) adjusting the wheeled base to a predetermined length; (b) positioning a first support collar over the rotary fixture and a second collar at the opposite end on the tail stop; (c) applying epoxy to collar exterior surfaces; (d) placing column boards over the epoxy surfaces; (e) applying epoxy to the column board exterior surfaces; and (f) applying masonry to the external column board surfaces.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein in step (a) the adjustment is preliminary to a planned column length and latter base adjustments are made when positioning components.

20. The method of claim 18 wherein in step (b) the first collar is locked and the second manually staged until board placement.

21. The method of claim 18 wherein steps (c) through (f) are repeated for each individual side of a column with that side facing up in a horizontal work plane facilitated by spindle rotation ability until all sides of the column are finished.

22. The method of claim 18 wherein in step (d) alignment holes are provided to collar surfaces and column boards and bolts are provided to help align boards and secure them to collar surfaces.

23. A method for vertically securing a modular masonry column to a prepared foundation, the column including at least two support collars, a plurality of column boards, and exterior masonry work including steps of: (a) lowering a column in an upright position over a threaded anchor rod protruding from below ground level and extending vertically above ground and through the cross-brace portion of at least one of the collars. (b) orientating the column; (c) placing a torque nut over the free end of the threaded anchor rod; and (d) securing the torque nut against a cross brace of a collar of the column anchoring the column down to the foundation base.

24. The method of claim 23 wherein in step (a) the column is lowered into place by a crane arm or apparatus and manually guided over the threaded anchor rod, the anchor rod protruding centrally from the prepared foundation.

25. The method of claim 23 wherein in step (c) an extension nut is used instead of a torque nut, the extension nut adapted to accept a threaded anchoring extension rod.

26. The method of claim 25 wherein the anchoring extension rod provides an anchoring rod extending centrally up through the column length whereby a torque nut may be provided at the location of the upper collar brace, or optionally, above a cap module extending anchoring capability to upper column components accordingly.

27. The method of claim 23 wherein in step (a), the column comprises at least 2 sections stacked vertically during installation.

28. The method of claim 23 wherein in step (b), the column is adjusted in height and level using a variable height adjustment tool threaded onto the anchor rod before step (a).

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is in the field of masonry-works including decorative masonry pillar works and associated gating or fencing pertaining particularly to methods and apparatus for manufacturing a modular masonry-works system and installation of the same in the field.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Masonry construction is one of the oldest professions practiced worldwide. Much skill and time is generally required to provide aesthetic masonry products to business and home landscaping schemes. Home and business owners generally must contract with one or more highly skilled artisans to obtain real masonry products of aesthetic value. Of the many popular masonry products available, masonry pillar works or column works that support gate structures and/or fencing systems are some of the most expensive products to implement and require artisans of the highest skill levels to implement them successfully.

A great deal of work is required on-site or in the field when constructing masonry pillar works and gating or fencing systems. For example, ground supporting such works must first be worked and leveled. Postholes or foundation areas must be prepared. Base works and anchor systems for columns or pillars must be cast in place and leveled. Pillar framing and support structuring must be implemented before any actual vertical masonry work commences.

Once support structures are in place, the masonry work of cutting brick, laying the brick, mortaring the brick and leveling the brick surfaces requires much time and skill. Concrete reinforcements or ballast works are also commonly implemented and also require time and skill to complete. During various stages of construction where concrete and mortar materials are used certain periods of “set time” must be observed. Generally speaking, all of the above-described activities also require cooperation of the weather, which if not optimum, may increase the time of construction significantly. In many cases, tasks or preparation steps already performed during the construction process may have to be prolonged or repeated due to the demanding skills required of the artisans or unforeseen happenstance such as bad weather encountered.

In an effort to reduce costs to businesses and homeowners related to materials and labor and to reduce the level of skill required to provide suitable aesthetic constructions for landscapes, some materials companies have introduced new products that attempt to emulate the look of real masonry pillar gating and fencing systems using materials and construction techniques not usually associated with masonry.

The inventor is aware of one such product described by a U.S. Pat. No. 6,763,640 titled “Prefab Brickwork” hereinafter referred to in this specification as “Lane”. Lane describes a plastic rectangular column having reinforced corners made of plastic rectangular tubing. The plastic column may be faced on each of its sides using concrete, mortar, or a thin veneer of brick and mortar. The column is prefabricated offsite and may be purchased and installed onsite over prepared anchor and base structures. The column may be seated and bolted onto the base structure supported by anchors. In a fencing or a gating scenario, plastic prefabricated fence rails or gates may be affixed to in-place columns to emulate wrought iron gating or other fencing or rail products. A ballast material may be added to increase the strength rating of the construction.

Although the product described can be provided less expensively and with less skill than a real masonry product, it emulates real masonry only by the thin “veneer” application of brickwork on its outer surfaces. Because the plastic is thin and is not reinforced away from the corner features, the thickness of the facing is severely limited to a fraction of the thickness of standard masonry facing. Likewise the non-reinforced walls of the column are subject to vibration, bowing, and flexing, which may lead to early cracking and break off of the thin and brittle masonry layers. The column is not suitably strong enough to support the weight of a real gate iron or fence structure and must be complimented with a lightweight plastic facsimile of such structures. Upon close inspection of such a construction, one with skill in the art can easily detect the plastic construction regarding connected gating or fencing and one may also deduce that while less expensive to implement than real masonry works, the product may add little or no appreciable value to the landscape.

The inventor is aware of a masonry product described by a U.S. Pat. No. 5,934,035 titled Modular Pillar, hereinafter referred to as Rasmussen et al or simply Rasmussen. Rasmussen described a plurality of pre-cast brick modules that may be purchased and installed by stacking one over the other to build a pillar. Each pre-cast layer has a depression, groove, or other like feature formed on one or both horizontal surfaces adapted to fit to a similar feature on the horizontal surface of a next stacked layer. Not withstanding, the stacked brick modules must be positioned and stacked carefully over a leveled base structure. Mortar may be used to fill in the gaps between each layer of brick after a pillar is constructed or during the construction itself thereby aesthetically emulating a real masonry product.

While Rasmussen provides a stronger product than Lane, which may be purchased and then installed on-site, much skilled work is still required in order to stack the modules correctly in the field. For example, the state of level must be checked and if need be corrected in the field after each module is installed. Moreover, each layer must be prefabricated according to tight tolerances so that deviance from a true perpendicular axis is not magnified up the vertical length of the pillar. Other structural limitations to the pillar of Rasmussen include an absence of any vertical wall support other than the inter-placement features and mortar used for gap filling. Such weak construction may be prone to horizontal shift under the slightest force resulting in damage to the pillar modules or the entire construction. While much skilled masonry work onsite is avoided, a considerable amount of work including some masonry must still be performed onsite.

What is clearly needed in the art is a prefabricated and modular masonry pillar system that is low cost, durable and can be quickly and efficiently manufactured and installed. Such a system and method of manufacture thereof will provide value to the consumer while at the same time saving costs associated with implementation.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A masonry system is provided for marking area perimeters or entryways. The system includes at least two masonry columns, and

at least one gate and/or fence section supported structurally between individual ones of the columns. The masonry columns are pre-manufactured columns supporting real masonry exterior, the individual columns lowered onto leveled foundation bases and anchored thereto using a substantially centered anchoring rod. The columns support one or a combination of brickwork exteriors, stonework exteriors, or stucco exteriors.

In one embodiment, the area perimeter is a property line boundary or a portion thereof. In one embodiment, the entryway is a property entryway or exit way. Also in one embodiment, the columns are rectangular in form. In a preferred embodiment, the column exterior is horizontally applied during pre-manufacture.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a pre-manufactured masonry column is provided. The column includes at least two support collars geometrically aligned and spaced vertically, a plurality of column boards forming walls of the column aligned and adhered to respective sides of the support collars forming a geometric enclosure, and a masonry exterior adhered to all or a portion of each of the external surfaces of the column boards.

In one embodiment, the support collars are cross-braced and are of rectangular configuration having four sides, the cross-braces adapted with openings for facilitating the anchoring rod. Also in one embodiment, the support collars are geometrically aligned and spaced horizontally on an assembly truck adapted to facilitate pre-manufacture. In this embodiment, the assembly truck includes a geared rotary fixture and an opposing tail stop for staging at least one of the collars into position for mounting a column board leveraging a horizontal work plane. In preferred embodiments, the masonry exterior is one of brickwork, stonework, or stucco exterior. In a preferred embodiment, the masonry exterior is applied to column boards in a horizontal work plane by rotating the rotary fixture of the assembly truck.

In one embodiment, individual ones of the column boards have openings placed there through for facilitating a mailbox accessory, the mailbox accessory adjustable telescopically to accommodate different planned column width dimensions.

According to still another aspect of the invention, an assembly truck for building a modular masonry column is provided. The assembly truck includes a wheeled base, the base telescopically adjustable to predetermined length, a rotary collar-positioning fixture supported at one end of the wheeled base, the fixture for positioning a first support collar to accept a first column board, and a tail stop supported at the other end of the wheeled base for spacing and staging a second support collar at a pre-adjusted distance apart and in geometric alignment with the first collar.

In a preferred embodiment, the collar-positioning fixture includes positioning pins adapted to support the collar at its corners and the tail stop includes a pin for centering the collar using an opening provided in a cross-brace of the collar. In this embodiment, the tail stop is adapted for rotating to vertical supporting a completed column upright for removal from the fixture by crane.

According to a further aspect of the invention, a method is provided for building a masonry column on an assembly truck, the truck including a length-adjustable wheeled base, a rotary fixture, and a tail stop, The method includes steps for, (a) adjusting the wheeled base to a predetermined length, (b) positioning a first support collar over the rotary fixture and a second collar at the opposite end on the tail stop, (c) applying epoxy to collar exterior surfaces, (d) placing column boards over the epoxy surfaces, (e) applying epoxy to the column board exterior surfaces; and (f) applying masonry to the external column board surfaces.

In one aspect in step (a), the adjustment is preliminary to a planned column length and latter base adjustments are made when positioning components. In this aspect, in step (b), the first collar is locked and the second manually staged until board placement. In a preferred aspect, steps (c) through (f) are repeated for each individual side of a column with that side facing up in a horizontal work plane facilitated by spindle rotation ability until all sides of the column are finished.

In one embodiment, in step (d), alignment holes are provided to collar surfaces and column boards and bolts are provided to help align boards and secure them to collar surfaces.

According to yet a further aspect of the invention, a method is provided for vertically securing a modular masonry column to a prepared foundation, the column including at least two support collars, a plurality of column boards, and exterior masonry work. The method includes steps for (a) lowering a column in an upright position over a threaded anchor rod protruding from below ground level and extending vertically above ground and through the cross-brace portion of at least one of the collars, (b) orientating the column, (c) placing a torque nut over the free end of the threaded anchor rod, and (d) securing the torque nut against a cross brace of a collar of the column anchoring the column down to the foundation base.

In one aspect, in step (a), the column is lowered into place by a crane arm or apparatus and manually guided over the threaded anchor rod, the anchor rod protruding centrally from the prepared foundation. Also in one aspect, in step (c), an extension nut is used instead of a torque nut, the extension nut adapted to accept a threaded anchoring extension rod.

In one aspect the anchoring extension rod provides an anchoring rod extending centrally up through the column length whereby a torque nut may be provided at the location of the upper collar brace, or optionally, above a cap module extending anchoring capability to upper column components accordingly.

In another aspect, in step (a), the column comprises at least 2 sections stacked vertically during installation. In yet another aspect, in step (b), the column is adjusted in height and level using a variable height adjustment tool threaded onto the anchor rod before step (a).

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

FIG. 1 is an elevation view of a brickwork gating system according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2A is a top view of a column support collar used in column manufacture according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2B is a bottom view of the column support collar of FIG. 2A.

FIG. 3A is a right-side view of the column support collar of FIG. 2A.

FIG. 3B is an end view of the column support collar of FIG. 2A.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of support collar and support board orientation in manufacture of a column according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a cut view of a brickwork implementation over a support board attached to a support collar according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is an elevation view of a column assembly truck according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a partial perspective view of the geared collar-positioning apparatus of the column assembly truck of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a partial perspective view of the collar tailstock portion of the column assembly truck of FIG. 6.

FIG. 9 is a partial broken view of a column of FIG. 1 illustrating installation of a gate support beam according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10A is a top view of the support base of FIG. 1 including a spacer ring according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10B is a bottom view of the support base of FIG. 10A.

FIG. 10C is a cut view of the support base of FIG. 10A taken along cut line AA.

FIG. 11A is a top view of the column cap of FIG. 1 according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 11B is a bottom view of the column cap of FIG. 11A including a spacer ring according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 11C is a cut view of the column cap of FIG. 11A taken along the cut line BB.

FIG. 12 is a cut elevation view illustrating assembly of a column to a foundation insert according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 13A is a front elevation view of a column and front access of a mailbox apparatus according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 13B is a rear elevation view of the column of FIG. 13A and rear access of the mailbox of FIG. 13B.

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a telescopic mailbox according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 15A is a plan view of the front housing of the mailbox of FIG. 14 according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 15B is a right-side view of the mailbox housing of FIG. 15A.

FIG. 16A is a plan view of the rear housing of the mailbox of FIG. 14 according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 16B is a right-side view of the mailbox housing of FIG. 16A.

FIG. 17A is a top view of a mailbox housing bottom panel according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 17B is an end view of the bottom panel of FIG. 17A.

FIG. 18A is a perspective view of a variable height adjustor according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 18B is a perspective view of a variable height adjustor according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 19 is a plan view of a column being adjusted for height using the variable height adjustment tool of FIGS. 18A according to a further embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 20 is a plan view of an assembled column 2000 according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The inventor provides a unique modular masonry-works system and method of manufacture and implementation of the same. The methods and apparatus of the present invention are described in enabling detail below.

FIG. 1 is an elevation view of a brickwork gating system 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Brickwork gating system 100 is a modular masonry-works system that may be manufactured and assembled in a large part off-site and that may be installed on-site requiring much less work and skill level than is normally required for on-site masonry construction.

In this embodiment, system 100 comprises a masonry column structure 101a, a masonry column structure 101b and supported gates 103a and 103b. Column structures, also referred to herein as columns 101a and 101b may be identical to one another in terms of materials and construction. Alternatively, there may be some structural differences between columns 101a and 101b without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention, such as implementation of mailbox features (not illustrated here) or the like, as well as, application of varying exterior masonry treatments. Moreover, columns may vary in shape according to alternate embodiments. Column 101a is rectangular in this embodiment but may be annular, pentagonal, hexagonal or octagonal without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

In this embodiment, columns 101a and 101b are materially, functionally, and aesthetically similar as might be the case for a gating system protecting an entryway to a private property for example. Column 101a is prefabricated in a manufacturing setting off site from the installation location and then assembled and anchored into position, as is column 101b.

Column 101a is illustrated herein with exterior portions thereof removed or broken away to further illustrate some internal components and structural support components of the column that otherwise would not be visible in illustration except for hidden line representation. One of these components is a cylindrical foundation insert 102a, which is provided and adapted to serve as an underground-level support anchor for securing column 101a into a vertical position and to provide some measure of vertical support thereto. Foundation insert 102a is, in a preferred embodiment, prefabricated in a manufacturing setting using a concrete mixture known to the inventor, which is poured and then allowed to set. Foundation insert 102a supports column 101a and a like foundation insert 102b supports column 101b. For the purpose of the specification, foundation inserts 102a and 102b may be identical to one another in material and construction and therefore description of one of these shall be inclusive of both components.

Foundation insert 102a has a solid anchoring rod 111, set therein in a substantially centered and vertical position. Anchor rod 111 may be provided as a stock iron or cold steel rod or of some other durable rod material. Support rod is threaded about the free end to a specified vertical dimension so that rod 111 may accept a threaded nut 112. In this embodiment, threaded rod 111 and nut 112 function to vertically secure or anchor column 101a and column base 113 to a leveled foundation medium and just above foundation insert 102a.

Column base 113 is provided and adapted as a durable base support of column 101a. Column 101b also includes base support 113. Base support 113 is, in a preferred embodiment, prefabricated off site using a concrete mixture known to the inventor, which is poured into a mold and allowed to set. The preferred method of manufacture of base 113 is molding. Base 113 is rectangular in shape in this example, but may also be molded according to a, pentagonal, hexagonal, octagonal, or even polygonal profile without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. A variety of known masonry styles and art may be incorporated into base 113 for aesthetic reasons.

Column 101a comprises, in this example, 4 prefabricated panels aligned, in this case, in a rectangular configuration and supported in the stated configuration by prefabricated metal collars 108, one at each vertical end of the configuration. Each prefabricated panel includes a pre-molded vertical column board 109 and brickwork 106. Column boards 109 are illustrated in this example both in side view and in front view as seen through broken view areas. Column boards 109 are pre-molded using a cement recipe known to the inventor, which is optimized in ingredients to provide maximum durable strength and minimum weight. In this example, there are 4 column boards 109 used in making a single column in rectangular configuration. However, 3 5, 6 or even 8 separate boards may be used depending on the number of planned sides of a column. More typically, columns may be 4-sided. In one embodiment, the column may be annular.

Collars 108 are rectangular, having 4 sides, and include a cross support or C-channel (not illustrated), which will be described in more detail later in this specification. The function of the collar 108 is to provide structural support for column boards 109 in their configuration, and to provide support for securing the configuration to base 113 in this example. More particularly, rod 111 extends upward through an opening in base 113 and through an opening in the cross support of collar 108. Nut 112 secures the column components to the ground. Column boards 109 are, in a preferred embodiment, aligned at their respective facing locations over collars 108 with the collars spaced apart at a predetermined distance. A strong epoxy is used in a preferred embodiment to secure each column board in place over collars 108. More detail regarding the assembly of the column configuration is provided latter in this specification.

Brickwork 106 may be any type of brick or masonry pattern using bricks, stones, and other known masonry products. In this example, brickwork 106 represents a popular brickwork pattern known to the inventor as the Robinson pattern. Likewise, most other brickwork designs and patterns can be applied. Brickwork 106 is laid over each column board 109 using a strong adhesive or epoxy followed by the application grout or mortar work 107 (column 101b). A difference in brickwork construction from prior art applications is that the brickwork is not vertically laid, but rather, is applied on a horizontal surface (column board) in prefabrication.

In a preferred embodiment each column board 109 is secured over collars 108 with a strong epoxy in turn and then brickwork or other masonry exterior is applied until an enclosed brickwork configuration or column is achieved. In one embodiment, boards 109 are also positionally aligned over collars 108 using a pin alignment method and are then bolted to respective collar faces at the respective pin-alignment locations. The column exterior, in this case brickwork 106, is applied in turn over each respective board face until a complete and modular column is achieved. The method relies on a special rotable fixture apparatus not illustrated here but described in detail later in this specification.

A column cap module 104 is provided as part of column 101a and is adapted to close off the column structure protecting its interior and to provide base support for artistic accessories and fixtures such as a molded aesthetic top piece 105a. Top pieces 105a and 105b (column 101b) can be molded artistic pieces, ceramic pieces, or other fixture types such as lighting apparatus. In one embodiment, support rod 111 may extend up through the center of the column and may be secured both at base 113 and at the collar on the opposite end adjacent to cap structure 104. An example of this is described in detail later in this specification.

Column boards 109 may be provided with openings placed there though to accept vertical gate support beams 110. Gate structures 103a and 103b are illustrated in this example and may be manufactured of aluminum or other durable metals. In this case, gate sections 103a and 103b are hinged at their junctions with gate support beams 110 (hinges not illustrated). In another application, a sliding gate system may be applied. Likewise, system 100 may support fencing rails of various materials and smaller columns that comprise a perimeter or boundary fencing system that may include the gating system. In other embodiments, columns may be provided for fencing only depending on customer preferences.

Columns 101a and 101b may be pre-manufactured to standard size requirements using a variety of column shapes. Larger columns may be used for gate support while smaller columns may be used to support fence rails. Likewise, custom column sizes may be ordered per job specifications.

One with skill in the art of masonry will appreciate that the support provided by collars 108 and column boards 109 is sufficient to handle the weight of standard gate structures and fencing rails without complicated internal re-barring or ballast-works. The column enclosure provides an exoskeleton style support that is sufficient for supporting the vertical weight of any standard brickwork or masonry facing. Additional vertical support may be supplied by rod 111 embedded into foundation insert 102a.

Installing system 100 is much simpler and requires less work than would be the case of traditional vertical masonry construction. The columns are pre-fabricated and trucked to the job-site where they may be placed into position over respective base and foundation insert assemblies by tractor, by crane, or by human operator. Gating apparatus, fencing rails, wiring, junction boxes, and other accessories can be assembled on-site after the columns are in place and secured. Then the modular, pre-fabricated caps and other top assemblies can be installed.

After system components are in place and accessories are installed grouting, caulking, and other edge-sealing operations can be performed with respect to blending facing component edges and the like. One with skill in the art, and at close visual range, would not be able to distinguish system 100 from a prior art masonry system built using standard on-site vertical masonry techniques including structural reinforcement and vertical brick or stone construction.

It will be apparent to one with skill in the art that the system of the present invention though described in the scope of exterior masonry applications may also be applied to interior applications where column type masonry may be applied. For example, many interior home designs include masonry columns that support, accent, or divide stairways, room boundaries, and interior room entryways. The system of the invention may be used in place of many interior masonry applications.

FIG. 2A is a top view of column support collar 108 used in column pre-manufacture according to an embodiment of the present invention. Collar 108 is manufactured of a durable metal such as plate steel. A typical plate thickness used for collar construction is 3/16 inches. A rectangular configuration is achieved in this example by welding 4 plates together. These are side plates 201a and 201b and end plates 200a and 200b. The actual dimensions for length and width of the collar may vary according to design. In one embodiment, a single steel plate may be bent around a form factor and then welded at the adjoining ends of the plate. There are many possible configurations.

In this example, collar 108 is square, having plates or sides of equal length. However, this is not required in order to practice the present invention. In other embodiments, other geometric configurations may be achieved using fewer or more than 4 plates and wherein plates may vary in planned length as required to achieve some planned dimensional characteristics of the configuration. The inventor illustrates a square configuration for simplicity of explanation only.

Collar 108 has a cross brace 202, also termed a “C”-channel or “U”-brace provided thereto and affixed, in this case, substantially centered and perpendicular to plates 201a and 201b. Brace 202 provides added structural support to collar 108 and also provides a mechanism for anchoring a complete column consisting of two collars, support boards, and brickwork to the base 113 described with reference to FIG. 1.

Brace 202 has an opening 203 provided there through at a strategic location substantially centered on the bottom face of the brace. Opening 203 is annular in this example and is of an inside diameter just large enough to accept the outside diameter of rod 111 described further above.

FIG. 2B is a bottom view of the column support collar 108 of FIG. 2A. In this view, brace 202 exhibits visible side plates 204a and 204b, which are illustrated via hidden lines in FIG. 2B. Side plates 204a and 204b complete the U configuration of brace 202. Brace 202 may be provided as a single sheet metal plate that is formed to achieve the U configuration. In this example brace 202 is welded along the edges of both ends of brace 202 and on both sides of the edges for strength. A nominal plate thickness for brace 202 may be in the range of 3/16 of an inch.

In assembly of a column, collars 108 (2 or more per column) are spaced apart with the bottom views facing each other in a mirrored configuration. Opening 203 also serves as a tail-positioning hole for one end of an assembly truck, which will be described in detail later in this specification.

FIG. 3A is a right-side view of column support collar 108 of FIG. 2A. Collar 108 viewed from the right or left exhibits an end view of installed brace 202 with opening 203 illustrated via hidden line in this example. As can be seen in this view, brace 202 is located in such a position as to be substantially flush to the top edge of collar 108. This is not specifically required, but enables a relief area beneath opening 203.

In one embodiment, board pin-alignment openings 204 (4 each) are provided for the purpose of facilitating alignment of support boards over the collar configuration. In this way boards may be bolted to collar 108 in addition to the use of epoxy for added strength and integrity of alignment. Openings corresponding to those openings 204 may be placed through column support boards 109 described with reference to FIG. 1 to facilitate this embodiment.

FIG. 3B is an end view of column support collar 108 of FIG. 2A. In this view brace 202 is illustrated in side view. Opening 203 and optional pin-alignment openings 204 are also illustrated via hidden line. The height of A collar 108 may vary according to design. Generally speaking, height A is no more than 3 inches, which is about the overall width of brace 202. However, in smaller applications height A may be 2 inches or less and brace 202 may have an overall width as small or smaller than 2 inches. Likewise, for larger columns above what may be considered standard, height dimension A may exceed 3 inches. Openings 204 have inside diameters large enough to accept alignment bolts of ½ inch to 1 inch in diameter depending on the application.

Collars 108 provide a strong exoskeleton support structure for boards 109 (FIG. 1) in formation of a column. The support collars and boards, which are lightweight and durably strong, provide maximum support for carrying the vertical weight of the brickwork applied over the boards. In this way, complicated internal support structuring and ballast works are not required. Collars 108 also provide a mechanism for enabling vertical handling and transport of finished columns using a crane apparatus to off-load them from assembly trucks for delivery to a site location whereupon a tractor crane apparatus can be used to lower them over installed base and foundation insert assemblies for installation.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view 400 of support collar and support board orientation in pre-manufacture of a modular brickwork column according to an embodiment of the present invention. Collars 108 are spaced apart with the open ends of the respective collar braces (202) facing each other in mirrored image. In practice of the manufacture method of the invention, the collars are actually spaced apart and positioned on an assembly truck the entire configuration elevated from ground level and in horizontal relationship to ground level. The assembly truck of the invention will be further described below.

It is also noted herein that the respective braces of collars 108 are positioned toward the facing surfaces of the collars so that space is left on the opposite sides to facilitate a spacer ring that may be included to provide sufficient spacing of the column when it is bolted to the base and foundation insert assembly during installation. In this way there is no torque pressure applied against the base of the column.

A column support board 109 is illustrated in perspective 400 as positioned in proper orientation against one side of collars 108. Board 109, in this case has an opening 403 provided therein and adapted to accept part of a unique mailbox housing that will be described later in this specification. Opening 403 may be provided during pouring of the board or may be placed through the board after it is poured and set. According to one embodiment described further above, alignment openings 204 are provided in collars 108 to correspond with openings 404 placed in boards 109. Openings 404 may be counter sunk on the exterior side of boards 109 to facilitate a recessed bolt that may be inserted through boards 109 and collar sides at the aligned position. A nut may be used to secure the alignment positions. The bolt heads would be sufficiently recessed in a preferred embodiment so that brickwork or other masonry exteriors may be applied over the alignment positions.

Epoxy 401 may be applied to the sides of collars 108 before placement and alignment of boards 109. A second board 109 is illustrated in a position to be aligned and adhered to collars 108. Epoxy may also be applied to the appropriate board face areas that will make contact with the collar sides.

The second illustrated board 109 takes position along the direction of the arrows. This board 109 has an array of openings 402 provided therein through molding or machine practice. Openings 402 are adapted to accept arms of a vertical gate support beam or likewise individual fencing rail ends. Brickwork, or other exterior masonry materials are worked around openings 403 and 402 during pre-manufacture to leave room for rail, beam and/or accessory installation after the columns have been located and anchored at a job-site.

Although not illustrated here, two additional boards 109 would be positioned and adhered to the two remaining sides of collars 108 in this configuration. These boards may or may not have openings placed therein. For example the board opposite the board including opening 403 will have an opening placed there through that corresponds to the other side of the mailbox application. If array 402 supports a gate structure, then the opposite board may not have any openings unless there are to be fencing rails on the opposite side of the column configuration. There are numerous possibilities. In preferred embodiments, all openings placed through the column for accepting rails and other ornate or functional apparatus are provided before brickwork or other masonry application to the exterior surfaces of the boards.

FIG. 5 is a cut view 500 of a brickwork implementation over a support board attached to a support collar according to an embodiment of the present invention. Cut view 500 illustrates a side of collar 108 coated with a strong and durable epoxy mix 401. Board 109 is adhered to the epoxy and may, in one embodiment, be coated with a layer of epoxy 401 on the exterior side before brickwork is applied. In this case, bricks 106 are laid in position over the epoxy layer on board 109 and mortar or grout 107 is placed in-between the individual bricks as is typical with brickwork.

What is substantially novel and different over the prior-art methodology of laying brick is that instead of vertically laying the brick and mortar from the ground up, the bricks are laid horizontally over the epoxy layer 401 on board 109 in a predetermined pattern for each side of the column. The inventor provides a unique assembly truck with a rotary apparatus to position and space the collars in such a configuration to accept the boards and masonry work the entire method leveraging a horizontal and rotable work plane. The assembly truck apparatus is described in more detail below.

FIG. 6 is an elevation view of a column-assembly truck 600 supporting a column 101 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Assembly truck 600 is adapted to provide a horizontal and rotable workspace for pre-manufacturing column 101. In addition, the workspace is adjustable to planned column length and peripheral dimensions. Assembly truck 600 has an extensible, wheeled base assembly including a rectangular tube 601 of a predetermined length that is seated into and affixed on one end to a dimensionally larger rectangular tube 605. Tube 601 may be inserted at opposite end in a telescopic manner into a larger rectangular tube 602. Tube 601 is of an outside height and width dimensioning just smaller than the inside height and width dimensioning of tubes 605 and 602 to allow for length extension or length diminishing of the truck.

In this embodiment, a lock pin 619 is provided on tube member 602 which may be a locking cotter style pin. An array of positioning holes 618 is provided linearly and equally spaced apart through the sidewall of tube 601. In this manner truck 600 may be extended or reduced in length and locked into the desired position.

Tube member 602 is affixed to a rectangular cross member 622 at the end opposite of the free end of the tube. The method of affix may be by bolt or weld or a combination of those. Cross member 622 may be a rectangular tube and serves as a base support for castor wheels 608 (one at each end). Tube members 601, 602, 605, and 622 may be aluminum stock tubing or steel tubing of stock dimensions, typically a ⅛ to 3/16-wall thickness. A right angle support plate 603 is provided and is affixed to tube members 602 and 622. Support plate 603 functions as structural support for a vertical arm 607. Vertical arm 607 may be a rectangular aluminum or steel tube structure of stock dimensioning similar to that described above.

Vertical arm 607 is cut through at cut line 617 to provide a hinged top portion 616 that may swing away from horizontal position (shown here) to a vertical position. A solid stop 620 is provided and affixed to arm 607 below cut line 617 on the back sidewall and is adapted to limit the swing distance of top portion 616 to substantially 90 degrees from horizontal. A tail pin assembly 609 is provided and welded to top portion 616.

Tail pin assembly 609 has a pin portion 615 welded thereto and adapted to fit snugly into opening (203) on cross brace (202) of column support collar 108 illustrated herein logically as part of column 101. Tail assembly 609 functions as a tail stop to substantially center collar 108 on that end of truck assembly 600 for board application. When a column is completely manufactured on truck assembly 600 it may be vertically swung to an upright position using hinged top portion 616, the weight of the column resting substantially on tail pin assembly 609 and solid stop 620. Stop 620 may be a rectangular tube section with an end plate welded to one end to form the stop surface.

On the opposite end of truck assembly 600, a cross member 621 is provided and adapted similarly as member 622 to support castor wheels 608 on that end. Likewise a vertical support plate 606 is provided in similar fashion as plate 603 and is adapted to structurally support a vertical arm 604 affixed thereto by weld, bolts or a combination of those. Tube member 605 is also braced in a substantially right angle position to vertical arm 604 via steel brace plates 619. Plates 619 may be bolted to tube member 605 and to vertical arm 604 as shown or they may be welded at the affixing locations in another embodiment. Plate 606 includes outward facing flanges in this embodiment that provide bolting locations for the purpose of rigidly positioning tube member 605 to vertical arm 604 and cross member 621.

A rotably activated collar positioning apparatus 610 is provided and mounted to the top end of vertical arm 604. Apparatus 610 is a tool designed to hold collar 108 on that side of assembly truck 600 and to enable rotation of the collar into a desired position for work. Apparatus 610 comprises 4 elongated collar-positioning rods 611, each strategically welded to vertical support arms that are slidably mounted to a back support plate and locked into position via bolt and nut method. Apparatus 610 is mounted via the back support plate to a freely rotable spindle (not illustrated) enclosed by a spindle housing 613. All of the supporting internal parts including bushings supporting free rotation of the spindle and therefore apparatus 610 are assumed present and enclosed within spindle housing 613.

A gearbox 612 including a crank handle is provided and is mounted to the opposite end of the rotary spindle enclosed within spindle housing 613. Gearbox 612 contains all of the required gears and hardware to enable rotation of apparatus 610 via the spindle enclosed within spindle housing 613 on a 4 to 1 or 8 to 1 ratio from crank handle to apparatus.

In practice of the pre-manufacture method of the present invention, a collar 108 is positioned over positioning rods 611, which are then adjusted to position (corner-to-corner) and then locked to secure collar 108. Crank handle 612 may be used to rotate collar 108 into a position for accepting a board. One side of the collar assuming parallelism with a horizontal work plane marks such a position. Apparatus 610 may then be locked to prevent further rotation or drift. At the opposite end of assembly truck 600 a collar 108 is placed over tail stop rod 615. The appropriate surfaces of the collars are then coated with an epoxy layer (401).

A first column support board (109) may then be aligned and positioned over the configuration. The second collar, which is freely rotable about rod 615 may be manually rotated to face against the column board and truck 600 may be adjusted to the proper length of the column and then locked using pin 619 inserted through the appropriate opening from array 618. Once the epoxy is set at both sides, apparatus 610 may be unlocked and then rotated to 90 degrees bringing the next collar side into a parallel relationship with the horizontal work plane for application of the next column board until all 4 column boards are in place and are adhered to the collars. In a preferred embodiment the outside edges of the column boards will assume a flush relationship with the outside edges of the collars.

Brickwork or other masonry exterior material may then be applied one side at a time to each exterior side of each column board until a complete column is fabricated. If, for an order, there are several like columns, then several assembly trucks 600 may be provided for mass production. In one embodiment, stone work may be applied to column board exteriors in place of brickwork. In still another embodiment stucco may be applied by spray application similar to the way vertical stucco walls are created. In yet a further embodiment, lattice brick work patterns made of wood plastic or other suitable materials may used to aid spacing and positioning of individual bricks or stones. Once the bricks are in place, the lattice may be removed and the remaining channels may be mortar filled.

After a column is fabricated and is ready for removal from truck 600, a crane apparatus is used to secure the collar on the side of apparatus 610 whereby the positioning pins may then be loosened or dismantled. Wheel locks provided to wheels 608 may be activated to prevent truck 600 from rolling during this operation. The column may then, with the aid of a crane, be swung to vertical resting on tail stop assembly 609 and stop 620. The crane may then lift the column and secure it to a vehicle for delivery to a job-site. The method of pre-manufacture of columns saves much time and expense that would normally be incurred with typical on-site masonry construction techniques. In one embodiment, such as one where stucco is applied, semi-automation may be provided by mechanizing the rotation of apparatus 610 and moving the assembly truck, with column boards mounted, through an automated spraying system, which may be used to apply the stucco material.

FIG. 7 is a partial perspective view 700 of collar-positioning apparatus 610 of column assembly truck 600 of FIG. 6. In this more detailed perspective 700, apparatus 610 is illustrated as supported by a back plate 704, which in turn is mounted to a spindle (not illustrated) contained within spindle housing 613. Rods 611 have shoulders, which may be used to stop collar (108) with respect to rearward abutment. In this example, rods 611 are manually adjusted to position to hold to a particular size collar used to support a column. Adjustment is manual using slotted arms 705 welded to the rods. By loosening and then tightening the associated nuts, rods 611 may be positioned to hold the collar by the corners, the collar abutted against the rod shoulders. Many differing sizes of collars may be supported by apparatus 610 including those that have a rectangular rather than a square configuration. Apparatus 610 may also be modified to support collars having more or fewer than 4 sides without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Gearbox 612 includes a vertical gear housing 703 and a horizontal gear housing 702. A crank handle 701 is connected to gear assemblies within housing 702, which in turn connect to gear assemblies within housing 703 to provide a manual rotation of a desired ratio (crank rotation to spindle rotation) to the spindle contained within spindle housing 613 mounted to back plate 704. Therefore, turning crank handle in the general direction of the associated arrow causes apparatus 610 to turn in the direction of the associated arrows to properly position collar 108 for board application and to properly position a column board configuration for masonry application.

The weight of apparatus 610, including geared components 612 is supported vertically by plate 606 and brackets 619. In this way, assembly truck 600 is structurally reinforced to handle the weight of a full column with finished brick or stonework.

FIG. 8 is a partial perspective view 800 of collar tailstock portion 609 of column assembly truck 600 of FIG. 6. Perspective 800 illustrated the welded position of tail pin 615 though an opening placed strategically through top portion 616 of vertical arm 607. In this position top portion 616 is rotated 90 degrees or thereabouts from horizontal and is prevented from further swing out by rigid stop 620 welded to arm 607 by weld 802. A hinge 801 is welded to the rear side of portion 616 and to the front side of arm 607 via welds 804 and 803. This vertical swing mechanism provides a convenient way to remove a finished column by crane from its horizontal mounted position on the assembly truck.

FIG. 9 is a partial broken view 900 of column 101 of FIG. 1 illustrating installation of gate support beam 110a according to an embodiment of the present invention. In view 900, column 101 has an area of brickwork and column board removed to reveal installation wings 901 provided as a contiguous part of gate support beam 110a. Installation wings 901 are perpendicular in orientation to beam 110a and may be formed of the same material. Wings 901 may be separate pieces welded or otherwise rigidly installed to beam 110a via nut and bolt.

In this example of installation, beam 110a is brought flush to the exterior of column 101 with wings 901 inserted through provided cutouts analogous to cutouts 402 described further above with reference to FIG. 4 of this specification. Each wing 901 has an opening placed vertically there through to an edge location just inside the beam-facing column board 109. The openings shall be in alignment with one another and having a substantially same vertical axis through all wings 901. An elongated positioning rod 902 is provided in this example and is placed through the top of the column with the cap off through each of the vertical openings of wings 901. The openings are just large enough in diameter to accept rod 902 in a snug fashion.

The edge proximity of the wing openings to the inside wall of column board 109 provides for a tight installation preventing beam 110a from pulling away from the exterior of column 101 under the weight of gate structure 103a. Rod 902 has a bent portion to prevent slippage downward and through the openings. Rod 902 may be removed by first removing the column cap to gain access, therefore, gate structures may be removed and replaced. In one embodiment, fence rails are installed in the same fashion whereby the fence rail ends have vertical openings placed there through at a strategic location and adapted dimensionally to accept a rod analogous to rod 902. In this way fence rails may be removed and replaced by removing cap modules from adjacent columns and pulling rods 902 releasing the rails for removal from the columns.

In one embodiment of the present invention, rails and gate support beams may be modified on insert able ends with spring-activated snap-in utilities. In this embodiment snap housings may be provided and mounted within cutout openings such that when the rail end or beam wings are pressed through the column cutouts they at some point snap into place. Likewise there are many other mechanisms, which may be provided and adapted to facilitate installation of rails and gate support beams to finished columns. The inventor illustrates a simple rod locking method as just one example of facilitating installation of rails and gate structures to columns.

FIG. 10A is a top view of support base 113 of FIG. 1 including a spacer ring 1003 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Support base 113 is dimensionally square in this example, but may be manufactured to virtually any geometric configuration or artistic shape. Base 113 supports finished columns in the field and is placed over a leveled foundation above a foundation insert or anchor analogous to foundation insert 102a of FIG. 1 for example. Base 113 has a through opening 1000 provided therein and substantially centered with respect to periphery to facilitate the upright threaded rod (111) of the insert. A typical dimension for opening 1000 may be just larger than 1 and ¼ inches to accommodate the standard rod dimension used, however it may be larger or smaller in size depending on application and design.

Base 113 also has an alignment recess 1002 provided therein and located substantially centered on base 113 sharing the same center point as opening 1000. Alignment recess 1002 is provided for the purpose of seating a separate spacer ring 1003 (illustrated to right), which has the same sized opening as opening 1000 placed there through. Alignment recess 1002 is of an inside diameter just larger than the outside diameter of spacer ring 1003. Spacer ring 1003 is of a thickness dimension substantially larger than the depth of alignment recess 1002.

In one embodiment, spacer 1003 may be molded contiguously with base 113. In this example it is provided separately for convenience in molding. The purpose of ring 1003 is to function as a spacer between the top surface of base 113 and cross brace (202) of column support collar (108) described further above. In this way, the bottom edges of columns including collar, board, and brick or other masonry edges can be spaced just above the top surface of base 113 and the perimeter may be mortared or caulked when the column is positioned in place over base 113 and anchored.

FIG. 10B is a bottom view of support base 113 of FIG. 10A. The bottom side of base 113 is substantially flat with no features. This is because base 113 is placed over a leveled area of poured foundation medium such as concrete or other leveled media.

FIG. 10C is a cut view of support base 113 of FIG. 10A taken along cut line AA. In this view opening 1000 and alignment recess 1002 are illustrated in cut view. Base 113 may conform to many different artistic forms including those known to architectural styles. Base 113 is pre-manufactured as was described further above and then placed over a level foundation including a foundation insert or anchor with threaded rod analogous to foundation insert 102a. The anchor rod analogous to rod 111 of FIG. 1 extends up through opening 1000, ring 1003 and through the opening (203) placed in cross brace (202) in collar (108).

FIG. 11A is a top view of column cap 104 of FIG. 1 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Column cap 104 has an opening 1100 provided there through and adapted as a conduit for electrical hardware that may be required to provide electricity to a lighting fixture place on top of cap 104. A typical dimension for opening 1100 is 5 inches in diameter, however this dimension may be larger or smaller depending upon application and design.

In this example, cap 104 also has an alignment recess 1101 provided therein and adapted to seat a top ornate feature such as a light fixture or a molded, ornate top piece having an annular base in this case, just smaller in diameter than recess 1101. Recess 1101 is substantially centered on cap 104 and shares the same center point as opening 1100. Cap 104, like base 113 described further above is, in a preferred embodiment, pre-manufactures and transported to the job-site along with columns, bases, rails, gates, foundation inserts, and so on. Like base 113, cap 104 may be provided according to many different standard and contemporary forms known to architecture. Likewise, cap 104 may be rectangular instead of square, or it may be provided of some other geometric configuration.

FIG. 11B is a bottom view of column cap 104 of FIG. 11A including a spacer ring 1104 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Cap 104, in this embodiment, has a bottom recess 1102 provided therein and adapted as a seat for spacer ring 1104 (illustrated at right). Recess 1102 is an alignment recess and seats spacer ring 1104 in the same fashion and for a similar purpose as was described above with respect to recess 1002 and ring 1003 of FIG. 10A. Cap 104 uses a spacer to elevate it over the common upper edges of the finished column including the collar edges, the board edges, and the masonry edges, which typically lay in the same plane. Spacer ring 1104 provides spacing between the cross brace of collar 108 and the bottom edge of cap 104. Otherwise, cap 104 may not sit level if allowed to rest directly upon the column edges. Mortar or caulking may be used to fill and seal a perimeter gap between the bottom surface of cap 104 and the column edges.

FIG. 11C is a cut view of column cap 104 of FIG. 11A taken along the cut line BB. This view of cap 104 illustrates side profiles of the features 1100, 1101, and 1102. Cap 104 has an extra step molded therein, which provides some ascetic appeal in building up to an ornate top such as a ceramic or molded top piece or an ornate lighting fixture. It is noted herein that the inventor provides molded ornate top fixtures that fit in an aligned fashion on top of cap 104 using the alignment recess 1101 adapted for the purpose.

FIG. 12 is a cut-elevation view 1200 illustrating assembly of a column to a foundation insert according to one embodiment of the present invention. View 1200 illustrates one embodiment of column anchoring wherein both base and cap structures may be secured to an anchor 102 and foundation 1202.

Ground 1201 is prepared to accept foundation insert 102 in a substantially upright position. Concrete or other suitable foundation material may be used to prepare an area to accept and seat insert 102. A foundation area 1202 is then poured over the top of insert 102 and around insert 102 to an area sufficient to cover the bottom of base structure 113. Area 1202 is leveled using conventional method. When area 1202 is sufficiently set, anchoring rod 111 protrudes up through the foundation to an extent as to pass through base 113, spacer 1003 and collar brace 202.

After placing base 113 and spacer ring 1003 into position, a finished masonry column, including collars 108, boards 109, and brickwork or masonry exterior 106 may be anchored to base 113. A threaded extension nut 1202 is provided in this embodiment and used to secure the column by threading the nut over rod 111 to secure the column to ground via collar brace structure 202, spacer 1003, and base 113. This action initially secures the column to ground over base 113 with spacer 1003 bearing the brunt of the weight. A special ratcheting tool with a sufficiently long extension handle is provided and used by installation personnel to anchor columns to base assemblies performing the process before ornate tops or lighting fixtures are installed.

An additional threaded extension rod 1205 may then be provided in one embodiment and adapted for threading into the upward facing threads of extension nut 1202. Likewise, an additional extension nut 1203 may be provided and may be threaded onto the free end of rod 1205. An additional rod 1206 may be provided to complete the extension up through the upper collar 108 through brace 202, spacer 1104 and cap 104. Spacers 1003 and 1104 may be identical pieces in this example. The exact number of extension rods and extension nuts may vary according to application and design. In one embodiment, only one extension rod extending the appropriate length through the column is provided and the only extension nut required is nut 1202.

In this example, the extension rods threaded together extend to a position just above the upper alignment recess of cap 104. A large diameter washer having an outside diameter exceeding the center opening of cap 104 may then be placed over the extension rod 1206 and nut 112 may be threaded on and tightened to a predetermined torque thereby securing the entire column structure to ground. An ornate top piece may then be placed into the upper recess of cap 104 around nut 112 and the provided washer, the ornate top having a base somewhat hollowed or recessed for the purpose. Epoxy may then be used to seal the ornate top piece to cap 104. Likewise, mortar, caulking or other sealing materials may be used to fill in any gaps between column edges and base 113 as well as cap 104.

In still a further embodiment, rod 111 may be provided in a length that strategically exceeds the length of the column obfuscating the requirement for extension rods or extension nuts. However, placing the column structure of such a length of rod would be more difficult. Extension rods may be pre-cut and threaded according to job requirement in planned lengths and numbers so that assembly thereof through a column results in the proper extension of the collective rods to facilitate anchoring capability.

In one embodiment of the present invention, rod 1206 extends to a point just above cross brace 202 of collar 108, but not beyond modular cap 104. In this embodiment, the column is anchored via both collars to add structural rigidity to the column but the cap is not physically anchored. To secure cap 104 to the column structure, epoxy and gap sealing such as mortar or other caulking or sealing materials may be used. These techniques are also employed in the embodiment wherein anchoring extends to cap 104 to add further rigidity and to cosmetically seal any gaps existing between the bottom surface of cap 104 and the upper surfaces of the column including the collar, board and brickwork or other masonry surfaces.

One with skill in the art of masonry construction will appreciate that the column anchoring method and apparatus of the present invention combined with the structural strength of the column facilitated by the collars and column boards provides substantial rigidity against wind, ground shifting, flood waters, or other natural whether phenomenon. As described further above, a special ratcheting wrench may be provided to apply a pre-determined tightening torque to extension nut 1202 and cap 112 in the field.

FIG. 13A is an elevation view of a column 101 including a front mailbox drop interface 1301 of a mailbox apparatus according to an embodiment of the present invention. The inventor provides a novel mailbox apparatus that may be telescopically mounted to a masonry column. The application can be mounted successfully to columns that vary in outside dimensioning. The unique mailbox apparatus is described in enabling detail in following examples. Column 101 in this example illustrates mailbox drop interface 1301 installed and in place to accept mail (front access door visible). Prior to installation of mailbox drop interface 1301 an opening adapted for the purpose of accepting and supporting interface 1301 and associated mailbox housing (not visible) is provided through the appropriate column board at the appropriate location before the masonry column is assembled in pre-manufacturing.

FIG. 13B is an elevation view of column 101 of FIG. 13A including a rear mailbox access interface 1302 of a mailbox apparatus according to an embodiment of the present invention. Rear mailbox access interface 1302 is illustrated in this example as installed to column 101 and in place for a user to retrieve mail (rear access door visible).

With respect to both FIGS. 13A and 13B, front mailbox drop interface 1301 is, in a preferred embodiment, telescopically connected to rear mailbox access interface 1302 forming the complete mailbox apparatus including the visible interfaces and column-internal housing structure. The unique telescopic function provided to the mailbox apparatus of the invention enables application of the mailbox to columns of differing sizes. More detail about the mailbox application is provided below.

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a mailbox assembly 1400 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Mailbox 1400 includes front drop interface 1301 and rear access interface 1302. Rear access interface includes a rear faceplate 1403. In this view a rear access door is not visible but assumed to be present. Interface 1302 is in a preferred embodiment, die-cast of zinc, but may, in other embodiments, be provided in other durable or aesthetic materials such as aluminum, sheet metal, durable polymer, graphite, wood, and so on. Front drop interface 1301 includes a front faceplate 1404 and a mail drop door 1406. In one embodiment, door 1406 is hinged for horizontal or vertical opening, and may include ornate handle apparatus adapted for the purpose. Likewise, there may be, instead of an operable door, a simple mail slot instead or a sliding mail door. There are many possibilities. Faceplate 1404 is provided to aesthetically dress the front access portion of mail box 1400 and may include signage and other artistic renderings. Faceplate 1404 may be manufactured of die-cast zinc, aluminum, durable plastic, graphite, sheet metal, wood, or any other ordered material of aesthetic value. Likewise, mail drop door 1406 may be manufactured of die-cast zinc, aluminum, durable plastic, graphite, sheet metal, wood, or any other ordered material of aesthetic value.

Mailbox 1400 includes a front housing or box portion 1402 adapted to support front drop interface 1301 and to interface with a rear housing or box potion 1401. In this case box portions 1402 and 1401 assume a rectangular configuration and both are three-sided including a top and two sides. Bottom shelves (not illustrated) are provided to complete box portions 1401 and 1402 and are described in detail further below. Housings 1401 and 1402 are aluminum in a preferred embodiment, but may also be provided in other materials like steel, graphite, sheet metal, or a durable polymer without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Wall thickness is, in a preferred embodiment, uniform for both housings and may be 1/16 to 3/16 of an inch thick. Other thickness dimensions larger than 3/16 may apply without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. The actual wall thickness provided depends on application and design.

Box 1402 has an outside height dimension D, which is held just smaller than an inside height dimension F of rear box 1401. Front box 1402 has an outside width dimension C, which is held just smaller than an inside width dimension E of rear box 1401. This enables front housing 1402 to be telescopically fitted to rear housing 1401 so that the two housings may be slidably operated in telescopic fashion. The overall length dimensions of both front housing 1402 and rear housing 1401 are provided such that they overlap each other when mailbox 1400 is installed to a position at maximum extension for a standard large masonry column. Application to smaller standard masonry columns is achieved by telescoping the assembly to the appropriate combined length to fit a particular column. In this case mailbox 1400 may have standard telescopic positions marked thereon the respective housings 1401 and 1402 or, mechanically incorporated into the assembly so that the box may be telescopically adjusted to provided standard lock positions to fit the various column sizes.

Front housing 1402 has a back insert 1405 provided thereto and set a measurable distance to the rear of front interface plate 1301, said distance substantially equaling or just greater than the combined thickness of the column board and external masonry of the column accepting the mailbox application. In this case, hosing 1402 may be installed from the internal side of the supporting column with front mail drop interface 1301 not installed until after the housing is in place. Front portion 1301 may be installed from the external side of the column.

Rear access interface 1302 has a flange portion 1403 provided thereto and adapted to seat against the masonry work on the back wall of the column, the housing portion 1401 supported within the column itself. Flange portion 1403 has, in a preferred embodiment, a rear access door adapted with a locking mechanism such as a keyed entry lock. Housing 1401 may be installed from the external side of the supporting column wall because of a uniform rectangular shape.

In one embodiment, flange portions 1404 and 1403 may be inset in installation such that they are brought flush against bare column board. In this case, masonry application such as brickwork is set away from the column openings to accommodate the flange overlap dimensions. There are many possibilities.

FIG. 15A is a plan view of front access box portion 1402 of FIG. 14 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Box portion 1402 is illustrated in this example without front mail drop interface 1301. Housing 1402 has open areas 1501 defined therein by a horizontal mail shelf 1503 provided thereto and installed affixed to the inside walls of housing 1402. Downward facing flanges 1504 are provided on both ends of shelf 1503 to provide installation taping locations, in a preferred embodiment, for taping shelf 1503 into position inside housing 1402. In an alternate embodiment, shelf 1503 may be installed by rivet, weld, glue, nut and screw, or other known methods of installation. Shelf 1503 may be aluminum sheet in a preferred embodiment. In other embodiments stainless steel or sheet metal, graphite, or durable polymer sheeting may be used. Housing 1402 is characterized by a three-sided rectangular configuration defined by wall 1502 that is, in this example, bent to form the three contiguous sides. In this case, inward facing flanges 1506 are provided at the bottom of housing 1402 on both left and right sides and are adapted to accept and position a bottom shelf 1507.

Housing 1402 includes back insert 1405, which has rear outward-facing flanges 1509 provided strategically thereto on both left and right sides for the purpose of enabling tape installation of the insert to main housing 1402. Back insert 1405 may also, in other embodiments, be installed to housing 1402 by weld or by some other known fastening method such as tab-insert, nut and screw, or by other means. Insert 1405 is aluminum in a preferred embodiment and may be of the same wall thickness as housing 1402. Bottom shelf 1507, hidden in this view by insert 1405, has a plurality of raised and elongated ribs 1508 formed therein as well as a pattern of small openings (not illustrated here) to help keep housing 1402 and contents dry in humid or wet weather. Bottom shelf 1507 may be installed to housing 1402 over holding flanges 1506 from the rear side of housing 1402.

Shelf 1503, insert 1405, and shelf 1507 are all installed to front housing 1402 using industrial VHB tape in a preferred embodiment, however as described further above, there are other methods of installation that may be used without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

FIG. 15B is a right-side view of front housing 1402 of FIG. 15A. In this view, shelf 1503 with downward positioned flanges 1504 is represented in side view by hidden line. In one embodiment, shelf 1503 may be extended forward to the front of housing 1402. Likewise, back insert 1405 with rear-positioned flanges 1509 is represented in side view by hidden line. Shelf 1507 forms the bottom of enclosure 1402 and raised, elongated ribs 1508 are represented in side view by hidden line.

FIG. 16A is a plan view of rear housing 1401 of mailbox 1400 of FIG. 14 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Housing 1401 is a three-sided rectangular configuration defined by walls 1601 including a top wall and two sidewalls formed contiguously in a preferred embodiment from aluminum sheet. As described above for housing 1402, other materials may also be used in manufacture of housing 1402. In this configuration, housing 1401 is completely open and rear access interface 1302 is not illustrated.

Housing 1401 has inward facing flanges 1604, provided on the bottoms of both sidewalls and adapted for the purpose of accepting a shelf 1603 having a pattern of elongated and raised ribs 1605 formed therein. Shelf 1603 is analogous in form and purpose to shelf 1507 described with respect to housing 1402 above. In this case, shelf 1603 may be installed to housing 1401 from either the front or backside of the housing. VHB industrial tape is used in a preferred embodiment, to secure shelf 1603 in place.

FIG. 16B is a right-side view of mailbox housing 1401 of FIG. 16A. In this view, shelf 1603, including raised ribs 1605 are represented in side view. Perforations, or openings (not illustrated) are provided through shelf 1603 in a pattern and are adapted in conjunction with ribs 1605 to keep the interior and contents of mailbox 1400 dry in humid or wet weather.

FIG. 17A is a top view of a mailbox housing bottom shelf according to an embodiment of the present invention. Shelf 1603 is, in a preferred embodiment, manufactured of 0.032-inch thick aluminum sheet. Other thickness dimensions may also be used. Shelf 1603 is installed to housing 1401, but is also analogous in form and configuration to shelf 1507 described with reference to FIGS. 15A and 15B above. Therefore, raised ribs 1605 are analogous to ribs 1508 also described above. Perforations or openings 1702 are set in pattern in between ribs 1605 analogous to the configuration of ribs and perforations in shelf 1507.

The only difference between shelves 1507 (housing 1402) and 1605 (housing 1402) is the overall dimensioning with respect to height and width. For example, height E and width D may vary accordingly whether the shelf is shelf 1507 or 1603. The functions, rib and perforation pattern of both parts are identical.

FIG. 17B is an end view of bottom shelf 1605 of FIG. 17A. In this view, ribs 1605 are represented in raised position and perforations are represented in hidden line. In assembly of housings 1401 to 1402, the respective bottom shelves may overlap one another to an extent of telescopic positioning required to adjust a mailbox to a particular column.

One with skill in the art of masonry will recognize that the mailbox apparatus of the present invention may be applied to a range of differing size columns by simply adjusting telescopically to the required depth of the supporting column.

According to one aspect of the present invention, columns with or without bases may be height-adjusted on-site using a variable height adjustment tool provided and adapted for the purpose.

FIG. 18A is a perspective view of a variable height adjustor 1800 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Adjustor 1800 includes a solid platform 1801. Platform 1801 has a substantially square profile and may be manufactured from a durable plate material such as steel, aluminum, or the like. Platform 1801 may also be made from a durable and rigid polymer. In still another embodiment, platform 1801 may be molded from the same material as the column boards or even from the material used to mold the base and top portions.

Platform 1801 has a threaded opening placed there through and adapted to accept a solid and threaded anchor rod 1802, which may be considered analogous, in one embodiment, to anchor rod 111 described with reference to FIGS. 1 and 12 above. In the later cases whereby platform 1801 is molded, the threading may be accomplished via installing a threaded insert into the opening in the platform using a press fitting method. The just-described threaded opening is strategically placed substantially at true center of platform 1801 such that the centerline of the opening is orthogonal to the surface of platform 1801. Moreover, in threaded position about the anchor rod, platform 1801 and anchor rod 1802 retain a substantially orthogonal position related to each other.

FIG. 18B is a perspective view of a variable height adjustor 1803 according to another embodiment of the present invention. Adjustor 1803 is virtually the same in description as adjustor 1800 described above except for a solid platform 1804, which, in this case, is annular instead of rectangular. Other shapes may be incorporated herein as well.

Variable height adjustors 1800 or 1803 may be used in a column assembly to help level the column and to help adjust the column to a proper height with respect to adjacent columns or other features considered. Platforms 1801 or 1804 come flush against the bottom portion of a column and are left in the installation where they are used. Not all columns of a system will require variable height adjustment in the field. The exact requirement will depend in part on the application.

FIG. 19 is a plan view of a column 1900 being adjusted for height using the variable height adjustment tool of FIG. 18A according to a further embodiment of the present invention. Column 1900 is not installed over a base portion in this example. Instead, a base layer is prepared and has been allowed to set presenting a reasonably firm surface 1901. Also in this embodiment, platform 1801 has a plurality of adjustable feet 1902 1-n, which consist of threaded rods or bolts that engage additional threaded openings in platform 1801 adapted for the purpose. There may be 3, 4, or more feet 1902 such that may be required for adjustable leveling of platform 1801 in a substantially parallel position above firm surface 1901. Therefore a gap or fill space of determined distance may be created and filled with additional materials to form a solid base beneath column 1900 set at a desired elevation. It is noted herein that a column may be adjustably elevated in the fashion described whether the column has a base portion or not.

According to another embodiment of the invention two or more column sections may be placed one above the other to form a longer column without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

FIG. 20 is a plan view of an assembled column 2000 according to an embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment there are two column sections, section 2001, and section 2003. One of the sections is provided with a collar 2002 exposed beyond the edge of the brick or masonry and column board. In this case, section 2001 has no end collar attached, or has a short collar placed further inside the section allowing the column board and brick or masonry edges to extend past the collar edge.

In practice of installation, exposed faces of collar 2002 are plied with fast-setting adhesive or epoxy and section 2001 is placed over section 2003 such that the inner faces of the column boards of section 2001 on the assembly end make adhesive contact with the outer faces of collar 2002. In this way, longer columns may be installed in the field using a series of column sections of predetermined length.

In one embodiment, truck assembly 600 described further above may be adapted for assembling two column sections to form a longer column. The sections may be assembled during pre-masonry or post masonry application.

The methods and apparatus of the present invention may be used to simulate real masonry columns used in gating systems and fencing systems and combinations of those. Moreover the methods and apparatus of the invention may also be used in some interior design applications without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

The spirit and scope of the present invention shall be limited only by the following claims.