Title:
Carrier for jigsaw puzzle
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A carrier for use with a jigsaw puzzle that includes an outer cover repositionable between closed and open positions and having first and second flaps. A sidewall structure extends about a substantial portion of the first and second flaps. The carrier also includes an assembly panel and at least one sorting panel. Registration of alignment surfaces on the assembly and sorting panels positions the sorting panel relative to the assembly panel whereby puzzle pieces on the assembly panel are engaged between the assembly and sorting panels. When the outer cover is open, the assembly and sorting panels are positionable in a side-by-side configuration within the sidewall structure. When the outer cover closed, a first portion of the puzzle pieces are securely engageable between assembly and sorting panels and a second portion of the puzzle pieces are securely engageable between the sorting panel and one of the flaps.



Inventors:
Biglands, David G. (Fort Wayne, IN, US)
Application Number:
12/069334
Publication Date:
08/13/2009
Filing Date:
02/08/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
273/157R
International Classes:
B65D85/07; A63F9/10
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
QUEST, DENE JASON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LAW OFFICES OF BRIAN C. PAULS (919 SOUTH HARRISON STREET, SUITE 320, FORT WAYNE, IN, 46802, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A carrier for use with a jigsaw puzzle having a plurality of jigsaw puzzle pieces defining a puzzle thickness, said carrier comprising: an outer cover having first and second flaps, said outer cover being repositionable between a closed configuration and an open configuration, said first and second flaps being substantially disposed in a common plane when said outer cover is in said open configuration, said outer cover further including a sidewall structure extending about a substantial portion of an outer perimeter of each of said first and second flaps and wherein, when said outer cover is in said open configuration, said sidewall structure projects in a common direction from said first and second flaps; an assembly panel, said assembly panel defining a substantially planar assembly surface and having a first alignment surface; at least one sorting panel, said at least one sorting panel defining a substantially planar sorting surface and having a second alignment surface, registration of said first and second alignment surfaces overlayingly positioning said at least one sorting panel relative to said assembly panel whereby puzzle pieces positioned on said assembly surface are engaged between said assembly surface and said at least one sorting panel; wherein, when said outer cover is in said open configuration, said assembly panel and said at least one sorting panel are positionable in a side-by-side configuration within an area bounded by said sidewall structure; and wherein, when said outer cover is in said closed configuration, said assembly panel, said at least one sorting panel and the plurality of puzzle pieces are enclosable within said outer cover between said first and second flaps with said first and second alignment surfaces being in registration and a first portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces being securely engageable between said assembly surface and said at least one sorting panel and a second portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces being securely engageable between said sorting surface and one of said first and second flaps.

2. The carrier of claim 1 wherein when said outer cover is positioned in said open configuration, said assembly panel and said assembly panel and said at least one sorting panel substantially fill the entirety of said area bounded by said sidewall structure when said assembly panel and said at least one sorting panel are positioned in said side-by-side configuration.

3. The carrier of claim 2 wherein said at least one sorting panel comprises two sorting panels, each of said sorting panels having a sorting surface defining an area that is approximately one half of an area defined by said assembly surface.

4. The carrier of claim 1 wherein one of said first and second flaps has an inward facing surface defined by a layer of compressible material, said layer of compressible material being engageable with said second portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces disposed on said sorting surface when said outer cover is in said closed configuration enclosing said assembly panel, said at least one sorting panel and the plurality of puzzle pieces.

5. The carrier of claim 1 wherein each of said at least one sorting panels further comprises a layer of compressible material disposed opposite said sorting surface and engageable with said first portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces disposed on said assembly surface when said first and second alignment surfaces are in registration.

6. The carrier of claim 5 wherein one of said first and second flaps has an inward facing surface defined by a second layer of compressible material, said second layer of compressible material being engageable with said second portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces disposed on said sorting surface when said outer cover is in said closed configuration enclosing said assembly panel, said at least one sorting panel and the plurality of puzzle pieces and wherein said layer of compressible material disposed on each of said sorting panels and said second layer of compressible material each define a compressible layer thickness that is less than the puzzle thickness.

7. The carrier of claim 1 wherein one of said first and second alignment surfaces is disposed on a projecting alignment member and the other of said first and second alignment surfaces defines a panel void shaped to receive said alignment member.

8. The carrier of claim 7 wherein registration of said first and second alignment surfaces aligns said at least one sorting panel within a plane substantially parallel to said assembly surface while allowing relative movement between said at least one sorting panel and said assembly panel in a direction substantially perpendicular to said assembly surface.

9. The carrier of claim 1 wherein said first alignment surface comprises a plurality of first alignment surfaces, said assembly panel including at least four projecting alignment members, each of said alignment members being positioned proximate a corner of said assembly panel and defining at least one of said plurality of first alignment surfaces; and wherein said second alignment surface comprises a plurality of second alignment surfaces and said at least one sorting panel comprises two sorting panels, each of said sorting panels defining four corners, each of said sorting panels further including at least two panel voids, each of said panel voids being positioned proximate a first pair said four corners and wherein each of said panel voids is defined by at least one of said second alignment surfaces and is shaped to receive a corresponding one of said alignment members.

10. The carrier of claim 9 wherein said each of said panel voids is formed by a notch in an edge of a respective one of said sorting panels, said notches partially circumscribing said alignment members when said respective first and second alignment surfaces are in registration, each of said sorting panels further comprising an alignment edge extending between a second pair of said four corners wherein when each of said first and second alignment surfaces are in registration, said alignment edges are mutually adjacently positioned and inhibit disengagement of said notches and said alignment members.

11. The carrier of claim 1 further comprising at least one lower spacer element, said at least one sorting panel defining a substantially planar engagement surface disposed opposite said sorting surface, said engagement surface being engageable with the first portion of puzzle pieces located on said assembly surface when said first and second alignment surfaces are in registration, and wherein said lower spacer element is operably disposed between said assembly panel and said at least one sorting panel wherein, when said first and second alignment surfaces are in registration, said at least one lower spacer element spaces said engagement surface from said assembly surface in the absence of puzzle pieces located on said assembly surface.

12. The carrier of claim 1 further comprising at least one upper spacer element and wherein one of said first and second flaps has an inward facing surface that is engageable with the second portion of puzzle pieces located on said sorting surface when said outer cover is in said closed configuration and encloses said assembly panel, said at least one sorting panel and the plurality of puzzle pieces, and wherein said upper spacer element is operably disposed between said inward facing surface and said sorting panel wherein, when said outer cover is in said closed configuration and encloses said assembly panel and said at least one sorting panel, said at least one upper spacer element spaces said sorting surface from said inward facing surface in the absence of puzzle pieces located on said sorting surface.

13. The carrier of claim 12 further comprising at least one lower spacer element, said at least one sorting panel defining a substantially planar engagement surface disposed opposite said sorting surface, said engagement surface being engageable with the first portion of puzzle pieces located on said assembly surface when said first and second alignment surfaces are in registration, and wherein said lower spacer element is operably disposed between said assembly panel and said at least one sorting panel wherein, when said first and second alignment surfaces are in registration, said at least one lower spacer element spaces said engagement surface from said assembly surface in the absence of puzzle pieces located on said assembly surface; and wherein said at least one lower spacer element spaces said engagement surface from said assembly surface by a first distance and said at least one upper spacer element spaces said sorting surface from said inward facing surface by a second distance, each of said first and second distances being at least about 50% of the puzzle thickness and no greater than said puzzle thickness and wherein said carrier is adapted to hold puzzle pieces having a nominal thickness of ¼ inch.

14. A carrier for use with a jigsaw puzzle having a plurality of jigsaw puzzle pieces defining a puzzle thickness, said carrier comprising: an outer cover having first and second flaps, said outer cover being repositionable between a closed configuration and an open configuration, said first and second flaps being substantially disposed in a common plane when said outer cover is in said open configuration, said outer cover further including a sidewall structure extending about a substantial portion of an outer perimeter of each of said first and second flaps and wherein, when said outer cover is in said open configuration, said sidewall structure projects in a common direction from said first and second flaps; an assembly panel, said assembly panel defining a substantially planar assembly surface and having a plurality of projecting alignment members; first and second sorting panels, each of said first and second sorting panels defining a substantially planar sorting surface and defining at least one panel void shaped to receive one of said plurality of alignment members, registration of respective pairs of said panel voids and said alignment members overlayingly positioning said first and second sorting panels relative to said assembly panel whereby puzzle pieces positioned on said assembly surface are engaged between said assembly surface and said first and second sorting panels; wherein, when said outer cover is in said open configuration, said assembly panel and said first and second sorting panels are positionable in a side-by-side configuration within an area bounded by said sidewall structure and wherein, when said assembly panel and said first and second sorting panels are positioned in said side-by-side configuration within said area bounded by said sidewall structure, said assembly panel and said first and second sorting panels substantially fill said area bounded by said sidewall structure and said sidewall structure substantially surrounds and projects upwardly of said assembly surface and said sorting surfaces to thereby retain slidable puzzle pieces on said assembly surface and said sorting surfaces; and wherein, when said outer cover is in said closed configuration, said assembly panel, said first and second sorting panels and the plurality of puzzle pieces are enclosable within said outer cover between said first and second flaps with respective pairs of said panel voids and said alignment members being in registration and a first portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces being securely engageable between said assembly surface and said first and second sorting panels and a second portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces being securely engageable between said sorting surfaces of said first and second sorting panels and one of said first and second flaps.

15. The carrier of claim 14 wherein each of said first and second sorting panels further comprises a first layer of compressible material disposed opposite said sorting surfaces and engageable with said first portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces disposed on said assembly surface when said panel voids and said alignment members are in registration; wherein one of said first and second flaps has an inward facing surface defined by a second layer of compressible material, said second layer of compressible material being engageable with said second portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces disposed on said sorting surfaces when said outer cover is in said closed configuration enclosing said assembly panel, said first and second sorting panels and the plurality of puzzle pieces; and wherein said first layers of compressible material disposed on said first and second sorting panels and said second layer of compressible material each define a compressible layer thickness that is less than the puzzle thickness.

16. The carrier of claim 15 further comprising at least one upper spacer element operably disposed between said inward facing surface and each of said first and second sorting panels wherein, when said outer cover is in said closed configuration and encloses said assembly panel and said first and second sorting panels, said at least one upper spacer element spaces said sorting surface of each of said first and second sorting panels away from said inward facing surface in the absence of puzzle pieces located on said respective sorting surfaces.

17. The carrier of claim 16 further comprising at least one lower spacer element, each of said first and second sorting panels defining a substantially planar engagement surface disposed opposite said respective sorting surfaces, each of said engagement surfaces being engageable with the first portion of puzzle pieces located on said assembly surface under said respective first and second sorting panels when said panel voids and said alignment members are in registration, and wherein said lower spacer element is operably disposed between said assembly panel and said at least one sorting panel wherein, when said panel voids and said alignment members are in registration, said at least one lower spacer element spaces each of said engagement surfaces from said assembly surface in the absence of puzzle pieces located on said assembly surface.

18. The carrier of claim 17 wherein said at least one upper spacer element comprises a plurality of upper spacer elements, at least one of said plurality being disposed on each of said first and second sorting panels and forming grips by which said first and second sorting panels may be manually grasped for repositioning.

19. The carrier of claim 18 wherein said at least one lower spacer element comprises a pair of elongate spacer elements disposed on said assembly panel and extending along a pair of parallel edges of said assembly panel.

20. The carrier of claim 19 wherein said plurality of lower spacer elements spaces each of said engagement surfaces from said assembly surface by a first distance and said plurality of upper spacer elements spaces each of said sorting surfaces from said inward facing surface by a second distance, each of said first and second distances being at least about 50% of the puzzle thickness and no greater than said puzzle thickness and wherein said carrier is adapted to hold puzzle pieces having a nominal thickness of ¼ inch.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to jigsaw puzzles and, more particularly, to carriers for jigsaw puzzles.

2. Description of the Related Art

Jigsaw puzzles are a common form of entertainment. Contemporary mass produced jigsaw puzzles are commonly manufactured by die cutting a relatively thin sheet of cardboard that has had an image applied thereto to form the individual puzzle pieces. There is also a smaller market for premium jigsaw puzzles that are more typically formed by cutting a sheet of plywood that has had an image applied thereto. Most commonly, a plywood material having a nominal thickness of ¼ inch is used to form such premium jigsaw puzzles although other plywood thicknesses, e.g., a nominal thickness of ⅛ inch, are also used.

The size and shape of the jigsaw puzzles can vary significantly. While most mass produced cardboard-based jigsaw puzzles have a size that is greater than the size of a conventional 8.5 inch by 11 inch sheet of paper, some premium plywood-based jigsaw puzzles have a relatively small size that can fit within the boundaries of an 8.5 inch by 11 inch sheet of paper.

When being used, it is quite common for a person who is assembling a jigsaw puzzle to do so in multiple sessions. In other words, the person or persons assembling a jigsaw puzzle will often only partially assemble the puzzle before temporarily stopping work on the puzzle and then later returning to work on the puzzle at a subsequent time.

A variety of devices have been developed that allows a person who is assembling a puzzle to store and/or transport a partially assembled puzzle. While many of these devices perform adequately, further improvements in such devices are desirable.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a jigsaw puzzle carrier that can be used both to hold a puzzle during the assembly of the puzzle and to hold the individual pieces of a partially or fully assembled puzzle in place for either storage or transport.

The invention comprises, in one form thereof, a carrier for use with a jigsaw puzzle having a plurality of jigsaw puzzle pieces that define a puzzle thickness. The carrier includes an outer cover having first and second flaps wherein the outer cover is repositionable between a closed configuration and an open configuration. The first and second flaps are substantially disposed in a common plane when the outer cover is in the open configuration. The outer cover further includes a sidewall structure extending about a substantial portion of an outer perimeter of each of the first and second flaps wherein, when the outer cover is in the open configuration, the sidewall structure projects in a common direction from the first and second flaps. The carrier also includes an assembly panel and at least one sorting panel. The assembly panel defines a substantially planar assembly surface and has a first alignment surface. The sorting panel defines a substantially planar sorting surface and has a second alignment surface. Registration of the first and second alignment surfaces overlayingly positions the sorting panel relative to the assembly panel whereby puzzle pieces positioned on the assembly surface are engaged between the assembly surface and the at least one sorting panel. When the outer cover is in the open configuration, the assembly panel and the at least one sorting panel are positionable in a side-by-side configuration within an area bounded by the sidewall structure. When the outer cover is in the closed configuration, the assembly panel, the at least one sorting panel and the plurality of puzzle pieces are all enclosable within the outer cover between the first and second flaps with the first and second alignment surfaces being in registration and a first portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces being securely engageable between the assembly surface and the at least one sorting panel and a second portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces being securely engageable between the sorting surface and one of the first and second flaps.

The invention comprises, in another form thereof, a carrier for use with a jigsaw puzzle having a plurality of jigsaw puzzle pieces that define a puzzle thickness. The carrier includes an outer cover having first and second flaps. The outer cover is repositionable between a closed configuration and an open configuration. The first and second flaps are substantially disposed in a common plane when the outer cover is in the open configuration. The outer cover further includes a sidewall structure extending about a substantial portion of an outer perimeter of each of the first and second flaps wherein, when the outer cover is in the open configuration, the sidewall structure projects in a common direction from the first and second flaps. The carrier also includes an assembly panel and first and second sorting panels. The assembly panel defines a substantially planar assembly surface and has a plurality of projecting alignment members. Each of the first and second sorting panels defines a substantially planar sorting surface and at least one panel void shaped to receive one of the plurality of alignment members. Registration of respective pairs of the panel voids and the alignment members overlayingly positions the first and second sorting panels relative to the assembly panel whereby puzzle pieces positioned on the assembly surface are engaged between the assembly surface and the first and second sorting panels. When the outer cover is in the open configuration, the assembly panel and the first and second sorting panels are positionable in a side-by-side configuration within an area bounded by the sidewall structure. When the assembly panel and the first and second sorting panels are positioned in this side-by-side configuration within the area bounded by the sidewall structure, the assembly panel and the first and second sorting panels substantially fill the area bounded by the sidewall structure and the sidewall structure substantially surrounds and projects upwardly of the assembly surface and the sorting surfaces to thereby retain slidable puzzle pieces on the assembly surface and the sorting surfaces. When the outer cover is in the closed configuration, the assembly panel, the first and second sorting panels and the plurality of puzzle pieces are enclosable within the outer cover between the first and second flaps with respective pairs of the panel voids and the alignment members being in registration and a first portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces being securely engageable between the assembly surface and said first and second sorting panels and a second portion of the plurality of puzzle pieces being securely engageable between the sorting surfaces of the first and second sorting panels and one of the first and second flaps.

An advantage of the present invention is that it provides a convenient device for storing and transporting a jigsaw puzzle when it is in its closed configuration and provides convenient work surfaces for assembling and sorting puzzle pieces when it is in its open configuration.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above mentioned and other features of this invention, and the manner of attaining them, will become more apparent and the invention itself will be better understood by reference to the following description of an embodiment of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a puzzle carrier in an open configuration.

FIG. 2 is an exploded side view of a puzzle carrier.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a puzzle carrier in a closed configuration.

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of a puzzle carrier taken along line 4-4 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a top view of a pair of sorting panels.

FIG. 6 is a side view of a sorting panel.

FIG. 7 is a top view of a base panel.

FIG. 8 is a side view of a base panel.

FIG. 9 is another side view of a base panel.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an outer cover in an open configuration.

FIG. 11 is a close-up perspective view of a corner of a sorting panel.

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the puzzle carrier.

FIG. 13 is a top view of the base and sorting panels of the embodiment of FIG. 12.

Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views. Although the exemplification set out herein illustrates embodiments of the invention, in multiple forms, the embodiments disclosed below are not intended to be exhaustive or to be construed as limiting the scope of the invention to the precise forms disclosed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A jigsaw puzzle carrier 20 in accordance with the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. Puzzle carrier 20 includes an outer cover 22, an assembly panel 24 and two sorting panels 26. FIG. 1 shows puzzle carrier 20 in an open configuration while FIG. 3 shows puzzle carrier in a closed configuration with outer cover 22 enclosing assembly panel 24, sorting panels 26 and jigsaw pieces 28 within outer cover 22.

Outer cover 22 includes two flaps 30, 32 which are connected to opposite sides of spine member 34 by integral hinges 36 which allow flaps 30, 32 to pivot relative to spine 34. Outer cover 22 is shown by itself in an open configuration in FIG. 10. As shown in FIG. 10, the illustrated outer cover 22 has openings 38 extending through spine 34. These openings are not necessary and are only present because the illustrated outer cover 22 is a commercially available polypropylene binder cover manufactured by UniKeep LLC of Marysville, Ohio and its intended use is to provide a binder cover and three ring binder to hold conventional 3 hole punched 8½ inch by 11 inch paper. The illustrated outer cover 22 does not include a three ring binder and the present invention has employed outer cover 22 for a quite different purpose. Various other alternative embodiments of outer cover 22 may also be employed with the present invention.

As can be seen in FIGS. 1 and 10, when outer cover 22 is in its open configuration, flaps 30, 32 can be pivoted so that both flaps 30, 32 and spine 34 all lie in a common plane. This allows assembly panel 24 and sorting panels 26 to be positioned within the area bounded by sidewalls 40 in a side-by-side arrangement. In the illustrated embodiment, sidewalls 40 extend around the three exterior edges of both flaps 30, 32. Sidewalls 40 do not extend along the exterior edges of spine 34 because, if present in this location, the sidewalls would interfere with the closing of outer cover 22. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 10, when outer cover 22 is in an open configuration, sidewalls 40 on flaps 30, 32 all extend in a common direction. When in this open configuration, sidewall structures 40 retain assembly panel 24 and sorting panels 26 on the opened flaps 30, 32 within the area 40a bounded by sidewall structures 40.

Flap 32 has an inward facing surface 42 that includes a thin layer of compressible material 44 which, in the illustrated embodiment, takes the form of a layer of felt layer having a thickness 44t. As best seen in FIG. 4 and as discussed in greater detail below, when carrier 20 is in its closed position, compressible material layer 44 securely engages puzzle pieces 28 disposed between flap 32 and sorting panels 26. Outer cover 22 also includes a locking latch 48 and cooperative locking tab 50 respectively located on sidewalls 40 of flaps 30 and 32 to secure outer cover 22 in its closed configuration.

Outer cover 22 is used to hold assembly panel 24 and sorting panels 26 both in the open configuration shown in FIG. 1 and the closed configuration shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. Assembly panel 24 has a substantially planar assembly surface 52 on which jigsaw puzzle pieces 28 can be fitted together to assemble the puzzle. Sorting panels 26 each have a substantially planar sorting surface 54 on which puzzle pieces 28 can be sorted as the user is assembling the jigsaw puzzle.

The main body of assembly panel 24 and sorting panels 26 may be formed out various materials. In the illustrated embodiment, the main body of assembly panel 24 is formed out of either an ⅛ inch Baltic Birch plywood or ⅛ inch veneered MDF (medium density fiberboard) while the main body of sorting panels 26 are formed out of either a 3/16 inch Baltic Birch plywood or 3/16 inch veneered MDF. In the illustrated embodiment, assembly surface 52 and sorting surfaces 54 are formed by a non-slip material to allow carrier 20, and surfaces 52, 54, to be tilted when in the open position without having puzzle pieces 28 slide on surfaces 52, 54. The use of such a non-slip material on surfaces 52, 54 facilitates the ability of a user to hold carrier 20 at an angle in his lap while assembling a puzzle and is advantageously not so tacky as to inhibit repositioning of the puzzle pieces on surfaces 52, 54. The use of a non-slip material to form surfaces 52, 54 also inhibits the movement of puzzle pieces on surfaces 52, 54 when carrier 20 is in its closed position.

A non-slip surface can be formed on assembly and sorting panels 24, 26 in various manners. For example, a layer of non-slip material could be adhered to panels 24, 26 to form surfaces 52, 54. Alternatively, a coating of non-slip material could be sprayed, brushed, rolled, or otherwise applied to panels 24, 26. Such materials are widely available from commercial suppliers. For example, such coating materials are commercially available from Super Industries, Inc. of Chattanooga, Tenn. and Plasti Dip International of Blaine, Minn. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, a rubber film material commercially available from Super Industries, Inc. of Chattanooga, Tenn. and including xylene, butadiene-co-styrene, aliphatic hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon propellant has been sprayed on surfaces 52, 54 to provide an non-slip surface. The use of a non-slip surface advantageously allows carrier 20 to be tilted at an angle of at least about 30 degrees with a horizontal plane before puzzle pieces 28 located on surfaces 52, 54 begin to slide.

It is also noted that, in the illustrated embodiment, sidewalls 40 project upwardly of the assembly surface 52 and sorting surfaces 54 and substantially surround both assembly panel 24 and both sorting panels 26 to thereby retain slidable puzzle pieces 28 on assembly surface 52 and sorting surfaces 54. In other words, by projecting upwards above assembly surface 52 and sorting surfaces 54 and substantially surrounding these surfaces 52, 54, sidewalls 40 help prevent puzzle pieces 28 from sliding off of surfaces 52, 54.

Assembly panel 24 also includes four projecting rectangular posts at the four corners of assembly member 24 and which form alignment members 56. The side surfaces of alignment members 56 form alignment surfaces 58 that register with alignment surfaces 60 on sorting panels 26 to position sorting panels 26 in an overlaying position above assembly surface 52 whereby a substantially planar engagement surface 64 on sorting panels 26 opposite sorting surfaces 54 can engage puzzle pieces 28 located on assembly surface 52 when carrier 20 is placed in its closed configuration as depicted in FIGS. 3 and 4.

In the illustrated embodiment, alignment surfaces 60 define a panel void 62 that is shaped to receive an alignment member 56. The illustrated panel voids 62 take the form of notches in the edge of sorting panels 26 and are located at a pair of corners located on opposite ends of an elongate edge of sorting panels 26. The remaining pair of corners on sorting panels 26 are un-notched and are located at opposite ends of an elongate edge of sorting panel that forms an alignment edge 66.

Sorting panels 26 also include upper spacing elements 68 which take the form of ¼ inch thick plywood cut into the form of a puzzle piece and glued or otherwise affixed to sorting surface 54. Upper spacing elements 68 also function as grips or handles by which sorting panels 26 can be manually grasped for repositioning the sorting panels 26. In the illustrated embodiment, two such spacers/grips 68 are attached to sorting panels 26 near opposite ends of sorting panels 26. The illustrated embodiment also includes lower spacing elements 70 that are attached to assembly member 24 and extend along a pair of parallel edges of assembly panel 24 and take the form of ¼ inch by ¼ inch square basswood dowels. Lower spacing elements 70 also function as sidewall rails preventing puzzle pieces 28 from sliding off of assembly surface 52 along the two edges on which spacing elements 70 are located. In this regard, it is noted that assembly panel 24 can be advantageously positioned within opened outer cover 22 such that spacing elements 70 are positioned to prevent puzzle pieces 28 from sliding off of assembly surface 52 through the gaps in sidewall structure 40 located on spine 34. The two other edges of assembly panel 24 do not have any projections which prevent the sliding of puzzle pieces 28 over the edge and allow a completed puzzle to be relatively easily removed from assembly surface 52 by sliding over either one of these edges.

After using carrier 20 in its open position as depicted in FIG. 1, the user may desire to temporarily put the carrier and puzzle away for transport or storage. To place carrier 20 in its closed configuration, the user lifts sorting panels 26 by grasping spacing elements/grips 68 and places them on top of assembly panel 24. More specifically, alignment surfaces 58 are registered with alignment surfaces 60 by the insertion of alignment members 56 into panel voids 62 to thereby position sorting panels 26 so that they overlay assembly panel 24 with engagement surfaces 64 engaged with puzzle pieces 28 located on assembly surface 54. In the illustrated embodiment a layer of compressible material 72 forms engagement surface 64 and takes the form of a layer of felt having a thickness of 72t. Engagement surface 64 is biased against those puzzle pieces located on assembly surface 54 when carrier 20 is placed in its closed position to thereby non-moveably secure puzzle pieces 28 on assembly surface 54 so that when carrier 20 is once again opened, puzzle pieces 28 will be in the same position that they were in when carrier 20 was closed.

As mentioned above, the illustrated panel voids 62 are formed by notches in the edge of sorting panels 26. Notches 62 do not fully circumscribe alignment members 56 when surfaces 58 and 60 are placed in contact with each other to thereby register alignment members 56 with panel voids 62. The shape of the non-encircling notches 62 does not prevent sorting panels 26 to be moved out of registration in all horizontal directions. When both sorting panels 26 have their alignment surfaces 60 placed in registration with corresponding alignment surfaces 58 on alignment members 56, however, alignment edges 66 of the two sorting panels 26 will be positioned adjacent each other and thereby prevent the disengagement of notches 62 and alignment members 56 within a plane (typically a horizontal plane) that is oriented parallel to assembly surface 54. It is further noted that both sets of alignment surfaces 58, 60 extend substantially perpendicular to assembly surface 54 when in registration, this aligns sorting panels 26 within a plane that is substantially parallel to the assembly surface (which will be a horizontal plane when assembly panel 24 is positioned horizontally) while permitting the relative movement of sorting panels 26 and assembly panel 24 in a direction perpendicular to assembly surface 54. In other words, when sorting panels 26 are aligned by registering surfaces 60 with alignment surfaces 58, sorting panels can still be pressed downwardly to compress puzzle pieces 28 against assembly surface 54 or lifted off of assembly panel 24.

Although the use of notches 62 and rectangular posts 56 are shown in the illustrated embodiment, alternative configurations alignment surfaces can be used to position the sorting panels over the assembly panel. For example, panel voids 62 could be formed by apertures that fully encircle the alignment members 56, or the location of the alignment members and panel voids could be reversed with alignment members on the sorting panels being inserted into voids on the assembly panel. The use of alignment surfaces could even be omitted altogether and the panels simply aligned by sight.

Advantageously, assembly panel 24 and assembly surface 52 have an area that is substantially equivalent to the area of one of flaps 30, 32 while still fitting within sidewalls 40. This roughly corresponds to the largest rigid planar object that can be enclosed within outer cover 22 when cover 22 is in its closed position and thereby provides a relatively large unbroken surface 54 on which to assembly puzzle pieces 28. Various numbers of sorting panels 26 can be used with the present invention and it is advantageous that together the sorting panels substantially cover the entirety of assembly surface 54 to thereby hold down puzzle pieces 28 located on assembly surface 54 when carrier 20 is in its closed configuration. In the illustrated embodiment two sorting panels 26 are used and each of the sorting surfaces 54 has a surface area that is approximately one half of the surface area of the assembly surface 52.

In the illustrated embodiment, outer cover 22 has flaps 30, 32 which are approximately 10 inches by 11 inches and a spine that is approximately 1 inch wide. This allows for an assembly surface 54 having an area of approximately 110 square inches and each of the sorting surfaces 54 providing about 55 square inches of surface area. When sorting panels 26 are positioned with assembly panel 24 within the area bounded by sidewalls 40, there will be total of approximately 1 inch (corresponding to the width of spine 34) of excess space between the adjacent panels. This particular configuration is well suited for use with finished or assembled puzzles having a size of approximately 7 inches by 10 inches. The maximum number of puzzle pieces 28 in such a puzzle would typically be in range of approximately 100 to 120 pieces but this number can vary. The present invention may also be modified for use with larger mass produced puzzles, however, a carrier for such larger puzzles would not provide the same portability and convenience as a smaller puzzle carrier such as the illustrated embodiment which can be conveniently carried in a brief case and stored on a bookshelf.

When the user desires to close the carrier 20 for storage or transport, there may also be puzzle pieces 28 located on sorting surfaces 54 in addition to those located on assembly surface 52. Oftentimes the user will find it convenient to arrange pieces on sorting surfaces 54 in a manner that assists the user when assembling the puzzle. For example, the user might sort the puzzle pieces by color and group the pieces in appropriate clusters on sorting surfaces 54. The puzzle pieces 28 located on sorting surfaces 54 are engaged by inward facing surface 42 of flap 32 when outer cover 22 is closed about assembly panel 24, sorting panels 26 and puzzle pieces 28. The engagement of surface 42 with the puzzle pieces 28 biases the puzzle pieces 28 against sorting surfaces 54 to thereby hold the puzzle pieces 28 in position on sorting surfaces 54. The biasing force exerted by flap 32 against puzzle pieces 28 on sorting surfaces 54 also biases engagement surfaces 64 against puzzle pieces 28 located on assembly surface 52 to hold those pieces in place on assembly surface 52. The engagement of locking latch 48 and locking tab 50 also retain flaps 30, 32 together in the closed position. In alternative embodiments, the sidewalls 40 of opposite flaps 30, 32 may have distal ends that engage together in a snap-fit engagement to thereby assist latch 48 and tab 50 in holding flaps 30, 32 in their closed positions. Sidewalls 40 also enclose the area between flaps 30, 32 when carrier 20 is in the closed configuration and thereby prevent the loss of any puzzle pieces 28 that might become loose within the closed carrier 20.

Upper and lower spacing elements 68, 70 are sized to facilitate the secure engagement of puzzle pieces between assembly surface 52 and engagement surface 64 and between sorting surfaces 54 and inward facing surface 42. More specifically, carrier 20 is configured to work with puzzle pieces 28 that are constructed using plywood or similar sheeting material having a nominal thickness of ¼ inch. Upper spacing members 68 are operably disposed between sorting surfaces 54 and inward facing surface 42 such that, in the absence of any puzzle pieces on sorting surfaces 54, spacing elements 68 will bias sorting surfaces 54 away from inward facing surface 42 by a distance 68t that is approximately the same spacing distance that would result from puzzle pieces 28 being located on sorting surfaces 54. Upper spacers 68 will thereby cause engagement surface 64 to securely engage puzzle pieces 28 located on assembly surface 52 in absence of puzzle pieces 28 (or unbalance distribution of puzzle pieces 28) on sorting surfaces 54. Similarly, lower spacers 70 keep engagement surfaces 64 spaced apart from assembly surface 52 by a distance 70t that is substantially equivalent to that spacing distance that would result from puzzle pieces being located on assembly surface 52. Lower spacers 70 will thereby cause inward facing surface 42 to securely engage puzzle pieces 28 located on sorting surfaces 54 in the absence of puzzle pieces 28 (or unbalanced distribution of puzzle pieces 28) on assembly surface 52. The spacing distances 68t, 70t, created by spacing elements 68, 70, however, are advantageously, no greater than the thickness 28t of puzzle pieces 28 so that puzzle pieces 28 located on assembly surface 52 and sorting surfaces 54 will still be firmly engaged when carrier 20 is in its closed configuration.

FIGS. 6 and 8 show puzzle thickness 28t being slightly greater than the thickness of spacers 68 and 70 and, thus, projecting by a slightly greater distance above sorting surfaces 54 and assembly surface 52 respectively. In the illustrated embodiment both spacers 68, 70 and puzzle pieces 28 all have a nominal thickness of ¼ inch and are substantially equal. The height difference in FIGS. 6 and 8 corresponds to the image carrying layer that is applied to puzzle pieces 28 and the scale of this height difference is exaggerated in the drawings.

It is noted that outer cover 22 has some flexibility and, in some embodiments, carrier 20 may be configured such that outer cover 22 grips assembly panel 24 and sorting panels 26 between flaps 30, 32 in the closed configuration and without any puzzle pieces 28 located therein with spacing distances 68t and 70t being approximately 50% of the thickness 28t of puzzle pieces 28 and still be flexible enough to close about assembly panel 24, sorting panels 26 and puzzle pieces 28.

When opening carrier 20, a user will first unlatch locking latch 48 and tab 50 and place outer cover 22 in its open configuration. A cloth (twill) pull 46 is attached to assembly panel 24 and can be grasped to pull assembly panel 24 into a central position within the area bounded by sidewalls 40. The user may then lift each of the sorting panels 26 by grasping spacers/grips 68 and place sorting panels 26 on opposite sides of assembly panel 24 within the area bounded by sidewall structures 40. As discussed above, puzzle pieces 28 will have remained in the position that they were in when the user last placed the carrier in its closed position and, therefore, after placing sorting panels 26 next assembly panel 24, the user can start once again working on assembling the puzzle from the point they last stopped.

The compressible material layers 44, 72 are both formed by a high quality short nap felt material having respective thickness 44t and 72t that are less than the puzzle thickness 28t. These felt layers are provided on surfaces that engage the top of puzzle pieces 28 when carrier 20 is in its closed position and puzzle pieces 28 are not positioned on the felt layers 44, 72 when carrier 20 is being used to assemble a puzzle. Instead, puzzle pieces are located on rigid planar surfaces 52, 54 when assembling the puzzle. This avoids the undesirable tendency of some puzzle pieces to stick to a felt material when the puzzle is being assembled on a felt material and thereby hinder the repositioning of the puzzle pieces during sorting or assembly of the pieces.

The use of a relatively thin felt layers 44, 72 that are adhered to flap 32 and sorting panels 26 respectively, allows felt material layers to be unobtrusively positioned within the bounds of sidewalls 40 when carrier 20 is in its open position and the puzzle is being assembled. This helps to avoid the use of a separate and bulky padding material such as a foam block that must be stored separately from the carrier when working on the puzzle.

Although other carrier sizes fall within the scope of the present invention, the size of the illustrated carrier 22 is such that when carrier 22 is in an open position as shown in FIG. 1, it can be relatively easily held in the lap of a person to thereby allow the person to work on a jigsaw puzzle in locations which are not typically well suited for working jigsaw puzzles. For example, carrier 22 could be opened by a person traveling on an airplane and set upon the airline tray or lap of the person. When returned to its closed configuration, carrier 20 can be easily placed in most briefcases and handbags for transport and placed on a bookshelf or in a drawer for storage. The small and convenient nature of the carrier allows a person to take a jigsaw puzzle and work on the assembly of the puzzle nearly anywhere that they could take a book.

An alternative puzzle carrier 20a is illustrated in FIGS. 12 and 13. Puzzle carrier 20a uses an outer cover 22 similar to carrier 20 and functions in the same manner as carrier 20. The base panel 24a and sorting panels 26a of carrier 20a differ from the base and sorting panels of carrier 20 in the configuration of the alignment members 56a and lower spacing elements 70a located on base panel 24a and in the configuration of panel voids 62a and spacing elements 68a located on sorting panels 26a.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 12 and 13, spacing elements 70a extend along the full length of two opposite sides of base panel 24a with alignment members 56a taking the form of short lengths of ¼ inch by ¼ inch square wooden dowels centrally positioned on top of the ¼ inch by ¼ inch square wooden dowels forming spacing elements 70a. Panel voids 62a are formed in sorting panels 26a and form elongate cutouts that engage with alignment members 56a by registration of alignment surfaces 58a (located on members 56a) with alignment surfaces 60a (forming panel voids 62a). Upper spacing elements 68a take the form of ¼ inch by ¼ inch square wooden dowels extending along two opposite edges of sorting panels 26a. The use of elongate spacing elements 68a helps to prevent the possible tilting of sorting panels 26a within outer cover 22 when cover 22 is closed about panels 24a, 26a when puzzle pieces 28 are located in unbalanced locations on sorting panels 26a.

While this invention has been described as having an exemplary design, the present invention may be further modified within the spirit and scope of this disclosure. This application is therefore intended to cover any variations, uses, or adaptations of the invention using its general principles.





 
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