Title:
Grab rail having secure support member connection
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A grab rail adapted to be mounted to a surface is provided. The grab rail includes an elongated rail that has a bore lying along a central axis. A wedge block is disposed in the bore of the elongated rail. The wedge block has an inclined face on one end that is inclined relative to the central axis. A support member is connected to the surface. The support member has an inclined face on one end that is contiguous with the inclined face of the wedge block. A fastener engages the wedge block. The fastener urges together the inclined face of the wedge block and the inclined face of the support member to slide the elongated rail in a non-axial direction relative to the support member to join the support member and the elongated rail.



Inventors:
Hansen, Randall C. (Columbia, SC, US)
Application Number:
10/024906
Publication Date:
06/19/2003
Filing Date:
12/19/2001
Assignee:
HANSEN RANDALL C.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
256/59, 256/65.01, 256/70
International Classes:
F16B13/08; E04F11/18; (IPC1-7): E04H17/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
THISSELL, JENNIFER I
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DORITY & MANNING, P.A. (GREENVILLE, SC, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A grab rail adapted to be mounted to a surface, the grab rail comprising: (a) an elongated rail having a bore lying along a central axis; (b) a wedge block disposed in said bore of said elongated rail, said wedge block having an inclined face on one end inclined relative to said central axis; (c) a support member for connection to said surface, said support member having an inclined face on one end being contiguous with said inclined face of said wedge block; and (d) a fastener engaging said wedge block, said fastener urging together said inclined face of said wedge block and said inclined face of said support member to thereby slide the elongated rail in a non-axial direction relative to the support member to join the support member and the elongated rail.

2. The grab rail of claim 1, further including two of said support members and two of said fasteners, the elongated rail having two of said wedge blocks, each of said support members being secured to said elongated rail by a respective one of said fasteners.

3. The grab rail of claim 1, wherein said support member has a through bore, said through bore of said support member extending through said inclined face of said support member.

4. The grab rail of claim 3, wherein: (a) said wedge block has an internally threaded end, and said wedge block has a bore extending through said inclined face of said wedge block; and (b) said fastener is a screw, said screw being disposed through said bore of said support member and said bore of said wedge block, and said screw threadably engages said internally threaded end of said wedge block.

5. The grab rail of claim 1, further including a gasket for placement between said support member and said surface.

6. The grab rail of claim 5, wherein said support member and said gasket each have a respective through hole for mounting said support member to the surface.

7. The grab rail of claim 1, wherein: (a) said elongated rail has an inclined face; and (b) said support member has an inclined lip, said inclined lip of said support member mating with said inclined face of said elongated rail.

8. The grab rail of claim 1, wherein: (a) said elongated rail has a cavity for the housing of electrical wires; and (b) said support member has a cavity in communication with said elongated rail cavity for the housing of said electrical wires.

9. The grab rail of claim 8, further comprising a plurality of lights located along the length of said elongated rail electrically connected to said electrical wires.

10. The grab rail of claim 1, wherein said support member includes a stanchion.

11. A grab rail adapted to be mounted to a surface, the grab rail comprising: (a) an elongated rail having a bore lying along a central axis; (b) a wedge block disposed in said bore of said elongated rail, said wedge block having an inclined face on one end inclined relative to said central axis, said wedge block having a hub section; (c) a support member connected to said surface, said support member having a rail lip on one end, said rail lip having an inclined face, said rail lip being contiguous with said elongated rail, said inclined face of said rail lip mating with said inclined face of said wedge block; and (d) a fastener engaging said hub section of said wedge block, said fastener urging together said inclined face of said rail lip and said inclined face of said wedge block to thereby slide the elongated rail in a non-axial direction relative to the support member to join the support member and the elongated rail.

12. The grab rail of claim 11, further including two of said support members and two of said fasteners, the elongated rail having two of said wedge blocks, each of said support members being secured to said elongated rail by a respective one of said fasteners.

13. The grab rail of claim 11, wherein said support member has a through bore, said through bore of said support member extending through said inclined face of said rail lip.

14. The grab rail of claim 13, wherein: (a) said hub section of said wedge block is internally threaded and said wedge block has a bore going through said inclined face of said wedge block; and (b) said fastener is a screw, said screw being disposed through said bore of said support member and through said bore of said wedge block, and said screw threadably engaging said internally threaded hub section of said wedge block.

15. The grab rail of claim 11, further including a gasket for placement between said support member and said surface.

16. The grab rail of claim 15, wherein said support member and said gasket each have a respective through hole for mounting said support member to the surface.

17. The grab rail of claim 11, wherein: (a) said elongated rail has an inclined face; and (b) said support member has an inclined lip, said inclined lip of said support member mating with said inclined face of said elongated rail.

18. The grab rail of claim 11, wherein: (a) said elongated rail has a cavity for the housing of electrical wires; and (b) said support member has a cavity in communication with said elongated rail cavity for the housing of said electrical wires.

19. The grab rail of claim 18, further comprising a plurality of lights located along the length of said elongated rail electrically connected to said electrical wires.

20. The grab rail of claim 11, wherein said support member includes a stanchion.

21. A grab rail adapted to be mounted to a surface, the grab rail comprising: an elongated rail having a bore lying along a central axis, said elongated rail having a wedge block disposed at either end in said bore of said elongated rail, said wedge blocks have an inclined face on one end inclined relative to said central axis; two stanchions for connection to said surface, said stanchions have an inclined face on one end being contiguous with said inclined face of said wedge block; and two fasteners each engaging a respective wedge block, said fasteners urging together said inclined face of said wedge blocks and said inclined face of said stanchions to thereby slide the elongated rail in a non-axial direction relative to the stanchion to join the stanchion and the elongated rail.

22. The grab rail of claim 21, wherein said stanchions have a through bore, said through bore of said stanchions extending through said inclined face of said stanchions.

23. The grab rail of claim 22, wherein: said wedge blocks have an internally threaded end, and said wedge blocks have a bore going through said inclined face of said wedge blocks; and said fasteners are a screw, said screws are disposed through said bore of said stanchions and said bore of said wedge blocks, and said screws threadably engage said internally threaded ends of said wedge blocks.

24. A method of assembling a grab rail comprising the steps of: (a) providing a support member having an inclined face on one end, said support member having a bore through said inclined face; (b) providing a wedge block having an inclined face on one end, said wedge block having a threaded bore through said inclined face of said wedge block; (c) abutting said inclined face of said wedge block against said inclined face of said support member; (d) slipping an elongated rail over said wedge block; (e) abutting said elongated rail against said support member; (f) inserting a screw though said bore of said support member and through said bore of said wedge block; and (g) tightening said screw until said wedge block secures said elongated rail to said support member.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] This invention relates to the field of hand rails or grab rails. More particularly this invention relates to a rigid grab rail having a secure support member connection, accomplished by the use of wedging action, which is secured to a wall, vehicle, or other surface.

BACKGROUND ART

[0002] Hand railing or guide rails are placed throughout the world to assist in related human activity. For example, stairs are typically provided with hand railings to assist people in traversing up or down the stairs. Just such a hand railing is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,551,194 issued to Toomey. In addition, hand railings are common in swimming pools to assist people in entering and exiting the water. Another use of hand railings is on a bathtub to help people get over the wall of the tub in addition to helping them position themselves in the tub. Just such a hand rail is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,417,361 issued to Smith.

[0003] Vehicles, such as ambulances, are also provided with hand railings to provide a gripping surface for the people using the vehicle. In addition, small hand railings are usually provided in automobiles for the comfort of the passengers. U.S. Pat. No. 6,076,233 issued to Sasaki shows a grab rail which has a cantilevered spring that is held onto by a passenger sitting in the front seat of a car.

[0004] Fire engines are almost universally employed with a grab rail of some form. This is because it is often necessary to reach onto areas of the truck to get at hoses, or to hold onto the fire engine from an outside position as the fire engine moves. It is desirable that such a grab rail would be easy to mount on the fire truck, readily detachable, readily adjustable, and above all else rigidly mountable and strong so that a user will have confidence in the support. The strength of the guide rail should therefore be strong in the areas of both pulling and torsional forces.

[0005] Such a hand rail that could possibly be adapted for use on a fire engine is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,190,267 issued to Schmitt. The '267 patent shows a rigid hand railing whose main feature is a plurality of compound indentations formed on the underside to aid in gripping by a human hand. The hand rail and the indentations are formed by extruding as a single piece. Either end of the rail is equipped with a flush-mount adapter to fix the hand railing to a wall or other surface. The flush-mount adapter is welded onto the body portion of the hand rail to make a permanent connection. Such a procedure is disadvantageous because it requires the extra step of making at least two welds for every hand rail produced. Additionally, The hand rail is not readily adjustable because once the flush-mound adapter is welded, it is permanently made to be that length.

[0006] A hand rail that does allow for adjustment is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,378,071 issued to Yakimicki. The '071 patent shows a clamp-on grab rail for a door. Two bracket plates are mounted on either side of a door. A grab rail having a telescopically adjustable member is then provided. This member is positioned between the two bracket plates, and a wing nut is rotated causing the grab rail member to adjust to the desired length. At this point, one end of the grab rail having a series of holes is in put into alignment with a hole in a tubular component, and a bolt is dropped through to lock the telescopically adjustable member to the tubular component.

[0007] While providing for an adjustable grab rail member, the grab rail of the '071 patent does not provide for a grab rail which can be connected to a vehicle or other surface. This is because the bracket plates are adapted to be connected to doors, and not surfaces. Also, the uneven telescopic appearance of the tubular component and the telescopically adjustable member could prove undesirable if the grab rail were to be used on cars or trucks which demand a high level of aesthetic appearance.

[0008] In addition, the extension of the wing nut along with two other set screws in the configuration could be potential hazards for firemen who could catch their clothing on these exposed screws. It would be undesirable and dangerous for a fireman to catch his or her clothes on an exposed screw and then suffer injury as a result of losing his or her balance while attempting to jump from or exit a moving fire truck. Additionally, the grab rail of the '071 patent is disadvantageous in that the holes in the tubular component must be matched exactly with a hole in the telescopically adjustable member. This could cause the grab rail to be too long or too short, causing stress on the bracket plates or an inadequate connection for certain lengths of the grab rail. Finally, the grab rail of the '071 patent suffers from the flaw of having to be first positioned between the bracket plates and then adjusted into position with the wing nut. It would be advantageous in assembling or manufacturing if the grab rail could be made at the correct length and then connected to the vehicle. Otherwise, one has to both hold the grab rail between the bracket plates and simultaneously adjust its length. This step could in some instances require the use of two people to assemble.

[0009] Another patent which shows a grab rail which can be adapted for use on a vehicle or surface is U.S. Pat. No. 4,895,332 issued to Hansen. The '332 patent shows a grab rail being secured on either end by a stanchion. The stanchions are attached by conventional means to a surface and the grab rail is held in place only once the stanchions are attached. Each stanchion has a key inside which prevents rotation of the grab rail.

SUMMARY

[0010] Objectives and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the following description, or may be obvious from the description, or may be learned from practice of the invention.

[0011] One aspect of the present invention may include a grab rail that is adapted to be mounted to a surface. The grab rail includes an elongated rail that has a bore lying along a central axis. A wedge block is disposed in the bore of the elongated rail, having an inclined face on one end inclined relative to the central axis. A support member may be connected to the surface. The support member has an inclined face on one end that is contiguous with the inclined face of the wedge block. A fastener engages the wedge block and urges together the inclined face of the wedge block and the inclined face of the support member. This urging may result in sliding the elongated rail in a non-axial direction relative to the support member to join the support member and the elongated rail.

[0012] Another aspect of the present invention includes the embodiment of a grab rail as discussed above that further includes two of the support members and two of the fasteners. The elongated rail has two of the wedge blocks, and each of the support members is secured to the elongated rail by a respective one of the fasteners.

[0013] A still further aspect of the present invention may include an embodiment as discussed above where the support member has a through bore. The through bore of the support member extends through the inclined face of the support member.

[0014] Another aspect of the present invention may include an embodiment of the grab rail as discussed above where the wedge block has an internally threaded end. The wedge block has a bore going through the inclined face of the wedge block. The fastener is a screw and is disposed through the bore of the support member and the bore of the wedge block. The screw threadably engages the internally threaded end of the wedge block.

[0015] A still further aspect of the present invention may include a grab rail that is adapted to be mounted to a surface. The grab rail includes an elongated rail that has a bore lying along a central axis. A wedge block is disposed in the bore of the elongated rail. The wedge block may have an inclined face on one end inclined relative to the central axis. The wedge block has a hub section. A support member may be connected to the surface. The support member has a rail lip on one end and the rail lip has an inclined face. The rail lip is contiguous with the elongated rail, and the inclined face of the rail lip mates with the inclined face of the wedge block. Also, a fastener may be included that engages the hub section of the wedge block. The fastener urges together the inclined face of the rail lip and the inclined face of the wedge block to slide the elongated rail in a non-axial direction relative to the support member. Such sliding action helps to join the support member and the elongated rail.

[0016] A further aspect of the present invention includes an embodiment as discussed above of a grab rail which further includes two of the support members and two of the fasteners. The elongated rail has two of the wedge blocks and each of the support members is secured to the elongated rail by a respective one of the fasteners.

[0017] A still further aspect of the present invention includes an embodiment of a grab rail as discussed above where the support member has a through bore. The through bore of the support member extends through the inclined face of the rail lip.

[0018] Another embodiment of the present invention includes a grab rail as discussed above where the hub section of the wedge block is internally threaded and the wedge block has a bore going through the inclined face of the wedge block. The fastener may be a screw that is disposed through the bore of the support member and through the bore of the wedge block. The screw threadably engages the internally threaded hub section of the wedge block.

[0019] Another aspect of the present invention may be a guide rail that is adapted to be mounted to a surface. The guide rail includes an elongated rail that has a bore lying along a central axis. The elongated rail has a wedge block disposed at either end in the bore of the elongated rail. The wedge blocks have an inclined face on one end that is inclined relative to the central axis. Two stanchions may be provided for connection to the surface. The stanchions have an inclined face on one end that is contiguous with the inclined face of the wedge block. Two fasteners may engage respective wedge blocks. The fasteners urge together the inclined face of the wedge blocks and the inclined face of the stanchions. The elongated rail is slid in a non-axial direction relative to the stanchion to join the stanchion and the elongated rail.

[0020] The present invention also includes a method of assembling a grab rail. The method includes the steps of providing a support member that has an inclined face on one end. The support member has a bore through the inclined face. The method also includes the step of providing a wedge block that has an inclined face on one end and a threaded bore through the inclined face. The method also includes a step of abutting the inclined face of the wedge block against the inclined face of the support member, and slipping an elongated rail over the wedge block. Also, the elongated rail is abutted against the support member, and a screw is inserted through the bore of the support member and through the bore of the wedge block. Also, the screw may be tightened until the wedge block secures the elongated rail to the support member.

[0021] Other objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the invention and the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0022] A preferred embodiment of the present invention is described by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0023] FIG. 1 is an isometric view of the grab rail of the present invention shown attached to a wall or other surface.

[0024] FIG. 2 is an exploded assembly view of a portion of the grab rail of FIG. 1 showing the rail, wedge block, support member, and screw.

[0025] FIG. 3A is a partial cross-sectional elevation view of the grab rail of FIG. 1 showing the rail as it first begins to be slipped onto the wedge block.

[0026] FIG. 3B is a partial cross-sectional elevation view of the grab rail of FIG. 1 showing the rail being slipped onto the wedge block and the rail lip of the support member.

[0027] FIG. 3C is a partial cross-sectional elevation view of the grab rail of FIG. 1 showing how the tightening of the screw forces the wedge block into the rail and hence locking the rail with the rail lip of the support member.

[0028] FIG. 4 is an isometric view of a portion of the grab rail of FIG. 1 showing how a set of wires may be run through the grab rail. The drawing also shows the grab rail in a partial cut out section showing the screw being engaged with the wedge block.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0029] Reference will now be made in detail to embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the drawings. Each example is provided by way of explanation of the invention, and not meant as a limitation of the invention. For example, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used with another embodiment to yield still a third embodiment. It is intended that the present invention include these and other modifications and variations.

[0030] Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows a grab rail having one embodiment of a secure support member connection in accordance with the present invention. The grab rail 10 is shown connected to a wall or surface 11 of a structure. As shown, grab rail 10 includes two support members 12 and an elongated rail 20 therebetween. Such a grab rail 10 would prove useful for anyone working inside a moving or stationary trailer or vehicle to maintain his or her balance or assist in getting up off of the floor. A grab rail 10 would also prove useful for fire fighters that have to jump onto the outside of a moving fire truck and remain stationary while the vehicle responds to an emergency. Generally, the grab rail 10 of the present invention can be used in virtually almost any application involving the need to hold onto a secure bar to assist in moving, remaining stationary, getting up, or balancing.

[0031] FIG. 2 shows an exploded orthographic assembly view of a portion of one embodiment of a grab rail 10 according to the present invention. FIG. 2 shows one support member 12, a wedge block 17, and an end of rail 20. A rail lip 15 of the support member 12 is located on one end of support member 12. The purpose of rail lip 15 is to aid in locking the rail 20 to the support member 12 during assembly. The very end of support member 12 is composed of an inclined face 24.

[0032] A wedge block 17 is shown having a bore 18 on one end. Bore 18 defines a central axis 35. The rail 20 lays along a central axis 35, and the inclined face 24 is inclined in relation to the central axis 35. Wedge block 17 also has an inclined face 23 which matches the inclined face 24 of support member 12. The bore 18 of wedge block 17 need not be a through bore. As shown, bore 18 narrows at a threaded bore section 19 of the wedge block 17 opposite that of the inclined face 23. The threaded bore section 19 is internally threaded, while the rest of bore 18 is not threaded.

[0033] As shown in FIG. 2, the rail 20 has a bore 21 on one end. This bore 21 may be a through bore or only located on an end depending on the application. Typically, the rail 20 can be made of various lengths depending upon the needed length of the grab rail 10, and can be made to fit with a standard support member 12 and wedge block 17. The rail 20 can also be made from an extrusion and cut to any desired length. The rail 20 is shown with an inclined edge 20a to match an inclined edge 12a present at the junction of the main body of the support member 12 and the rail lip 15. The edges 12a and 20a are inclined relative to axis 35 for an aesthetically pleasing appearance, and could just as well be made perpendicular to axis 35 if desired. The locking of the grab rail 10 to the support member 12 is accomplished by the inclined face 23 of the wedge block 17 and the inclined face 24 of the support member 12, as is described below. If desired, at least one elastomeric insert 34 may be slid into the rail 20 to improve gripping, as shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,895,332 or 5,779,228, incorporated herein by reference.

[0034] Wires 22 are shown in FIG. 2 extending from the bottom of elastomeric insert 34 in rail 20. These wires 22 can be provided to transfer electricity through the grab rail 10. Additionally, wires 22 can allow for electricity to be provided to the grab rail 10 itself. For instance, a light element 33 may be placed along the length of rail 20 either within or outside of elastomeric element 34 and powered by the wires 22, for example as shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,779,228. This light element 33 could provide illumination for the area under the grab bar 10 such as the floor, steps, or surface.

[0035] A screw 14 along with a lock washer 13 are provided to secure the rail 20, wedge block 17 and support member 12 together. A gasket 26 is also shown to prevent noise, scraping, and damage between the support member 12 and the wall or surface 11 to which the grab rail 10 is secured. The attachment of one end of grab rail 10 is accomplished by means of a hole 27 located in support member 12. A standard bolt, screw, or nail can be used to secure the support member 12 to the wall or surface 11. Both ends of grab rail 10 are configured in the same manner as the end described in FIG. 2.

[0036] FIG. 3. Shows the locking mechanism of the grab bar 10. In addition, FIG. 3 shows a hole 28 in gasket 26 to allow attachment of the support member 12 to the wall or surface 11 by the aforementioned bolt, screw, or nail.

[0037] In FIG. 3A, the screw 14 is inserted through a bore 16 in support member 12. Wedge block 17 abuts up against support member 12. The inclined face 23 of the wedge block 17 mates with the inclined face 24 of the support member 12. The point of contact between these two inclined faces is marked as point 25 on FIG. 3A. Screw 14 is also passed through the bore 18 in wedge block 17. The threaded end of screw 14 engages the internally threaded bore section (or hub section) 19 of wedge block 17. At this point in the assembly, the screw 14 is not completely tightened into the internally threaded bore section 19 of wedge block 17, but simply tightened enough to allow for a loose, but secure attachment. The wedge block 17 is inserted into the bore 21 of rail 20.

[0038] FIG. 31B shows the rail 20 being moved in the direction of arrow A. The rail 20 moves over the wedge block 17 and abuts the support member 12, covering the rail lip 15 of the support member 12. At this point, a loose but secure attachment is established.

[0039] FIG. 3C shows the screw 14 being tightened into the threaded bore section 19 of wedge block 17. Further tightening of the screw 14 produces a force in the direction of arrow B when the wedge block 17 is pressed against the support member 12 at contact points 25. The reactive force at points 25 is shown as arrows C and D. Due to the inclined face 23 of wedge block 17 and the inclined face 24 of support member 12, the reactive force is perpendicular to the surface of the inclined face 24 of the support member 12. This reactive force is shown broken up into a horizontal (left) component C, and a vertical (down) component D. In other words, the wedge block 17 will slide along the inclined face 24 of support member 12 when the screw 14 is tightened. This sliding is due to the vertical component D.

[0040] As the wedge block 17 slides along the inclined face 24 of the support member 12, the screw 14 moves vertically downward due to the fact that screw 14 is threaded onto wedge block 17. Further tightening of the screw 14 will produce a locking force represented by the arrow E. This locking force is produced due to the pushing of wedge block 17 onto rail 20, and then translated from rail 20 onto the rail lip 15 of support member 12. The locking connection is secure, and can be accomplished either before installing the grab rail 10 onto the wall or structure 11, or afterwards. This locking connection is preferable over previous grab bars. These previous grab bars are ones which would be unstable and tend to become disassembled just before their connection to a structure.

[0041] FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of an embodiment of the grab rail 10 with a cut away section 29. The cut away section 29 shows the screw 14 being inserted through the wedge block 17. Additionally, the wires 22 are shown in the cut away section 29. A track 30 is cut in rail 20 to allow the wires 22 to run along the length of rail 22. Another track 31 is cut through the support member 12 to allow the wires 22 to go through the support member 12 and then enter the wall or surface 11. Additionally, a plurality of lights 33 can be installed along the length of rail 20. FIG. 4 also shows the attractive appearance of the connection between the rail 20 and the support member 12, highlighted by the sporty screw hole 32.

[0042] It should be understood that the invention includes various modifications that can be made to the embodiments of the grab rail described herein as come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.