Title:
Fence spool
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A fence spool core member has a slot having an open end to permit straddling of a flexible member. A niche adjacent the core open end receives a flange web to trap the flexible fence member in the slot. Torque couplings on the flanges permit rotational displacement of the core in relation to the flexible member. The end flanges include a plurality of peripheral openings that receive pins to retain any rotational displacement of the core in relation to the flexible fence member trapped in the core slot to remove slack from the flexible fence member.



Inventors:
Tackett, James R. (Florence, AL, US)
Reiff, Jason (Florence, AL, US)
Saylor, John (Florence, AL, US)
Raney, Harry (Florence, AL, US)
Edward III, Robbins S. (Muscle Shoals, AL, US)
Application Number:
10/153958
Publication Date:
11/27/2003
Filing Date:
05/23/2002
Assignee:
TACKETT JAMES R.
REIFF JASON
SAYLOR JOHN
RANEY HARRY
ROBBINS, EDWARD S.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65H75/22; E04H17/10; (IPC1-7): E04H17/14
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20030164488Handrail connectionSeptember, 2003Terrels
20030136953Solid plastic fence postsJuly, 2003Phillips et al.
20080296545Solar illuminated fenceDecember, 2008Chef
20080135823Fence Top Rail and Customizable Fence Mid RailJune, 2008Amendola
20040004210FencingJanuary, 2004Bauer et al.
20090230371PLASTIC FENCESeptember, 2009Cook et al.
20080073633Removable barricade systemMarch, 2008Gelfand
20080169455FENCE ATTACHMENT SYSTEMJuly, 2008Alberts
20080142771Customizable Extruded Bottom Fence RailJune, 2008Amendola
20040000665Weed barrierJanuary, 2004Himmelreich



Primary Examiner:
MACARTHUR, VICTOR L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BGL/Indianapolis (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. Apparatus for tightening a flexible member of a fence, the flexible member being coupled to a plurality of posts situated in spaced relation to each other, the apparatus comprising: a core member bifurcated by a slot having a closed end and an open end to form two legs, the open end permitting the core member legs to straddle a flexible fence member, a first flange member fixed to the core member adjacent the closed end of the slot, a second flange member engagable with the core adjacent the core open end to trap the flexible fence member in the core slot between the first and second flange members, each of the first and second flange members including a torque coupling and a plurality of peripheral openings, and at least one retainer engagable in at least one of the plurality of peripheral openings of both flange members to retain any rotational displacement of the core in relation to the flexible fence member trapped in the core slot.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the core member includes a flange-engaging niche adjacent the open end, and the second flange member includes a web portion engagable in the flange-engaging niche.

3. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein the core member includes a cylindrical outer surface, the slot being aligned with a diameter of the cylindrical outer surface.

4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein the flange-engaging niche is aligned perpendicularly to the slot.

5. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein the slot includes an enlarged portion adjacent to the open end leading to the flange-engaging niche.

6. The apparatus of any of claims 3-5 wherein the second flange member includes arcuate openings adapted to receive a portion of the core member legs adjacent the open end.

7. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein the torque coupling of the second flange member is situated inside the arcuate openings.

8. In apparatus for tightening a flexible member of a fence, the flexible member being coupled to a plurality of posts situated in spaced relation to each other, the apparatus including a core member having a slot for receiving the flexible member and a torque coupling for rotationally displacing the core in relation to the flexible member, first and second flange members coupled to the core member at opposite ends of the slot, each of the first and second flange members including a plurality of peripheral openings, and at least one retainer engagable in at least one of the plurality of peripheral openings of both flange members to retain any rotational displacement of the core in relation to the flexible fence member trapped in the core slot, the improvement comprising: an open end to the slot, the open end permitting the core to straddle the flexible fence member, the core member including a flange-engaging niche adjacent the open end, at least one of the first and second flange members being removably engagable in the flange-engaging niche so that the flexible fence member can be trapped in the slot.

9. The improvement of claim 8 wherein the core member includes a cylindrical outer surface, the slot being aligned with a diameter of the cylindrical outer surface.

10. The improvement of claim 9 wherein the flange-engaging niche is aligned perpendicularly to the slot.

11. The improvement of claim 10 wherein the slot includes an enlarged portion adjacent to the open end leading to the flange-engaging niche.

12. The improvement of any of claims 8-11 wherein one of the flange members includes arcuate openings adapted to receive a portion of the core member legs adjacent the open end.

13. The improvement of claim 12 wherein the torque coupling of the second flange member is situated inside the arcuate openings.

14. The improvement of claim 12 wherein the arcuate openings are separated by web portions adapted to engage the flange-engaging niche.

15. A method for tightening a flexible member of a fence, the flexible member being coupled to a plurality of posts situated in spaced relation to each other, the method comprising the steps of: providing a spool having a core including two legs separated by a slot with an open end, straddling the core legs on opposite sides of the flexible fence member, closing the slot open end by securing a flange member to the spool core to trap the flexible fence member within the slot, applying a torque to the spool to rotationally displace the core in relation to the flexible fence member, and retaining the spool in the rotationally displaced condition.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein the closing step comprises inserting arcuate end portions of the spool legs into arcuate slots in the flange member, and rotating the flange member relative to the core to engage web portions of the flange member in niches provided in the core member.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates generally to fencing having the general form of one or more elongated flexible members coupled to a plurality of posts situated in spaced relation to each other. The present invention relates more particularly to apparatus for tightening a flexible member of such a fence.

[0002] Fences are the most commonly employed means for confining that which would otherwise escape and excluding that which would otherwise intrude. Fences may vary greatly in both structure and materials of composition. Fence structure and composition are selected on the basis of initial and upkeep costs, durability, strength, aesthetic characteristics, and safety desired or required. Common fence structures include a plurality of posts situated in spaced relation to each other with one or more members extending between the posts. The members extending between the posts can take the form of rigid structures such as split rails, boards, planks, slats, bars, etc. The members extending between the posts can also take the form of flexible structures such as wire, cable, chain, and chain link. Generally, such flexible form structures are sufficiently long to be coupled to a plurality of the posts. In some installations, some means is provided to remove or reduce the slack in the flexible members to enhance the appearance of the fence and to ensure its retention and exclusion functionality.

[0003] Particularly desirable structures for the flexible members of a fence are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. RE 32,707; 4,881,721; 4,860,996 and 4,973,029 and are in the form of a composite metal and plastic fencing comprised of at least two metal wires having high tensile strength sheathed in a plastic casing. The wire may be of any diameter suitable to the strength required in service. Between the wires, the plastic casing assumes the form of a sheet or web. When strung on supporting posts, the metal wires and associated webbing can extend for the entire length of a fence. The plastic casing encloses the wires and keeps the wires at a fixed vertical separation. A fence so constructed has the advantages of high visibility, good strength, and relatively low cost of purchase, installation and upkeep.

[0004] When properly installed, a fence constructed using such composite metal and plastic web fencing is very attractive. The composite metal and plastic web fencing is typically coupled to each supporting fence post using brackets of the type disclosed in the previously identified patents. The brackets are intended to permit the flexible elongated composite metal and plastic fencing to move laterally with respect to any particular post so that the brackets do not introduce high stress points in the flexible fencing. The eye-catching character of the fencing can be enhanced by substantially removing any slack from the flexible fencing so that the flexible fencing assumes a substantially linear form between each neighboring sets of posts. The brackets permit the slack to be removed by installing a fence tightening mechanism that places the flexible fencing under tension.

[0005] Apparatus for tightening, and/or splicing-joining the elongated flexible members of fencing are known including those shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,527,877 and 6,152,429. One apparatus of particular utility in conjunction with such composite metal and plastic web fencing installations takes the form of a spool having a slotted core. The flexible fencing is threaded through the core slot during construction of the fence. Once the ends of the flexible fencing have been secured, the spool is rotated so as to wind some portion of the flexible fencing around the core, thereby removing slack from the length of flexible fencing on which the spool was originally installed. Since the spools of the prior art require that the flexible fencing be threaded through the core slot, this threading operation must generally be done during initial construction of the fence. If through time, a fence installation becomes slack and no such spool was included in the initial installation, a terminal end of the flexible fencing must be opened to permit the threading operation necessary to install the prior art spool.

[0006] What is needed is a spool constructed in such a manner to permit its installation at any point along the length of a flexible fencing member at any time without the need for a threading operation.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] A spool apparatus of the present invention for tightening a flexible member of a fence, includes a core member bifurcated by a slot having a closed end and an open end so as to form two legs. A first flange member is fixed to the core member adjacent the closed end of the slot. The slot open end permits the core member legs to straddle a flexible fence member at any point along the length of the flexible fence member. To straddle a flexible fence member, the slot open end is positioned at a lateral edge of the flexible fence member, and the core is then slipped over the flexible fence member so that the two legs are situated on opposite sides of the flexible fence member. The straddling operation can be done at any time during or subsequent to the fence construction without the need to thread the flexible fencing through the core slot. A second flange member is provided that is engagable with the core adjacent the core open end to trap the flexible fence member in the core slot between the first and second flange members. Once the second flange is secured to the core, a suitable driver can apply a torque to the spool to remove slack from the flexible fencing and one or more retainers can be employed to secure the spool in position with the excess length of the flexible fencing removed.

[0008] A preferred embodiment of the spool apparatus of the present invention includes a core that has a generally cylindrical outer surface, with the slot aligned with a diameter of the cylindrical outer surface. More than one slot could be provided to accommodate flexible fencing of different widths. In the preferred embodiment, the core member includes a flange-engaging niche adjacent the open end, with the niche being aligned perpendicularly to the slot. The niche permits the second flange to be securely coupled to the core at a pre-selected spacing from the first flange. The spacing between the first and second flanges can be selected in relation to the width of the flexible fencing with which the spool is intended to be used. Where the spool might be employed with flexible fencing of differing widths, the core could be provided with niches positioned at differing locations along the core.

[0009] In the preferred embodiment, the slot includes an enlarged portion adjacent to the open end leading to the flange-engaging niche. The core portions defining the ends of the legs between the enlarged slot portions are seen to be arcuate in shape when viewed from the core open end. The second flange member includes arcuate openings adapted to receive the arcuate end portions of the core member legs adjacent the open end. The ends of the arcuate openings in the second flange member are separated by web portions. The web portions of the second flange member are sized to be received in the enlarged portion of the slot, but not the narrower flexible fencing-receiving portion of the slot. Each web portion of the second flange member is also sized to be received in the flange-engaging niche of the core to secure the second flange to the core.

[0010] In the preferred embodiment, each of the first and second flange members include a torque coupling so that the torque applied to the spool can be balanced to ensure a desirable alignment for the spool in relation to the flexible fencing member on which the core is engaged. In the preferred embodiment, the torque coupling of the second flange member is situated inside the arcuate openings, while the torque coupling on the first flange is centrally located in relation to the perimeter of the first flange.

[0011] In use, the second flange is removed from a spool of the present invention to expose the core slot open end. The core legs are then caused to straddle a flexible fencing member so that the legs are positioned on opposite sides of the flexible fence member. The slot open end is then closed by securing the second flange member to the spool core to trap the flexible fence member within the slot. A torque is then applied to the spool to rotationally displace the core in relation to the flexible fence member. Both flanges are provided with a plurality of peripheral openings. At least one retainer pin is provided that is engagable in at least one of the plurality of peripheral openings of both flange members to retain any rotational displacement of the core in relation to the flexible fence member trapped in the core slot.

[0012] The features of a spool constructed in accordance with the present invention permit its installation at any point along the length of a flexible fencing member at any time without the need for a threading operation. Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from a consideration of the following description of a preferred embodiment taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a prior art fence spool.

[0014] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a fence spool of the present invention.

[0015] FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the fence spool shown in FIG. 2.

[0016] FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of the spool shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 showing the flexible fence member receiving slot.

[0017] FIG. 5 is an end elevation view of the fence spool shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 showing an end of the spool partially engaged with the spool core.

[0018] FIG. 6 is a side elevation view similar to FIG. 4 but with the spool rotated by 90°.

[0019] FIG. 7 is an end elevation view similar to FIG. 5, but showing the opposite end of the spool.

[0020] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a fence spool of the present invention being placed on a fence for use to tighten the flexible members forming the fence.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0021] A fence spool 10 of the prior art is shown in FIG. 1 that is suitable for use on composite metal and plastic web fencing installations. The spool 10 includes a core 12 that has a slot 14. Flanges 16 and 18 are welded adjacent each end of the core 12. An end portion 22 of the core 12 projects outward through the flanges 16 and 18 at each end so that a tool (not shown), such as a ½ inch driver, can engage the end portion 22 of the core 12. Each of the flanges 16 and 18 include a plurality of peripheral openings 24. One or more retainer pins 26 are provided that can be inserted though aligned pairs of the peripheral openings 24. In use, the flexible fencing, that is to be tightened with the spool 10, is required to be threaded through the core slot 14 during construction of the fence. Once the ends of the flexible fencing have been secured, the spool 10 can be rotated with the aid of one or more tools (not shown) engaging the core end portions 22 so as to wind some portion of the flexible fencing around the core 12. This winding operation removes any slack from the length of flexible fencing on which the spool 10 was originally installed. Upon achieving a desired tension in the flexible fencing through the winding operation, one or more retainer pins 26 are inserted though aligned pairs of the peripheral openings 24 to preserve the desired tension. Since these prior art spools 10 require that the flexible fencing be threaded through the core slot 14, this threading operation must generally be done during initial construction of the fence. If through time, a fence installation becomes slack and no such spool 10 was included in the initial installation, a terminal end of the flexible fencing must be opened to permit the threading operation necessary to install the prior art spool 10.

[0022] A fence spool 30 of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 2-8. The fence spool 30 includes a core member 32 bifurcated into two semi-cylindrical legs 34 and 36 that are separated from each other by a core slot 38. The core slot 38 is generally aligned with a diameter of the generally cylindrical outer surface 31 of the core member 32 and includes a closed end 40 and an open end 42. A first flange member 44 is fixed to the core member 32 adjacent to the closed end 40 of the core slot 38. A second flange member 46 is releasably coupled to the core member 32 adjacent to the open end 42 of the core slot 38, particularly as shown in FIGS. 3 and 8. The releasable coupling between the second flange member 46 and the core member 32 enables the legs 34 and 36 of the core member 32 to straddle a flexible fence member 60 supported on posts 61 as shown in FIG. 8. The second flange member 46 can then be coupled to the core member 32 to trap the flexible fence member 60 in the core slot 38. Further, this straddling operation can be achieved at anytime during or subsequent to the construction of the fence without the need to open an end of the fencing to permit a threading operation as is required by the prior art spool of FIG. 1.

[0023] The coupling arrangement between the second flange member 46 and the core member 32 can be achieved by a variety of means such as a threaded coupling, a bendable tab received in a slot, or a key and keyway arrangement. The preferred embodiment is shown in FIGS. 2, 3 and 5 where it can be seen that the second flange member 46 includes arcuate openings 48 that are designed to receive the distal ends 50 and 52 of the core legs 34 and 36. Web portions 54 of the second flange member 46 separate the arcuate openings 48 from each other. The web portions 54 are dimensioned to be received in enlarged end portion 56 of core slot 38. Flange-engaging niches 56 are arranged perpendicularly to core slot 38 at the proximal end of the enlarged end portions 58 of the core slot 38. Rotation of the second flange member 46 with respect to the core member 32 causes the web portions 54 to become engaged in the flange-engaging niches 56. Of course, rotation in the opposite sense permits release of the second flange member 46 from the core member 32.

[0024] With the second flange member 46 released from the core member 32, the fence spool 30 of the present invention can be positioned so that the legs 34 and 36 straddle a flexible fence member 60 as shown in FIG. 8. It will be appreciated that the spool can be applied, with substantially equal function, with the first flange member 44 on the bottom of the flexible fence member 60 as shown in FIG. 8 or on the top of the flexible fence member. Once the flexible fence member 60 is fully received in the core slot 38, the second flange member 46 can be coupled to the core member 32 as previously discussed, thus trapping the flexible fence member 60 within the core slot 38. Of course, the spool 30 of the present invention can be installed at any point along the length of a flexible fencing member 60 at any time and without the need for a threading operation that was required by the prior art spool shown in FIG. 1. Both the first flange member 44 and the second flange member 46 include torque coupling elements 68, that are intended to be driven by a suitable drive tool (not shown) such as a ½ inch driver typically employed with the prior art device of FIG. 1. The torque coupling element 68 on the second flange member 46 is located radially inside the arcuate openings 48. The first and second flange members 44 and 46 also include a plurality of peripheral openings 62 that are intended to receive retainer pins 64 that can be inserted though aligned pairs of the peripheral openings 62.

[0025] Once the second flange member 46 has been secured to the core member 32 entrapping the flexible fencing member 60, the spool 30 can be rotated with the aid of one or more tools (not shown) engaging the torque coupling elements 68 so as to wind some portion of the flexible fencing around the core member 32. This winding operation removes any slack from the flexible fencing 60 which the spool 30 straddles. Upon achieving a desired tension in the flexible fencing 60 through the winding operation, one or more retainer pins 64 are inserted though aligned pairs of the peripheral openings 62 to preserve the desired tension.

[0026] Although the present invention as been described in detail in relation to the illustrated preferred embodiment, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that many modifications not described in detail above are possible without departing from the novel teachings and advantages of this invention. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of this invention as defined by the following claims.