Title:
Mailbox protective device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides a protective device for a mailbox assembly and corresponding methods for protecting a mailbox assembly. The protective device includes an upper shield adapted for attachment to a mailbox and a lower shield adapted for attachment to a mailbox post. Outer surfaces of the upper and lower shields are contoured to deflect forces away from the mailbox and the mailbox post, respectively. For example, the outer surfaces of the upper and lower shields may have rounded surfaces. Alternatively, the outer surfaces of the upper and lower shields may have angular surfaces. The lower shield may be contiguous to the upper shield. The upper shield and the lower shield can be formed as a single unit. The shields may be provided separately from the mailbox and post, or formed integral to the mailbox and post.



Inventors:
Belanger, Ronald (Unionville, CT, US)
Application Number:
11/064863
Publication Date:
08/24/2006
Filing Date:
02/23/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47G29/12
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MILLER, WILLIAM L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lipsitz & McAllister, LLC (MONROE, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A protective device for a mailbox assembly comprising: an upper shield adapted for attachment to a mailbox; a lower shield adapted for attachment to a mailbox post; wherein outer surfaces of said upper and lower shields are contoured to deflect forces away from said mailbox and said mailbox post, respectively.

2. A protective device in accordance with claim 1, wherein: said outer surfaces of said upper and lower shields comprise rounded surfaces.

3. A protective device in accordance with claim 1, wherein: said outer surface of said upper shield is semicircular in a horizontal plane; and said outer surface of said lower shield is semicircular in a vertical plane.

4. A protective device in accordance with claim 1, wherein: said lower shield is contiguous to said upper shield.

5. A protective device according to claim 1, wherein: said upper shield and said lower shield are formed as a single unit.

6. A protective device according to claim 1 wherein: said upper shield has a notch for operating a flag.

7. A protective device according to claim 1 wherein: said lower shield extends from about a bottom of said mailbox to about a ground level.

8. A protective device according to claim 1, further comprising: at least one mailbox biasing member interposed between said upper shield and said mailbox for maintaining a distance between said mailbox and said upper shield.

9. A protective device in accordance with claim 8, further comprising: at least one mount for said mailbox biasing member, said mount adapted to dampen forces applied against said upper shield.

10. A protective device in accordance with claim 9, wherein: said mount is interposed between at least one of: (i) said upper shield and said mailbox biasing member; and (ii) said mailbox and said mailbox biasing member.

11. A protective device in accordance with claim 1, further comprising: at least one post biasing member interposed between said lower shield and said mailbox post for maintaining a distance between said post and said lower shield.

12. A protective device in accordance with claim 11, further comprising: at least one mount for said post biasing member, said mount adapted to dampen forces applied against said lower shield.

13. A protective device in accordance with claim 12, wherein: said mount is interposed between at least one of: (i) said lower shield and said post biasing member; and (ii) said post and said post biasing member.

14. A protective device in accordance with claim 1, wherein: said upper and lower shields are adapted to be removably attached to said mailbox and said mailbox post, respectively.

15. A protective device in accordance with claim 14, wherein: said upper and lower shields are attached to said mailbox and said mailbox post using at least one of bolts, screws, straps, clamps, or zip ties.

16. A protective device in accordance with claim 1, wherein: said outer surfaces of said upper and lower shields comprise angular surfaces.

17. A protective device in accordance with claim 1, wherein: said outer surface of said upper shield is angular in a horizontal plane; and said outer surface of said lower shield is angular in a vertical plane.

18. A shielded mailbox assembly comprising: a shielded mailbox stand; a shielded mailbox adapted to be mounted on said shielded mailbox stand; said shielded mailbox comprising an integral upper shield and a mailbox; said shielded mailbox stand comprising an integral lower shield and a mailbox stand; wherein outer surfaces of said integral upper and lower shields are contoured to deflect forces away from said mailbox and said mailbox stand, respectively.

19. A shielded mailbox assembly according to claim 18 further comprising: a newspaper holder interposed between said integral upper shield and said mailbox.

20. A method of protecting a mailbox assembly comprising: attaching an upper shield to a mailbox; attaching a lower shield to a mailbox post; wherein outer surfaces of said upper shield and said lower shield are contoured to deflect forces away from said mailbox and said mailbox post, respectively.

Description:

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates to a protective device for standard rural or curb side mailboxes which prevents damage from, for example, the impact of snowplow debris and heavy winds.

Roadside mailboxes are often damaged by the impact of snow and debris thrown by snowplows. Mailboxes may also be damaged by heavy winds. Mailboxes are also the frequent target of vandalism, such as, for example, teenagers smashing mailboxes with baseball bats.

Several attempts have been made to reduce the damage caused by thrown snow and other debris to standard roadside mailboxes. These attempts may be broadly described as either providing a heavier material than typically used for a standard mailbox or providing a break-away action to limit the damage caused by debris.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,460,326 discloses a one-piece device constructed of a high impact-resistant material having a high elastic modulus in order to resist applied forces and absorb energy. The device has a shelf portion for supporting a regulation mailbox, an upwardly extending shroud portion and a downwardly extending skirt portion spaced from the shroud portion.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,824,113 B1 discloses a guard member so as to guard a mailbox and/or a newsbox from damage such as that caused by plowed snow.

U.S. Pat. No. Des. 360,741 discloses a precast concrete mailbox unit.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,187,978 discloses a flexible shield or cage surrounding a portion of a mailbox which utilizes a shear pin arrangement.

U. S. Pat. No. 5,207,377 discloses a laterally deformable lower bellows member integrally attached to the mailbox subjacent the lower mailbox portion. The lower bellows member allows the mailbox to laterally deflect from its normal upright position when the mailbox is struck by an object.

These prior devices are often complex and expensive or do not provide adequate protection for the mailbox assembly, particularly the post.

It would be advantageous to provide methods and apparatus for deflecting forces away from the mailbox and post that are simple and cost-effective. It would also be advantageous to provide a device for protecting a mailbox assembly from damage caused by vandalism. It would be further advantageous to provide a design that can either be retrofit on an existing mailbox assembly or supplied as a complete shielded mailbox assembly. The invention provides the aforementioned and other advantages.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, a protective device is provided for a mailbox assembly. The protective device includes an upper shield adapted for attachment to a mailbox and a lower shield adapted for attachment to a mailbox post. Outer surfaces of the upper and lower shields are contoured to deflect forces away from the mailbox and the mailbox post, respectively.

In an exemplary embodiment, the outer surfaces of the upper and lower shields may have rounded surfaces. For example, the outer surface of the upper shield can be semicircular in a horizontal plane and the outer surface of the lower shield can be semicircular in a vertical plane.

The lower shield may be contiguous to the upper shield. The upper shield and the lower shield can be formed as a single unit. The upper shield may have a notch for operating a flag. The lower shield can extend from about a bottom of the mailbox to about a ground level.

In a further example embodiment of the present invention, at least one mailbox biasing member may be interposed between the upper shield and the mailbox for maintaining a distance between the mailbox and the upper shield. At least one mount may be provided for the mailbox biasing member. The mount may be adapted to dampen forces applied against the upper shield. The mount may be interposed between at least one of: (i) the upper shield and the mailbox biasing member; and (ii) the mailbox and the mailbox biasing member.

In addition, at least one post biasing member may be interposed between the lower shield and the mailbox post for maintaining a distance between the post and the lower shield. At least one mount may be provided for the post biasing member. The mount may be adapted to dampen forces applied against the lower shield. The mount may be interposed between at least one of: (i) the lower shield and the post biasing member; and (ii) the post and the post biasing member.

The upper and lower shields may be adapted to be removably attached to the mailbox and the mailbox post, respectively. For example, the upper and lower shields may be attached to the mailbox and the mailbox post using at least one of bolts, screws, straps, clamps, zip ties, or the like.

In accordance with a further embodiment of the present invention, a shielded mailbox assembly is provided. The shielded mailbox assembly includes a shielded mailbox stand and a shielded mailbox adapted to be mounted on the shielded mailbox stand. The shielded mailbox includes an integral upper shield and a mailbox. The shielded mailbox stand includes an integral lower shield and a mailbox stand. The outer surfaces of the integral upper and lower shields are contoured to deflect forces away from the mailbox and the mailbox stand, respectively. For example, the outer surfaces may be rounded or angular surfaces. The shielded mailbox stand may include a newspaper holder interposed between the integral upper shield and the mailbox.

An exemplary method of protecting a mailbox assembly is also provided in accordance with the present invention. The method includes attaching an upper shield to a mailbox and attaching a lower shield to a mailbox post. The outer surfaces of the upper shield and the lower shield are contoured to deflect forces away from the mailbox and the mailbox post, respectively.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The present invention will hereinafter be described in conjunction with the appended drawing figures, wherein like reference numerals denote like elements, and

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a mailbox and mailbox shield;

FIG. 2 is a front view of an exemplary embodiment of a mailbox assembly and protective device;

FIG. 3 is a side view of an exemplary embodiment of a mailbox assembly and protective device;

FIG. 4 is a cut-away view of an exemplary embodiment of a mailbox post showing a lower shield top view;

FIG. 5A illustrates the forces of plowed snow impacting a prior art mailbox post;

FIG. 5B illustrates the forces of plowed snow impacting a post with an exemplary embodiment of a protective device in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a front view of an exemplary embodiment of a mailbox assembly and a protective device constructed as an integral unit;

FIG. 7 is a side view of an exemplary embodiment of a mailbox assembly and a protective device constructed as an integral unit;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a mailbox assembly and a protective device constructed as an integral unit.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The ensuing detailed description provides exemplary embodiments only, and is not intended to limit the scope, applicability, or configuration of the invention. Rather, the ensuing detailed description of the exemplary embodiments will provide those skilled in the art with an enabling description for implementing an embodiment of the invention. It should be understood that various changes may be made in the function and arrangement of elements without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims.

The present invention provides exemplary mailbox protective devices which serve to protect a mailbox and/or a mailbox post from, for example, forces caused by snow and debris thrown from a snowplow or from forces generated by high winds. The mailbox protective devices of the present invention also provide protection against vandalism. The mailbox protective device can be constructed for attachment to an existing mailbox and post, or constructed integrally with a mailbox and post assembly. The mailbox protective device provides protection for the mailbox assembly by providing an upper shield to protect the mailbox and a lower shield to protect a mailbox post. Corresponding methods for protecting a mailbox assembly are also provided in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a protective device 30 in accordance with the present invention mounted to a separate mailbox assembly 20. The mailbox assembly 20 includes a mailbox 22 and a mailbox post 24. The protective device includes an upper shield 32 and a lower shield 34. The upper shield 32 can approximately cover the mailbox 22. The lower shield 34 can approximately cover the mailbox post 24 between a bottom of the mailbox 23 and a ground level 28 along a first length 26. The mailbox post 24 can be fixedly secured below ground level 28 by a permanent structural material (e.g. concrete).

FIG. 2 is a front view of an exemplary embodiment of the protective device 30 removably mounted to the mailbox assembly 20. The upper shield 32 and the lower shield 34 can be provided as an integral unit. The upper shield 32 and the lower shield 34 may be constructed of a durable plastic or the like, or of a metal such as aluminum, steel, or the like.

An outer surface 33 of the upper shield 32 may be contoured to deflect forces, such as those generated by thrown snow and debris or by high winds, away from the mailbox 22.

For example, the outer surface 33 of the upper shield 32 may be rounded. In particular, the upper shield 32 can be semicircular in a horizontal plane. For example, the upper shield 32 may extend above and below the mailbox 22 and be constructed with a radius R1 extending from approximately the center of the mailbox 22. The rounded outer surface 33 of the upper shield 32 deflects forces away from the mailbox 22.

The lower shield 34 can extend along a first length 26 of the mailbox post 24 between the bottom of the mailbox 23 and the ground level 28. The lower shield 34 need not extend to the ground level 28 in all cases. The protection afforded the mailbox post 24 is increased as the lower shield 34 extends closer to the ground level 28.

The protective device 30 further may include means for removably mounting the protective device 30 to the mailbox assembly 20. Mailbox ties 50 may be utilized to removably attach the upper shield 32 to the mailbox 22. The mailbox ties 50 are shown as commercial grade zip ties that pass through mailbox ties slots 52 provided in the upper shield 32. The zip tie is then wrapped around the mailbox 22 and zip hooked near the mailbox 22. Alternative means to removably attach the upper shield 32 to the mailbox 22, not shown, may be utilized including wire ties, string, straps, clamps, or the like. Additional alternative means, not shown, for attaching the upper shield 32 to the mailbox 22 may include fasteners such as lag bolts or screws passing through the upper shield 32 directly into the mailbox 22.

Post ties 38 may be utilized to removably attach the lower shield 34 to the mailbox post 24. The post ties 38 are shown as commercial grade zip ties that pass through post tie slots 40 provided in the lower shield 34. The zip tie is then wrapped around the mailbox post 24 and zip hooked near the mailbox post 24. Alternative means to removably attach the lower shield 34 to the mailbox post 24, not shown, may be utilized including wire ties, string, straps, clamps, or the like. Additional alternative means, not shown, for attaching the lower shield 34 to the mailbox post 24 may include fasteners such as lag bolts or screws passing through the lower shield 34 directly into the mailbox post 24. The means for attaching the protective device 30 to the mailbox assembly 20 should be selected to function effectively at sub-freezing temperatures as will often be the case with snowplow debris.

At least one post biasing member 44 may be interposed between the post 24 and the lower shield 34 to maintain a first distance 48 between the lower shield 34 and the mailbox post 24. A post biasing member recess 42 is provided in the lower shield 34 to improve the aesthetics of the protective device 30. A cover (not shown) may be provided to further hide the post biasing member 44 and improve the aesthetics of the device. At least one post biasing member mount 46 may be interposed between the post biasing member 44 and the mailbox post 24 or the post biasing member 44 and the lower shield 34. In combination, the post biasing member 44 and the mount 46 act to dampen forces applied against the lower shield 34 in order to reduce damage to the mailbox post 24 and provide stress relief when a force is applied against the protective device 30. The post biasing member 44 is shown as a lag bolt but may be provided as any adjustable, rigid mounting means such as a machine screw, wood screw, hex bolt, shoulder bolt, a metal or plastic rod (which may be partially or completely threaded), or the like. The post biasing member mount 46 may be a flexible mount (e.g. a rubber bumper, a nipple, a spring coil, or the like) suitable for dampening forces generated between the lower shield 34 and the mailbox post 24. Such forces may be due to, for example, debris impacting the lower shield 34, such as snow and rocks thrown from a snowplow. Forces generated between the lower shield 34 and the mailbox post 24 may also include forces generated by high winds.

At least one mailbox biasing member 56 may be interposed between the mailbox 22 and the upper shield 32 to maintain a second distance 59 between the upper shield 32 and the mailbox 22. A mailbox biasing member recess 54 is provided in the upper shield 32 to improve the aesthetics of the protective device 30. A cover (not shown) may be provided to further hide the mailbox biasing member 56 and improve the aesthetics of the device. At least one mailbox biasing member mount 58 may be interposed between the mailbox biasing member 56 and the mailbox 22 or the mailbox biasing member 56 and the upper shield 32. In combination, the mailbox biasing member 56 and the mount 58 act to dampen forces applied against the upper shield 32 in order to reduce damage to the mailbox 22 and provide stress relief when a force is applied against the protective device 30. The mailbox biasing member 56 is shown as a lag bolt but may be provided as any adjustable, rigid mounting means such as a machine screw, wood screw, hex bolt, shoulder bolt, a metal or plastic rod (which may be partially or completely threaded), or the like. The mailbox biasing member mount 58 may be a flexible mount (e.g. a rubber bumper, a nipple, a spring coil, or the like) adapted for dampening forces generated between the upper shield 32 and the mailbox 22. Such forces may be due to, for example, debris impacting the upper shield 32, such as snow and rocks thrown from a snowplow. Forces generated between the upper shield 32 and the mailbox 22 may also include forces generated by high winds.

FIG. 3 is a side view of an exemplary embodiment of the protective device 30 removably mounted to the mailbox assembly 20. A flag indent 62 can be provided in the upper shield 32 to allow access and visibility for a standard mailbox flag 60. The flag indent 60 should be limited to a minimum size to allow adequate visibility without substantially reducing the size of the upper shield 32, thereby providing the maximum semicircular surface area. Alternatively, a standard mailbox flag 60 may be mounded on the upper shield 32 to eliminate the need to provide a flag indent 60. An address flat 64 may be provided on the upper shield 32 to provide a surface for address numerals 66.

FIG. 4 is a cut-away view of an exemplary mailbox post 24 showing a lower shield top view. An outer surface 35 of the lower shield 34 may be contoured to deflect forces, such as those generated by thrown snow and debris or by high winds, away from the mailbox post 24. For example, the outer surface 35 of the lower shield 34 may be rounded. In particular, the lower shield 34 can be semicircular in a vertical plane. For example, the lower shield 34 may extend laterally outside the mailbox post 24 and be constructed with a radius R2 extending from approximately the center of the post 24. The rounded outer surface 35 of the lower shield 34 deflects forces away from the mailbox post 24.

FIG. 5A illustrates how a force 70 impacts a prior art mailbox post 24. Such force 70 may be due to, for example, debris such as snow and rocks thrown from a snowplow or forces generated by high winds. The force 70 will contact the mailbox post 24 approximately perpendicularly as shown. Therefore, the resulting force 72 acting on the post 24 is not deflected to any significant degree. The force 70 will also impact a prior art mailbox, not shown, in a similar manner.

FIG. 5B illustrates how the forces of plowed snow impact a mailbox post 24 with a lower shield 34 in accordance with the present invention. The force 70 generated by a snowplow or other means will contact the lower shield 34 approximately perpendicular to the mailbox post 24 as shown. However, only a small portion of the force 70 impacts the lower shield 34 approximately perpendicularly as a result of the contoured lower outer surface 35. The majority of the force 70 will be deflected by the lower shield 34 (shown as deflected force 74). The resulting force 72 acting on the post 24 is therefore equal to the force 70 reduced by deflected force 74. In addition, any force that is not deflected will be dampened by the mounts 46 and 58 for the biasing members 44 and 56. The mailbox post 24 with the protective lower shield 34 can therefore withstand a greater force 70 prior to breaking. An additional benefit of the design may include shedding the snow around the mailbox post 24, not shown, preventing snow build-up and reducing the weight on the mailbox post 24. The same method of force reduction on mailbox 22 is achieved with the upper shield 32 (FIGS. 1 and 2) of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a front view of an example embodiment of a shielded mailbox assembly 100. The shielded mailbox assembly 100 may include a shielded mailbox 102 and a shielded mailbox stand 104 as an integral part thereof. The shielded mailbox assembly 100 can be constructed of a heavy-duty polymer similar to commercially available mailbox assemblies. The shielded mailbox 102 and the shielded mailbox stand 104 may be formed as a single unit. A ground post 106 may be separately provided. The ground post 106 is typically a 4″×4″ square wood post but may alternatively be any heavy material such as steel, plastic, or heavy gauge aluminum in any shape, including circular, or size, suitable for permanent fixation below ground level 28 by such means as concrete, not shown. The shielded mailbox 102 is supported by the shielded mailbox stand 104. The shielded mailbox stand 104 is fixedly mounted to the ground post 106 by a plurality of ground post fasteners 130. The ground post fastener is an adjustable, rigid mounting member such as a lag bolt, machine screw, wood screw, hex bolt, shoulder bolt, a metal or plastic rod (which may be partially or completely threaded), or the like. A ground post recess 124 may be provided in the shielded mailbox stand 104 to provide a receiving means for the ground post 106.

The shielded mailbox 102 includes an integral upper shield 110 that can be constructed simultaneously with a mailbox 22, preferably in a molding process so that the integral upper shield 110 is a permanent feature of the shielded mailbox 102. The outer surface 112 of the integral upper shield 110 may be contoured to deflect forces away from said mailbox 22. For example, the outer surface 112 of the integral upper shield 110 may be rounded. In particular, the outer surface of integral upper shield 110 can have a semicircular design in the horizontal plane. For example, the integral upper shield 110 may extend above and below the mailbox 22 and be constructed with a radius R3 extending from approximately the center of the mailbox 22. The rounded upper outer surface 112 on the integral upper shield 110 deflects forces away from the mailbox 22. A newspaper holder 116 can be provided between the mailbox 22 and the integral upper shield 110.

The shielded mailbox stand 104 includes an integral lower shield 120 and a mailbox stand 126, preferably formed simultaneously in a molding process so that the integral lower shield 120 and the mailbox stand 126 are permanent features of the shielded mailbox stand 104. The outer surface 122 of the integral lower shield 120 may be contoured to deflect forces away from the stand 104. For example, the outer surface 122 of the integral lower shield 120 may be rounded. In particular, the outer surface 122 of the integral lower shield 120 can be a semicircular design in the vertical plane. The integral lower shield 120 may extend approximately from a bottom of the shielded mailbox 108 to the ground level 28 along a second length 110. The rounded integral lower shield 120 deflects forces away from the shielded mailbox stand 104.

FIG. 7 is a side view of an example embodiment of a mailbox assembly and protective device constructed as an integral unit. A flag 60 can be pivotally mounted by means of a flag mount 114 to the outer surface 112 of the integral upper shield 110. The flag mount 114 may be, as is common in the art, as a rivet or the like. An integral address flat 118 may be formed on the integral upper outer surface 112 during the molding process. The integral address flat 118 is a flat surface on the outer surface 112. The height of the integral address flat 118 should be limited as much as possible to retain the contour of the integral upper shield 110. Address numerals 66 in accordance with postal service specifications can be affixed to the integral address flat 118.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a further example embodiment of a mailbox protective device 200 in accordance with the present invention. The protective device 200 includes a shielded mailbox 202 and a post shield 204 as an integral part thereof. The shielded mailbox 202 is similar to the shielded mailbox 102 described in connection with FIGS. 6 and 7. However, the shielded mailbox 202 includes a cut-out or indent 62 for the flag 60. The shielded mailbox 202 and the post shield 204 may be formed as a single unit. A ground post 206 may be separately provided. The shielded mailbox 202 is supported by the post 206 when the post shield 204 is secured thereto. The post shield 204 may be fixedly mounted to the ground post 206 by a plurality of ground post ties 38, as discussed above in connection with FIGS. 1-4, or by alternative means, such as lag bolts, screws, and the like.

The shielded mailbox 202 includes an integral upper shield 210 that can be constructed simultaneously with a mailbox 22, preferably in a molding process so that the integral upper shield 210 is a permanent feature of the shielded mailbox 202. The outer surface 212 of the integral upper shield 110 may be contoured to deflect forces away from said mailbox 22, as discussed above in connection with FIGS. 6 and 7. For example, the outer surface 212 of the integral upper shield 210 may be rounded. The rounded upper outer surface 212 on the integral upper shield 210 deflects forces away from the mailbox 22. A newspaper holder 116 can be provided between the mailbox 22 and the integral upper shield 210.

The post shield 204 is adapted to be secured to a mailbox post 206. The post shield and the shielded mailbox 202 are preferably formed simultaneously in a molding process to provide a one-piece protective device 200. The outer surface 222 of the post shield 204 may be contoured to deflect forces away from the post 206. For example, the outer surface 222 of the post shield 204 may be rounded.

The embodiments of the present invention are shown in the Figures and discussed above as having rounded outer surfaces for deflecting forces away from the mailbox assembly. However, those skilled in the art will appreciate that alternative designs for the outer surfaces may be used which can act to deflect forces away from the mailbox assembly. For example, such designs may include outer surfaces having angled contours, or outer surfaces having a combination of angled and rounded contours designed to deflect forces away from the mailbox assembly. For example, the outer surface of the lower shield may be angular in a vertical plane, while the outer surface of the upper shield may be rounded in a horizontal plane.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the majority of the features discussed above and shown in the embodiments of FIGS. 1-5 are equally applicable to the embodiments of the integral unit discussed in connection with FIGS. 6-8, and that various features of the different embodiments may be combined to produce further embodiments. For example, post biasing members 44 and mounts 46 shown in FIG. 2 may be used with the post shield 204 of the FIG. 8 embodiment. Other combinations will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

While the present invention has been described with reference to exemplary embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiments disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.