Title:
Light hanging device and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides a mechanism for spooling or reeling light strings and other stringed items onto a spool or reel. A spool is fitted with a suitable mechanism for receiving an extension pole (of varying or adjustable lengths, such as, e.g., a pole with discreet add-on or telescoping section lengths). Preferably the pole is removable from the spool. One or more strings may be spooled onto the spool. To aid in spooling, the side of the spool opposite the pole could be configured with a handle mechanism to assist in rotating the spool. The user can also obtain a spool that has already been spooled with the desired string. The present invention also relates generally to a convenient device and method for storing such stringed items between use. A method is also disclosed for using a pole-mounted spool for deploying light strings and other stringed items onto an object.



Inventors:
Smith, Andrew Douglas (Houston, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/355390
Publication Date:
08/24/2006
Filing Date:
02/16/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
242/401, 242/405.3, 294/210, 242/395
International Classes:
B65H75/40
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20060060687Fishing reel having externally controlled spool brakeMarch, 2006Lee
20150225202RING AND CONTAINER FOR COILED WIREAugust, 2015Cooper
20090065624STRUCTURE OF STRIP WINDING MACHINEMarch, 2009Yu Chen
20020056779Magnetic tape cassetteMay, 2002Kita et al.
20100213303TOILET-PAPER ROLL CENTRALIZERAugust, 2010Sanders
20060249617Automatically locking retractorNovember, 2006Cardona
20110248114TOILET PAPER ROLL COVEROctober, 2011Ghetia
20110193040FENCING SYSTEM AND TENSIONERAugust, 2011Reid
20030019973Thread guiding elementJanuary, 2003Krumeich
20120032020Hose hopper: a device to store hose and similar cord-like itemsFebruary, 2012Penney
20140312159SPOOL FOR RECEIVING WINDING MATERIAL AND SPOOL PART SYSTEMOctober, 2014Troitzsch et al.



Primary Examiner:
CAMPOS, JR, JUAN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GORDON G. WAGGETT, P.C. (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. An apparatus for placing stringed materials onto an object, said apparatus comprising: a. a spool capable of receiving said stringed materials in spooled fashion; b. a pole capable of being attached to said spool and rotating with said spool.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the stringed materials comprise one or more electrical light strings.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the stringed materials comprise one or more strings of garland.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the spool further comprises a means for attaching said stringed materials thereon.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the object is a real or artificial tree.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the object is a component of a commercial or residential structure.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the pole is extendable in length.

8. A spool containing stringed materials, said spool capable of being attached to pole.

9. A method of placing stringed materials onto an object, said method comprising the following steps: a. spooling stringed materials onto a spool capable of receiving said stringed materials in spooled fashion; b. attaching said spool to a pole capable of receiving said spool and rotating with said spool; c. unspooling said stringed materials onto said object.

10. The method of claim 9 comprising the additional step of repeating steps a-c until all desired stringed materials have been placed onto the object.

11. The method of claim 9 wherein the spooling step (a) is achieved by providing a spool that has already been spooled with said stringed materials.

12. The method of claim 9, wherein the stringed materials comprise one or more electrical light strings.

13. The method of claim 9, wherein the stringed materials comprise one or more strings of garland.

14. The method of claim 9, wherein the spool further comprises a means for attaching said stringed materials thereon.

15. The method of claim 9, wherein such object is a real or artificial tree.

16. The method of claim 9, wherein the object is a component of a commercial or residential structure.

17. The method of claim 9 comprising the additional step of adjusting the length of the pole.

18. The method of claim 9 further comprising the step of removing said stringed material from said object by respooling same onto said spool.

19. The method of claim 18 further comprising the step of storing said stringed material on said spool.

20. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a motor capable of rotating the reel, and a controller capable of controlling the motor.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of the filing date of copending U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/654,336 filed Feb. 18, 2005, Confirmation No. 4502.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to a device and method for placing strings of lights in a desired location. The present invention also relates generally to a device and method for placing strings of decorations in a desired location, such decorations including, for example and without limitation, streamers, tinsel, decorative strings, bead strings, garland, popcorn strings and the like. The present invention also relates generally to a convenient device and method for storing such stringed items between use.

There are many reasons for desiring to place a string of lights on a structure, e.g., to provide lighting and/or decoration. For example, during holidays or other celebrations, it is often desired to decorate buildings, houses, hotels, trees and shrubbery, light poles, etc. with decorative lights. The desire to use such light strings can occur for many reasons, including, for example, and without limitation, to celebrate the Christmas or other holiday season by decorating a Christmas tree and/or other structures, inside or outside. Outdoor lighting decorations are becoming more often used throughout the year, with Halloween fast becoming a popular holiday to provide thematic lighting. However, quite often, it is difficult for a person (or persons) to safely place the light string in those desired locations that are too high to safely or conveniently reach. Although ladders, chairs, and the like can be employed to reach higher areas, doing so places the person at risk of falling. This is particularly true with respect to outdoor trees, tall indoor trees, rooflines, and the like. The same concern applies to the placement of other decorative strings, such as streamers, garlands, bead strings and the like.

For example, office buildings, malls, banks, apartments and the like typically use very large trees (e.g., pine trees) as part of their holiday decorations, inside and/or outside of the buildings. Commercial areas often employ lights to decorate trees or street lights lining the streets of the area. Residents more and more are decorating their outdoor trees and the exteriors of their residences with an array of lights. In each of these instances, it can take many hours to complete the process of decorating the tree (or other structure) with lights. In order to place the stringed decorations (lights, beads, etc.), an array of persons will stand on ladders placed at differing locations around the tree and pass (in many cases throw) the string from one person to the next. This creates a dangerous risk of accidental fall, as one could easily lose one's balance while throwing, reaching or catching the string while on a ladder or perched on a branch.

Additionally, removal of lights that have been thrown into a tree often requires use of a downward pull to remove the lights. Such downward pull can cause the string to bind or snag in tree branches and lead to damage to the string and/or tree branch. Also, removal and storage of stringed lights and other decorative stringed items can often results in each strand becoming tangled. Thus, between the untangling of such strings and the time required to place such strings in the desired location using existing techniques, the process of deploying these stringed items becomes quite arduous.

As such, there exists a need to provide an improved device and method for placing light strings (or other stringed materials of long length). There also exists a need to improve the storage and reuse of such stringed items. There also exists a need to simplify the time required to place the stringed items into a desired location, remove the items after use, and store the items for reuse.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In a preferred embodiment of the present invention there is described an apparatus for placing stringed materials onto an object, the apparatus comprising a spool capable of receiving said stringed materials in spooled fashion and a pole capable of being attached to the spool and rotating with the spool. The stringed materials can comprise, e.g., one or more electrical light strings, strings of garland, or the like. The spool may be fitted with a hook or other means for attaching the stringed materials thereon. In a preferred embodiment, the object receiving the stringed materials may be a real or artificial tree. The object receiving the stringed materials may also be a component of a commercial or residential structure, or any other object where stringed materials are desired. The pole may be of fixed length, or be extendable in length.

Additionally, in another preferred embodiment, there is disclosed an empty spool for containing desired stringed materials, the spool capable of being attached to a pole. Additionally, the spool may contain desired stringed materials.

There is also disclosed a method of placing stringed materials onto an object, the method comprising the following steps: spooling stringed materials onto a spool capable of receiving the stringed materials in spooled fashion; attaching the spool to a pole capable of receiving the spool and rotating with the spool, and unspooling the stringed materials onto the object. These steps may be repeated until all desired stringed materials have been placed onto the object. The spooling step can be achieved by providing a spool that has already been spooled with the stringed materials. The stringed materials can comprise any desired material for stringing, such as one or more electrical light strings, or one or more strings of garland. When using the spool, an end of a desired string may preferably be attached to the spool. This method can be used to place desired strings on, for example, a real or artificial tree or a component of a commercial or residential structure. Depending on the desired height of the strings, the method may include the additional step of adjusting the length of the pole. Additionally, after the stringed material has been placed on an object, it may be desired to remove same, and as such, the method may further comprise the step of removing the stringed material from the object by respooling same onto the spool. The stringed material may then be stored on the spool until the next desired use.

Additionally, there is described and disclosed an ornamental design for a holiday light tree trimming device as shown and described in the accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a string spooling device with the spool empty according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool engaging a string.

FIG. 3 shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full.

FIG. 4 shows a preferred string spool embodiment of the present invention with the spool full.

FIG. 5a shows a preferred string spool device embodiment of the present invention with the spool empty.

FIG. 5b shows a preferred string spool device embodiment of the present invention with the spool empty.

FIG. 6 shows a string pooling device pole holder according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7a shows a perspective view of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7b shows a side view of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7c shows a cut-away side view of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7d shows an enlargement of the clip taken from section 7d of FIG. 7b of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7e shows a handle device for use with a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8a shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings.

FIG. 8b shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings.

FIG. 9a shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings.

FIG. 9b shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings.

FIG. 10a shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings.

FIG. 10b shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings.

FIG. 11a shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings being used to decorate an outdoor tree.

FIG. 11b shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings being used to decorate the exterior of a house.

FIG. 12a shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings, and the pole in a shortened position, being held by a user.

FIG. 12b shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings, and the pole in an extended position, being held by a user.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

To address the forgoing problems, the present invention provides a mechanism for spooling or reeling light strings and other stringed items onto a spool or reel. Each spool is fitted with a suitable mechanism for receiving an extension pole (of varying or adjustable lengths, such as a pole with discreet add-on section lengths, or a telescopic pole, for example). Preferably the pole is removable from the spool. One or more strings are spooled onto the spool by, e.g., laying out the string on the ground in a relatively straight line, attaching one end to the spool and then rolling the spool to collect the string. The user could also attach the pole and manually rotate the spool while collecting the string. Also, to aid in the spooling, the side of the spool opposite the pole could be configured to have a handle mechanism to assist in rotating the spool while spooling. In an alternative preferred embodiment, the user can obtain a spool that has already been spooled with the string.

The extension pole is set to the desired length and attached to the spool (or additional lengths or adjustments are made to a pole already attached to the spool). The spooled stringed item, e.g., Christmas lights, garland, etc. can now be readily and quickly unwound from the spool onto the desired object, e.g., a Christmas tree.

The stringed item can be spooled as a single length, or can be spooled in varying lengths that are attached, e.g., end-to-end. When the stringed item is to be removed, the process is reversed, and the stringed item(s) is spooled back onto the spool from the object (e.g., tree). Once so removed, the spool containing the stringed item can be removed from the pole and stored. The spool, with its stringed item, is now ready for reuse.

In a preferred embodiment, the spool contains a means for attaching one end of the stringed object, e.g., the female electrical plug end of an electrical light string, to the spool. Once spooled, the male electrical plug end of the string is at the outermost end of the spooled lights. As such, when running the light string from the spool onto the tree, it is preferable to place this male plug end near the bottom of the tree so that it can receive a suitable source of power, e.g., by plugging it directly into a nearby electrical socket/outlet or by plugging it into an extension cord that is ultimately plugged into an electrical socket/outlet. Once the exposed male plug end of the spooled string is in place, the remaining spooled string (lights) can be metered out by, e.g., holding the pole while walking proximate the base of the tree being decorated. For example, one could simply walk around the tree while holding the pole containing the spool, and adjusting the height of the spool to the desired height either by raising one's arms and/or by adding additional extension to the pole.

The spool is permitted to rotate as the string unwinds from the spool. In a preferred embodiment, the spool is fixed relative to the pole so that both the pole and spool must rotate together thereby allowing the user to adjust the tension of the unwinding (or winding) string.

While in the process of unspooling the string onto the tree, it may be desirable to connect the tailing female plug end of the first spool to the leading male end of string spooled on yet another spool so as to increase again the overall length of deployed string. Doing so can be achieved by, e.g., manipulating the final length of feed out of the string from the first spool so that one can direct the final length of the string from the first spool back down proximate ground level so that the first string can be connected to a second string on another spool. In a preferred embodiment, each desired string is maintained on its own spool; however, it is readily apparent that one could load a spool with a string, deploy that string, load another string onto the same spool, and deploy the second string, etc. When the last string is deployed onto the tree, the end of the string is preferably placed in an area that can be reached so as to make it easier to attach such end to the empty spool for purposes of later removing the string from the tree. When removing the string from the tree, the process is reversed.

The number of light strings, or overall length of light strings, can be varied, and the size of the spool can be varied accordingly. In a preferred embodiment, the spool is capable of receiving three (3) strings of 100-light decorative lights. It is also preferred that the spool itself be constructed of a lightweight material, such as plastic. It is also preferred that the pole be constructed of a lightweight, durable material. Although many light strings have a female and a male plug end, it will be understood that some light strings only have a male plug end, the opposite end having no electrical outlet. It will also be apparent that although it is preferred to deploy strings in a series fashion, it is also possible to deploy strings in a non-series fashion, one or more strings being independent of the other strings. It will further be apparent that although a removable spool is preferred, it is also possible to have the spool permanently affixed to the pole.

Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown a string spooling device 100 with the spool empty according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The spool 105 preferably has two sides 110, 115 and an axial core 130. In a preferred embodiment, the spool 105 is substantially cylindrical in shape; however, other shapes can be employed in carrying out this invention, e.g., square, rectangular, hexagonal, etc. A hook, clip or other suitable attachment device 120 is situated on the spool in a convenient location for attaching the desired string to be deployed. On the outer face of the spool side 115 there is an axially positioned receptacle 140 for receiving pole 150. The receptacle 140 is designed to have a mating surface with a receiving end of pole 150, such as by threaded connection, snap-lock, friction, or other suitable connection or coupler means known in the art. It is preferred that the pole 150 be removable from the receptacle 140, but the pole could be permanently affixed into the receptacle. Referring also to FIG. 4, in a preferred embodiment, the receptacle 140 comprises a cylindrical piece capable of being snugly received in the inside diameter of a hollow end of pole 150. The cylindrical piece also contains a spring-backed snap-lock bearing 141 that will mate with a similarly sized hole in the hollow end of pole 150, while also allowing for disengagement of the pole at a later time. The pole 150 can be of fixed length, or, as shown here, can be extendable with use of an appropriate mechanism for extension, such as, extension joint 155, such as used with telescoping (nested) poles, or attachable/detachable pole extension pieces 165, or some combination thereof or other mechanism for varying the length of the pole. The pole may also employ a handgrip 160.

FIG. 2 shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool engaging a string 220, such as a string of decorative electrical lights having a female plug end 210 and a male plug end 230. A single string might be employed, or a number of strings, connected in series fashion. In a preferred method of using the present invention, the female end 210 of light string 220 is attached to the spool by a suitable attachment means, such as, attachment hook 120 or the like. Once the string is hooked onto the spool, the length of string can be spooled onto the spool by rotating the spool to collect the string.

FIG. 3 shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of a string of, e.g., lights. In this embodiment, the device is ready for use in, e.g., decorating a Christmas tree.

FIG. 4 shows a preferred string spool embodiment of the present invention with the spool full. In this embodiment, the pole has been removed, and the spooled string can be stored on the spool until next use.

Referring now to FIG. 5a, there is depicted a spool 105 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. In a preferred embodiment, the spool may contain a handle 510, preferably detachable, that can be attached to the spool face 110 opposite the pole (not shown), via, frictional attachment points 520 and 530. The handle 510 has a hand hold 540 that can be grasped so that while initially winding string onto the spool, the user could hold both sides of the spool along its axis to assist in the spooling. In a preferred embodiment, hand hold 540 is rotatably mounted within handle 510. In an alternate preferred embodiment, the handle 540 could be a substantially round hand hold mounted along the outer edge of face 110 (much like the hand holds that have been used in the past with vehicle steering wheels).

FIG. 5b shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool 105 empty. In this figure, there is depicted the pole receptacle 140. As mentioned, this receptacle is preferably designed to receive a pole in mating fashion, there being many ways to achieve such mating connection. For example, as shown in this FIG. 5b, the pole receptacle could be threaded (with female thread connection) to mate with threads on a male threaded connection on the pole (not shown).

FIG. 6 shows a string pooling device pole holder according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, the user (not shown) can attach to his or her clothing, e.g., belt or pants waist, a cup-like receptacle 600 (or similar device) for receiving the bottom of pole 150 thereby providing some assistance in holding and guiding the pole (much like Color Guards use a device on their belts to assist in carrying flags). In this embodiment, the cup receptacle 600 has a clip 610 for attachment to the user. Other suitable means for attaching to the user are available, such as by integrating a belt and receptacle together as one device that can be worn on the exterior of the user.

FIG. 7a-c shows multiple views of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. For example, in a preferred embodiment, the inside surfaces of faces 110, 115 have inward beveling 710. FIG. 7a shows a perspective view of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7b shows a side view of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7c shows a cut-away side view of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7d shows an enlargement of the clip taken from section 7d of FIG. 7b of a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7e shows a handle device for use with a string spool device according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, and 10b, show a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings. In this embodiment, a different coupling arrangement 140 is employed for attaching the pole 150 to the reel 105.

FIG. 11a shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings being used to decorate an outdoor tree.

FIG. 11b shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings being used to decorate the exterior of a house. For example, the user can initially install hooks or other suitable attachment/holding devices along the roofline of the home and then use the present invention to safely place (and later remove) the lights from such hooks without further need to climb a ladder or the roof.

FIG. 12a shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings, and the pole in a shortened position, being held by a user.

FIG. 12b shows a preferred string spooling device embodiment of the present invention with the spool full of electrical light strings, and the pole in an extended position, being held by a user.

In yet another preferred embodiment of the present invention, decorative lights or other stringed material, such as garlands, are provided to the user pre-spooled onto a spool of the present invention.

Having the pole and the reel in fixed connection with each other provides greater control on the play-out of the stringed material from the reel (i.e., avoids the potential for backlash). This allows the user to play out only what stringed material is desired as the user walks proximate the object receiving the stringed material. Thus, in a preferred embodiment, the reel remains in fixed relationship with the pole.

In an alternate embodiment, however, one could motorize the relationship between the pole and the reel to allow for motorized turning of the reel. The motorization could be achieved in many ways, including mounting a motor (not shown) at the interface between the pole and the reel and providing a hand controller (not shown) for the motor proximate where the user would be holding the pole. The motor would preferably operate in forward and reverse directions. The motor could be battery operated, but could also be run using standard available electrical power supply. If the motor is mounted at the interface of the reel and the pole, the motor is preferably as light weight as possible. The hand controller for the motor could be wired directly to the motor, with the wiring running up the interior of the pole, the wiring preferably being in an accordion fashion to allow the wiring to expand as the length of the pole is extended (similar also if electrical power supply is being provided to the motor). Preferably, if the hand controls and or power supply run by wire to the motor, there is a quick connect/disconnect mechanism to attach same to the motor so that the pole does not have to remain attached to the motor during storage. In another embodiment, the motor is mounted to the top of the pole, and provides on the top of the motor, a means for connection of the moving axis of the motor in fixed relation to the reel. In an alternate embodiment, the interface between the motor and the hand controller is wireless. In an alternate embodiment, the motor could be located at the base of the pole and provide a connection to the pole so that the pole is rotated. In this embodiment, the motor could serve as the lower hand hold for the user, and the upper hand holds could be mounted to allow free rotation of the hand hold relative to the pole so that the pole can turn freely while the user holds the hand hold.

While the apparatus and methods of this invention have been described in terms of preferred embodiments, it will be apparent to those of skill in the art that variations may be applied to the device and process described herein without departing from the concept and scope of the invention. All such similar substitutes and modifications apparent to those skilled in the art are deemed to be within the scope and concept of the invention.