Title:
Adjustable fence post
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A fence post (10) wherein first and second angle members (12 and 14) are in sliding engagement with each other. The angle members have apertures (26 and 40) so as to receive the ends of fence rails (28) and adjust the elevation of the fence rails by sliding the angle members (12 and 14) with respect to each other.



Inventors:
Richards, Thomas C. (Cranberry Township, PA, US)
Seiling, Kevin A. (Monaca, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/063814
Publication Date:
08/24/2006
Filing Date:
02/23/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H17/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GARCIA, ERNESTO
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Dentons Cohen & Grigsby P.C. (Pittsburgh, PA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A fence post that supports lateral fence rails, said post comprising: a first angle member that has first and second panels that are joined together to define a predetermined angle between the first and second panels, the first panel of said first angle member having an outer edge that defines an elongated lip and the second panel of said first angle member having an outer edge that defines a slot; and a second angle member that has first and second panels that are joined together to define a predetermined angle between the first and second panels, said first panel of said second angle member having an outer edge that defines an elongated lip, said second panel of said second angle member having an outer edge that defines a slot, with the lip of the first panel of said second member fitting in sliding engagement with the slot of the second panel of said first angle member and also with the slot of said second panel of said second angle member fitting in sliding engagement with the lip of said first panel of said first angle member.

2. The fence post of claim 1 wherein said first angle member is moveable with respect to said second longitudinal member at times when the lip of said second angle member is engaged in the slot of said first angle member and when the slot of said second angle member is engaged with the lip of said first angle member.

3. The fence post of claim 2 wherein at least one of said first and second panels of said first angle member includes at least one aperture for receiving the end of a fence rail.

4. The fence post of claim 3 where at least one of said first and second panels of said second angle member includes at least one aperture of receiving the end of a fence rail.

5. The fence post of claim 1 wherein the slot of said second panel of said first angle member defines opposed surfaces having a gap therebetween.

6. The fence post of claim 5 wherein the lip of said first panel of said second angle member defines lateral outer surfaces wherein the separation between said lateral outer surfaces is greater than the gap between the opposed surface of the slot of said first angle member.

7. The fence post of claim 1 wherein said first angle member and said second angle member are arranged in a stacked relationship with the panels of said first angle member being in a parallel relationship to respective panels of said second angle member.

8. A method of assembling a fence from a family of angle members, said method post comprising the steps of: selecting a first angle member from a group of angle members that includes blanks, single panel aperture angle members, and double panel aperture angle members; selecting a second angle member from the same group of angle members from which said first angle member was selected; aligning one longitudinal end of the first angle member opposite one longitudinal end of the second angle member; engaging the first and second longitudinal angle members together by sliding the lip of the first angle member into the slot of the second angle member while simultaneously sliding the lip of the second angle member into the slot of the first angle member to form a fence post; adjusting the longitudinal positions of the first angle member with respect to the longitudinal position of the second angle member to determine the longitudinal position of at least one aperture in at least one of said first and second angle members.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The presently disclosed invention relates to fences and, more particularly, posts for use in fences.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Various types of fences have been known and used for many years. Generally, the fence includes a linear array of vertical posts with consecutively arranged posts having lateral rails that extend therebetween. Such fences occur in many types and styles. Various panels can be attached to the rails in a variety of ways depending on the particular type or style of fence. The panels are generally based on the intended purpose of the fence. For example, in some cases the panels are open while in other instances various types of planks or balusters are connected vertically between the rails to establish privacy or for decorative effect. Examples include privacy fences, picket fences, ranch rail fences, pool fences, semi-privacy fences, and wrought iron/ornamental fences.

Over the years, many improvements have been made to fence systems. For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,955,799 and 4,027,855 show details of several designs for connecting bars to safety railing. Various mechanisms for connecting the rails to the posts are also known. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,962,914 is directed to a post-and-rail fence assembly wherein the rails and posts are connected with dovetail joints.

Prior art fences have had limitations as to appearance. Namely, when such fences were constructed on inclined terrain, many prior art fence designs failed to provide a means by which rails on opposite sides of the same post engage respective rails at the same spacing above ground surface. Some consider a design in which the rails generally parallel the terrain surface to be aesthetically preferable while others would prefer the fence rails to have a constant elevation along the fence line. Thus, there was a need in the prior art for a fence post that could readily provide either design.

In some prior art applications, when the fence line traversed an inclined terrain, the rails were maintained in a substantially horizontal orientation so that, when the fence is viewed from the side, the rails create a stepped appearance. In other cases, the rails were inclined at a slope that follows the general topography. In either case, the rails on opposite side of the post often engaged the post at a common longitudinal position along the fence post so that rails on opposite sides of the same post were not equidistant from the ground. Accordingly, there was a need in the prior art for a mechanism for connecting lateral fence rails to a vertical fence post in a manner that the rails on opposite sides of the post could parallel the terrain surface and also appear to be substantially equidistant from the ground surface.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,962,914 shows dovetail joints that are vertically slideable so that the rails can be vertically adjusted with respect to the post. These slideable joints allow the rails to be adjusted with respect to the ground surface and independently of each other. As detailed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,962,914, the posts are constructed of two slides that slide within the open ends of an I-shaped beam. The slides are independently moveable with respect to the I-shaped beam. When the slides are installed in the I-shaped beam, they can be independently adjusted to control the elevation of corresponding rails on opposite sides of the post.

One difficulty with rail fence systems such as described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,962,914 has been that they require various fasteners or other means by which the rail elevations could be secured. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,962,914 requires crimping or fastening the slides to the I-shaped post to retain the rails at a given elevation. Accordingly, there was a need in the prior art for a rail fence wherein the rails could be vertically adjusted with respect to ground level independently of each other and without the need for special tools or fasteners.

Also in cases such as U.S. Pat. No. 4,962,914 in which prior art fence posts have adjustable features, the post design was relatively complicated. Thus, such prior art posts tended to be relatively difficult and expensive to manufacture and bulky to ship. Accordingly there was also a need in the prior art for a simpler, more compact design of adjustable fence post that would be easier and less expensive to manufacture and transport.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the invention that is herein disclosed, a fence post includes a first angle member that has first and second panels that are joined together at a predetermined angle. The first panel of the first angle member has a free or outer edge that defines an elongated lip and the second panel of the first angle member has a free or outer edge that defines a slot. The fence post also includes a second angle member that also has first and second panels that are joined together at a predetermined angle. The first panel of the second angle member has a free or outer edge that defines an elongated lip and the second panel of the second angle member has a free or outer edge that defines a slot. The lip of the first panel of the second angle member fits in sliding engagement within the slot of the second panel of the first angle member. Also, the slot of the second panel of the second angle member fits in sliding engagement with the lip of the first panel of the first angle member.

Preferably, at least one of the panels of the first angle member includes at least one opening to receive the end of a fence rail. Also preferably, at least one of the panels of the second angle member also includes at least one opening to receive the end of a fence rail.

Most preferably, the first and second panels of the first angle member are integrally joined together and the first and second panels of the second angle member are also integrally joined together.

Other features, objects, and advantages of the presently disclosed invention will occur to those skilled in the art as a description of a presently preferred embodiment thereof proceeds.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A presently preferred embodiment of the invention that is herein disclosed is shown and described in connection with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a front elevation view of a fence post in accordance with the presently disclosed invention;

FIG. 2 is a left side elevation view of the fence post that is shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a right side elevation view of the fence post that is shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a plan cross-section of the fence post that is shown in FIGS. 1-3 taken along the lines 4-4 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5A is a front elevation view of a fence in accordance with the presently disclosed invention wherein rails on opposite sides of a fence post engage the post at different elevations;

FIG. 5B is a front elevation view of a fence in accordance with the presently disclosed invention wherein the rails engage the fence posts at a constant elevation;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged view of FIG. 4 showing the structure of a lip and slot of FIG. 4 in greater detail.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a yard post in accordance with the presently disclosed invention.

FIG. 8 is a top view of the yard post shown in FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a terminal fence post in accordance with the presently disclosed invention.

FIG. 10 is a top view of the terminal fence post shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an in-line fence post in accordance with the presently disclosed invention.

FIG. 12 is a top view of the in-line fence post shown in FIG. 11.

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a corner fence post in accordance with the presently disclosed invention.

FIG. 14 is a top view of the corner fence post shown in FIG. 13.

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of an alternative corner fence post in accordance with the presently disclosed invention.

FIG. 16 is a top view of the alternative corner fence post shown in FIG. 15.

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of a T-fence post in accordance with the presently disclosed invention.

FIG. 18 is a top view of the T-fence post shown in FIG. 17.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of a 4-way fence post in accordance with the presently disclosed invention.

FIG. 20 is a top view of the 4-way fence post shown in FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of a family of angle members that are in nested relationship in accordance with the presently disclosed invention.

DESCRIPTION OF A PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

As shown in FIGS. 1-6, a post 10 for use in a fence includes a first angle member 12 that cooperates with a second angle member 14. First angle member 12 includes a first panel 16 and a second panel 18 that are integrally joined together along a longitudinal side 20. First and second panels 16 and 18 are joined at an angle such that they define an included angle α therebetween. In the preferred embodiment, the angle α is substantially 90° although other angles are within the scope of the disclosed invention.

First panel 16 has an outer longitudinal edge that defines an elongated lip 22 and second panel 18 has an outer longitudinal edge with fingers 23a and 23b that define a slot 24 therebetween. Fingers 23a and 23b have opposing surfaces 24a and 24b that define a transverse gap G1 therebetween. Lip 22 defines a neck 57 having a lateral dimension D1.

As particularly shown in FIGS. 3, 5A and 5B, first panel 16 further includes at least one aperture 26 for receiving fence rails 28 therein. In the example of the preferred embodiment, first panel 16 includes two apertures 26 that are centered on the centerline of panel 16 although other patterns of apertures for receiving rails 28 also are within the scope of the presently disclosed invention.

Similar to first angle member 12, second angle member 14 includes a first panel 30 and a second panel 32 that are integrally joined together along a longitudinal side 34. First and second panels 30 and 32 are joined at an angle such that they define an included angle {acute over (α)} therebetween. In the preferred embodiment, the angle {acute over (α)} is substantially 90°, but other angles are also within the scope of the invention.

First panel 30 has an outer longitudinal edge that defines an elongated lip 36 and second panel 32 has an outer longitudinal edge with fingers 37a and 37b that define a slot 38 therebetween. Fingers 37a and 37b have opposing surfaces 38a and 38b that define a transverse gap G2 therebetween. Lip 36 defines a neck 61 having a lateral dimension D2. The lateral dimension D1 of neck 57 is less than gap G2 between fingers 37a and 37b. The lateral dimension of lip 22 in portions of lip 22 that are distal from neck 57 are greater than gap G2 between fingers 37a and 37b. Likewise, the lateral dimension D2 of neck 61 is less than gap G1 between fingers 23a and 23b. The lateral dimension of lip 36 in portions of lip 36 that are distal from neck 61 are greater than gap G1 between fingers 23a and 23b.

As particularly shown in FIGS. 2, 5A and 5B, the first panel 30 further includes at least one aperture 40 for receiving fence rails 28 therein. In the example of the preferred embodiment, first panel 30 includes two apertures 40 that are centered on the centerline of panel 30 although other patterns of apertures for receiving rails 28 also are within the scope of the presently disclosed invention.

As particularly shown in FIG. 4, the lip 22 of the first panel 16 of first angle member 12 fits in sliding engagement with the slot 38 of the second panel 32 of the second angle member 14. Similarly, the lip 36 of the first panel 30 of the second angle member 14 fits in sliding engagement with the slot 24 of the second panel 18 of the first angle member 12.

As particularly shown in FIGS. 4 and 6, the slot 24 of the second panel 18 of the first angle member 12 defines opposed surfaces 24a and 24b that have a gap G1 therebetween. Also, slot 38 of the second panel 32 of the second angle member 14 defines opposed surfaces 38a and 38b that have a gap G2 therebetween.

The lip 22 of the first panel 16 of the first angle member 12 defines oppositely disposed lateral outer surfaces 54 and 56 wherein the lateral separation between the outer surfaces 54 and 56 in the area of neck 57 is less than the gap G2 between the opposed surfaces 38a and 38b of slot 38 and the lateral separation between outer surfaces 54 and 56 in portions of lip 22 that are distal from neck 57 is greater than the gap G2 between opposed surfaces 38a and 38b. Similarly the lip 36 of the first panel 30 of the second angle member 14 defines oppositely disposed lateral outer surfaces 58 and 60 wherein the lateral separation between the outer surfaces 58 and 60 in the area of neck 61 is less than the gap G1 between the opposed surfaces 24a and 24b of slot 24 and the lateral separation between outer surfaces 58 and 60 in portions of lip 36 that are distal from neck 61 is greater than the gap G1 between opposed surfaces 24a and 24b. In this way, lip 22 is slideable in a longitudinal direction within slot 38 and lip 36 is slideable in a longitudinal direction within slot 24. At the same time, when angle member 12 is moved laterally with respect to angle member 14, lip 22 interferes with the opposed surfaces, of slot 38 and lip 36 interferes with the opposed surfaces of slot 24. In this way, angle members 12 and 14 remain engaged with each other so as to retain their cross-sectional profile.

In the assembly of post 10, angle members 12 and 14 are longitudinally aligned with one end of lip 22 located over one end of slot 38 and with one end of lip 36 located over one end of slot 24. The angle members are then moved longitudinally together to engage lips 22 and 36 in slots 38 and 24 respectively. To adjust the vertical position of rails 28, the angle members of 12 and 14 are longitudinally adjusted to position apertures 26 and 40 at the preferred elevation above ground level. The post 10 is then secured in the soil or other material to retain apertures 26 and 40 and rails 28 in their respective vertical positions.

From the forgoing description, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the disclosed invention affords various advantages over prior art fencing systems. For example, the apertures (26, 40) in panels (16, 30) can be punched at the facility where the angle members are manufactured as opposed to being cut or routed manually in the field. This decreases the labor and time that is required to install the fence and thus improves the ease-of-use and cost-effectiveness of the disclosed fence.

Another significant advantage of the disclosed fence is that numerous fence configurations can be constructed from a relatively small family of angle members. Each member of the family has essentially the same profile; the difference between family members being in the location and number of apertures in the panels of the angle members. For example, one family of angle members is shown in FIGS. 7-20. A first family member 62 (FIGS. 7 and 8) has no aperture in either panel. Member 62 of the family of angle members is referenced to herein as a blank. A second family member 64 (FIGS. 9-12) has the same profile as the first family member 62, but has at least one aperture 66 in one panel with the other panel having no apertures (herein “a single angle member”). A third family member 68 (FIGS. 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20) has the same profile as the first and second members 62, 64, but has at least one aperture 70 in both panels (herein “a double angle member”). FIGS. 17 and 18 also show another member 72 having at least one aperture in the panel that defines the lip with the other panel having no apertures (herein “an alternative single angle member”).

This family of four members 62, 64, 68 and 72 could be used to assemble any fence configuration that employs any of the following:

Style of PostCombination of Angle Members
yard post (FIGS. 7 and 8)Two blank angle members (62)
terminal fence postOne blank combined with one single angle
(FIGS. 9 and 10)member (62 and 64)
in-line fence postTwo single angle members (64)
(FIGS. 11 and 12)
corner fence postOne double angle member (68)
(FIGS. 13 and 14)
alternative corner fenceTwo single angle members (64 and 72)
post (FIGS. 15 and 16)
“T” fence postone single angle member and one double
(FIGS. 17 and 18)angle member (64 and 68) (Only one
style of single angle member (64 or 72) is
required to form a “T” fence post with a
blank side on any given face.)
4-way fence postTwo double angle members (68)
(FIGS. 19 and 20)

Because the lip of one angle member slidingly engages in the slot of another angle member as previously described herein and because each angle member in a given family has the same profile, any angle member can engage with any other angle member in the family. This flexibility is advantageous in that a limited number of angle members can accommodate many different fence configurations. Thus, the number of posts that must be manufactured, shipped and inventoried is also limited. In the example of the disclosed embodiment, a family of four angle members is used to compose six categories of fence posts, including some posts that have a right-hand or left-hand sense.

Preferably, the angle members 64, 68 and 72 have apertures at periodic longitudinal positions of the angle members so that the assembled post can receive multiple rails. As will be understood from the foregoing description, other families of angle members with different aperture configurations could also be used. The apertures in angle members 64, 68 and 72 are preferably stamped during the manufacturing of the angle members thus avoiding the need to route or cut such apertures in the field at the time of installation. Manufacturing in this way is more cost-effective than such field implementation.

To further simplify fence installation and limit the number of inventory pieces, it is preferred that the angle members are shipped to the job site in relatively long lengths and that the angle members are thereafter cut to length at the job site according to the length requirements for specific posts.

As shown in FIG. 21, the complementary profile shape of angle members 12, 14, 62, 64, 68 and 72 allows them to nest together prior to assembly into posts. In this way, the angle members require a minimum of space during shipment. More specifically, the first and second panels of two or more angle members are arranged in parallel relationship so that the first and second panels form a first array of parallel panels and a second array of parallel panels that is oriented at an angle with respect of the first array of parallel panels. This packaging efficiency enables substantial savings in transporting the post components to the job site.

While a presently preferred embodiment of the invention has been shown and described herein, the presently disclosed invention is not limited thereto but can be otherwise variously embodied within the scope of the following claims.