Title:
Elongated table and method of making same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A portable picnic-type-table, having substantially greater length then can be achieved in prior picnic tables, is provided, by mounting an elongated tabletop and associated benches on an elongated frame of longitudinally trussed construction. The frame may take the form of a trailer having a forward section thereof forming a tongue for attachment to a tow vehicle. The benches and a forward portion of the tabletop may be foldable to a stowed position to facilitate transport and storage of the table.



Inventors:
Vanwyk, Loren (Pella, IA, US)
Application Number:
11/453945
Publication Date:
12/21/2006
Filing Date:
06/15/2006
Assignee:
LDJ Manufacturing, Inc. (Pella, IA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B83/02
View Patent Images:
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20050173958Mechanical device particularly for moving the seat and backrest of a chairAugust, 2005De Martin
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20100019547Car Seat with Rolling Wheels and Method to useJanuary, 2010Gray et al.
20060261650Child vehicle safety seatNovember, 2006Billman et al.



Primary Examiner:
CRANMER, LAURIE K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
REINHART BOERNER VAN DEUREN P.C. (ROCKFORD, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A portable picnic table comprising: a frame, in the form of a trailer defining a longitudinal axis and a front and rear end of the trailer, the trailer further having a pair of wheels operatively mounted adjacent the rear end of the frame, and a tongue extending longitudinally from the front end of the trailer, with the tongue having a distal end thereof adapted for attachment to a towing vehicle; and a longitudinally extending tabletop fixedly attached to the frame, and having an upper substantially horizontally oriented surface thereof; the tabletop including a foldable section thereof, which extends over the tongue in a deployed position of the foldable section, and which folds back over horizontal surface of the tabletop when in a stowed position of the foldable section.

2. The table of claim 1, wherein, the frame further comprises a support extending upward from the tongue, for supporting the foldable section of the tabletop in the deployed position.

3. The table of claim 1, wherein, the frame further includes retractable and adjustable length stabilizer jacks operatively attached for stabilizing the table on a surface.

4. The table of claim 1, wherein, the frame further comprises a hitch receiver at the rear end of the frame.

5. The table of claim 4, further comprising, a connection element adapted for insertion into the hitch receiver, for connecting together two tables according to claim 1.

6. The table of claim 1, further comprising a pair of longitudinally extending benches each having a seating surface thereof, with the benches being operatively attached to the frame for pivotable movement from a deployed position whereat the seating surface is substantially horizontal, and a stowed position whereat the seating surface is substantially vertically oriented.

7. The table of claim 6, further comprising, a pair of latches operatively connected between the frame and one of the benches of the pair of benches, for selective movement between a latched position, for holding the bench in the stowed position, and an unlatched position, allowing the bench to move from the stowed to the deployed position of the bench.

8. The table of claim 7, wherein, at least one of the latches of the pair of latches is selectively lockable in the unlatched position.

9. The table of claim 8, wherein, the pair of latches are longitudinally displaced from one another a distance greater than can conveniently be reached simultaneously by a lone individual.

10. The table of claim 6, wherein, the benches do not extend longitudinally along the foldable section of the tabletop, when the tabletop is in the deployed position.

11. The table of claim 10, wherein, the at least one of the benches includes a non-foldable section thereof and a foldable section thereof, the foldable section thereof being hinged to a forward end of the non-foldable section of the bench and articulated to be rearwardly foldable onto the seating surface of the non-foldable section of the bench.

12. The table of claim 11, further including a stowable bench support, operatively connected to the tongue, for supporting the foldable section of the bench, when the bench is in the deployed position with the foldable section of the bench unfolded.

13. An elongated picnic-table-type trailer, having an elongated longitudinal axis extending from a front end to a rear end of the trailer, the trailer comprising: a longitudinally elongated frame, of longitudinally trussed construction, having a tongue at a forward end thereof adapted for operative attachment to a towing vehicle; and a longitudinally extending tabletop fixedly attached to the frame, and having an upper substantially horizontally oriented surface thereof.

14. The trailer of claim 13, further comprising, a pair of wheels operatively attached to the frame between the front and rear end of the trailer.

15. The trailer of claim 14, wherein, the longitudinally elongated frame comprises: a main longitudinal beam, including the tongue, and extending longitudinally from the front to the rear of the trailer, with the main longitudinal beam defining the longitudinal axis, and horizontal and vertical directions of the trailer, when the trailer wheels are resting on a horizontal surface; a plurality of longitudinally spaced, vertical support members, attached to and extending vertically upward from the main longitudinal beam; and a plurality of angled truss members joining the upper end of each of the vertical support members to the main longitudinal beam at a point on the main beam adjacent the juncture of the lower end of each adjacent vertical support member.

16. The trailer of claim 15, wherein, the angled truss members cross one another, between adjacent vertical members, without attachment to one another.

17. The trailer of claim 16, wherein, the frame further comprises, a plurality of, horizontally oriented, transversely extending, table-top support cross-members, one such table-top support cross-member attached to the upper end of at least two or more of the vertical support members, and adapted for attachment thereto of the tabletop.

18. The trailer of claim 17, wherein, at least one of the vertical support members is tubular, defining a vertically oriented bore therein for receipt in the bore of the handle of an umbrella.

19. The trailer of claim 17, wherein, the tabletop, when attached to the table-top support cross-members forms an upper longitudinal load bearing chord of the longitudinally trussed structure of the elongated frame.

20. The trailer of claim 17, wherein, the frame further comprises a left and a right top longitudinal rail connecting the distal ends of the tabletop support cross-members.

21. The trailer of claim 17, further comprising a plurality of, horizontally oriented, transversely extending lower transverse frame cross-members, attached to the main beam below one or more of the tabletop support cross-members.

22. The trailer of claim 21, further comprising a pair of vertically oriented hangers connecting the corresponding left and right ends of the lower transverse frame cross-members with the corresponding left and right ends of the table-top support cross-member disposed vertically above that lower transverse frame cross-member.

23. An elongated picnic-type table, having an elongated longitudinal axis thereof extending between the first and second longitudinally spaced ends of the table, the table comprising, a longitudinally elongated frame, of longitudinally trussed construction, and a longitudinally extending tabletop fixedly attached to the frame.

24. A method for constructing an elongated picnic-type table, having an elongated longitudinal axis thereof extending from a first to a second longitudinally spaced end of the table, the method comprising, fixedly attaching a longitudinally extending tabletop to a longitudinally elongated frame of longitudinally trussed construction.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPLICATIONS

This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/690,993, filed Jun. 15, 2005, the disclosure and teachings of which are incorporated herein, in their entireties, by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to tables having an elongated horizontal surface for supporting objects, and more particularly to a transportable elongated table of the type used for picnics, having a longitudinally extending bench attached on one or both sides of the tabletop to a frame supporting both the benches and the tabletop.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Picnic tables have been utilized for many years, in both indoor and outdoor settings, for providing convenient seating for one or more people while eating or engaging in other types of activities. Picnic tables typically have a central table, with two benches disposed on opposite sides of the table.

One of the most widely utilized forms of a picnic table, includes a common frame supporting a longitudinally extending tabletop, and two benches, one disposed on either side of the tabletop. Such picnic tables are typically configured to have a length of about six to eight feet, so that they can be conveniently moved by two people, and/or transported from one site to another. Tables of a length greater than six to eight feet are typically too large and heavy to be considered portable.

The structures of previously known picnic tables do not lend themselves well to use in substantially elongated form. Previously known common frames supporting the tabletop and benches do not have sufficient longitudinal strength and stiffness for use in a substantially elongated table, particularly where it is desired to have such an elongated table be readily transportable.

Traditional forms of picnic tables are also generally so wide, or otherwise configured in a manner that makes it difficult to effectively and efficiently transport multiple tables in a side-by-side arrangement along a public roadway, without exceeding governmentally mandated maximum width limitations.

It is desirable to provide a picnic-type table that is much longer than prior picnic tables, and yet still readily transportable.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides an improved picnic-type table, having a number of novel and useful aspects, which individually and/or collectively allow construction and use of tables having substantially greater lengths than can be achieved in prior picnic-type tables.

In one form of the invention, a portable picnic-type table having a substantially elongated length is provided. Such an elongated, portable, picnic-type table may include a longitudinally elongated frame, of longitudinally trussed construction, and a longitudinally extending tabletop fixedly attached to the frame. Through practice of the invention, a table having a length several times that of prior portable picnic tables can be provided.

A table, according to the invention, may include a common frame supporting an elongated tabletop, and an elongated seating bench extending along one or both sides of the elongated tabletop. One or both of the benches may be pivotably attached to the frame, in such a manner that the bench can be pivoted from a deployed position, wherein seating along the table is provided, to a stowed position, whereat the bench is disposed in a perpendicular orientation to the tabletop. Latches may be provided for securing the benches in the stowed position.

In an elongated table, according to the invention, having a pair of latches for securing each one of the benches in its stowed position, at least one of the latches of the pair of latches may be selectively lockable in an unlatched position, to thereby facilitate deployment of the bench. Where the pair of latches are longitudinally displaced along the bench, from one another, a distance greater than can be conveniently reached simultaneously by a lone individual, the individual may lock the lockable latch in the unlatched position, and then walk along the bench to the second latch and disengage it, in the process of lowering the bench from the stowed to the deployed position.

The common frame of a picnic table, according to the invention, may take the form of a trailer, including wheels for transporting the table. The trailer may include a tongue thereof, extending longitudinally from one end of the table, with a distal end of the tongue being adapted for attachment to a towing vehicle, such as a pickup truck, a tractor, or an automobile.

The tabletop, of a table, according to the invention, may include a foldable section thereof, attached at one end of the table, for extending the length of the tabletop. The benches of a picnic table, according to the invention, may also include a foldable section extending from one end thereof to provide seating for a foldable top section attached to the end of the table.

In forms of the invention including a frame in the form of a trailer, having a tongue extending from one end of the table, a foldable extension of the tabletop may be disposed to extend over the tongue in a deployed position of the foldable portion of the top. The tongue may include a support configured for contacting and supporting the foldable portion of the tabletop in the deployed position.

In a table having a frame in the form of a trailer including a tongue extending from one end of the table, the benches of the table may include a rearwardly foldable extension disposed to extend along the tongue in a deployed position of the foldable extension of the bench. The tongue may include a foldable support configured for contacting and supporting the foldable sections of the benches in a deployed position.

The addition of foldable extensions to the tabletop and/or the benches, disposed to extend above and along the tongue of a table, according to the invention, having a frame in the form of a trailer with an extending tongue, allow the foldable sections of the tabletop and benches to be folded rearward to stowed positions thereof, to provide turning clearance for the table when being towed by a towing vehicle attached to the tongue. The foldable sections of the tabletop and benches, therefore, allow the usable surface of the table and benches to be extended completely along, and even beyond, the tongue of the trailer, when the table is in use.

In forms of the invention having a common frame in the form of a trailer, the trailer may include a pair of wheels attached to the frame, and a tongue extending longitudinally from one end of the frame, with the tongue including a retractable tongue jack, for supporting the tongue of the trailer, when it is not attached to a towing vehicle. Additional retractable stabilizer jacks may also be attached to the frame to provide longitudinal and lateral support to the table in its deployed condition.

A table, according to the invention, may also include provisions for attachment of umbrellas, or other types of structures, to the table.

The tabletop and/or benches of a table, according to the invention, may be made from synthetic materials, such as recycled plastic boards, to promote long life and cleanliness. Materials utilized or forming the tabletop and/or benches may be attached to the frame of the table by fasteners extending upward into the bottom of the materials used for the top and benches, in such a manner that no portion of the fastener protrudes above the top surfaces of the tabletop and/or benches.

The frame of a table, in forms of the invention wherein the frame is a trailer, may include a hitch receiver at a rear end of the frame, adapted for receiving a standard ball hitch arrangement, or other connection element for connecting together two tables, according to the invention. The hitch receiver at the rear end of the frame may also be utilized for statically connecting, but not towing other towable units other than tables, according to the invention, behind the table according to the invention, or for static attachment of other hitch-receiver-mounted structures, such as cargo carriers, storage containers, or apparatuses such as hitch mounted cooking, food preparation, or beverage dispensing devices which may be used in conjunction with a table according to the invention, or form part of a table or trailer apparatus, according to the invention.

In one form of the invention, an elongated picnic-table-type trailer is provided having an elongated longitudinal axis extending from a front end to a rear end of the trailer. The trailer may include a longitudinally elongated frame, of a longitudinal trussed construction, having a tongue at a forward end thereof adapted for operative attachment to a towing vehicle. The trailer may further include a longitudinally extending tabletop fixedly attached to the frame, and having an upper substantially horizontally oriented surface thereof. The trailer may further include a pair of wheels operatively attached to the elongated frame between the front and rear end of the trailer. The angled truss members may cross one another between adjacent vertical members, without attachment to one another. At least one of the vertical support members may be tubular, and define a vertically oriented bore therein for receipt in the bore of the handle or support staff of an umbrella.

An elongated frame, according to the invention, may further include a plurality of horizontally oriented, transversely extending table-top support cross-members, with one such table-top support cross-member being attached to the upper end of at least two or more of the vertical support members, and adapted for attachment thereto of the tabletop. In some forms of the invention, when the tabletop is attached to the table-top support cross-members, the table forms an upper longitudinal load bearing chord of the longitudinally truss structure of the elongated frame.

A longitudinally elongated frame, according to the invention, may further include a left and a right top longitudinal rail, connecting the distal ends of the tabletop support cross-members. A plurality of horizontally oriented, transversely extending, lower transverse frame cross-members may also be attached to the main longitudinal beam below one or more of the tabletop support cross-members. Vertically oriented hangers may connect the corresponding left and right ends of the lower transverse frame cross-members with the corresponding left and right ends of the table-top support cross-member disposed vertically above that lower transverse frame cross-member.

The invention may also take the form of a method for constructing or utilizing an elongated table, according to the invention, by connecting a longitudinally extending tabletop to a longitudinally elongated frame, of longitudinally trussed construction. A method, according to the invention, may further include operatively attaching and/or utilizing foldable sections of a tabletop and/or benches of an elongated table, according to the invention. In some forms of the invention, a method may include constructing a longitudinally elongated frame, of longitudinally trussed construction, in the form of a trailer having a tongue at a forward end thereof adapted for operative attachment to a towing vehicle.

In a picnic-table-type trailer, according to the invention, the longitudinally elongated frame may include a main longitudinal beam, a plurality of longitudinally spaced vertical support members, and a plurality of angled truss members. The main longitudinal beam includes the tongue, and extends longitudinally from the front to the rear of the trailer, with the main longitudinal beam defining the longitudinal axis, and horizontal and vertical directions of the trailer, when the trailer wheels are resting on a horizontal surface. The plurality of longitudinally spaced vertical support members are attached to and extend vertically upward from the main longitudinal beam. The plurality of angled truss members join the upper end of each of the vertical support members to the main longitudinal beam at a point on the main longitudinal beam adjacent the juncture of the lower end of each adjacent vertical support member.

Other aspects, objectives and advantages of the invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings incorporated in and forming a part of the specification illustrate several aspects of the present invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention. In the drawings:

FIGS. 1 and 2 are perspective illustrations of an exemplary embodiment of a elongated picnic-table-like trailer, according to the invention, with FIG. 1 showing the table in a deployed position, ready for use, and FIG. 2 showing the table in a stowed position, ready for storage and/or transport;

FIG. 3 is a schematic illustration of the exemplary embodiment of the elongated table of FIGS. 1 and 2, attached to a towing vehicle for transport;

FIG. 4 is a perspective illustration, showing a foldable section of the tabletop, of the exemplary embodiment of the elongated table of FIGS. 1 and 2 in a folded position;

FIGS. 5 and 5a are partially cut-away orthographic illustrations showing construction and operational details of the exemplary embodiment of the elongated table of FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIGS. 6 and 7 are enlarged perspective illustrations of a forward latch, of the exemplary embodiment, in its locked and unlocked positions respectively;

FIGS. 8 and 9 are enlarged perspective illustrations of a rear latch mechanism, of the exemplary embodiment, respectively shown secured by a locking pin in the locked and unlocked positions thereof;

FIGS. 10, 10a, and 11 are schematic illustrations further depicting the construction and operation of the latches shown in FIGS. 6-9;

FIGS. 12 and 13 illustrate a variation of the exemplary embodiment of a table, according to the invention, in which benches along either side of the tabletop include a forwardly foldable section to extend the length of the bench along the foldable section of the tabletop, with FIG. 12 showing the foldable sections of the bench in a stowed position, and FIG. 13 showing the foldable sections of the benches in a deployed position;

FIGS. 14, and 14a are perspective illustrations, looking from the rear toward the front, of the exemplary embodiment of the table of FIGS. 1 and 2, illustrating the configuration and location of a standard hitch receiver at the aft end of the exemplary embodiment of the table;

FIG. 15 is a perspective illustration of a frame, of the exemplary embodiment of the table of FIGS. 1 and 2, with the tabletop and benches, and certain other bolt-on components removed, for illustration of the construction of the frame; and

FIGS. 16 and 17, are side and top views, respectively, of the frame shown in FIG. 15.

While the invention will be described in connection with certain preferred embodiments, there is no intent to limit it to those embodiments. On the contrary, the intent is to cover all alternatives, modifications and equivalents as included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIGS. 1 and 2 show an exemplary embodiment of a portable picnic table, according to the invention, in a fully-deployed, and a stowed configuration, respectively. The exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100 includes a common frame 102 in the form of a trailer, having a pair of wheels 104, disposed between a front and rear end of the table 100, and a tongue 106 extending longitudinally from a front end of the table 100. The distal end 108 of the tongue 106 is adapted for attachment to a standard ball hitch, so that the table 100 may be towed behind a towing vehicle, in the manner illustrated in FIG. 3.

As shown in FIGS. 1, 2, 4 and 5, the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100 includes a longitudinally extending tabletop 110 having a foldable section 112, and a pair of benches 114, 116 extending along opposite transverse sides of the tabletop 110.

The foldable section 112 extends from the front end of the picnic table 100, over the tongue 106 of the trailer 102. A T-shaped support 118 extends upward from the tongue 106, for supporting the foldable 112 of the tabletop 110, when the foldable section 112 is in the deployed position shown in FIGS. 1 and 4.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, in the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100, the foldable section 112 includes a stationary section 112a, which is bolted, as indicated at 120 in FIG. 4, to the front end of the remainder of the tabletop 110, and a moveable section 112b, which is joined to the stationary section 112a by a hinge 122, with the hinge 122 being best seen in FIG. 4. It is contemplated that in some embodiments of the invention, the foldable section 112 of the tabletop 110 may be provided as an optional accessory. As will be understood, by those having skill in the art, the configuration of the foldable section 112, attached to the front end of the table 100 allows the tabletop 110 to be extended over the entire length of the tongue 106, when the table 100 is in the deployed configuration. Were this section of the tabletop not foldable, the tabletop might interfere with the rear of a vehicle towing the table 100, when the vehicle was attempting to make a turn.

The exemplary embodiment of the table 100 has a length of 24 feet from the bolted joint 120 to the aft end of the tabletop 110. The fixed section 112a of the foldable section 112 is two feet in length, and the moveable section is four feet in length, to thereby provide a tabletop 110 that is 30 feet long, when the foldable section 112 is attached and in the deployed position. In other embodiments, other lengths may be provided.

The benches 114, 116 are attached to the frame 102 in a manner allowing them to be pivoted upward and inward from the deployed position shown in FIG. 1 (and the right side, as depicted, of FIG. 5), to a stowed position as illustrated in FIG. 2 (and the left side of FIG. 5). In the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100 described thus far, the benches 114, 116 do not extend forward of the front end of the fixed sections of the tabletop 110, along the tongue 106. In this manner, the foldable section 112 of the tabletop 110, when deployed, may be utilized as a food service area, or provide seating for individuals in wheelchairs. As will be described in more detail below, in other embodiments of the invention, the benches 114, 116 may be configured to include a foldable section 154 that can be deployed from the forward end of the table 100 to provide seating along the foldable section 112 of the tabletop 110.

On each side of the table 100, latching mechanisms are provided for holding the benches 114, 116 in the stowed, i.e. vertical, position. In the exemplary embodiment, as shown in FIG. 2, two latches 124, 126 are provided on either side of the table 100, with one of the latches 124, 126, disposed adjacent the front and the rear ends, respectively, of the table 100. In the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100, the forward latches 124 are as illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7, and the rear latches 126 are as illustrated in FIGS. 8 and 9. All of the latches 124, 126 are spring-loaded, and configured in such a manner that they will automatically latch and remain latched when the benches 114, 116 are in the stowed position. The rear latches 126, of the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 110, include a locking pin 127, having a retainer 128 which can be used for holding the rear latches 126 in a locked position, by inserting the locking pin 127 through holes 129 in bench pivot arms 130 in the manner illustrated by dashed lines in FIG. 8, or in an unlocked position as shown in FIG. 9.

Except for the addition of the locking pins 127, all of the front and rear latches 124, 126 of the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100 are identical. As best seen in FIGS. 5 and 6-9, the benches 114, 116 are mounted on the pivot arms 130 which are pivotably attached by bolts 134 to transverse cross-members 136 of the frame 102.

As shown in FIGS. 6-11, a latch pawl 138 is pivotably attached to the pivot arms 130, for motion about an axis 140, provided by a latch bolt 140. A helical-compression spring 142, is disposed between an outer, or upper, end of the latch pawl 138 and the bottom side of the pivot arms 130. By virtue of this arrangement, the spring 142 urges the top end of the latch pawl 138 to move outward, which results in the lower end of the latch pawl 138 being moved inward to the point where the lower end of the latch pawl 138 bears against the top surface of the transverse cross-member 136 and to thereby lock the pivot arms 130 in the upright position as shown in FIG. 10. For the rear latches 126, of the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100, the locking pins 127 can be inserted through holes in the pivot arms 130 positioned so that the locking pins 127 will prevent the upper end of the latch pawl 138 from moving inward, to thereby lock the rear latches 126 in the latched position as shown in FIGS. 8 and 10.

When it is desired to lower the benches 114, 116 from the stowed to the deployed position, the upper ends of the latch pawls 138 are pressed inward, to thereby move the lower end of the latch pawls 138 outward and out of contact with the upper surface of the transverse cross-members 136, in the manner illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 11. As is further illustrated in FIGS. 12 and 13, for the rear latches 126, the locking pins 128 may be installed outward of the upper ends of the latch pawls 138, to hold the rear latches in the unlatched position.

This ability to lock the rear latches 126 on each side of the table 100 in the unlatched position, is provided, so that when it is desired to lower one of the benches 114, 116, a person can first move the rear latches 126 to the unlatched position, and lock them in the unlatched position with the locking pins 128. The person may then walk to the other end of the table 100, and press in on the upper end of the latch pawls 138 of the front latches 124 to thereby release the front end of the bench 114, 116, while the latches 126 on the rear end of the bench 114, 116 are being held in the unlatched condition by the locking pins 128, so that the bench 114, 116 may be lowered from the stowed to the deployed position. This arrangement allows the latches 124, 126 to be placed adjacent the front and rear ends of the benches 114, 116, while still allowing a single individual to unlatch and lower the bench 114, 116. Without the ability to lock one or the other of the latches 124, 126 in the unlatched position, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for a single individual to lower the bench 114, 116 on an embodiment of the invention wherein the table 100 has a length of 16 to 30 feet.

FIGS. 10 and 10a are schematic illustrations further illustrating various details of the construction of the exemplary embodiment of the portable picnic table 100. FIG. 10a, in particular, illustrates the manner in which the outer ends of the springs 142 are affixed to the latch pawls 138, by deforming a small steel strip 143, welded to the backside of the latch pawl 138.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 5, the tabletop 110 of the picnic table 100, of the exemplary embodiment 100, includes a plurality of holes 144 through the tabletop 110, aligned with tubular sections 146 of the frame 102, for receipt of the shaft of an umbrella 148. In this manner, a single umbrella 148 may be strategically positioned along the length of the table 100, or a plurality of umbrellas 148 may be utilized to provide shade for a majority of the length of the table 100.

As shown in FIG. 8, the exemplary embodiment of the portable picnic table 100 further includes a retractable and stowable tongue support jack 150, for supporting the tongue 106 when the table 100 is not attached to a vehicle, and for facilitating hookup of the distal end 108 of the tongue 106 to a tow vehicle.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 5, adjustable and retractable stabilizer jacks 152 are also attached to the frame 102 of the table 100, at four comers of the table 100, to provide additional longitudinal and lateral stability to the table 100 when in use.

As shown in FIGS. 12 and 13, in some embodiments of the invention having a foldable section 112 of the tabletop 110 that extends longitudinally above the tongue 106, when the foldable section 112 of the tabletop 110 is in the deployed position, it may be desirable to include forward folding sections 154 of the benches 114, 116 attached to the forward ends of the benches 114, 116 by a hinge 156, together with a foldout bench support 158 attached to the tongue 106, so that bench seating may be provided along one or both sides of the foldable section 112 of the tabletop 110.

As shown in FIGS. 14, and 14a, a standard hitch receiver 162 is provided at the rear end of the frame 102. It is contemplated that the hitch receiver 102 may be utilized with a standard coupler bar and ball arrangement, to allow another trailer to be connected, but not towed behind the table 100. The tongue of such a second table, or other towable related accessories, such as a portable barbeque trailer, can be attached to the exemplary embodiment of the table 100, through the hitch receiver 162, to thereby provide a fixed static attachment between the exemplary embodiment of the table 100 and whatever other towable vehicle might be attached via the receiver 162. By virtue of this arrangement, a substantially elongated table, made up of two or more tables, according to the invention, and/or a specific deployed grouping of tables and/or associated accessories is provided.

It is further contemplated, that the hitch receiver 162 may be utilized for attachment of receiver supported accessories, to the exemplary embodiment of the table 100. For example, the receiver 162 may be used for supporting various types of container trays, and/or hitch supported equipment, such as is known in the art.

The ability to connect a table 100, according to the invention, together with additional tables 100, according to the invention, or other trailer or hitch mounted equipment associated with use of the tables, provides advantages during both use and storage of a table according to the invention and such associated related equipment. For example, by attaching the table or tables and associated other towable or hitch mounted equipment together into large, essentially immobile structures, a person utilizing the table, according to the invention, may fix the relative location of the tables and associated equipment in a manner desired to promote usability and for directing traffic flow, for example, along the tables and associated equipment. Connecting the tables and associated equipment together also provides safety and security benefits. For example, when a table, according to the invention, is being utilized in a public setting, it may be desirable and/or necessary to anchor the various pieces of equipment being utilized in a particular orientation to one another for compliance with health regulations, or to preclude having members of the public being injured while attempting to move one or more of the pieces of equipment.

It is further contemplated, that in some embodiments of the invention, the connections between multiple tables according to the invention, and other associated towable or hitch-mounted equipment may be secured with a locking device, such as a key type padlock. By locking the tables and associated equipment together, the resultant structure becomes too large and unwieldy for the entire resultant structure, or any one element thereof, to be stolen.

FIGS. 15-17 are illustrations, primarily of the frame 102 of the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100, minus the tabletop 110 and benches 114, 116 and certain other bolt-on components, to further illustrate various aspects of the invention. As shown in FIGS. 15-17, the frame 102, of the exemplary embodiment of the picnic table 100, includes a main longitudinal beam 160, which extends from the front, distal, end 108 of the frame to the hitch receiver 162 at the rear end of the frame. The main longitudinal beam 160, of the exemplary embodiment, is essentially a square tube, having the four outer surfaces comprising the periphery of the square tube oriented horizontally and vertically, with respect to a surface upon which the wheels 104 would rest, with the horizontally and vertically oriented surfaces of the main longitudinal beam 160 also, thereby, defining horizontal and vertical directions of the frame 102 and table 100.

Extending vertically upward from the main longitudinal beam 160 are a series of longitudinally spaced vertical truss members, in the form of the tubular sections 146, of the frame 102 which are aligned with the holes 144 in the tabletop 110 for receiving the shaft of the umbrella 148. The tubular sections 146, of the frame 102 are all connected to an adjacent tubular section 146 of the frame by pairs of diagonally oriented cross tie rods 166, in such a manner that the combination of the main longitudinal beam 160, the vertically oriented tubular sections 146, and the interconnecting cross tie rods 166 form a longitudinally oriented truss-like structural spine of the frame 102, extending the length of the frame 102, as best seen in FIGS. 15 and 16. As further illustrated in FIGS. 15 and 16, the forward end of the main longitudinal beam 160 forms the tongue 106, of the frame 102. A front angled support member 167, attached between the forward end of the tongue 106 and the upper end of the forward most tubular member 146 provides additional strengthening of the tongue 106, and effectively, extends the truss-like spine of the frame 102 from the forward end 108 to the rear end 162 of the frame 102.

As shown in FIGS. 5, 15 and 17, a series of tabletop support cross-members 168, having a channel-like form are attached to the top of each of the tubular members 146, and extend transversely and horizontally, to thereby provide a surface for attachment of the tabletop 110. It will be appreciated, by those having skill in the art, that when the tabletop 110 is securely attached to the tabletop support cross-members 168, the tabletop 110 functions as an upper, longitudinal load bearing chord of the longitudinally truss structure of the elongated frame 102.

As best seen in FIG. 5, the tabletop support members include a series of holes therein, for passage therethrough of bolts 169 securing the tabletop 110 to the frame 102. It will be noted, that in the exemplary embodiment of the table 100, the bolts 169 extend upward through the tabletop support cross-members into the bottom surface of the tabletop 110, for securing the tabletop 110 to the frame 102 in a manner which does not require that the bolts have any portion thereof extending above the tabletop 110. As further illustrated in FIG. 5, a similar arrangement is utilized for attaching the benches 114 and 116 to the pivot arms 130, which connect the benches 114, 116 to the lower transverse frame cross-members 136. It will be noted, however, that in other embodiments of the invention, bolts may pass entirely through the tabletop 110, and/or the benches 114, 116, for securing the tabletop 110 and benches 114 and 116 to the frame 102. It will be further noted, that although the exemplary embodiment of the invention utilizes a number of separate planks, of natural or synthetic materials, for forming the tabletop 110 and benches 114, 116, in other embodiments of the invention it may be desirable to form the tabletop 110 and/or the benches 114, 116 as a single piece, rather than an assembly of individual boards.

As shown in FIGS. 5, and 15-17, the frame 102, of the exemplary embodiment of the table 100, according to the invention, further includes a pair of top longitudinal rails, 170 extending along the transverse edges of the tabletop 110 and connected to the tabletop support cross-members 168. Those having skill in the art, will recognize that by virtue of this construction, the top longitudinal rails 170 form upper longitudinal load bearing chords of the longitudinally truss structure of the elongated frame.

At the front and rear ends of the main portion of the tabletop 110, adjacent the forward most and rear most tubular sections 146, of the frame 102, a cap rail, is attached to the outer surface of the tabletop support cross-members 168 attached to the forward most and rear most tubular sections 146 of the frame 102. The front cap rail 171 may include a series of through holes therein, for attachment of the foldable tabletop 112 to the remainder of the tabletop 110, in embodiments of the invention, such as the exemplary embodiment 100, which includes such a foldable tabletop 112. Attachment holes may be provided in the forward cap rail 171, even where the table 100 is not initially supplied with a foldable tabletop 112, so that the foldable table to 112 may be readily added at a later date, or sold as an optional accessory.

As further shown in FIGS. 5, and 15-17, the frame 102, of the exemplary embodiment 100, also includes a series of lower transverse frame cross-members 136, which are attached to the main longitudinal beam 160 at the bottom end of each of the tubular sections 146 of the frame 102. The lower transverse frame cross-members 136 are oriented transversely and horizontally, with the opposite outer ends thereof configured for pivotable attachment thereto of the bench pivot arms 130.

The frame 102, the exemplary embodiment of the table 100, further includes a series of bench vertical supports 172, attached between the opposite outer ends of each tabletop support cross-member, and its respective lower transverse frame cross-member 136, to thereby form a series of transversely oriented box-shaped sections, as best seen in FIG. 5, which extend along the longitudinal length of the frame 102, to further enhance the overall truss-like spine structure of the frame 102.

As shown in FIGS. 15-17, the frame 102, of the exemplary embodiment of the table 100, further includes an axle support frame 164, attached to and extending from the main longitudinal beam 160, for operative attachment thereto of an axle assembly 165, to which the wheels 104 of the table 100 are attached. Although the axle assembly 165 of the exemplary embodiment of the table 100, is illustrated in the drawings as being a torsion arm suspended assembly, practice of the invention is not limited only to the use of torsion arm suspension units. In other embodiments of the invention, for example, and in particular those which are not intended to be transported at high speed, a solid axle assembly may be directly attached to the support frame 164, without any form of intervening suspension elements. In other embodiments of the invention, where it is desirable to provide some sort of suspension component between the axle and the support frame, such suspensions may include various arrangements of leaf or coil springs, together with associated other suspension components, such as shock absorbers.

In the exemplary embodiment of the table 100, the axle support frame is located somewhat closer to the rear of the table 100, than to the front 108 of the table 100, so that the table 100 will have sufficient weight resting on the tongue support jack 150 that the table 100 will be stable when the tongue support jack 150 is deployed, while the table 100 is parked in storage, without having the stabilizer jacks 152 deployed.

Details of the construction and operation of the foldable tabletop section 112 are illustrated in FIGS. 4, 15 and 17. The fixed section 112a, of the foldable tabletop 112 includes a four and aft tabletop support cross-member, identical to the cross-members 168 used for attaching the tabletop 110 to the main portion of the frame 102. The fixed portion 112, further includes left and right side rails 174, connected at the four and aft ends thereof to the respective tabletop support cross-member 168 by a forward and rear cap rail 171, which are essentially identical to the forward and rear cap rails 171 of the main body of the frame 102. The rear cap rail, of the fixed section 112a has a series of through holes therein, positioned to align with corresponding holes in the front cap rail 171 of the main portion of the frame 102, so that the foldable section 112 of the tabletop can be bolted to the remainder of the tabletop 110. Extending downward from the front cap rail 171 of the fixed portion 112a is a support strut 175, configured for bolted attachment to the front angled support 167 of the main portion of the frame 102.

The foldable portion 112b, of the foldable section 112 of the tabletop 110 also utilizes the same tabletop support cross-members 168 as the fixed portion 112a, and the remainder of the frame 102. The tabletop support cross-members 168 of the foldable section 112b are connected along opposite transverse edges thereof by a pair of side rails 176, which are joined at a forward end thereof by a front rail 178. The rear end of the side rails 176 of the foldable portion 112b are connected to one another by a rear cap rail 171. The rear cap rail 171 of the foldable portion 112b is foldably connected to the front cap rail 171 of the fixed portion 112a by the hinge 122, in the manner best seen in FIG. 4, so that the foldable portion 112b may be folded back onto the tabletop 110, when the exemplary embodiment of the table 100 is being transported.

As further illustrated in FIG. 4, the foldable portion 112b of the tabletop includes a pair of handles 180 attached to the underside of the side rails 176, to facilitate movement of the foldable portion 112b from the folded to the deployed positions thereof. As also illustrated in FIG. 4, a pair of resilient bumpers 182 are attached to the upper side of the foldable section 112b, to provide resilient support for the distal end of the foldable section 112b against the remainder of the tabletop 110, when the foldable section 112b is in its folded position, as illustrated in FIG. 4.

The sections of the tabletop 110 attached to the fixed and foldable portions 112a, 112b of the foldable section 112 of the table 100 are configured and attached, in the exemplary embodiment of the table 100, in the same manner as described hereinabove with regard to attachment of the main portion of the tabletop to the frame 102, in the manner best illustrated in FIG. 5.

In practicing the invention, it will be preferred that the overall stowed width of an elongated table, according to the invention, be narrow enough, for example somewhat less than 48 inches, that two elongated tables, according to the invention, may be transported side-by-side, on a transport trailer, without exceeding governmental regulations for a standard load width. It will also be appreciated, by those having skill in the art, that by virtue of the construction of the exemplary embodiment of the table 100 described hereinabove, when the table 100 is transported with the benches 114, 116 in their stowed position, the benches 114, 116 and tabletop 110, in combination, function as elongated fenders for the wheels 104.

Those having skill in the art will recognize, that through practice of the invention, a portable picnic-type table having virtually any desired length, can be produced. It will also be recognized that the invention is not limited to picnic tables, per say, but also has use with other types of structures involving a portable table with an elongated surface.

It will be further expressly understood, that, although the exemplary embodiments described herein were all directed to practice of the invention in an elongated table having a frame in the form of a wheeled trailer, the invention is not limited to use in such embodiments. For example, in other embodiments of the invention, a trailer having skids or runners, instead of the wheels of the exemplary embodiment of the table 100 described hereinabove, may be provided for use in applications where it is possible and permissible to slide the table along on a surface, such as carpet, turf, sand, or snow, for example. It will be further understood, that the invention may also be practiced in forms where an elongated table, according to the invention, will be lifted and placed onto some form of transport vehicle or mechanism, or simply be lifted by a large group of persons, rather than being towed behind a tow vehicle.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) is to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventor for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventor expects skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventor intends for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.