Title:
Landscape timber connector
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A landscape timber connector includes first and second halves adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position and a closed timber-surrounding position. In the closed position, the first and second halves cooperate to form a housing having a top, bottom, sides, and first and second ends. Mating elements cooperate to lock the halves in the closed position.



Inventors:
Williams, Lynn (Pageland, SC, US)
Campbell, John Justin Alexander (Jefferson, SC, US)
Campbell, Franklin Ray (Jefferson, SC, US)
Application Number:
11/715036
Publication Date:
08/02/2007
Filing Date:
03/07/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04C2/38
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MACARTHUR, VICTOR L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Schwartz Law Firm, P.C. (Charlotte, NC, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A landscape timber connector, comprising: first and second halves adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position and a closed timber-surrounding position; and in the closed position, said first and second halves cooperating to form a housing having a top, bottom, sides, and first and second ends; and means for locking said housing in the closed position.

2. A landscape timber connector according to claim 1, and comprising a hinge interconnecting said first and second halves, such that said housing is adapted to clamshell around a portion of a landscape timber.

3. A landscape timber connector according to claim 1, wherein the first half of said housing comprises an intermediate recess, said recess defining a female restraint of said housing adapted for mating with a complementary male restraint of an adjacent timber connector.

4. A landscape timber connector according to claim 3, wherein the first half of said housing comprises spaced-apart interior walls located adjacent said intermediate recess, and adapted for dividing said housing into sections designed to receive respective ends of adjacent timbers.

5. A landscape timber connector according to claim 1, wherein the second half of said housing comprises an intermediate detent, said detent defining a male restraint of said housing adapted for mating with a complementary female restraint of an adjacent timber connector.

6. A landscape timber connector according to claim 5, wherein the second half of said housing comprises spaced-apart interior walls located adjacent said intermediate detent, and adapted for dividing said housing into sections designed to receive respective ends of adjacent timbers.

7. A landscape timber connector according to claim 1, wherein said housing defines a timber-connection angle between the first end and the second end.

8. A landscape timber connector according to claim 7, wherein said timber-connection angle is 120 degrees.

9. A landscape timber connector according to claim 7, wherein said timber-connection angle is 90 degrees.

10. A landscape timber connector according to claim 1, wherein the first and second ends of said housing are located in substantial linear alignment.

11. A landscape timber connector, comprising: first and second halves adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position and a closed timber-surrounding position; and in the closed position, said first and second halves cooperating to form a housing having a top, bottom, sides, and first and second ends; wherein the first half of said housing comprises an intermediate recess, said recess defining a female restraint of said housing adapted for mating with a complementary male restraint of an adjacent timber connector; wherein the second half of said housing comprises an intermediate detent, said detent defining a male restraint of said housing adapted for mating with a complementary female restraint of an adjacent timber connector; and means for locking said housing in the closed position.

12. A landscape timber connector according to claim 11, and comprising a hinge interconnecting said first and second halves, such that said housing is adapted to clamshell around a portion of a landscape timber.

13. A landscape timber connector according to claim 11, wherein the first half of said housing comprises spaced-apart interior walls located adjacent said intermediate recess, and adapted for dividing said housing into sections designed to receive respective ends of adjacent timbers.

14. A landscape timber connector according to claim 11, wherein the second half of said housing comprises spaced-apart interior walls located adjacent said intermediate detent, and adapted for dividing said housing into sections designed to receive respective ends of adjacent timbers.

15. A landscape timber connector according to claim 11, wherein said housing defines a timber-connection angle between the first end and the second end.

16. A landscape timber connector according to claim 15, wherein said timber-connection angle is 120 degrees.

17. A landscape timber connector according to claim 15, wherein said timber-connection angle is 90 degrees.

18. A landscape timber connector according to claim 11, wherein the first and second ends of said housing are located in substantial linear alignment.

19. In combination with an elongated landscape timber, a landscape timber connector comprising: first and second halves adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position and a closed timber-surrounding position; and in the closed position, said first and second halves cooperating to form a housing having a top, bottom, sides, and first and second ends; and means for locking said housing in the closed position.

20. A combination according to claim 19, wherein the first half of said housing comprises an intermediate recess, said recess defining a female restraint of said housing adapted for mating with a complementary male restraint of an adjacent timber connector; and wherein the second half of said housing comprises an intermediate detent, said detent defining a male restraint of said housing adapted for mating with a complementary female restraint of an adjacent timber connector.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD AND BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a landscape timber connector. In one exemplary implementation, the invention may be used to couple respective ends of adjacent landscape timbers.

Landscape timbers are a popular and common “hardscape” in many residential properties, adding a woodsy and practical accent to the yard, garden, or playground. Such timbers are relatively lightweight and have two opposing flat sides allowing them to be easily stacked. While most timbers are composed of new wood, others are manufactured of recycled plastics. In either case, the timbers are relatively uniform and smooth making them excellent for stair steps and retaining walls. Other popular applications include flower-bed borders, walkway, patio, and driveway curbs, garden beds, pond enclosures, sandboxes, and decorative walls. Landscape timbers are available in a full range of sizes—from 4″×4′ to 12″×12′.

When stacking timbers, particularly above 2-3 courses, in order to stabilize the landscape structure, a number of 10″ galvanized spikes are typically hammered through overlapping ends using a sledge hammer. This process is both labor intensive and time consuming, and in many cases damages the timber or detracts from the overall aesthetic appearance of the landscape structure. Any protrusion of the spikes above or beyond the timber may also present a substantial safety hazard. For single course structures, the timbers are generally arranged end-to-end around a designated perimeter. In playgrounds and other high traffic areas, the timbers are often inadvertently kicked out of place, creating a rather unkept appearance in the landscaping.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

Therefore, it is an object of the invention to provide a landscape timber connector which safely and securely interconnects adjacent timbers.

It is another object of the invention to provide a landscape timber connector which is relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

It is another object of the invention to provide a landscape timber connector which is conveniently stacked with a number of like connectors for packaging and shipment.

It is another object of the invention to provide a landscape timber connector which is relatively easy to install.

It is another object of the invention to provide a landscape timber connector which is durable and essentially maintenance free.

It is another object of the invention to provide a landscape timber connector which may be manufactured in a variety of colors.

It is another object of the invention to provide a method of interconnecting respective proximal ends of adjacent landscape timbers.

These and other objects of the present invention are achieved in the preferred embodiments disclosed below by providing a landscape timber connector. The timber connector comprises first and second halves adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position and a closed timber-surrounding position. In the closed position, the first and second halves cooperate to form a housing having a top, bottom, sides, and first and second ends. Means are provided for locking the housing in the closed position. In one exemplary implementation, the means may comprise mating elements designed to snap-attach together. Alternatively, the means may comprise any suitable mechanical fastener including pins, screws, nails, rivets, staples, or the like. The means may also comprise a fiction-engagement of the first and second halves.

According to another exemplary embodiment of the invention, a hinge interconnects the first and second halves, such that the housing is adapted to clamshell around a portion of a landscape timber. The term “landscape timber” is used broadly herein to describe any cut wood or other elongated natural, synthetic, or composite natural/synthetic material suitable for use in a landscape structure.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the first half of the housing defines an intermediate exterior recess. The recess forms a female restraint of the housing adapted for mating with a complementary male restraint of an adjacent timber connector.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the first half of the housing comprises spaced-apart interior walls located adjacent the intermediate recess. The interior walls are adapted for dividing the housing into sections designed to receive respective ends of adjacent timbers.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the second half of the housing comprises an intermediate exterior detent. The detent forms a male restraint of the housing adapted for mating with a complementary female restraint of an adjacent timber connector.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the second half of the housing comprises spaced-apart interior walls located adjacent the intermediate detent. The interior walls are adapted for dividing the housing into sections designed to receive respective ends of adjacent timbers.

The term “restraint” is used broadly herein to mean any structure which, either alone or in combination with other structure, serves to limit, restrict, or prevent movement of the connector, such as (for example) movement of the connector relative to another stacked connector.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the housing defines a timber-connection angle between the first end and the second end.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the timber-connection angle is 120 degrees.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the timber-connection angle is 90 degrees.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the first and second ends of the housing are located in substantial linear alignment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Some of the objects of the invention have been set forth above. Other objects and advantages of the invention will appear as the description proceeds when taken in conjunction with the following drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is an environmental view of a landscape timber connector according to one preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an exploded view showing proximal ends of adjacent landscape timbers removed from the connector, the mechanical fasteners pulled away from respective fastener holes formed with the connector, and one timber staple pulled away from the timber;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the timber connector in the closed position;

FIG. 4 is a plan view of the timber connector in the open position;

FIG. 5 is a side elevation of the open timber connector;

FIG. 6 is an end elevation of the open timber connector;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the open timber connector;

FIG. 8 is a top view of the connector cover;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view showing an underside of the connector cover;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a timber connector according to a second exemplary embodiment, and showing the timber connector in an open position;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a timber connector according to the second exemplary embodiment, and showing the timber connector in a closed position;

FIG. 12 is a plan view of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 13 is a side elevation of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 14 is an end elevation of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of a timber connector according to a third exemplary embodiment, and showing the timber connector in an open position;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of a timber connector according to the third exemplary embodiment, and showing the timber connector in a closed position;

FIG. 17 is an end elevation of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 15;

FIG. 18 is a plan view of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 15;

FIG. 19 is a side elevation of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 15;

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of a timber connector according to a fourth exemplary embodiment, and showing the timber connector in an open position;

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of a timber connector according to the fourth exemplary embodiment, and showing the timber connector in a closed position;

FIG. 22 is a plan view of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 20;

FIG. 23 is a side elevation of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 20; and

FIG. 24 is an end elevation of the open timber connector shown in FIG. 20.

DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS AND BEST MODE

The present invention is described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which one or more exemplary embodiments of the invention are shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be operative, enabling, and complete. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout. As used herein, the article “a” is intended to include one or more items. Where only one item is intended, the term “one” or similar language is used. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation. Unless otherwise expressly defined herein, such terms are intended to be given their broad ordinary and customary meaning not inconsistent with that applicable in the relevant industry and without restriction to any specific embodiment hereinafter described. Any references to advantages, benefits, unexpected results, or operability of the present invention are not intended as an affirmation that the invention has been previously reduced to practice or that any testing has been performed.

Referring now specifically to the drawings, an integrally-molded landscape timber connector according to the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 1, and shown generally at reference numeral 10. The connector 10 is applicable for mechanically coupling respective proximal ends of adjacent landscape timbers 11 and 12. Such timbers are commonly used in decorative landscape walls, and to frame out sandboxes, playgrounds, sidewalks, planting beds, and the like. In one exemplary implementation shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the timber connector 10 is particularly application for being stacked with like connectors 10′ for securing multiple courses of stacked timbers 11, 11′ and 12, 12′.

The timber connector 10 may be formed in first and second complementary halves 14 and 15 adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position (e.g., timber connector 10 in FIG. 2), and a closed timber-surrounding position (e.g., timber connector 10′ in FIG. 2). Referring to FIG. 3, in the closed position, the first and second halves 14, 15 cooperate to form a relatively rigid housing 16 having a top 17, bottom 18, sides 19, and first and second ends 21, 22. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-7, the first and second ends 21, 22 define a timber-connection angle (α) of approximately 90 degrees (See FIG. 1). A number of complementary edge fittings 24 and slots 25 mate to snap-attach the pivoted housing 16 in the closed position. A living hinge 26 formed along a side 19 of the housing 16 may interconnect the first and second halves 14, 15, such that the housing 16 is adapted to clamshell around respective ends of the coupled landscaped timbers 11, 12. Once locked in the closed position, nails, staples, screws, pins, or other suitable fasteners (not shown) may be driven through the housing 16 proximate its first and second ends 21, 22 to further secure the timber connector 10 to the adjacent timbers 11, 12. Pre-formed fastener holes 28 and 29 may be provided in the housing 16 to facilitate proper placement and insertion of the fasteners, and mechanical attachment of the timber connector 10 to the timbers 11, 12.

Referring to FIGS. 4-7, in the exemplary embodiment shown, one half 14 of the housing 16 defines an intermediate exterior recess 31 while the second half 15 comprises a projecting exterior detent 32. The detent 32 and recess 31 form respective male and female restraints which are designed to mate with complementary restraints formed with adjacent timber connectors (e.g., 10′). As best shown in FIGS. 2 and 4, interior vertical walls 33A, 33B and 34A, 34B may be formed with one or both of the housing halves 14, 15 to limit insertion of the timbers 11, 12 into the connector 10, and to prevent encroachment into areas of the detent 32 and recess 31. The square shape of the mated restraints prevents inadvertent shifting, misalignment, turning, rotating, or skewing of one timber connector 10 relative to another 10′ when stacked. Additionally, the male detent 32 may have resilient feet 35 designed to snap-attach over corresponding inward-extending shoulders 36 formed at a mouth of the recess 31, thereby joining the stacked connectors 10, 10′ together. The timber connector 10 may also be anchored directly to the ground using a rigid stake 38 (See FIG. 2) passed through vertically-aligned, reinforced, circular holes 41 and 42 centrally formed in areas of the recess 31 and detent 32.

After staking the timber connector 10 to the ground, a decorative cover 45 shown in FIGS. 1, 2, 8, and 9 may be applied to the exposed recess 31 of the connector housing 16 to finish the appearance of the timber connector 10. The cover 45 may have a number of resilient pivoted tabs 46 which snap-attach over corresponding shoulders 36 of the recess 31, and a vertical support column 48 extending into the recess 31.

The landscape timbers 11, 12 may be further anchored to the ground using one or more rust-resistant, metal wire timber staples (not shown). In one exemplary embodiment, the timber staple comprises an inverted, generally U-shaped wire with a timber-engaging body portion and spaced-apart free ends adapted for being driven into the ground. The body portion of the staple jogs inwardly at the junction of each free end, such that the staple substantially encircles the timber and is relatively inconspicuous when properly installed.

A second exemplary embodiment of a timber connector 50 according to the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 10-14. Like connector 10, the timber connector 50 may be formed in first and second complementary halves 54, 55 adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position (FIG. 10), and a closed timber-surrounding position (FIG. 11). In the closed position, the first and second halves 54, 55 cooperate to form a generally rigid housing 56 having a top 57, bottom 58, sides 59, and first and second ends 61 and 62. In this embodiment, the first and second ends 61, 62 define a timber-connection angle (α) of approximately 120 degrees. A number of complementary edge fittings 64 and slots 65 mate to snap-attach the pivoted housing 56 in the closed position. A living hinge 66 formed along a side 59 of the housing 56 may interconnect the first and second halves 54, 55, such that the housing 56 is adapted to clamshell around respective ends of the coupled landscaped timbers (not shown). Once locked in the closed position, nails, staples, screws, pins, or other suitable fasteners may be driven through the housing 56 proximate its first and second ends 61, 62 to further secure the timber connector 50 to the adjacent timbers. Pre-formed fastener holes 68 and 69 may be provided in the housing 56 to facilitate proper placement and insertion of the fasteners, and mechanical attachment of the timber connector 50 to the timbers.

As previously described, one half 54 of the housing 56 defines an intermediate exterior recess 71 while the second half 55 comprises a projecting exterior detent 72. The detent 72 and recess 71 form respective male and female restraints which are designed to mate with complementary restraints formed with adjacent timber connectors. As best shown in FIGS. 10 and 12, interior walls 73A, 73B and 74A, 74B may be formed with one or both of the housing halves 54, 55 to limit insertion of the timbers into the connector 50, and to prevent encroachment into areas of the detent 72 and recess 71. The square shape of the mated restraints prevents inadvertent shifting, misalignment, turning, rotating, or skewing of one timber connector 50 relative to another when stacked. Additionally, the male detent 72 may have resilient feet 75 designed to snap-attach over corresponding inward-extending shoulders 76 formed at a mouth of the recess 71, thereby joining the stacked connectors together. The timber connector 50 may also be anchored directly to the ground using a rigid stake (not shown) passed through vertically-aligned, reinforced, circular holes 81 and 82 centrally formed in areas of the recess 71 and detent 72. A decorative cover, such as shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, may be applied to the exposed recess 71 of the connector housing 56 to finish the appearance of the timber connector 50.

A third exemplary embodiment of a timber connector 90 according to the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 15-19. Like connectors 10 and 50, the timber connector 90 may be formed in first and second complementary halves 94 and 95 adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position (FIG. 15), and a closed timber-surrounding position (FIG. 16). In the closed position, the first and second halves 94, 95 cooperate to form a generally rigid housing 96 having a top 97, bottom 98, sides 99, and first and second ends 101 and 102. In this embodiment, the first and second ends 101, 102 define a substantially linear coupling (i.e., a timber-connection angle a of substantially 180 degrees). A number of complementary edge fittings 104 and slots 105 mate to snap-attach the pivoted housing 96 in the closed position. A living hinge 106 formed along a side 99 of the housing 96 may interconnect the first and second halves 94, 95, such that the housing 96 is adapted to clamshell around respective ends of the coupled landscaped timbers. Once locked in the closed position, nails, staples, screws, pins, or other suitable fasteners may be driven through the housing 96 proximate its first and second ends 101, 102 to further secure the timber connector 90 to the adjacent timbers. Pre-formed fastener holes 108 and 109 may be provided in the housing 96 to facilitate proper placement and insertion of the fasteners, and mechanical attachment of the timber connector 90 to the timbers.

Like connectors 10 and 50 previously described, one half 94 of the housing 96 defines an intermediate exterior recess 111 while the second half 95 comprises a projecting exterior detent 112. The detent 112 and recess 111 form respective male and female restraints which are designed to mate with complementary restraints formed with adjacent timber connectors. As best shown in FIGS. 15 and 18, interior walls 113A, 113B and 114A, 114B may be formed with one or both of the housing halves 94, 95 to limit insertion of the timbers into the connector 90, and to prevent encroachment into areas of the detent 112 and recess 111. The square shape of the mated restraints prevents inadvertent shifting, misalignment, turning, rotating, or skewing of one timber connector 90 relative to another when stacked. Additionally, the male detent 112 may have resilient feet 115 designed to snap-attach over corresponding inward-extending shoulders 116 formed at a mouth of the recess 111, thereby joining the stacked connectors together. The timber connector 90 may also be anchored directly to the ground using a rigid stake (not shown) passed through vertically-aligned, reinforced, circular holes 121 and 122 centrally formed in areas of the recess 111 and detent 112. A decorative cover, such as shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, may be applied to the exposed recess of the connector housing to finish the appearance of the timber connector 90.

A fourth exemplary embodiment of a timber connector 130 according to the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 20-24. This timber connector 130 is likewise formed in first and second complementary halves 134 and 135 adapted for arrangement in an open timber-receiving position (FIG. 20), and a closed timber-surrounding position (FIG. 21). In the closed position, the first and second halves 134,135 cooperate to form a generally rigid housing 136 having a top 137, bottom 138, sides 139, and first and second ends 141 and 142. In this embodiment, the second end 142 is closed to cover an otherwise exposed free end of the landscape timber. A number of complementary edge fittings 144 and slots 145 mate to snap-attach the pivoted housing 136 in the closed position. A living hinge 146 formed along a side 139 of the housing 136 may interconnect the first and second halves 134, 135, such that the housing 136 is adapted to clamshell around the free end of the landscaped timber. Once locked in the closed position, a nail, staple, screw, pin, or other suitable fastener may be driven through the housing 136 proximate its open end 141 to further secure the timber connector 130 to the landscape timber. A pre-formed fastener hole 148 may be provided in the housing 136 to facilitate proper placement and insertion of the fastener, and mechanical attachment of the timber connector 130 to the timber.

As previously described, one half 134 of the housing 136 defines an intermediate exterior recess 151 while the second half 135 comprises a projecting exterior detent 152. The detent 152 and recess 151 form respective male and female restraints which are designed to mate with complementary restraints formed with adjacent timber connectors. As best shown in FIGS. 20 and 22, interior walls 153 and 154 may be formed with one or both of the housing halves 134, 135 to limit insertion of the timber into the connector 130, and to prevent encroachment into areas of the detent 152 and recess 151. The square shape of the mated restraints prevents inadvertent shifting, misalignment, turning, rotating, or skewing of one timber connector 130 relative to another when stacked. Additionally, the male detent 152 may have resilient feet 155 designed to snap-attach over corresponding inward-extending shoulders 156 formed at a mouth of the recess 151, thereby joining the stacked connectors together. The timber connector 130 may be anchored directly to the ground using a rigid stake (not shown) passed through vertically-aligned, reinforced, circular holes 161 and 162 centrally formed in areas of the recess 151 and detent 152. A decorative cover, such as shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, may be applied to the exposed recess of the connector housing to finish the appearance of the timber connector.

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention are described above. No element, act, or instruction used in this description should be construed as critical or essential to the invention unless explicitly described as such. Various details of the invention may be changed without departing from its scope. Furthermore, the foregoing description of the exemplary embodiments of the invention and best mode for practicing the invention are provided for the purpose of illustration only and not for the purpose of limitation-the invention being defined by the claims and their equivalents.