Title:
SUSPENDED CABLE REEL
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A foldable reel for uncoiling electrical cable is described which includes a suspension connector, pivoting bottom frame, vertical brace maintaining the separation of the suspension connector and the bottom frame, and flexible cable roll supports extending between the distal portions of the bottom frame and the suspension connector.



Inventors:
Taylor, Perry (Lewiston, ID, US)
Application Number:
11/530749
Publication Date:
08/09/2007
Filing Date:
09/11/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65H75/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KIM, SANG K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WESLEY B. AMES (ESCONDIDO, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A foldable cable reel, comprising a pivoting suspension connector; a foldable base frame; a spacing brace which, which extends between and maintains the separation of said pivoting suspension connector and said foldable base frame; and at least 3 flexible cable roll supports, wherein said supports extend between said pivoting suspension connector and the distal ends of said foldable base frame.

2. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein said reel further comprises a combination stud and rafter suspension arm linked to said pivoting suspension connector.

3. The cable reel of claim 2, wherein said suspension arm comprises a first and a second end and a central elongated extension, wherein said first end comprises a stud hook and stud brace combination, wherein said brace further comprises a joist hook suitable for suspending said arm from a horizontal building member, and said second end comprises an attachment point for said pivoting suspension connector.

4. The cable reel of claim 3, wherein said brace extends essentially perpendicular to said central elongated extension and said stud hook comprises a hook extension pivotably attached at one end to said central elongated extension and at its other end comprises a hook dimensioned to fit around a standard wall stud.

5. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein said pivoting suspension connector comprises a rotation brake.

6. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein said spacing brace comprises a section of steel strap with a perpendicular bend at each end.

7. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein said steel strap fits over a location stud at the center of said base frame.

8. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein said spacing brace comprises a locking hinge approximately at its center.

9. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein said spacing brace comprises a hinge at or near its connection with said base frame.

10. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein said cable reel is mounted on a wall stud.

11. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein said cable reel is suspended from a ceiling joist.

12. The cable reel of claim 1, wherein a roll of Romex electrical cable is installed on said cable reel.

13. A method for dispensing electrical cable, comprising pulling a desired length of cable from a cable roll mounted on the cable reel of claim 1.

14. A cable reel kit comprising a cable reel of claim 1; and a cable reel storage case.

15. The cable reel kit of claim 14, further comprising written instructions for use of said cable reel.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to reel devices for uncoiling electrical cable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The following discussion is provided solely to assist the understanding of the reader, and does not constitute an admission that any of the information discussed or references cited constitute prior art to the present invention. Each of the references cited herein is incorporated herein by reference in their entireties, including for their descriptions of mounting brackets, wire guides, and rotation control mechanisms, all of which may be incorporated in the present cable reels.

A few cable dispensers have been described. For example, Maraman, U.S. Pat. No. 4,856,729, entitled “Hold and Unwind Reel for Coiled Material” describes a device which includes a generally conical mandrel which includes a plurality of flexible support members which are spread apart at the bottom and gathered together at the top, a support, and a means for rotatably connecting the mandrel to the support.

Marcell, U.S. Pat. No. 3,729,092, entitled “Unwind Support for Coiled Wire” describes a device in which a coil of wire rests on a base plate attached to a plurality of lines connected to a swivel ring, and is suspended from a rafter or the like. Marcell, U.S. Pat. No. 3,974,980, entitled “Wire Dispensing Device” describes similar devices which include additional features.

Huete, U.S. Pat. No. 5,348,241, entitled “Romex Wire Dispenser” describes a wire dispenser which includes a bracket for mounting on wall studs, a spindle mounting assembly, spreader bars for supporting the wire coil, and a wire guide assembly.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a compact, portable cable reel for dispensing coiled wire materials, especially electrical cable (e.g., ROMEX® cable). The cable reel can be collapsed, e.g., folded, into a compact configuration allowing convenient storage and/or transport. In its compact configuration, the cable reel can be wrapped with a strap or band or the like and/or stored in a pouch or case to maintain the compact configuration, e.g. during transport.

Thus, a first aspect of the invention concerns a foldable cable reel which includes a pivoting suspension connector, a foldable base frame, a spacing brace (also referred to as spacer bar) which extends between and maintains the separation of the pivoting suspension connector and the foldable base frame; and at least 3 flexible cable roll supports or stays, where the supports extend between the pivoting suspension connector and the distal ends of the foldable base frame.

In certain embodiments, the cable reel can also include a combination stud and rafter suspension arm linked to the pivoting suspension connector; the suspension arm includes a first and a second end and a central elongated extension, where the first end includes a stud hook and stud brace combination, the brace also includes a joist hook suitable for suspending the arm from a horizontal building member, and the second end includes an attachment point or fitting for attaching the pivoting suspension connector; the brace extends essentially perpendicular to the central elongated extension and the stud hook includes a hook extension pivotably attached at one end to the central elongated extension and at its other end includes a hook dimensioned to fit around a standard wall stud.

In certain embodiments, the pivoting suspension connector includes a rotation brake.

In certain embodiments, the spacing brace comprises a section of steel strap with a perpendicular bend at each end; the steel strap fits over a location projection (e.g., stud) at the center of the base frame; the spacing brace includes a locking hinge approximately at its center; the spacing brace includes a hinge at or near its connection with the base frame; the spacing brace includes a hinge at an approximately central location; the spacing brace includes a hinge in the middle ⅓; the spacing brace includes a bottom hinge and an approximately central hinge; an approximately central hinge in the spacing brace is a locking hinge; a reel with a foldable spacing brace includes a clip which retains the folded brace against the foldable base.

In particular embodiments, the foldable base frame folds essentially in the plane of the base circle; the foldable base frame folds along the central axis of the reel.

In particular embodiments, the cable reel is mounted on a wall stud; the cable reel is suspended from a ceiling joist; a roll of electrical cable (e.g., Romex electrical cable) is installed on the cable reel.

A related aspect concerns a method for dispensing electrical cable, which includes pulling a desired length of cable from a cable roll mounted on the cable reel of the preceding aspect. The desired length of cable can then be cut from the roll.

Another related aspect concerns a cable reel kit which includes a cable reel according to the first aspect and a cable reel storage case and/or written instructions for use of the cable reel.

In particular embodiments, the kit also includes a retaining band which holds the cable reel in its compact configuration and/or a case or pouch.

Additional embodiments will be apparent from the Detailed Description and from the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows an exemplary wire reel mounted on a wall stud.

FIG. 2 shows an exemplary wire reel similar to that shown in FIG. 1, but suspended from a joist hanger and having a cable roll mounted on the reel.

FIG. 3 shows a perspective view enlargement of one side of the mounting bracket of the suspension arm for the exemplary wire reel of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 shows a perspective view enlargement of the other side of the mounting bracket of the suspension arm from that shown in FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 shows an enlargement the mounting bracket of the wire reel of FIG. 1 mounted on a ceiling joist.

FIG. 6 shows the wire reel of FIG. 2 collapsed to a compact configuration.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present cable reel provides an advantageous design for dispensing electrical cable during building construction, while also allowing the reel to be rapidly and conveniently converted to a compact configuration for storage and/or transportation. The compact configuration of the reel can optionally be fastened with a flexible strap or tie to hold the components securely in the compact configuration and/or include one or more clips which hold at least some components in the compact configuration and/or can be stored in a case, which can both hold the reel in its compact configuration and can also protect other objects from being damaged by the reel during transport.

The present cable reel can be constructed in many different ways, but generally incorporates a foldable base, e.g., as described below. Advantageously, the reel can also include a central spacer brace (also referred to as a spacing brace or spacer bar) which maintains the spacing between the suspension connector for the reel and the foldable base frame. Thus, in general, the present cable reel includes a foldable base, a rotatable suspension connector, and flexible cable roll supports or stays connected to and extending between the distal ends of the base components and the rotatable suspension connector. In most cases, the reel will also include a central spacer brace, and can further include a suspension arm.

An exemplary reel design with two illustrative support arms is show in FIGS. 1-6, which are referenced below, but numerous other designs and design variations are also within the scope of the invention.

Foldable Base

As indicated above, a particularly advantageous feature is the inclusion of a foldable base. The base is constructed such that it can be folded or collapsed into a generally elongated configuration. A particular configuration of such a foldable base is the use of two or more narrow, elongated, rigid members (e.g., essentially rigid steel strap or bar) pivotably joined at their centers such that their ends define a diameter of the base. That is, a circle circumscribed on the base members having its origin at or approximately at the pivot point and its perimeter at the ends of those base members. Use of two such rigid members which are connected at a central pivot allows the members to be arranged essentially at right angles to each other during use, but to be pivoted into substantial alignment or at least a narrow angle such that a narrow, elongated configuration of the base is realized for storage. While not presently preferred, additional such members can be used (e.g., a total of 3 or 4) while still allowing the members to be rotated into a compact configuration for storage. The two member base design is illustrated by FIGS. 1-6. The exemplary reel 10 is shown in FIG. 1, mounted on a wall stud. The base of the cable reel 10 includes two base members 12 and 14, which are two essentially straight and substantially rigid steel straps (other materials may also be used, e.g., aluminum, reinforced plastics, and the like, and other cross-sectional shapes may also be used, e.g., round or rectangular rod or bar, round or rectangular tubing, and I-beam shape, among others). The two straps (a greater number may also be used if desired) are pivotably joined using pivot connector 22 (e.g., cap screw and nut(s)) at their longitudinal centers. (The portion passing through the base members may be threaded or un-threaded.) Optionally, a thin spacer between the straps and/or one or more washers can also be included. Such a spacer may be a standard metal washers, or may be made of or coated with a low frictional materials, e.g., nylon, polypropylene, polyethylene, or TEFLON®. In this particular design, the pivot bolt 22 has an extension (which may be threaded or un-threaded) which fits into an opening in the lower end of the spacer brace 20 (described below) to hold that lower end in position. Alternatively, instead of two or more base members which extend across the diameter of the base circle, one or more of those members may be replaced by radius arms which are joined and pivot at or proximal to the center connection (or on a central disk or web for embodiments which do not include at least one diameter-length member). For example, a base may have one diameter length member and two radius arms which can be rotated substantially into alignment with the diameter length member for storage and to approximately 90 degrees from that member for use. Similarly, a base design may use all radius arms pivotably joined at a central connection. This allows the arms to be rotated such that they are in substantial alignment for storage or to positions such that the angles between the radius arms are as desired (e.g., 90 degrees for a 4-arm base or 120 degrees for a 3-arm base). When radius arms are used in a design, it is more important to construct the pivot point to control arm movements perpendicular to the plane of the base circle.

Another configuration incorporates a central disk or web to which at least 3 arms are mounted. In use, the arms are approximately evenly distributed radially around a circle (e.g., with 120 degrees between arms for a 3-arm base, with 90 degrees between for a 4-arm base, and so on). At least some of the arms are rotatable such that the arms and the central disk or web can be set in a compact, elongated configuration. In one exemplary design, the arms can rotate substantially in the plane of the base, such that in the compact configuration the arms are aligned generally along one diameter or along one radius line. In a design in which the arms can be aligned along a diameter of the base circle, two of the arms may be fixed in position such that together with the central disk or web they describe a diameter of the base, and the other arm or arms are rotatable substantially in the plane of the base such that they align with the fixed arms. In one alternative, the arms can rotate to orientations substantially at right angles to the plane of the base, i.e., along the central axis of the reel assembly. In most case, the arms in this design will move downward for the compact configuration, and the hinge points are designed such that when the arms are moved up the hinge provides a solid stop with the arms in a substantially planar configuration.

Other such designs can also be used so long as the base can be folded into a compact configuration, e.g., for storage and/or transport.

Rotatable Suspension Connector

The rotatable suspension connector allows the reel to rotate as cable is pulled from a roll mounted on the reel, provides for suspending the reel, and also provides an attachment point for mounting the upper end of the spacer. The rotatable suspension connector includes the actual fastener for attaching the reel to a support (e.g., a support arm), a rotatable link, and the connectors or connection points for attachment of the cable roll stays. It can also include a rotation brake to prevent or reduce excessive uncoiling due to rotational momentum. Such brake can, for example, include flat friction plates and/or matching surfaces with generally sinusoidal mating surfaces. The various parts of the rotatable suspension connector may be incorporated into a single part, or may involved two or more connected parts.

In the exemplary design shown in FIG. 1, the rotatable suspension connector includes a rotatable snap hook 26 such that the snap end fastens to a suspension arm (also referred to a suspension bracket or support arm) 30, and the loop end of the snap hook provides an attachment point for the cable roll stays 16, 17, 18, and 19. The rotatable link of the snap hook allows the reel to rotate while it is attached to a fixed suspension arm. Numerous other configurations can also be used.

Cable Roll Stays (Supports)

As indicated above, flexible cable roll stays are connected at one end to or near the rotatable suspension connector. The other end of each stay is attached at or near the end of each base member or base radius arm or other such base component which defines the perimeter of the base. Such stays are shown in FIG. 1 as components 40, 42, 44, and 46. As shown, the stays loop through holes 21 in the ends of the base members 20 and 22. The length of the stays defines the maximum separation of the suspension connector and the foldable base, and together with the diameter of the base circle determine the spread angle of the stays. In the exemplary design, the stays are made of small diameter steel cable (e.g., ⅛, 5/32, or 3/16 inch), but can also be made of other flexible, yet durable materials. For example, woven plastic cord may also be used, which may, but need not, include a protective sheathing, as well as flexible cast, extruded, or woven plastic straps.

Spacer Brace

The reels usually incorporate a stiff, elongated spacer (e.g., a rod, bar, tube, or rigid strapping) to maintain the separation between the suspension connector and the foldable base. Advantageously, the spacer can be readily removable, partially removable, and/or foldable to allow the entire reel to be collapsed into a compact configuration. The spacer brace preferably provides sufficient strength and connections with other parts of the reel assembly such that when under compression caused by placing a cable roll on the stays, the spacer brace maintains a desired separation between the foldable base frame and the rotatable suspension connector. Depending on the design, the spacer brace may or may not limit extension and/or provide an initial tension in the stays. In the exemplary design shown in FIG. 1, the spacer 20 is a section of flat steel bar or strap which has a straight center portion, a perpendicular bottom end, and a perpendicular top end. The bottom end has a hole which fits over the protruding end of the base pivot bolt 22. While the spacer can be retained on the pivot bolt using a nut, advantageously no such retainer nut is used, thus allowing the spacer to be rapidly removed from the bolt for folding the reel. The top end of the spacer also includes a hole through which the cable roll stays 16, 17, 18, and 19 are gathered.

A number of other configurations for the spacer brace can also be utilized. For example, as indicated above, a spacer brace can be foldable. An exemplary implementation of a foldable spacer brace is positioned similarly to the spacer 20, but rather than fitting over a post or stud at the bottom it is hingedly attached to the center of the foldable base. The foldable spacer brace also includes a hinge at its approximate center. The combination of the two hinges allows the spacer brace and thus the top of the reel to collapse down on the foldable base without requiring any disassembly. In order to provide sufficient strength, the center hinge is typically a locking hinge, e.g., having a spring detent position, a locking clip, a slide collar, or the like, such that the hinge is held in essentially extended position, but can be released to bend when desired (preferably without a requirement for any tools).

If desired, a foldable spacer brace can also lock to the folded base. For example, the brace and/or an arm of the base can have a clip which clips into, onto, or over the other component. Such a feature assists in holding the reel in collapsed configuration without components being free to extend and hit against or interfere with other stored equipment. In addition (or alternatively) the foldable base may include a clip or clips such that the base arms clip together, holding the base in the folded or collapsed configuration.

For reel embodiments in which the base is foldable by having arms which fold down, a foldable spacer brace can still be used. For example, the spacer brace can be attached to the foldable base without a hinge, and have only a hinge in the middle section. In such embodiments, the spacer brace can fold down on itself such that the overall length of the collapsed reel is less than it would otherwise be.

As indicated above, the exemplary design includes a hole in the upper end of the spacer brace through which the gathered cable roll stays pass and are attached to the rotatable suspension connector. A variety of other configurations can be made. For example, the stays may be gathered and attach to the spacer brace without passing through. The upper end of the spacer brace can then be connected directly or indirectly to the rotatable suspension connector.

Suspension Arm (Suspension Bracket)

While the reel can be suspended using a variety of different hangers or brackets, an advantageous bracket or arm provides dual functionality for hanging from an overhead, substantially horizontal building member such as a ceiling joist, or from a substantially vertical member such as a wall stud.

An exemplary suspension arm 30 is shown in FIG. 1. The arm is mounted on a 2×6 wall stud and is suspending the cable reel 10. The suspension arm includes a fitting for attachment of the reel, an elongated central extension 32, and a mounting bracket. As shown in FIGS. 1, 3, 4 and 5, when mounted on a wall stud, a rigid brace 34 bears against the front of the stud 39, while a hinged stud hook fits around the back of the stud. In the exemplary design, the hinged stud hook includes a side plate 42 which pivots about a bolt or hinge pin 43. At the other end of the side plate and oriented perpendicular to it is a back bar 41 which bears against the back of the stud. The back bar can have a further perpendicular projection 40 to assist in preventing the suspension arm from shifting on the stud. A further position stabilizing feature which can be included is a flange 38 located on one side (e.g., at the top of the brace as mounted on a wall stud) of the rigid brace and extending a short distance back along the side of the wall stud opposite the side plate of the hinged stud hook. The flange can be positioned at various points along the rigid brace and can be of various lengths.

This exemplary suspension arm is readily adapted for suspending from an overhead building member such as a ceiling joist as illustrated in FIG. 5. For such use, the hinged stud hook is rotated such that the back bar 41 rests against the elongated central extension 32. The rigid brace 34 has a perpendicular extension 36 at its distal end, extending in the direction of the suspension connector fitting end of the suspension arm. The rigid brace 34 acts as a joist hook, with the perpendicular extension 36 preventing the hook from slipping laterally off the joist or other generally horizontal building member.

This exemplary dual function suspension arm is desirable, but not necessary. Other structures can be used for suspending the cable reel, for example, a single purpose bracket for mounting on wall studs, single purpose joist hangers for mounting on ceiling joists and the like, as well as other structures and devices. An example of such a joist hanger is illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 6. As shown in FIG. 2, joist hanger is oriented vertically during use, with the cable reel attached to one end and the other end hooked on a ceiling joist or other such generally horizontal building member. As shown, the joist hanger has a right angle bend in the end to which the cable reel attaches, but such bend is not necessary. The full length of the joist hook 50 is shown in FIG. 6, where the joist hook portion or end of the joist hanger includes joist bearing portion 51 which bears on the top of the joist, and retainer portion 52 which prevents the hanger from slipping off the joist.

Use

In use, a roll of electrical cable is loaded over the rotatable suspension connector and lowered onto the cable roll stays. The stays bear against the inside surface of the cable roll. The stays are prevented from collapsing by the spacer, which causes the stays to become taut, preventing the roll from dropping too far down the stays. Once the cable roll is installed, the reel is suspended in a desired location. Cable is then dispensed by pulling on the cable end on the outside of the roll to remove a desired length, and is then cut to separate that length.

The general relationship of the cable reel and the mounted cable roll is shown in FIG. 2, where the inside of cable roll 28 bears on and is supported by the cable roll stays 16, 17, 18, and 19. The extension of the stays and the distance of the base from the support arm or hanger is maintained by the spacer bar 20.

Compact Configuration and Optional Case and Fastener

As described above, the present cable reels can advantageously be collapsed to a compact configuration, e.g., for storage and/or transport. Depending on the particular design of the cable reel with its associated support arm or hanger, the exact compact configuration and the process for collapsing the reel may differ. One such embodiment is shown in FIG. 6, which illustrates a cable reel and joist hanger as shown in FIG. 2. To collapse this design, the cable roll is removed, then the spacer bar 20 is lifted off of the pivot bolt 22, allowing the upper end of the spacer bar, the swivel connector, and the lower (attachment) end of the hanger 50 to collapse toward the base. The base arms 12 and 14 are pivoted such that there is only a small included angle between them (e.g., a few degrees). The flexible cable stays 16, 17, 18, and 19 can then bend as needed to adapt to the changed distance between the swivel connector and the distal ends of the base arms. The joist hanger 50 is also moved to be substantially against and parallel to the folded base and the spacer bar.

In many embodiments, the reels will be used without a case and/or fastener to hold it in the compact configuration. However, it may be desirable to use a case and/or a fastener to hold the reel in the compact configuration and/or for neat storage.

Such a fastener can, for example, be one or more straps or bands which wrap around the compact reel and prevent the reel from expanding and/or retain pieces such as the spacer. Such straps and bands may, for example, use a snap, hook, cam-lock, buckle, and/or hook and loop fastener (e.g., VELCRO®), or other fastener type to hold the strap or band looped around the compact reel. Alternatively, or in addition, a case may be used to contain the compact reel. Such case may be rigid (e.g., metal or molded plastic) or may be flexible (e.g., canvas, heavy duty synthetic cloth. Thus, for example, the compact reel configuration shown in FIG. 6 could have a band or bands wrapped snugly around the components and fastened and/or the reel could be inserted into a pouch or case.

All patents and other references cited in the specification are indicative of the level of skill of those skilled in the art to which the invention pertains, and are incorporated by reference in their entireties, including any tables and figures, to the same extent as if each reference had been incorporated by reference in its entirety individually.

One skilled in the art would readily appreciate that the present invention is well adapted to obtain the ends and advantages mentioned, as well as those inherent therein. The methods, variances, and compositions described herein as presently representative of preferred embodiments are exemplary and are not intended as limitations on the scope of the invention. Changes therein and other uses will occur to those skilled in the art, which are encompassed within the spirit of the invention, are defined by the scope of the claims.

It will be readily apparent to one skilled in the art that varying substitutions and modifications may be made to the invention disclosed herein without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. For example, variations can be made to the materials and dimensions for the cable reel. Thus, such additional embodiments are within the scope of the present invention and the following claims.

The invention illustratively described herein suitably may be practiced in the absence of any element or elements, limitation or limitations which is not specifically disclosed herein. Thus, for example, in each instance herein any of the terms “comprising”, “consisting essentially of” and “consisting of” may be replaced with either of the other two terms. The terms and expressions which have been employed are used as terms of description and not of limitation, and there is no intention that in the use of such terms and expressions of excluding any equivalents of the features shown and described or portions thereof, but it is recognized that various modifications are possible within the scope of the invention claimed. Thus, it should be understood that although the present invention has been specifically disclosed by preferred embodiments and optional features, modification and variation of the concepts herein disclosed may be resorted to by those skilled in the art, and that such modifications and variations are considered to be within the scope of this invention as defined by the appended claims.

In addition, where features or aspects of the invention are described in terms of Markush groups or other grouping of alternatives, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention is also thereby described in terms of any individual member or subgroup of members of the Markush group or other group.

Also, unless indicated to the contrary, where various numerical values or value range endpoints are provided for embodiments, additional embodiments are described by taking any 2 different values as the endpoints of a range or by taking two different range endpoints from specified ranges as the endpoints of an additional range. Such ranges are also within the scope of the described invention.

Thus, additional embodiments are within the scope of the invention and within the following claims.