Title:
Baluster ball joint adapter attachment for a baluster to stair rail(s) and base
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A universal attachment means and method for attaching a baluster or post between a base of a stairway and a railing above the stairs as well as at landings or balconies. The attachment means includes a ball and socket connection assembly that can be attached to either end of a baluster or post and then used to attach the baluster or post to the base or rail of the stairway. The attachment means permits ease of attachment of balusters or posts regardless of the slope of the stair and rail and regardless of any angular slope of a rail as in a circular stair rail. The attachment means eliminates the tedious alignment and drilling of vertical holes into the underside of a rail as needed in many prior art systems.



Inventors:
Truckner, Richard P. (Benicia, CA, US)
Truckner, David R. (Benicia, CA, US)
Perfumo-truckner, Paulette (Benicia, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/703327
Publication Date:
10/25/2007
Filing Date:
02/06/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04F11/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MACARTHUR, VICTOR L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GEORGE W. WASSON (LAFAYETTE, CA, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A universal baluster/post attachment means for attaching a baluster/post to a stair rail comprising: a) a first member having a concave socket surface with an open end at one side and an attachment surface at a side opposite to said socket surface, b) a second member having an at least substantially hemispherical convex surface at one end and an attachment surface at an end opposite to said convex surface, c) said second member convex surface being adapted to be inserted into said concave socket and to be universally movable within said socket, d) said first and second members including means for retaining said convex surface within said concave surface in a desired position, e) said first member being attachable to said stair rail at a desired position along said rail with said second member depending from said concave socket, f) and means at said attachment surface of said second member for attaching a baluster/post to said second member in adjustable attachment.

2. The attachment means of claim 1 wherein said insertion of said convex surface of said second member into said concave socket of said first member creates a ball and socket universally movable connection between said first and second members.

3. The attachment means of claim 1 wherein said concave socket is a substantially cylindrical concave socket and the diameter of said substantially hemispherical convex surface are substantially equal while allowing universally adjustable movement at said attachment.

4. The attachment means of claim 3 wherein the open end of said substantially cylindrical concave surface presents a smaller diameter than the diameter of said substantially hemispherical convex surface of said second member, and said attachment surface of said first member includes an opening having a diameter larger that said smaller diameter at said open end and large enough to permit insertion of said convex surface into said concave surface.

5. The attachment means of claim 1 wherein said first member includes a surface at the open end of said concave socket adapted to cooperate with a surface on said second member between said convex surface and said attachment surface to function as a stop for universal movement of said convex surface within said concave surface.

6. The attachment means of claim 1 wherein said convex surface of said second member includes a protruding extension from said convex surface at the end opposite to said attachment surface, said extension adapted to contact said concave surface of said first member so as to limit universal movement of said convex surface within said concave socket.

7. The attachment of claim 1 wherein the attachment of said first member to said stair rail is from within said concave surface.

8. The attachment of claim 1 wherein the attachment of said first member to said stair rail is from an exterior surface of said first member.

9. The attachment means of claim 1 wherein the attachment surface of said second member is an axial extension from said end opposite to said convex surface.

10. The attachment means of claim 1 wherein the attachment surface of said second member is a hollow interior surface of said end opposite to said convex surface.

11. The attachment means of claim 1 wherein said first and second members are made from the group of materials including wood, composites, plastics or metal.

12. An assembly of an attachment means and a baluster for universally attaching said baluster between a stair rail and a stair base surface comprising, a) a first member having a concave socket surface at one end with an open end at one side and an attachment surface at a side opposite to said socket surface, said first member having means for attaching said first member to said stair rail, b) a second member having at least a substantially hemispherical convex surface at one end and an attachment surface at an end opposite to said convex surface, c) a baluster having a rail end and a base end, said rail end having an axial surface for adjustably connecting said baluster to said second member, and said base end having means for attaching said base end to said stair base surface, d) said first member and second member connected at said concave surface and said convex surface in universally movable connection, e) said baluster connected to said second member at said axial surface in an axially adjustable connection, f) and said base end of said baluster aligned to be attachable to said stair base.

13. The assembly of claim 12 wherein said stair base is a stair tread.

14. The assembly of claim 12 wherein said stair base is a stair stringer or knee wall.

15. The assembly of claim 12 wherein said stair rail includes a circular stair rail having a changeable slope with respect to horizontal and vertical orientation with respect to said stair base surface, and said attachment of said first and second members is a ball and socket universally adjustable attachment permitting said baluster to be adjustably attached in a vertical orientation between said stair rail and said stair base in accord with said slope of horizontal and vertical orientation of said stair rail.

16. A socket adapted to accommodate a hemispherical end of a baluster for attaching said baluster to a stair rail comprising, a) a member having an attachment surface and an open end surface, b) an interior axial hole drilled into said member between said attachment surface and said open end, c) said hole being axial to said open end, d) said hole adapted to receive said hemispherical end of a baluster in an universal attachment, e) and means for moveably securing said hemispherical end of said baluster in said hole and permitting universally rotatable adjustment about said hole.

17. The socket of claim 16 wherein said axial hole is axially conical shaped with its larger diameter end being at said attachment surface and its smaller diameter end being at said open end, and said conical shaped hole adapted to receive said hemispherical end of a baluster in a universal attachment.

18. The socket of claim 16 adapted to be attached to a stair railing and permitting the mounting of a baluster to a circular stair railing having variations in horizontal and vertical orientation above a stair base.

19. The universal attachment means of claim 1 wherein said member is attached to a stair rail in a groove cut into the under surface of said stair rail.

20. The universal attachment means of claim 1 wherein said first member is an integral part of the under surface of a stair rail in the form of a socket hole cut into said under surface.

21. The universal attachment means of claim 1 wherein said attachment surface of said first member is a threaded portion and said stair rail has a threaded mounting member on its under surface adapted for threaded engagement with said threaded portion of said first member.

22. A ball and socket mounting assembly for attaching a baluster to a stair rail comprising, a) a socket member including means for attaching said socket member to a stair rail, b) said socket having an internal cavity adapted to receive said ball, c) said ball having an extension for attaching said baluster to said ball, d) a means for holding said ball within said socket while permitting said ball to universally move within said socket, whereby a baluster attached to said stair rail with said ball is rotatable about the axial axis of the baluster and universally about said ball and socket assembly.

23. A method for attaching a baluster of a stairway between a stair rail and a base of said stairway at a tread, knee wall or stinger comprising the steps of: a) attaching a first member to the under surface of said stair rail, said first member having an internal concave cavity, b) inserting a convex hemispherical ball into said concave cavity, attaching said baluster to said convex ball at a first end with an axially adjustable connection, c) moving said ball within said socket to place said baluster in a vertical orientation and suspending said baluster from said first member, d) attaching the opposite end of said baluster to the base of said stairway at said tread, knee wall or stringer forming said stairway, e) and fixing said convex ball within said concave cavity and said axial adjustment of said attachment of said baluster to said ball to attach said baluster to said stairway.

24. A universal baluster/post attachment means for attaching a baluster/post between a base and stair rail comprising: a) a first member having a concave socket surface with an open end at one side and an attachment means at a side opposite to said socket surface, b) a second member having an at least a convex surface at one end and an attachment surface at an end opposite to said convex surface, c) said second member convex surface being adapted to be inserted into said concave socket and to be universally movable within said socket, d) means for attaching a baluster/post to one or the other of said first member or said second member to form an assembled baluster/post assembly, e) and means for attaching said assembly between said stair base and stair rail in a universally adjustable alignment with respect stair base and stair rail.

25. The attachment means of claim 24 wherein said baluster is attached to said first member and said second member is attached to said stair base or stair rail.

26. The attachment means of claim 24 wherein said baluster is attached to said second member and said first member is attached to said stair base or stair rail.

27. The attachment means of claim 24 wherein said insertion of said convex surface of said second member into said concave surface of said first member creates said universally adjustable alignment for said connection of said assembly between said stair base and said stair rail.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application relates to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/793,159, filed Apr. 20, 2006 for which priority is claimed under 35 USC § 120

STATEMENT

No Federally sponsored research or development applies to this application

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Field of the Invention

This invention relates to the attachment of balusters and posts between a railing and base of a stairway, ramp, landing, balcony, fence or the like where balusters are connected between a rail having variable angle between horizontal and possible variation in alignment with azimuth, as in a circular staircase or ramp, and more particularly to an efficient adaptor for connecting balusters in such structures.

Stairways and ramps are constructed in variations of slope between horizontal and vertical with stair treads and risers making the stair and a handrail, or the like, spaced above the stair treads. Between the underside of the rail and the base of the stair tread a spaced series of balusters are attached to support the rail above the stair at a useful height. Building codes establish the spacing between balusters and the slope of the stairway. Circular stairways have a slope with respect to horizontal and with respect to azimuth and the railings along a circular stairway present further variations in slope of a railing and possibly its slope with respect to horizontal. Attaching a baluster between a railing and the base of a stairway presents a complication for the craftsman installing the baluster because the slope of the rail is not always the same and the distance to the base whether to a stair tread, knee wall or stringer can be different for adjacent balusters. Installations of balusters can become a time consuming process requiring skilled laborers. The present invention is directed to an adaptor for use with balusters to reduce the time needed to install a baluster between a railing and a stair base.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Examination of prior art has not revealed a suitable way to quickly attach stair balusters to a stair rail. Traditional methods require balusters to be cut at an angle at either one or both ends and blocked into position. The baluster top in many cases is round and requires the installer to drill appropriate holes in the bottom of the top rail to receive the top of the baluster. The bottom of the baluster can also be attached by drilling holes in the stair treads or landing or balcony or bottom rail to receive the bottom of the pickets or balusters. In the prior art systems, a drilling adapter is usually required to cut a vertical hole into the under side of the rail to accommodate the top of a baluster. The hole must be vertical with respect to horizontal to permit the baluster to be properly aligned. For that reason a drilling adapter must be adjustable to be useful in cutting a suitable hole in stairways having differing slopes. Typically when such a hole drilling process is employed, the rail is them removed from the stair assembly and balusters are attached to the stair base at their bottom and them the top of the baluster is inserted into the drilled hole in the rail and the rail is installed on the stairway. The prior art method is time consuming and requires skilled installer craftsmen to complete the installation.

The present invention, in its simplest form, is a ball and socket baluster end or attachment. The ball and socket allows solid attachment of the baluster to the under side of a top rail and the adapter can be adjusted at an angle for attachment to a stair rail or left straight when attaching the baluster to a balcony or landing rail.

With the ball and socket adapter attached to the top of a baluster, an installer may align the top of the baluster to the underside of a rail and allow the baluster to hang from the adapter to align the baluster vertically for attachment to base or tread of the stair. The flexibility of the ball and socket adapter permits the baluster to be suspended vertically regardless of the slope of the stair rail with respect to horizontal and regardless of whether the rail is tilted toward or away from the horizontal level of the stairway. The installer does not have to predrill a mounting hole into the underside of the rail because the ball and socket is universally adjustable to permit the baluster hang freely.

It is a major object of the present invention to improve the efficiency of installation of balusters along a stairway or at a balcony or landing by providing a universally adjustable baluster/post attachment means for attaching the baluster/post between the base of the stairway on the rail above the stairway.

A further objective in accord with the preceding object is to provide an attachment means that includes a ball and socket connection between a baluster and a rail or base of a stairway.

A further objective in accord with the preceding objects is to provide a ball and socket attachment for a baluster with a construction that provides for locking the baluster within the attachment when the attachment has been assembled and aligned for attachment to a rail of a stairway.

A further objective in accord with the preceding objectives is to provide an attachment means that can be fixed to a stairway rail with a simple attachment means.

Further objectives and features of the invention will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art from the appended drawings and specification illustrating preferred embodiments wherein:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a sectional view through one embodiment a socket member of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a sectional view through one embodiment of ball member adapted for use with the socket member of FIG. 1 as well as with other socket members.

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of a socket member, such as FIG. 1, with a square base.

FIG. 4 is a top plan view of a socket member, such as FIG. 1, with a circular base.

FIG. 5 is an elevation view of a socket and ball attachment attached to a baluster and to a rail showing a substantially horizontal rail.

FIG. 6 is an elevation view of a socket and ball attachment as in FIG. 5 and attached to a sloping rail.

FIG. 7 is an elevation view of a stairway with rail and balusters and showing prior art and the present invention connections of balusters to a sloping stairway.

FIG. 8 is an elevation view of a stairway landing or balcony showing prior art and the present invention connections of balusters between a base and a landing or balcony.

FIG. 9 is in illustration of uses of the present invention in the attachment of balusters to a ramp, knee wall stair, open end stair or balcony and landing.

FIG. 10 is a sectional view through another embodiment of a socket member of the present invention.

FIG. 11 is a sectional view through another embodiment of a socket member of the present invention.

FIG. 12 is a sectional view through another embodiment of the ball member adapted to cooperate with a socket member and to provide a locking construction for rotation of the ball within a socket.

FIG. 13 is a sectional view of an assembly of a ball member within a socket member and illustrating the locking engagement of the ball member with the socket member.

FIG. 14 is an elevation view of the socket and ball adapter in alignment for connection to each other and for attachment of a baluster.

FIG. 15 is an assembly elevation view of an attached ball and socket adapter with a baluster attached and the assembly attached to the underside of a rail.

FIG. 16 is a side elevation view of an assembled ball and socket adapter with a baluster attached and illustrating the rotation of the socket portion with respect to the axis of the assembly.

FIG. 17 is an end elevation view of FIG. 16 and the assembled ball and socket adapter with a baluster attached and illustrating the rotation of the socket portion with respect to the axis of the assembly.

FIG. 18 is an exploded illustration of an alternative construction of the socket member and the ball member and illustrating the connection of the baluster to the ball member and the ball member to the socket member.

FIG. 19 is an alternative construction of a connection between a baluster and a ball member.

FIG. 20 is an exploded illustration of an alternative construction of the socket member and the ball member and illustrating the connection of the baluster to the ball member and ball member to the socket member.

FIG. 21 is alternative construction of a connection between a baluster and a ball member.

FIG. 22 is a side elevation view of the surface mounting of a socket member to the underside of a stairway rail.

FIG. 23 is a side elevation view of the mounting of a socket member into a cutout in the underside of a stairway rail.

FIG. 24 is a side elevation view of an alternative form of a socket member.

FIG. 25 is a plan view of the socket member of FIG. 24.

FIG. 26 is a sectional view of the socket member of FIG. 26 taken along the lines A-A of FIG. 25.

FIG. 27 is a partial section view of a connection of a socket member to the underside of a stairway rail.

FIG. 28 is a partial section view of another connection of a socket member to the underside of a stairway rail.

FIG. 29 is a partial section view of another connection of a socket member and ball assembly to the underside of a stairway rail.

FIG. 30 is a partial section view of another connection of a socket member and ball assembly to the underside of a stairway rail.

FIG. 31 is a partial section view of the alignment of a baluster to a socket member mounted to a rail.

FIG. 32 is a partial section view illustrating the connection of a ball member to a baluster and the alignment of the ball and baluster in preparation for connection to the socket member.

FIG. 33 is a partial section view illustrating the alignment of ball member with baluster and socket member and the adjustment of the baluster within the ball member.

FIG. 34 is partial section view of another alternative form of the socket member.

FIG. 35 is a sectional view illustrating fixing means for connecting the ball member to the socket member and for a baluster to the ball member.

FIG. 36 is a illustration of an alternative form of a ball and socket connection between a baluster and a stairway rail.

FIG. 37 is an alternative form of baluster with a ball construction and an axially adjustable socket attachment between the baluster and a stair base.

FIG. 38 is an illustration of the adjustable assembly of FIG. 37.

FIG. 39 is an alternative form for the ball attachment of FIG. 37.

FIG. 40 is an illustration of the adjustable assembly of FIG. 39.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

The present invention as shown in the attached drawings includes several embodiments of the concept for providing a universal baluster/post adapter system, designed to be attached to standard and/or custom balusters and posts for the purpose of forming an adjustable ball joint which is used to adjustably connect the balusters and posts to horizontal railings and landings, inclined stair and ramp railings, stair treads and knee wall stair applications.

FIGS. 1-6 illustrate a first part of one embodiment of the invention wherein, in FIG. 1, a first member in the form of a socket member 10 is shown in section as having an open end 12 at one side and an attachment surface 14 at the side opposite to the open end side. An internal substantially hemispherical concave socket surface 16 is formed within the member 10, the form of the concave socket surface will be further described hereinafter. One of several possible forms of an attachment means 18 is provided as a hole passing from the socket surface 16 to and through the attachment surface 14. In the form here shown the attachment means is a hole for accommodation of a screw or the like.

FIG. 2 illustrates a second part of one embodiment of the invention wherein a second member 20 includes a ball portion in the form of a hemispherical convex surface 22 at one end and an attachment surface 24 at the end opposite to the convex surface. An internal cutout portion 26 passes from the attachment surface internally within the second member to provide for attachment of a baluster or post (as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6) to form an attachment means for attaching a baluster or post to a rail or base surface of a stairway. Further features of the construction of the second member 20 will be described hereinafter.

FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate plan views of one form of the attachment surface 14 of the first member-socket member 10 with FIG. 3 illustrating a rectangular or square surface and FIG. 4 illustrating a circular surface. The square and circular forms will be described in their use hereinafter.

The socket member 10 and the second member are designed and adapted to have the convex surface (ball) 22 inserted into the concave (socket) 16 so as to make a ball and socket connection between those members. The second member is then universally movable within the socket and can be fixed, in a manner to be described, in any of its universally moved positions.

FIG. 5 illustrates the combination of the assembly of the socket member 10 with the second member 20 and a baluster/post 30 attached to the second member and that assembly attached to a stairway rail. The assembly is attached by a suitable screw 42 passing through the hole 18 in the socket 10 and into the under surface 44 of the rail 42. The inserting end 32 of the baluster that fits within the cutout portion 26 of the second member to attach the baluster 30 to the second member can be fixed, in a manner to be described, in selected positions of insertion of the end 32 within the cutout 26.

FIG. 6 illustrates the assembly of a baluster and the attachment means combination of the socket 10 and the second member 20 attached to the underside 44 of a stairway rail 40 that is inclined with respect to horizontal. In the attachment as shown in FIG. 6, the illustration of the universally moveable connection between the socket member 10 and the second member is shown which permits the baluster to be easily attached to an inclined rail while permitting the baluster to be vertically oriented within the stairway.

FIG. 7 illustrates a prior art connection and the present invention connection of a baluster between a stairway base 46 and a stairway rail 40. In the prior art connection at the left of FIG. 7 the upper or insertion end 32 of the baluster is inserted into a predrilled hole 48 in the undersurface 44 of the rail 40 and the opposite end or base end 34 of the baluster is attached to the stairway base 46 at another predrilled hole 50 or other suitable means. The difficulty with the prior art baluster attachment system is in the drilling of the predrilled holes 46 and 48 which must be drilled vertically into each surface at different angles with respect to the slope of the stairway and rail and usually requires a jig or fixture for aligning a drill with the railing to assure that the hole is at the desired angle. Also, the rail frequently has to be removed from the stairway and then the baluster/post is attached to the rail and base when the rail is returned to the assembly.

As distinguished from the prior art illustration at the left of FIG. 7, the present invention connection is illustrated in the two right assemblies of a baluster 30 between a stairway base 46 and a stairway rail 40. In these connections of the baluster, the baluster attachment assembly with the universally movable ball and socket is attached to the undersurface 44 of the rail 42 either by being attached to the under surface as illustrated in the center of FIG. 7 or by having the ball surface 22 fitting into a socket hole 48 which can be precut in a direction normal to the under surface 44 without concern for orientation. The base end 34 of the balusters 30 can be attached by any suitable means to the stair base 46.

FIG. 8 illustrates the attachment of balusters 30 to a landing or balcony with the prior art attachment of a baluster 30 at the left of the Figure and the present invention attachments in the two balusters at the center and right of the Figure. The upper end of the baluster in the prior art illustration requires a precut hole at less complicated angle but still requires that the railing be removed and reinstalled to attach the baluster between the rail and base. The illustrations at the center and right of FIG. 8, the balusters 30 are attached with the socket and ball assembly (center baluster) or with a ball end of a baluster (right baluster) inserted into a hole in the underside of the rail.

In both FIGS. 7 and 8 the further advantage of the present invention assembly for attachment of balusters is available with the adjustable connection of the baluster insertion end 32 into the cutout hole 26 in the second member 20. With an axial adjustment in length of the baluster assembly through movement of the insertion end 32 into the cutout 26, the baluster can be attached to the stairway base 46 and then the upper end can be aligned into its desired vertical position and then axially extended to its attachment position on the under surface 44 of the rail 40 or within the hole 48 in the rail. After axial extension the baluster assembly can be fixed, by means to be described, and the balusters attached without removing the rail from the stairway, landing or balcony.

FIG. 9 illustrates four possible constructions in which the present invention has application for the installation of balusters or posts. The ramp at the left has a base at 91 with balusters 30 between the base and a rail 40. The knee wall stair at the left center illustrates the balusters extending between the base 92, which may be a stringer along the side of the stair risers 93 and treads 94. The open end stair at the right center illustrates the balusters 30 attached between the treads 94 and the rail 40. The balcony or landing illustration at the right side of FIG. 9 illustrates the balusters 30 attached between the base or floor 95 and the rail 40. In each of these illustrations the ball and socket adapter of the present invention is use to attach the top of the ball and socket assembly with the baluster to the rail. In the sloping illustrations the universally adjustable ball and socket permits the easy attachment of the assembly to the railing.

FIG. 10 illustrates an alternative form of the socket member 10A wherein the concave hole 16A through the member is cylindrical in form while functioning as the socket in the ball and socket assembly. In this form the ball end of the second member 20A is universally rotatable and axially adjustable within the hole 16A. The socket member 10A may be provided with attachment holes 18A for use with screws or the like for attaching the socket member to a railing. Also illustrated in this FIG. 10 is an alternate form for attaching the convex surface 22A to a second member 20 as shown in FIG. 2. In this form the convex surface 22A has an extension 23A which is adapted to be inserted into and attached to a receiving hole in a form of the second member 20. For this purpose the extension may be threaded and the hole in the second member also threaded or the extension may then be glued to the second member. When this form of socket member 10A is used, there may be a need for a fastening means such as a pin or hole through the base of the ball convex surface 22A to secure the ball within the socket when final adjustment has been accomplished. FIG. 10 also illustrates a circular shoulder ridge 25 which cooperates with the bottom edge of the open end 12A and functions as a stop for holding the ball 22A within the socket 16A, as will be described hereinafter.

FIG. 11 illustrates another alternative form for a socket member 10B wherein the concave cylindrical hole 16B within the socket member is formed with a reduced diameter end 17B away from the attachment surface 14B. In this form of the socket 10B the ball 22B has a diameter about the diameter of the hole 16B so as to be universally rotatable within the hole 16B but its diameter is larger than the reduced diameter end 17B so as to prevent the ball 22B from exiting from the hole 16B in a direction away from the attachment surface 14B. The ball 22B must be inserted into the hole 16B from the attachment end 14B. The socket illustrated in FIG. 11 is also equipped with the extension 23B for attachment of the ball 22B to a second member. The reduced diameter end 17B also functions in the stop manner described with respect to FIG. 10 by cooperating with the circular shoulder ridge 25B as will be described.

FIGS. 12 and 13 illustrate an alternative form for the ball end of the second member. In this form the ball 22 has a protruding extension 22C in the form of a circular cone top. The cone top protruding extension is adapted to cooperate with the internal surface of a cylindrical socket 10C as illustrated in FIG. 13. The socket member 10C of FIG. 13 has a cylindrical socket 16C with an internal extension 15C that terminates at a hole attachment means 18C extending through to the attachment surface 14C. The internal diameter of the cylindrical socket 16C is something less than the diameter of the ball through its center so as to permit rotary movement of the ball within the socket. The diametrical dimension through the ball and ball extension 22C is larger than the diameter of the socket 16C so that when the axis of the ball with its extension is rotated with respect to the axis of the cylindrical socket the extension 22c contacts the inner surface of the cylindrical socket to limit further movement of the axis of ball member 20 with respect to the socket axis.

Also illustrated in FIG. 13 is the cooperation of the shoulder 12C on the socket 10C (also shown in FIG. 10 at 12A and in FIG. 11 at 12B) with the shoulder 25C (also shown in FIG. 10 at 25A and in FIG. 11 at 25B) to function as a stop in the relative rotary movement between the axes of the socket 10C and the a second member 20. These stop functions when in the positions illustrated in FIG. 13 also prevent the extraction of the second member 20 with ball 22C from the socket 16C in a lateral direction as shown by the arrow at the right of the FIG because of the cooperation of the extension 22C with the interior of the cylindrical socket 16C. Also, the cooperation of the shoulder 12C on the socket member 10C with the shoulder 25C on the second member 20 prevents withdrawal of the ball member from the socket in the direction of the arrow to the right of the FIG and parallel to the axis of the second member.

FIGS. 14-17 illustrate the baluster ball and socket adapter of the present invention as the socket first member 10 and the ball second member 20 and their assembly with a baluster 30 and attached to a stairway rail. It should be understood that the ball member 20 and the baluster 30 could be formed as a single unit. The ball and socket assembly permits the socket member to be movable from side to side as illustrated in the ROTATE arrow above FIG. 16 and from back to front as illustrated in the ROTATE arrow above FIG. 17. These rotary movements permit the assembled baluster and attachment adapter to be attached to a stairway rail regardless of the slope or the angle that the rail makes with respect to horizontal. Further in the case of a circular stairway where the rail can have differing slope with respect to vertical and horizontal and the rail may also be at a slant angle with respect to the level of a stair tread. In that regard, the adapter can be attached to any flat surface regardless of that surface's orientation to horizontal or vertical. The adapter therefore has a universally adjustable attachment surface that permits a baluster or post to be directed vertically below its attachment to a surface. As illustrated in FIGS. 16 and 17, the bottom of the baluster can be attached to a base surface with a pin attachment extending into the baluster. The base of the baluster can also be provided with a universally adjustable ball and socket adapter to permit adjustable attachment to a base surface.

FIGS. 18-21 illustrate variations in the attachment between the socket member, the second member and a baluster or post. As previously described and as illustrated in FIG. 18, the ball 22 can be retained within the socket 10 and can have an extension 23 for mounting to another element. The second member 20 can have a hole 27 at its upper end receive the extension 23 from a ball 22. The second member 20 can also have an axial hole 26 for attachment to a baluster. The baluster can be formed with a mounting end 32 for insertion into the axial hole 26 in a second member. Each of these extensions and holes can be threaded or smooth to permit threading connection or fix by other means such as set screws, pins or gluing.

FIG. 19 illustrates a baluster 30 with it upper end formed to be attached to a ball member and includes a receiving hole 27 for connection to a ball as illustrated in FIG. 23 with an extension 23.

FIG. 20 illustrates a ball member within a socket 10 wherein the ball member has an internal axial hole 28 and a second member 20 with an axial extension 29 that is adapted to be inserted into the hole 28 in the ball 22. This FIG illustrates a baluster 30 with an attachment end 32 for attachment to the second member 20 as described with respect to FIG. 18.

FIG. 21 illustrates a baluster 30 having a threaded extension 29A for cooperation with a threaded hole 28 in a ball member 22.

FIGS. 22-26 illustrate alternative forms of attachment of a baluster to a stairway rail using the ball and socket adapter of the present invention. As previously described, the socket member 10 can be adapted to be fixed to the under surface 44 of a rail 40 by suitable means such as the screw show in the figure. The second member 20 with its ball surface 22 and baluster 30 attached can then be inserted into the socket member 10 and fixed there by suitable means. FIG. 23 illustrates an alternative attachment of the socket member 10 to the undersurface 44 of the rail 40 in a hole 48 drilled into the rail. The assembly of the baluster and adapter is then secured in the socket by suitable means.

Some stairway rails are preformed with a longitudinal groove on the under surface. Such a groove 45, as shown in FIG. 25, can receive the socket member 10 illustrated in FIGS. 24-26. The lateral dimension of the socket member 10, as shown in FIG. 25, can be made to match the dimension of the groove 45 cut into the under surface of a rail and the mounting of the socket member 10 to the rail will appear somewhat like the attachment shown in FIG. 23. A baluster and adapter assembly can then be inserted and fixed to the mounted socket member.

FIGS. 27-30 illustrate alternative constructions for mounting the ball and socket structures to a stairway rail. In FIG. 27 a threaded attachment washer 51 is attached by a screw 52 to the underside 44 of a rail 40. A socket 10 has the internal cylindrical hole 16 passing from the open end 12 to the attachment surface 14 and that end of the hole 16 is threaded to match the threads in the threaded attachment washer 51. With the washer 51 attached to the rail 40 and the socket 10 attached at the mating threads, the socket is adapted to receive a ball 22 of the type described with respect to FIGS. 10 and 18. In this illustration, the ball 22 is provided with a threaded extension 23 for attachment to a second member assembly (not shown) as in FIG. 18.

FIG. 28 illustrates a socket member like that shown and described with respect to FIG. 11 where the socket 10 has an internal reduced diameter shoulder 12B that will confine a ball 22 inserted from the attachment end 14 before the socket 10 is attached to the underside of the rail 40 by screws such as 42. The ball 22 has a threaded extension which functions in the same manner as described with respect to FIG. 27 in attachment of the ball 22 to a second member assembly. FIG. 29 illustrates another form of an attachment of a ball member 22 to a socket 10 which is attachable to the underside 44 of a rail 10 by a screw 42. The socket 10 in this form has an internally threaded surface 120 at the open end 12 of the socket. The ball 22 is retained within the cylindrical hole 16A (as shown in FIG. 10) by a threaded retaining ring 122 that has matching threads with the threads in the internally threaded surface 120. The ball 22 of FIG. 29 is formed with an internal hole 28 like that shown in FIG. 20; the hole 28 may be threaded or adapted for other fasting means to a second member assembly. The threaded retainer ring 122 secures the ball 22 within the socket 10 while permitting universal rotary movement of any assembly attached to the ball FIG. 30 illustrates an alternative mounting of the socket to the underside 44 of a rail 40 wherein the socket is inserted into a predrilled hole 49 as described with respect to FIG. 23 and provides for a flush mounting of the socket 10 within the rail 40. FIGS. 31-33 illustrate steps of attaching a baluster 30 to the undersurface 44 of a rail 40 with the ball and socket assembly of the present invention. In FIG. 31 a socket or first member 20 is shown attached to the undersurface 44 of a rail 40 by a screw 42. The rail 40 as illustrated has a slope angle with respect to the horizontal axis as shown in the graphic to the left of the figure. The axis 310 of the concave surface 16 of the socket 10 is normal to the undersurface 44 of the rail 40 and the axis 312 to which the baluster is to be mounted. FIG. 32 illustrates the second member assembly with its ball 22 with protruding extension 22C and with an internal cutout portion 26 at the surface 24 opposite to the ball end. In the dotted lines to the left of the figure the baluster 30 is shown prior to being attached to the member 20 and in the sectional portion of the figure the baluster 30 is shown with its inserting end 32 fully within the cutout portion 26. The assembled baluster 30 and assembly 20 are shown off of alignment with the axis 312 to which the baluster is to be mounted. FIG. 33 illustrates the assembled baluster 30 and member 20 inserted within the socket 10. It should be noted that the member 20 is adjusted along the axis of the inserting end 32 of the baluster to be moved for the insertion of the ball 22 into the socket opening 16 for connection of the assembly to the socket. This figure also illustrates the engagement of the protruding extension 22C with the inner cylindrical surface of the concave socket 16 and the engagement of the shoulder 12C of the socket 10 with the annular shoulder 25C of the member 20. When the baluster 30 assembly is inserted into the socket 10 with the engaging shoulders as just described, the baluster is substantially locked against horizontal and vertical movement out of the socket. FIG. 34 illustrates another alternative for form for the socket member 10. In this form the internal concave socket 16D is a tapered cylindrical or cone shaped cutout having a dimension at the open end 17D smaller than the diameter of a ball 22. This form functions in the same manner as the form of the socket 10 of FIG. 11 wherein the ball 22 is inserted from the attachment surface 14 FIG. 35 illustrates several forms of securing the second member 20 to a socket member 10 and to a baluster 30. After alignment of the socket 10 for fastening to a rail (not shown) the ball 22 can be fixed to the inner surface of the socket 10 by a fastener such as a pin or nail passing through the ball 22 and into an inner surface of the cylindrical opening 16 after the socket has been attached to the rail. The baluster 30 may be fixed to an adjusted position within the internal hole 26 in the second member 20 by a set screw or other fastener passing through the exterior of the member 20 and into the inserting end 32 of the baluster. The ball fastening to the socket 10 and the fastening of the baluster to the member 20 may be with the use of glue applied to the mating surfaces when finally attached to the rail.

FIG. 36 illustrates the attachment of baluster assembly 30 with an adapter 20 having a convex ball end 22 and without the use of a socket member 10. In this form the equivalent of the socket 10 is replaced by predrilled holes 49 into the undersurface 44 of a rail 40. In this form of attachment of the baluster assembly the holes may be drilled at 90° to the rail surface. The function of a universally adjustable ball and socket attachment is still accomplished with this modification in that the ball is still universally moveable within the hole 49.

FIGS. 37-40 illustrate a baluster with a ball 39 either formed with the manufacture of the baluster or attached after manufacture and the use of a fixed base 38 for an assembled baluster 30 and the adjustable manners for attaching the baluster assembly to a stairway. The baluster 30 of FIG. 37 is precut to a desired length with a ball end 36 and a fixed base 38 to fit into a socket on a rail (not shown). A pin 39 is used to fix the base 38 to a stair base (not shown). The baluster 30 of FIG. 38 employs an fixed base 38 with an internal cavity 38A for adjustably receiving an end portion 32A of the baluster shaft 30. In this form the baluster 30 is adjustably fixed to the base 38 and then the ball end 36 is extended into a socket on a stairway rail (not shown). When the ball is fixed within the socket the adjustment of the end 32A into the base 38 can be fixed as by set screw or glue or the like. FIG. 39 illustrates the attachment of the ball 36 to the upper end of a baluster 30 with a screw 37 passing through the ball 36 and axially into the inserting end 32 of the baluster 30. The FIG. 39 form of the adjustable length baluster 30 is illustrated in FIG. 40 where the inserting end of the baluster is cut to a desired length (as determined by the space between the stairway base and stairway rail) and then the ball 36 is attached. The base 38 is them fixed to the base of the stairway as in the case of FIG. 37.

It should be understood that first member 10, second member 20, baluster 30 and other related parts may be made of wood, composites, plastics or metal or other suitable materials. Wooden or composite parts can be turned to provide the cylindrical, hemispherical, collared forms here illustrated. Metal baluster elements are easily adapted to the use of the ball and socket attachment adapter and can eliminate the more difficult cutting of metal to fit different railing slopes.

In the installation of balusters in a stairway construction, the base of the balusters can be all the same length or in different lengths to permit the tops of the base members to either all be the same distance from the upper rail or to be the same distance from the base of the stair treads or a stringer. Because both the connection of the insertion end 32 of a baluster at the inside of the second member 20 or at the fixed base 38 can be adjustable, the appearance of the completed stairway with balusters installed can take many desirable forms.

The ball and socket concept of the present invention can have the ball as a part of an assembly that carries the baluster or can have the ball separate and attached directly to a baluster. The socket can have a hemispherical concave socket or a cylindrical concave socket and, further, can be an attachment to a railing, a formed part of the railing or base of a stairway, and can have a tapered conical interior or an interior with a retaining ridge. The assembled baluster with ball and socket adapter can present a flush appearance at the under surface of a rail or as an attachment to the rail. The base of adjacent balusters can all be the same distance from the base surface to which they are attached or can have progressive lengths so that the slope of the line of the top of the bases parallels the slope of the stairway because of the adjustable features of the attachment of the balusters to the attachment assembly. The axial adjustment of the balusters and attachment assembly permits the installation of a baluster and the later fixing of the assembly with fasteners or glue or the like.

While certain preferred embodiments of the invention have been specifically disclosed, it should be understood that the invention is not limited thereto as many variations will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art and the invention is to be given its broadest possible interpretation within the terms of the following claims.