Title:
VERTICALLY ADJUSTABLE CANTILEVER SERVING TRAY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A vertically adjustable cantilever serving tray includes a cantilever bracket with two parallel planar braces, each having an elongated front portion with a flat horizontal upper surface, a rear portion with a first horizontal aperture, and a center portion disposed between the elongated front portion and the rear portion. The center portion of each brace has a second horizontal aperture spaced below and forward of the first horizontal aperture. A shelf is fastened to the upper surface of the elongated front portion of each brace. First and second transverse pins are removably mated with the first horizontal and second apertures in each brace respectively. When the serving tray is installed on a vertical post, the first and second transverse pins are frictionally engaged with opposite surfaces of the post.



Inventors:
Sellers, Betty Ann (San Diego, CA, US)
Sellers, Joseph Ellsworth (San Diego, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/577550
Publication Date:
02/04/2010
Filing Date:
10/12/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F7/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HAWN, PATRICK D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GORDON & REES LLP (SAN DIEGO, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A vertically adjustable cantilever serving tray, comprising: a cantilever bracket comprising two parallel planar braces, each brace comprising: an elongated front portion having a flat horizontal upper surface; a rear portion having a first horizontal aperture passing completely through the rear portion perpendicularly to the elongated front portion; and a center portion disposed between the elongated front portion and the rear portion, the center portion having a second horizontal aperture spaced below and forward of the first horizontal aperture, the second horizontal aperture passing completely through the center portion parallel to the first horizontal aperture; a shelf fastened to the upper surface of the elongated front portion of each brace; a first transverse pin removably mated with the first horizontal aperture in each brace; and a second transverse pin removably mated with the second horizontal aperture in each brace; wherein when the serving tray is installed on a vertical post, the first transverse pin is frictionally engaged with a first surface of the post and the second transverse pin is frictionally engaged with an opposite second surface of the post to frictionally secure the serving tray to the post in a stationary position with the shelf extending horizontally from the second surface of the post; and wherein the serving tray is vertically adjustable along the post by tilting the elongated front portions of the braces upward to decrease friction between the serving tray and the post to permit moving the serving tray vertically along the post.

2. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein the shelf has a rear edge in contact with the second surface of the post when the serving tray is in the stationary position installed on the post.

3. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein the shelf has a rear edge spaced apart from the second surface of the post when the serving tray is in the stationary position installed on the post.

4. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein the shelf further comprises at least two slats parallel to the first and second transverse pins.

5. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein a horizontal distance between the first transverse pin and the second transverse pin is equal to a horizontal distance between the first and second surfaces of the post.

6. The serving tray of claim 5, wherein the horizontal distance between the first transverse pin and the second transverse pin is about 3.5 inches.

7. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein the first horizontal aperture is spaced below the flat horizontal upper surface of the elongated front portion of each brace.

8. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein the first horizontal aperture is spaced above the second horizontal aperture by a vertical distance of not less than about 1.75 inches.

9. The serving tray of claim 1 wherein the parallel braces are identical.

10. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein the first and second transverse pins and the first and second horizontal apertures are round.

11. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein the shelf is fastened to the parallel braces with screws.

12. The serving tray of claim 1, wherein the parallel braces each have upper surfaces that are flat and horizontal along their entire length.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. utility patent application Ser. No. 12/184,132 filed Jul. 31, 2008, entitled “Vertically Adjustable Cantilever Plant Holder,” which claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/962,921 filed Aug. 1, 2007, entitled “Cantilever Post Rack for Holding Plants or Other Objects,” both of which are incorporated by reference into the instant application in their entirety as if set forth verbatim.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to support racks, tables or trays, and more particularly to a fixture-free vertically adjustable cantilever support device for holding plants or other objects.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many patios, porches, decks, gazebos and the like contain vertical structural posts that are bare and unattractive. One popular way to improve the appearance of these types of posts is to hang plants or ornamental objects on them. For example, many potted plants have wires that can be hung on screws, threaded hooks or other fixtures anchored to a wooden post. Similarly, there are many plant hangers and plant racks that can be anchored to a wooden post using fasteners such as screws or nails. Finally, it is also possible to attach one or more brackets to a post and use the brackets to support a shelf or rack on which plants or decorative objects are placed. Generally, holes must first be drilled before screws or other hardware are used to fasten the bracket to the post.

Unfortunately, all of these solutions suffer from several significant drawbacks. First, all of these solutions necessarily entail damaging the post by making permanent holes in it. Second, the location of the plant is not freely adjustable in the sense that new holes must be made each time the plant is moved. Once the plant is anchored in one location on the post, many people will be reluctant to move it because doing so would reveal the unsightly hole used to anchor the plant. Further, moving the plant would also require making a new hole at the new location to provide a new anchor point. A third significant disadvantage of these known solutions is that they only work on posts that are made of wood or other materials in which holes are easily made. Finally, a fourth drawback of these solutions is that the fixtures used to support the plant or plant rack/shelf are generally unattractive. For example, large metal hooks or sturdy metal brackets protruding from a wooden post can detract from the aesthetics the plant was intended to provide.

Accordingly, there is a long felt but unsolved need for a way to decorate a post with plants or other objects that does not require damaging the post by making holes in it, or the use of unattractive permanent fixtures. There is also a long felt but unsolved need for a device for supporting plants that can be used on posts in which holes cannot easily be made.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a vertically adjustable cantilever plant holder that satisfies these needs. The plant holder includes a cantilever bracket with two parallel planar braces, each having a raised rear portion extending upward from an elongated front portion. The raised rear portion of each brace has a horizontal aperture spaced above the elongated front portion and passing completely through the raised rear portion in a direction perpendicular to the elongated front portion. The elongated front portion includes a flat horizontal upper surface. A shelf is fastened to the upper surface of the elongated front portion of each brace. The shelf has a rear edge adjacent to the raised rear portions of each brace.

A transverse pin is removably mated with the horizontal aperture in each brace so that when the plant holder is installed on a vertical post, the transverse pin frictionally engages with a first rear surface of the post while the rear edge of the shelf frictionally engages with an opposite second front surface of the post. Due solely to this frictional engagement, which increases as weight on the shelf increases, the plant holder is secured in a stationary position on the post. The plant holder is thus vertically adjustable by tilting the elongated front portions of the braces upward to decrease or eliminate the frictional engagement between the plant holder and the post so that the plant holder can be moved along the post from a first position to a second position.

In a one embodiment, the plant holder is made entirely of wood and the shelf consists of three slightly spaced apart wooden slats fastened to the upper surface of the braces. The slats are perpendicular to the elongated front portion of the braces and extend substantially beyond the braces. The raised rear portion of each brace extends angularly upward and rearward from elongated front portion. The transverse pin is a round wooden dowel that mates with round apertures in the raised rear portion of each brace. The horizontal distance between the transverse pin and the rear edge of the shelf is equal to the width of the vertical post to which the plant holder will be secured. The distance between the parallel braces is equal to slightly more than the width of the post.

In an alternative embodiment, a vertically adjustable cantilever serving tray includes a cantilever bracket with two parallel planar braces. Each parallel brace has an elongated front portion with a flat horizontal upper surface, a rear portion with a first horizontal aperture passing completely through the rear portion perpendicularly to the elongated front portion, and a center portion disposed between the elongated front portion and the rear portion. The center portion of each brace has a second horizontal aperture spaced below and forward of the first horizontal aperture. The second horizontal aperture passes completely through the center portion of the brace parallel to the first horizontal aperture. A shelf is fastened to the upper surface of the elongated front portion of each brace. A first transverse pin is removably mated with the first horizontal aperture in each brace, and a second transverse pin is removably mated with the second horizontal aperture in each brace. When the serving tray is installed on a vertical post, the first transverse pin is frictionally engaged with a first surface of the post and the second transverse pin is frictionally engaged with an opposite second surface of the post to frictionally secure the serving tray to the post in a stationary position with the shelf extending horizontally from the second surface of the post. The serving tray is vertically adjustable along the post by tilting the elongated front portions of the braces upward to decrease friction between the serving tray and the post to permit moving the serving tray vertically along the post.

In some embodiments the shelf has a rear edge in contact with the second surface of the post when the serving tray is in the stationary position installed on the post, while in other embodiments the rear edge of the shelf is spaced apart from the second surface of the post when the serving tray is in the stationary position. The shelf of the serving tray may include two or more slats parallel to the first and second transverse pins. The horizontal distance between the first transverse pin and the second transverse pin may be equal to a horizontal distance between the first and second surfaces of the post. The first horizontal aperture may be spaced below the flat horizontal upper surface of the elongated front portion of each brace. Each parallel brace may be identical, and each brace may have upper surfaces that are flat and horizontal along their entire length.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a vertically adjustable cantilever plant holder with a slatted shelf.

FIG. 2 shows a left elevation view of the plant holder of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 shows a top plan view of the plant holder of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 shows a right elevation view of the plant holder of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 shows a bottom plan view of the plant holder of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 shows a front elevation view of the plant holder of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 shows a rear elevation view of the plant holder of FIG. 1.

FIG. 8 shows a perspective view of a vertically adjustable cantilever plant holder with a one-piece shelf.

FIG. 9 shows a perspective view of a vertically adjustable cantilever plant holder with a hook and apertures for hanging plants.

FIG. 10 shows a perspective view of a vertically adjustable cantilever serving tray with a slatted shelf.

FIG. 11 shows a right elevation view of the serving tray of FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 shows a left elevation view of the plant holder of FIG. 10.

FIG. 13 shows a top plan view of the plant holder of FIG. 10.

FIG. 14 shows a bottom plan view of the plant holder of FIG. 10.

FIG. 15 shows a front elevation view of the plant holder of FIG. 10.

FIG. 16 shows a rear elevation view of the plant holder of FIG. 10.

FIG. 17 shows a perspective view of a vertically adjustable cantilever plant holder with a one-piece shelf.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention is directed to vertically adjustable cantilever shelves, including plant holders and serving trays that satisfy the needs outlined above. The plant holder includes a cantilever bracket with two parallel planar braces, each having a raised rear portion extending upward from an elongated front portion. The raised rear portion of each brace has a horizontal aperture spaced above the elongated front portion and passing completely through the raised rear portion in a direction perpendicular to the elongated front portion. The elongated front portion includes a flat horizontal upper surface. A shelf is fastened to the upper surface of the elongated front portion of each brace. The shelf has a rear edge adjacent to the raised rear portions of each brace.

In contrast, the serving tray does not have a raised rear portion, and the elongated rear surface of the shelf does not engage with the post. Instead, it has a second set of apertures spaced below and forward the elongated front portion. As such, the two points of frictional engagement with the posts are achieved by a first pin and a second pin, each of which engage opposite sides of the post at different heights.

Plant Holder

A transverse pin is removably mated with the horizontal aperture in each brace so that when the plant holder is installed on a vertical post, the transverse pin frictionally engages with a first rear surface of the post while the rear edge of the shelf frictionally engages with a second front surface of the post. Due solely to this frictional engagement, which increases as weight on the shelf increases, the plant holder is secured in a stationary position on the post. The plant holder is thus vertically adjustable by tilting the elongated front portions of the braces upward to decrease or eliminate the frictional engagement between the plant holder and the post so that the plant holder can be moved along the post from a first position to a second position.

The cantilever bracket includes a pair of parallel planar braces. It is to be understood that the term “planar” means that the braces are generally flat, and that their thickness is relatively small compared to their length and width. The distance between the inner surfaces of the parallel braces is determined by the size of the post on which the plant holder is to be installed. Thus, the plant holder comes in several different sizes to fit common post sizes such as 4×4 or 6×6. It is to be understood that these are nominal sizes only and that, for example, the actual dimensions of a nominal 4×4 post are generally 3.5″ by 3.5″. However, the actual size of nominal 4×4, 6×6, etc. posts can vary depending on the producer of the post. Furthermore, in other parts of the world the dimensions are measured in metric units. Thus, it is to be understood that the plant holder can be made to fit any post of any size, including non-square posts. The distance between the parallel braces is very slightly greater than the size of the intended post, for example ⅛″ greater. When installed on a post, the braces should be positioned such that the gap between the post and the brace is equal on both sides.

Each brace has a raised rear portion extending upwardly from an elongated front portion. The elongated front portion has a horizontal flat upper surface used to support a shelf. As used herein, when part of the plant holder is described as “horizontal,” it is to be understood that this refers to the plant holder in its installed position. Thus, the flat upper surface of each brace is horizontal when the plant holder is installed on a vertical post. The raised rear portion of each brace has an aperture that passes completely through the brace. It is important to note that the aperture is spaced above the flat upper surface of the elongated portion, and preferably spaced above the shelf. This spacing is critical to the ability of the plant holder to remain secured to the vertical post using friction alone without any fixtures or fasteners to hold it in place. By spacing the aperture (and thus the transverse pin) above the shelf, it allows for the plant holder to be moved up and down the post easily when in a tilted orientation while being frictionally secured in place when in a horizontal orientation. The spacing of the aperture above the shelf gives this ability to the plant holder without the need for any moving parts or clamps.

The exact dimensions of the braces are not critical, except for the location of the aperture, which must be the same on each brace. The height of the raised rear portion of each brace is generally about 40% of the length of the elongated front portion, and about twice the height of elongated front portion. In one embodiment, each brace is about 16″ long from front to back, about 6.5″ tall in the raised rear portion, about 3″ tall in the elongated front portion, and about ⅝″ thick. Other dimensions of the braces may also be used without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.

The location of the aperture in the raised rear portion of each brace is important. The horizontal distance between the rear edge of the shelf and the front of the aperture must be almost exactly equal to the width of the vertical post on which the plant holder will be installed. For example, on a nominal 4×4 post with an actual width of 3.5″, the horizontal distance between the front of the aperture and the rear edge of the shelf should be 3.5″. Although the plant holder will still grip the vertical post if this distance is slightly different from the width of the post, this should be avoided because the shelf will not be perfectly horizontal when installed. Accordingly, great care should be taken that the aperture be made as close to 3.5″ (assuming that is the actual width of the post) horizontally from the rear edge of the shelf as practicable. Additionally, the aperture is preferably spaced vertically above the upper surface of the elongated front portion by about 25%-75% of the horizontal spacing (preferably 45%), though other vertical distances between the aperture and the upper surface are also contemplated. For example, on a nominal 4×4 post (actual width of 3.5″), the vertical spacing is about 1.625″. Additionally, the exact size of the aperture is not critical, but in one embodiment it is 9/16 in diameter.

The transverse pin should be about the same size as the aperture in each brace so that it fits snugly inside but can still be removed. The pin is preferably round in cross-section, but persons of ordinary skill in the art will be aware that other shapes are also suitable, such as square for example, provided the aperture is the same shape. The pin should be about two inches longer than the total width of the plant holder to prevent the pin accidentally sliding out of one brace. For example, in one embodiment the pin is 9/16″ in diameter and 7.75″ long. Persons of ordinary skill in the art are aware that the pin must be sufficiently thick to prevent it from breaking under load. Thus, metal pins do not need to be as thick as wooden pins. In various embodiments the pin may also have a cotter pin or press-fit cap or the like which is larger than the aperture to further guard against the pin sliding out unintentionally.

The shelf is fastened to the flat upper surface of each brace so that, when installed, the shelf is horizontal. The shelf may be one-piece or may comprise any number of slats. For example, in one embodiment the shelf comprises three slats extending perpendicularly to the elongated front portions of the braces (i.e. parallel to the transverse pin). Whatever the configuration, the shelf must be thick enough to support any load placed on it. This of course depends on the material of the shelf, but in one embodiment with a wooden shelf, it is about ⅝″ thick. The shelf is fastened to the braces using any suitable means including fasteners such as screws, nails, staples, or the like. Alternatively, the shelf may be secured to the braces with an adhesive. Preferably, the shelf is fastened to the braces with stainless steel screws.

The plant holder may also incorporate any number of optional features. For example, the shelf may include a raised rim around the perimeter of the shelf in order to prevent objects placed on the shelf from sliding off of it. Additionally, either the shelf or the braces or both may include hooks or apertures for hanging plants or other items. Furthermore, the plant holder may also include a means for locking the transverse pin in place on the post. For example, a small vinyl bumper may be adhered to the post just below the transverse pin at the point of installation. This provides added protection against the plant holder slipping if, for example, it is bumped by a passerby. Similarly, a small screw or nail could be inserted into the post just below the pin. Additionally, the dowel and/or the rear edge of the shelf may including a friction enhancing material such as a rubber coating or a rough, sandpaper-like finish. However, it is to be understood that these are purely optional features and the plant holder is held securely in place by friction without them. Finally, the plant holder may also include spacers attached to the pin, the braces, and/or the rear edge of the shelf so that a plant holder can be installed on a post smaller than the particular model is designed to fit. Persons of ordinary skill will realize that such spacers may be made of many different materials and may be attached in many different ways. For example, the spacers may be vinyl bumpers where are adhered to the plant holder.

The plant holder and all its constituent parts may be made of any suitable material, including any type of wood (including composites such as composite wood polymers), plastic (including vinyl), or metal, or any combination of the foregoing materials. Further, the plant holder can be installed on posts of any material, including any of the foregoing materials. Persons of ordinary skill will realize that a wide variety of materials may be used without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. In one embodiment of the invention, the parallel braces and shelf are made of redwood, the transverse pin is a wooden dowel made of birch, and the shelf is fastened to the braces using stainless steel screws.

To use the plant holder of the present invention, the transverse pin is first removed so that plant holder can be placed on a vertical post. The front end of the plant holder (i.e. the end at the terminus of the elongated front portions of the braces) is tilted upward and the rear end (i.e. the opposite end with the raised rear portions of the braces) is positioned on the post at a desired location with the parallel braces on each side of the post and the rear edge of the shelf just touching the front surface of the post (i.e. the surface of the post facing toward the shelf). The transverse pin is then inserted through the apertures in the raised rear portions of the braces so that the transverse pin is behind the post (i.e. on the side of the post which faces away from the shelf). Finally, the front end of the plant holder is tilted back to horizontal. This causes the transverse pin and the rear edge of the shelf to come into contact with the post. The friction between the pin, shelf and post is alone sufficient to lock the plant holder in a stationary position. Thus installed, a plant or other object is placed on the shelf. The weight of the plant increases the torque about the rear edge of the shelf, and therefore increases the friction between the plant holder and the post. Accordingly, the present inventors have unexpectedly found that placing a load on the shelf serves to lock the plant holder even more securely in place. Surprisingly, no matter how much weight is placed on the shelf, the plant holder will not slide down the post. However, care must of course be taken not to place such a large load on the shelf that the plant holder breaks. The present inventors have found that the plant holder can safely support weights of over 25 lbs.

A significant advantage of the present invention is that it provides a fixtureless and aesthetically pleasing way to decorate a post with plants or other objects without making holes in the post or otherwise damaging it. The plant holder is held in place entirely through the friction between the post and the transverse pin and between the post and the shelf. Furthermore, placing a load on the shelf creates a torque about the rear edge of the shelf that serves to increase the frictional force between the post and the plant holder. Thus, the heavier the load place on the shelf, the more securely the plant holder is held in place. Unlike devices that rely on screws or other fixtures embedded into the post, with the present invention there is no concern that placing such a great load on the plant holder that the screw or fixture bends or pulls out of the post.

Another advantage of the plant holder of the present invention is that it may be easily adjusted vertically along the post. Unlike devices that rely on screws or other fixtures, there is no need to drill holes or embed fasteners in the post at each desired location. Instead, the front end of the plant holder is simply tilted upward in order to move the pin and shelf away from the post. By doing so, the friction between the plant holder and the post is reduced or eliminated so that the plant holder can be moved up or down the post to any desired location. The pin does not have to be removed to move the plant holder; simply tilting the plant holder upward creates sufficient space between the post and the shelf and pin to permit movement of the plant holder. Once the plant holder is moved to the new location, the front end is simply tilted back down until the shelf is horizontal and the plant holder is once again locked in place by friction. Furthermore, the plant holder does not damage the post so there are no holes, marks or other evidence at the old location that the plant holder was ever there. Similarly, as the plant holder fits on standard post sizes and it is easily removed, it is portable from one post to another.

Finally, yet another advantage of the present invention is that the plant holder is itself aesthetically pleasing. For example, the plant holder may have an artistic shape so that it adds to the beauty created by the plants or other decorations, unlike purely functional fixtures like screws, hooks and metal brackets which detract from the overall appearance. Furthermore, the plant holder may be made of a wide variety of woods and painted, stained, or otherwise treated to perfectly complement any surrounding plants, structures and garden furniture.

Exemplary embodiments of the invention will now be described in detail below with reference to the appended figures, wherein like elements are referenced with like numerals throughout. The figures are not necessarily drawn to scale and do not necessarily show every detail or structure of the various embodiments of the invention, but rather illustrate exemplary embodiments and mechanical features in order to provide an enabling description of such embodiments.

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of the plant holder of the present invention. The plant holder 1 is installed on vertical post 100 which is shown in dashed lines. Parallel braces 20 compose a cantilever bracket which supports shelf 30 on vertical post 100. Each parallel brace 20 includes raised rear portion 22 and elongated front portion 24. Raised rear portions 22 extend angularly upward and rearward from elongated front portions 24. Aperture 50 passes through raised rear portions 22 in order to allow transverse pin 40 to be inserted behind vertical post 100. In this embodiment, parallel braces 20 are identical. As used herein, the rear end of the plant holder is the end with raised rear portions 22 and the front of the plant holder is the opposite end at the terminus of elongated front portions 24. Thus, the rear or back surface of vertical post 100 is the side contacting transverse pin 40 while the front surface of vertical post 100 is the side contacting shelf 30.

As shown in FIGS. 1-5, shelf 30 comprises three spaced apart parallel slats 32 which are fastened to flat upper surfaces 26 of elongated front portions 24 of parallel braces 20 using screws 36. As best shown in FIG. 5, slats 32 are perpendicular to elongated front portions 24, as indicated by the 90 degree angle shown in the figure. Similarly, as aperture 50 is parallel to slats 32, aperture 50 is also perpendicular to elongated front portions 24.

As best shown in FIGS. 3 and 5, the front-most portion of transverse pin 40 is a horizontal distance d away from rear edge 34 of shelf 30, which is adjacent to raised rear portions 22. It is to be understood that d is only the horizontal distance (i.e. the distance from back to front) and does not include the vertical distance between pin 40 and shelf 30. For example, if the plant holder is designed to fit on a nominal 4×4 post, then distance d is preferably exactly equal to the actual width of the post, which in this case is preferably 3.5″.

As best shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, parallel braces 20 are spaced apart by a distance w. The distance w is equal to slightly more than the actual size of the post in order to allow a very small gap between braces 20 and post 100 on both sides. Therefore, for a plant holder designed for a nominal 4×4 post, the distance w is preferably equal to 3.625″ which leaves a 1/16″ gap on each side of post 100.

As also best shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, transverse pin 40 is spaced vertically above shelf 30 by a distance h. It is to be understood that h is only the vertical distance and does not include the horizontal distance d between pin 40 and shelf 30. The distance h cannot be equal to zero because then plant holder 1 would not grip post 100 as it is untilted to horizontal from a tilted position during installation. The distance h provides a necessary vertical offset between the points of contact with post 100 of transverse pin 40 and rear edge 34 of shelf 30. For example, if the plant holder is designed for a nominal 4×4 post, the distance h is preferably 1.625″. When plant holder 1 is installed on post 100, its own weight (plus the weight of any object on shelf 30) creates a torque about rear edge 34 which causes transverse pin 40 to press against the rear surface of post 100 while rear edge 34 also presses against the front surface of post 100. Due to the effects of friction, the combination of the pressure exerted on post 100 by transverse pin 40 and rear edge 34 secures plant holder 1 in a stationary position without the need for any fixtures or fasteners.

FIG. 8 shows an alternative embodiment of the present invention, in which shelf 30 is one integral piece rather than a combination of spaced apart slats. FIG. 9 shows another alternative embodiment, in which plant holder 1 further includes optional apertures 38 in shelf 30 from which plants or other items can be hung. An optional hook 39 is provided in the front of shelf 30 for the same purpose. Similarly, optional apertures 28 are shown passing through elongated front portions 24 of parallel braces 20. These apertures 28 can also be used for hanging plants or other items.

Serving Tray

In another embodiment, a vertically adjustable cantilever serving tray includes a cantilever bracket with two parallel planar braces. Each parallel brace has an elongated front portion with a flat horizontal upper surface, a rear portion with a first horizontal aperture passing completely through the rear portion perpendicularly to the elongated front portion, and a center portion disposed between the elongated front portion and the rear portion. The center portion of each brace has a second horizontal aperture spaced below and forward of the first horizontal aperture. The second horizontal aperture passes completely through the center portion of the brace parallel to the first horizontal aperture. A shelf is fastened to the upper surface of the elongated front portion of each brace. A first transverse pin removably is mated with the first horizontal aperture in each brace, and a second transverse pin is removably mated with the second horizontal aperture in each brace. When the serving tray is installed on a vertical post, the first transverse pin is frictionally engaged with a first surface of the post and the second transverse pin is frictionally engaged with an opposite second surface of the post to frictionally secure the serving tray to the post in a stationary position with the shelf extending horizontally from the second surface of the post. The serving tray is vertically adjustable along the post by tilting the elongated front portions of the braces upward to decrease friction between the serving tray and the post to permit moving the serving tray vertically along the post.

The cantilever bracket of the serving tray includes a pair of parallel planar braces. It is to be understood that the term “planar” means that the braces are generally flat, and that their thickness is relatively small compared to their length and width. The distance between the inner surfaces of the parallel braces is determined by the size of the post on which the serving tray is to be installed. Thus, the serving tray comes in several different sizes to fit common post sizes such as 4×4 or 6×6. It is to be understood that these are nominal sizes only and that, for example, the actual dimensions of a nominal 4×4 post are generally 3.5″ by 3.5″. However, the actual size of nominal 4×4, 6×6, etc. posts can vary depending on the producer of the post. Furthermore, in other parts of the world the dimensions are measured in metric units. Thus, it is to be understood that the serving tray can be made to fit any post of any size, including non-square posts. The distance between the parallel braces is very slightly greater than the size of the intended post, for example ⅛″ greater. When installed on a post the braces should be positioned such that the gap between the post and the brace is equal on both sides.

The exact dimensions of the braces are not critical, except for the location of the apertures, which must be approximately the same on each brace. Unlike in the plant holder described previously, in the serving tray described here the rear portions of each brace need not be raised relative to the elongated front portions of the braces. Instead, the braces may each further comprise a center portion between the rear and front portions, the center portions of each brace each having an aperture spaced forward and below the apertures in the rear portions of each brace. With such a design it is thus possible to provide a serving tray in which the upper surfaces of the braces are flat along the entire length of the braces. In one embodiment, each brace is about 16″ long from front to back, about 6.5″ tall in the center portion, and about ⅝″ thick. Other dimensions of the braces may also be used without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.

The relative locations of the apertures in the rear portions and center portions of each brace are important. The horizontal distance between the front edge of the aperture in the rear portion of each brace and the rear edge of the aperture in the center portion of each brace must be almost exactly equal to the width of the vertical post on which the serving tray will be installed. For example, on a nominal 4×4 post with an actual width of 3.5″, the horizontal distance between the front edge of the aperture in the rear portion of each brace and the rear edge of the aperture in the center portion of each brace should be 3.5″. Although the serving tray will still grip the vertical post if this distance is slightly different from the width of the post, this should be avoided because the shelf will not be perfectly horizontal when installed. Accordingly, great care should be taken that the two apertures be disposed as close to 3.5″ (where this is the actual width of the post) horizontally apart as practicable. Additionally, although not as important as the horizontal distance between the apertures, the aperture in the rear portion of each brace should be spaced vertically above the aperture in the center portion of each brace by a distance approximately equal to 50% of the horizontal spacing between the apertures, though this vertical spacing is not critical and other vertical spacing distances are also contemplated. For example, on a nominal 4×4 post (actual width of 3.5″), the vertical spacing is about 1.75″. Additionally, the exact size of each aperture is not critical, but in one embodiment they are 9/16″ in diameter.

The transverse pins should be about the same size as the apertures in each brace so that they fit snugly inside their respective apertures but can still be removed. Each pin is preferably round in cross-section, but persons of ordinary skill in the art will be aware that other shapes are also suitable, such as square for example, provided the respective apertures are the same shape. Each pin should be about two inches longer than the total width of the serving tray to prevent the pin from accidentally sliding out of one brace. For example, in one embodiment each pin is 9/16″ in diameter and 7.75″ long. Persons of ordinary skill in the art are aware that the pin must be sufficiently thick to prevent it from breaking under load. Thus, metal pins do not need to be as thick as wooden pins. In various embodiments the pin may also have a cotter pin or press-fit cap or the like which is larger than the aperture to further guard against the pin sliding out unintentionally.

The shelf is fastened to the flat upper surface of each brace so that, when the serving tray is installed on a vertical post, the shelf is horizontal. The shelf may be one-piece or may comprise any number of slats. For example, in one embodiment the shelf comprises three slats extending perpendicularly to the elongated front portions of the braces (i.e. parallel to the transverse pins). Whatever the configuration, the shelf must be thick enough to support any load placed on it. This of course depends on the material of the shelf but in one embodiment with a wooden shelf, it is about ⅝″ thick. The shelf is fastened to the braces using any suitable means including fasteners such as screws, nails, staples, or the like. Alternatively, the shelf may be secured to the braces with an adhesive. Preferably, the shelf is fastened to the braces with stainless steel screws. Finally, it is to be understood that any of the materials, structures, or techniques disclosed above with reference to the plant holder embodiment may be partially or fully incorporated into the serving tray embodiment of the vertically adjustable cantilever shelf.

Returning to the figures, vertically adjustable cantilever serving tray 200 is shown in FIGS. 10 through 17. Cantilever serving tray 200 includes a cantilever bracket formed by two parallel planar braces 220. Each brace 220 includes rear portion 222, elongated front portion 224 and center portion 226 disposed between rear portion 222 and elongated front portion 224. Rear portion 222 of each brace 220 includes first horizontal aperture 250 while center portion 226 of each brace 220 includes second horizontal aperture 252. First and second apertures 250 and 252 both pass completely through each brace 220. Further, first apertures 250 in each brace are horizontally aligned with one another, and second apertures 252 in each brace are horizontally aligned with one another. Due to this horizontal alignment of the apertures, first and second transverse pins 240 and 242 can be removably inserted respectively through first and second apertures 250 and 252. As shown in FIG. 11, the horizontal distance d between the front-most portion of first transverse pin 240 (and first horizontal aperture 250) and the rear-most portion of second transverse pin 242 (and second horizontal aperture 252) is approximately equal to the width of vertical post 100 upon which serving tray 200 is installed.

The two braces 220 are joined together by shelf 230. Shelf 230 is fastened to the flat horizontal upper surfaces of braces 220. Shelf 230 comprises one or more horizontal slats 232 which are fastened to braces 220 by fasteners 236. Alternatively, shelf 230 may be fastened to braces 220 by an adhesive.

To install serving tray 200 on vertical post 100, first transverse pin 240 is removed from aperture 250 in each brace 220. Serving tray 200 is then placed around vertical post 100 with vertical post 100 disposed between the inner surfaces of braces 220. Serving tray 200 is disposed on vertical post 100 with the front surface of vertical post 100 (i.e. the surface closest to shelf 230) in contact with second transverse pin 242 which remains inserted in aperture 252 of each brace 220. Serving tray 200 is then rotated until shelf 230 is horizontal or tilting slightly upward (i.e. so that the upper surface of elongated front portion 224 is higher than the upper surface of rear portion 222). First transverse pin 240 is then re-inserted into aperture 250 in each brace 220.

Any external support for serving tray 200 (such as the person installing serving tray 200) is then removed. Gravity causes front elongated portion 224 to rotate until shelf 230 is horizontal. In this position, first transverse pin 240 is in contact with the rear surface of vertical post 100 (i.e. the surface farthest from shelf 230) and second transverse pin 242 is in contact with the front surface of vertical post 100. Due to the friction between first transverse pin 240 and the rear surface of vertical post 100, and the friction between second transverse pin 242 and the front surface of vertical post 100, serving tray 200 is held in a stationary position without the requirement of any fasteners or adhesives. Further, any load placed on shelf 230 imparts a torque on serving tray 200 about second transverse pin 242. Thus, any load on shelf 230 only serves to increase the friction between serving tray 200 and vertical post 100, thereby making the grip of serving tray 200 on vertical post 100 more secure, though for safety reasons excessive loads (such as loads greater than 25 lbs) should be avoided.

Furthermore, serving tray 200 is vertically adjustable about vertical post 100. By simply tilting elongated front portion 224 upward a small amount, first and second transverse pins 240 and 242 come out of contact with vertical post 100, thereby substantially decreasing or eliminating the friction between serving tray 200 and vertical post 100. Serving tray 200 can then be moved up or down the post until the desired position is reached, at which point serving tray 200 is allowed to return to the horizontal position with first and second transverse pins 240 and 242 frictionally engaged with vertical post 100.

Although shelf 230 is shown with its rear edge (i.e. the edge closest to vertical post 100) spaced apart from vertical post 100, it is to be understood that this is not a requirement. For example, the rear edge of shelf 230 may be in contact with the front surface of vertical post 100 when serving tray 200 is in the fully frictionally engaged, stationary horizontal position. In such an embodiment, first transverse pin 240 must be removed from aperture 242 in each brace 220 in order to allow vertical adjustment of serving tray 200 along vertical post 100. Once first transverse pin 240 is removed, serving tray 200 is moved to its desired position along vertical post 100, at which point transverse pin 240 is re-inserted into aperture 242 in each brace.

Various modifications and alterations of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, which is defined by the accompanying claims. For example, it should be noted that steps recited in any method claims below do not necessarily need to be performed in the order they are recited. For example, in certain embodiments, steps may be performed simultaneously. The accompanying claims should be constructed with these principles in mind.

Any element in a claim that does not explicitly state “means for” performing a specified function or “step for” performing a specified function is not to be interpreted as a “means” or “step” clause as specified in 35 U.S.C. §112, ±6.