Patent application title: Hand tool for bundling plastic bags
Cleo Bard (Grand Falls, CA)
IPC8 Class: AA45F500FI
Class name: Handling: hand and hoist-line implements article carrier gripped and carried by hand having cord or bail accommodating groove or passage along length of handle
Publication date: 2008-11-27
Patent application number: 20080290678
The tool has a handle and two spaced-apart tines extending away from the
handle. Each tine has an outer straight portion defined by a projection.
Both tines define a slot extending there between and that slot has an
elongated portion merging into a terminal circular opening. The terminal
circular opening has a diameter similar to a width of a finger on an
adult's hand, and extends beyond the length of the straight portions,
toward the handle. The slot provides access to the core of a bundle
formed on the tool for inserting a leading end of the bag into the core
of the bundle from one direction. The circular opening provides access to
the core of the bundle for inserting a trailing end of the bag into the
core of the bundle, for tying the bundle.
1. A hand tool for bundling plastic bags; comprising;a handle and two
spaced-apart tines extending away from said handle;each of said tines
having an outside edge relative to said other tine;each of said outside
edges having a relatively straight portion and a projection between said
straight portion and said handle; said projection extending away from
said other tine;said tines defining a slot extending there between;said
slot having an elongated portion and a terminal circular opening; said
elongated portion having a length similar to one of said straight
portions and merging into said terminal circular opening;said terminal
circular opening having a diameter similar to a width of a finger on an
adult's hand, and extending beyond said length toward said handle.
2. The hand tool as claimed in claim 1, wherein one of said tines has a tip and a V-shaped groove in said tip.
3. The hand tool as claimed in claim 1, wherein said handle has a handle width, and said diameter of said terminal circular opening is similar to said handle width.
4. The hand tool as claimed in claim 1, wherein said straight portions of both said tines being substantially parallel with each other.
5. The hand tool as claimed in claim 2, wherein a depth of said groove is about half said length of said straight portion.
6. The hand tool as claimed in claim 3, wherein said handle has first and second ends; said tines extending from said first end, and said second end having an oblong opening therein, said oblong opening being in a same plane as said terminal circular opening.
7. The hand tool as claimed in claim 6, wherein said oblong opening has a long dimension similar to said diameter of said terminal circular opening.
8. The hand tool as claimed in claim 6, having a flat configuration and being made of stiff sheet material.
9. The hand tool as claimed in claim 7, wherein said diameter of said terminal circular opening is about half said length of said straight portion.
10. The hand tool as claimed in claim 9, wherein said slot has a flared open end.
11. The hand tool as claimed in claim 10, wherein said handle is slightly curved and said slot aligns with said handle.
12. A method for forming a bundle with a plastic bag, comprising;forming a leader with a first extremity of said bag;forming a strand of plastic material with said bag, between said leader and a second extremity of said bag;using a fork-like tool having spaced-apart tines; wrapping said strand around said tines, thereby forming said bundle having a coil-like configuration and a hollow core; andinserting said leader and said second extremity of said bag through said core; andpulling said bundle away from said tines.
13. The method for forming a bundle with a plastic bag as claimed in claim 12, wherein said step of forming a strand comprises the step of threading said leader through a hole in said tool and pulling said bag through said hole for removing air from said bag.
14. The method for forming a bundle with a plastic bag as claimed in claim 13, wherein said step of wrapping said strand comprises the step of wrapping said strand several turns around said tines with one of said turns overlapping more than one other of said turns.
15. A bundled plastic bag, wherein said bag has been worked into a single strand of plastic material and wound several turns in a same direction, defining a bundle having a coil-like configuration, a hollow core and first and second opposite sides; and said strand having a first and second ends extending through said core.
16. A bundled plastic bag, as claimed in claim 15, wherein said coil-like configuration has several turns of said stand, and one of said turns overlapping more than one other of said strands.
17. A bundled plastic bag, as claimed in claim 15, wherein said first and second ends are inserted through said core from said first and second opposite sides respectively.
18. A bundled plastic bag, as claimed in claim 15 wherein said first and second ends are inserted through said core from said first side.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention pertains to hand tools for bundling malleable, bag-like articles, and more particularly, it pertains to a hand tool for bundling grocery-type plastic bags.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Grocery-type plastic bags are reusable for a variety of purposes, such as for lunch bags, bags for gathering fruits and produce, and as garbage can liners. After their first use for carrying groceries, however, these bags are open and stretched, and are awkward to store in a cupboard or in a pantry. No more than three bags can be stored in the space of a large cooking pot for example. Therefore, in the past, there was little incentive to stow these bags away in view of reusing them later.
A search in the prior art has failed to reveal any device that can be used for bundling a plastic bag. The only prior art reference identified during this search for having some relevance to the present invention consists of; U.S. Pat. No. 5,702,027 issued to Michael A. Barry on Dec. 30, 1997. This reference discloses a storage tube for retaining a plurality of plastic bags in a collapsed configuration. The reference does not teach or suggest a way for forming an uniform and coherent bundle with each bag.
Therefore, there is a need in this market for a hand tool that is easy to understand and to use for transforming grocery bags into compact bundles that are easy to handle and to stow away.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In the present invention, there are provided a hand tool and a method using the hand tool, for bundling plastic bags in compact and coherent shapes.
More particularly, in a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided a hand tool comprising a handle and two spaced-apart tines extending away from the handle. Each tine has an outside edge relative to the other tine. Each of the outside edges has a relatively straight portion and a projection between the straight portion and the handle. The projection on one tine extends away from the other tine. Both straight portions are substantially parallel with each other. Both tines define a slot extending there between. The slot has an elongated portion and a terminal circular opening. The elongated portion has a length similar to one of the straight portions of the tines. The elongated portion merges into the terminal circular opening. The terminal circular opening has a diameter similar to the width of a finger on an adult's hand, and extends beyond the length of the straight portions, toward the handle.
The hand tool is usable for winding a plastic bag around the straight portions of the tines, for inserting both a leading end of the bag and a trailing end of the bag into the slot alongside each other such that the bundle formed thereon is somewhat tied together.
In another aspect of the present invention, the handle of the tool has first and second ends, with the tines being mounted on the first end, and the second end having an oblong opening therein. The oblong opening lies in a same plane and has substantially a same diameter as the terminal circular opening on the first end.
The oblong opening is advantageous for working a plastic bag into a single strand of plastic material. This is done by forming a leader on the bottom end of the bag, and by pulling the bag through the oblong opening for removing air from the bag.
In yet another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method for forming a bundle with a plastic bag. This method comprises the steps of forming a leader with a first extremity of the bag and working the bag into a single strand of plastic material between the leader and a second extremity thereof. Using a fork-like tool having spaced-apart tines; the leader is held to one of the tines. The strand of plastic material is wrapped around both tines, thereby forming a bundle having a coil-like configuration and a hollow core.
The wrapping of the strand around the tines is preferably done with at least one of the outer turns overlapping more than one of the inner turns. When the strand of plastic material is wound around both tines, both the leader and the second extremity of the bag are inserted through the core of the bundle alongside each other. The bundle is then pulled off the tines and stowed away.
The method described above is easily taught to users using few illustrations. Also, the hand tool mentioned above is susceptible of low cost of manufacture with regards to both material and labour and which accordingly is then susceptible of low prices of sale to consumers. Therefore, such hand tool and associated method of use are practicable without challenge and are economically available to the general public.
In still another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a bundled plastic bag that has a coherent compact shape for convenient handling and storage. The bundled plastic bag comprises a single strand wound several turns in a same direction and defining a coil-like configuration having a hollow core and first and second opposite sides. At least one of the outer turns partly overlap some of the inner turns. The first and second ends of the strand extend through the core of the bundle and are held by friction against each other to retain the entire bundle together.
The bundle just described with overlapping turns and interlocking ends retains its shape when it is stowed away with other such bundles. For reuse of the bag, the ends of the bundle are simply pulled out of the core and apart, thereby allowing the bundle to unwind and untangle.
This brief summary has been provided so that the nature of the invention may be understood quickly. A more complete understanding of the invention can be obtained by reference to the following detailed description of one preferred embodiment thereof in connection with the attached drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
One embodiment of the hand tool according to the present invention is illustrated in the attached drawings. In these drawings the same numerals are used to identify the same elements. In the drawings;
FIG. 1 is a perspective rear and side view of the hand tool according to the preferred embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a front plan view thereof;
FIG. 3 is a plan view of the hand tool in use for removing air from a grocery bag;
FIG. 4 is a plan view of the hand tool in use during a bundling of a grocery bag;
FIG. 5 is a side view of a bundled grocery bag; and
FIG. 6 is another plan view of the hand tool in use during a bundling of a grocery bag, wherein a bundle is formed in a different direction than the one illustrated in FIG. 4.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there are shown in the drawings and will be described in details herein, one specific embodiment of a hand tool for bundling plastic bags, and a method for bundling a grocery bag using the hand tool. It should be understood that the present disclosure is to be considered as an example of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the invention to the embodiments illustrated and described.
Similarly, a grocery-type plastic bag is mentioned herein for convenience. It will be appreciated that the present specification applies also to bags used in take-out restaurants, hardware stores, pharmacies, book stores, clothing stores and all similar reusable bags made of malleable material.
The hand tool 20 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in its entirety in FIGS. 1 and 2. The hand tool 20 is preferably made of flat and stiff material. It can be made from plastic sheet stock, but can also be molded or fabricated of metal or wood.
The hand tool 20 has a handle portion 22 that has dimensions to fit comfortably in ones hand. The entire tool 20 is slightly curved as illustrated by dashed line 24, for increasing comfort in the use thereof.
On one end of the handle 22, there is provided an oblong opening 26 that has a longer dimension `A` which is similar to or slightly larger than the handle width `W`. A preferred dimension for the width of the handle 22 is between three-quarter of an inch and one inch, and most preferably about seven-eighth of an inch.
A fork 28 is formed on the other end of the handle 22. This fork 28 has two tines 30 and 32, each having outside edges labelled as 34 and 36 respectively. The outside edges 34,36 have substantially a same length `L` and are substantially parallel to each other. The parallel alignment of the outside edges 34,36 follows the general curvature 24 of the tool. These outside edges 34, 36 are defined by projections 38, 40 respectively.
The word "parallel" used herein in relation with the outside edges 34, 36 is not an essential characteristic of the outside edges 34, 36, because a slight convergence would also work.
Both tines 30, 32 are separated by a slot 42, and this slot 42 has an elongated portion 44 and a terminal circular opening 46. The elongated portion 44 merges into the terminal circular opening 46. The elongated portion 44 has a length substantially equal to the length `L` of the outside edges 34, 36, and the circular opening 46 is positioned next to the elongated portion 44, near the handle 22. The terminal circular opening 46 lies substantially across both projections 38,40, beyond the length `L` from the tip of the tines. The diameter `D` of the circular opening 46 is similar to the length `A` of the oblong opening 26. For reference purposes, each of the dimensions `A` and `D` are about half the length `L`.
The tines 30, 32; the slot 42; the projections 38, 40; and the oblong opening 26, lie in a same plane as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. The outside edges 34, 36 are substantially at a right angle with that plane.
In the preferred tool 20, one of the tines is wider than the other. The wider tine 30, has a V-shaped groove 48 formed in its tip. The V-shaped groove 48 has a depth `E` which is similar or slightly less than half the length `L` of the outside edges 30, 32. The words "similar" and "slightly" mentioned herein means a dimension variation of no more than 10-12%.
Referring now to FIGS. 3 and 4, the utility of the hand tool 20 and all of its structural features will be described. A method for bundling a plastic bag will also be described.
In use, the first step for bundling a plastic bag 50 consists of removing some air from the plastic bag 50. Although this first step is optional, it facilitates the subsequent bundling of the bag 50. The removing of air from the bag 50 is accomplished by pulling the bag 50 through the oblong opening 26 of the tool 20. Preferably, one of the bottom corners of the bag is pulled and manually shaped into a leader 52 that is threaded through the oblong opening 26, and then the whole bag 50 is pulled through the opening 26.
The pulling of the bag 50 through the oblong opening 26 facilitates the forming of a single strand 54 of plastic material. This single strand is easier to wind over the outside edges 34, 36 of the tines of the hand tool 20 to produce a neat coil-like bundle.
A next step in forming a bundle consists of winding the bag 50 over the tines 30, 32. The leader 52 previously formed on the bag 50 is inserted in the V-groove 48. The bag in a strand form 54 is then wound several times over the tines 30, 32, such as illustrated in FIG. 4, until the entire bag 50 is wound over the tines 30, 32.
During the winding step, both projections 38, 40 assist the user in keeping all turns close to or over each other to form a compact coil. At least one of the outer turns of the coil should overlap more than one of the inner turns to interlock all turns together, such as in a ball of twine. During the winding of the bag 50 over the tines 30,32, the leader 52 should extend along the slot 42, and preferably along the full length of the slot 42, such that this leader 52 will be at least partly enclosed within the core of the bundle being formed. The slot 42 has a flaring open end to facilitate the placement of the leader 52 therein.
When a user has acquired a certain skill at working the hand tool 20, that person may not have to use the groove 48 for retaining an extremity of the bag. It is possible to work the hand tool 20 by simply inserting the leader 52 in the slot 42 while holding it such that it partly overlaps one of the tines, and winding the strand 54 a first turn over the leader 52 to wrap and retain the leader 52 in that position, as shown in FIG. 6.
When working the last turn of the bundle, the handle end 56 of the bag 50 also referred to as the trailing end 56, is preferably inserted into the circular opening 46 and into core of the bundle along the slot 42, alongside the leader 52.
The position of the circular opening 46 between both projection 38, 40, is a convenient location for allowing the insertion of the trailing end 56 of the bag into the core of the bundle.
The formed coil-like bundle 58 is then pulled away manually from the tines 30, 32, in a general direction as illustrated by arrow 60.
It will also be appreciated that when the leader 52 is tucked into the groove 48, during the forming of a bundle, it is not absolutely essential to turn this leader 52 into the slot 42 before carrying out the winding step. The leader 52 is automatically pulled into the core of the bundle when the bundle is pulled out from the tool 20. A user can help this action by simply pushing the leader 52 into the core of the bundle, with one finger, at the same time that the bundle is pulled off the tines.
Whether the leader 52 is inserted into the core of the bundle 58 before or after winding the strand 54 over the tines 30, 32, using the groove 48 or not, the end result sought for is to insert both the leader 52 and the trailing end 56 of the strand 54 into the core of the bundle 58 for retaining the bundle 58 together.
The bundle 58 thus formed, as illustrated in FIG. 5, with the hand tool 20 and according to the steps mentioned above is relatively compact and has a coherent shape. The bundle 58 can be easily stowed away with other such bundles until needed for reuse. Several such bundles 58 can be packed in a small box, in a large bowl, or in the device of the prior art as mentioned in the background portion of this document.
Although, the bundle 58 described herein before has a leader 52 and a trailing end 56 tucked into the core of the bundle 58, from opposite sides of the bundle, it will be appreciated that both the leader 52 and the trailing end 56 can be tuck into the core of the bundle from a same side of the bundle, as illustrated in FIG. 6. This arrangement causes both the leader 52 and the trailing end 56 to be retained by friction into the core of the bundle to retain the bundle 58 together. In this later arrangement, the circular opening 46 is advantageous for inserting and pulling the trailing end 56 into the core of the bundle 58.
The curvature 24 of the hand tool 20 makes it easier for a user for winding a bag 50 over the tines 30, 32 of the tool and for pulling a bundle 58 off the tines 30, 32 with one hand while holding the handle 22 in the other hand. The position of the tool illustrated in FIG. 2 is convenient for holding the handle 22 in one's right hand. The tool 20 is simply flipped over to its mirror image for holding it in the left hand.
The dimensions mentioned hereinbefore are convenient for bundling grocery-type plastic bags by hand. The oblong hole 26 and the circular opening 46 have the size of a finger on an adult's hand, such that a bag is easily threaded there through without requiring much dexterity.
While one preferred embodiment of the hand tool and a method for bundling plastic bags have been described herein and illustrated in the accompanying drawings, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various modifications, alternate constructions and equivalent methods may be employed without departing from the scope of the invention. The scope of the invention is defined by the appended claims.