Patent application title: WALL-MOUNTED RETRACTABLE CLOTHESLINE ASSEMBLY
Alan Sherman (Clayton, MO, US)
Neil Erwin Koenig (Maryland Heights, MO, US)
IPC8 Class: AB65H7534FI
Class name: Reeling device material stored in loops or variable-size coils plural coils
Publication date: 2010-03-25
Patent application number: 20100072314
A clothesline assembly is disclosed comprising a housing containing a
take-up reel about which a clothesline is wound. The clothesline can be
extended from and retracted into the housing. The assembly further
includes a clip storage compartment through which the clothesline
extends. Clothing clips are stored in the compartment and the line
extends through the clips, such that when the clothesline is extended,
the clips are already suspended from the clothesline.
1. A retractable clothesline apparatus comprising:a housing adapted to be
mounted to a surface; the housing having front, top, bottom and end
surfaces defining a cavity; said front surface defining an opening;a
storage compartment extending into said cavity from said housing front
surface opening; said storage compartment having spaced apart side
members extending inwardly from said front surface adjacent said front
surface opening, a rear member extending between said side members, and
an opening at a back of said storage compartment;a cover sized and shaped
to close said front surface opening;a take-up reel rotatably mounted in
said housing cavity externally of said storage compartment;an elongate
flexible line at least partially wound about said take-up reel; said line
extending from said reel and through said opening; said line having an
end fixed to an inner surface of said cover; anda plurality of clips
sized and shaped to be received in said storage compartment; said clips
being adapted to removably receive garments; said clips including an
opening through which said line extends.
2. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 1 wherein said housing further comprises a back plate; said housing top, bottom and end surfaces extending from said back plate; said back plate being adapted to be mounted to a surface.
3. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 1 wherein said take-up reel rotates in a plane generally parallel to said housing front surface.
4. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 1 wherein each of said clips comprises a body with an opening formed therein and a flexible tongue extending from an upper edge of said opening; said hole through which said line extends being formed in an upper part of said body above said opening; whereby garments are received between a plane of said body and a plane of said tongue.
5. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 4 wherein said tongue is generally S-shaped; said tongue having an upper convex portion which extends forwardly of a plane of said clip body, a lower concave portion having a rearmost point which is at least even with said plane of said clip body; and a free end which extends forwardly of said plane of said clip body.
6. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 5 wherein said clip tongue has a side-to-side width narrower than the side-to-side width of said clip opening; such that a gap is formed between said clip tongue and said clip body.
7. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 5 wherein said clips are stackable; wherein, when said clips are stacked together, the tongue of one clip extends through the opening of the body of an adjacent clip to be adjacent the tongue of such adjacent clip; whereby, the addition of each said clip to a stack of said clips increases the stack height no more than the thickness of the material from which said clip is made, despite the clip having a front-to-back width that is substantially greater than the thickness of the material from which said clip is made.
8. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 1 wherein said hole of said clip is shaped to allow said clip to rotate in a vertical plane between a position in which said clip is generally perpendicular to said line and a position in which said clip is generally parallel to said line.
9. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 8 wherein said hole of said clips through which said line extends has at least one edge which is elongate.
10. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 9 wherein said hole in said clip is triangular.
11. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a stop to prevent undesired unwinding of the clothesline from the reel after the clothesline has been extended a desired extent.
12. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 11 wherein the stop comprises a cleat, said cleat being proximate said storage compartment.
13. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 12 wherein said cleat is sized and shaped to be encased by said cover when said cover closes said housing opening.
14. The retractable clothesline apparatus of claim 1 wherein at least one of said housing surfaces define an area sufficiently large on which a promotional message, logo, and/or name can be printed.
15. A clothing clip for hanging clothing from a clothesline, the clip comprising a substantially planar body having an upper portion and a lower portion; the upper portion being adapted to suspend the clip from a clothesline; the lower portion comprising an opening and including a flexible tongue extending from an upper edge of said opening; said tongue having an upper convex portion which extends forwardly of a plane of said clip body, a lower concave portion having a rearmost point which is at least even with said plane of said clip body; and a free end which extends forwardly of said plane of said clip body.
16. The clothing clip of claim 15 wherein said clip tongue has a side-to-side width narrower than the side-to-side width of said clip opening; such that a gap is formed between said clip tongue and said clip body.
17. The clothing clip of claim 16 wherein said clips are stackable; wherein, when said clips are stacked together, the tongue of one clip extends through the opening of an adjacent clip to be adjacent the tongue of such adjacent clip; whereby, the addition of each said clip to a stack of said clips increases the stack height no more than the thickness of the material from which said clip is made, despite the clip having a front-to-back width that is substantially greater than the thickness of the material from which said clip is made.
18. The clothing clip of claim 17 wherein each said clip includes a clothesline opening through which a clothesline passes to suspend said clip from a clothesline; wherein said clothesline opening is shaped to allow said clip to rotate in a vertical plane between a position in which said clip is generally perpendicular to said line and a position in which said clip is generally parallel to said line.
19. The clothing clip of claim 18 wherein said clothesline opening has at least one edge which is elongate.
20. The clothing clip of claim 19 wherein said hole in said clip is triangular.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates primarily to clotheslines and, in particular, to retractable self-contained clothesline system which includes clips.
Clotheslines and clothespins/clips are well-known and have been produced for many years in many configurations. Although some prior art clotheslines provided retractable clotheslines that could be stored within a housing, such systems are typically bulky and their mounting hardware causes the housing to protrude well beyond the surface to which the housing is mounted. Additionally, such systems do not provide an integrated storage area for clips, making it necessary to find a separate place to store clips.
It is desirable to provide a clothesline system of a compact design that minimally extends from the wall to thereby maximize the length of line available from which to hang clothes and which also provides storage for both the clothesline and clips while retaining the ability to dry heavy or bulky garments. It is further desirable that the clothesline and clips retract into their storage area when not in use, freeing the drying area (i.e., the area across which the clothesline extends when in use) for other uses.
SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE
Briefly stated, a retractable clothesline made in accordance with the claims set forth below comprises a housing having front, top, bottom and end surfaces defining a cavity. The housing can also include a back plate from which the top, bottom and end surfaces extend. The back plate is adapted to be mounted to a surface, such as a wall. The housing defines a cavity and includes an opening in the front surface. A storage compartment extends into the cavity from the housing front surface opening, and is defined by side and back members. A cover is sized and shaped to close the front surface opening, and thus closes the storage compartment. An attachment member extends from an outer surface of the cover to mount the cover to a surface.
A take-up reel is rotatably mounted in the housing cavity externally of the storage compartment. Preferably, the take-up reel rotates in a plane generally parallel to the front surface of the housing. An elongate flexible line is at least partially wound about the take-up reel. The line is selectively moved between an extended position and a retracted position. In the retracted position, the line is substantially wound about the reel, and includes a portion that extends from the reel and through a back of the storage compartment and is fixed to an inner surface of the cover. The take-up reel includes a spring which causes the reel to rotate in a direction to wind the line about the reel. A stop is provided to prevent undesired unwinding of the clothesline from the reel after the clothesline has been extended a desired extent. In a preferred embodiment, the stop comprises a cleat positioned in the storage compartment. The cleat is sized and shaped to be encased by the cover when the cover closes the housing opening.
Lastly, the clothesline assembly includes a plurality of clothing clips for hanging clothing from a clothesline. Each clip is sized and shaped to be received in the storage compartment. Each clip comprises a substantially planar body having an upper portion and a lower portion. The clothesline is threaded through a hole in the upper portion to suspend the clip from the clothesline. The clothesline hole is shaped to allow the clip to rotate in a vertical plane between a position in which the clip is generally perpendicular to the clothesline and a position in which the clip is generally parallel to the line. To this end, the clothesline opening in the clip has at least one edge which is elongate. Preferably, the clothesline opening is triangular. The apex of the triangular opening engages the clothesline.
The clip body lower portion comprises an opening and includes a flexible tongue extending from an upper edge of the opening. The tongue has an upper convex portion which extends forwardly of a plane of the clip body, a lower concave portion having a rearmost point which is at least even with the plane of the clip body; and a free end which extends forwardly of the plane of the clip body. The clip tongue has a side-to-side width narrower than the side-to-side width of the clip opening such that a gap is formed between the clip tongue and the clip body.
The clothing clips are stackable. When the clips are stacked together, the tongue of one clip extends through the opening of the body of an adjacent clip to be adjacent the tongue of such adjacent clip. Thus, the addition of one clip to a stack of clips increases the stack depth no more than the thickness of the material from which the clip is made, despite the clip having a front-to-back width that is substantially greater than the thickness of the material from which said clip is made.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the retractable clothesline system showing the clothesline in a deployed condition with clips on the clothesline and garments hanging from the clips;
FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of a housing of the clothesline system;
FIG. 3 is an end elevational view of the housing;
FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the housing;
FIG. 5 is a view similar to FIG. 4, but with a cover in an open position to show a locking cleat;
FIG. 6 is a front elevational view of the housing (similar to FIG. 2), but with the cover in an open position showing clips contained within a storage area in the housing;
FIG. 7 is a partial horizontal sectional view of the housing taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 2;
FIG. 8 is a rear elevational view of the housing with a housing backing broken away to show the interior of the housing;
FIG. 9 is a side elevational view of a clip of the retractable clothesline system; and
FIG. 10 is a front elevational view of an alternative embodiment of the clothesline system which includes two retractable clotheslines.
Corresponding reference numerals indicate corresponding parts throughout the several figures of the drawings.
The following detailed description illustrates the invention by way of example and not by way of limitation. The description clearly enables one skilled in the art to make and use the invention, describes several embodiments, adaptations, variations, alternatives, and uses of the invention, including what is presently believed to be the best mode of carrying out the invention. Additionally, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangements of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or being carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.
Referring to FIG. 1, a retractable clothesline assembly or system 10 includes a housing 12 having a back plate 14 (FIG. 7) and a body 16. The back plate 14 is substantially flat, so that it may be mounted to a wall W using double face mounting tape, mechanical fasteners (such as screws) or both. The housing may of course be mounted to the wall W in any desired fashion. The housing body 16 comprises a front surface 18, top and bottom surfaces 20, a curved end surface 22, and a flat end surface 24. The back edge of the top, bottom, and end surfaces can be rabbeted to receive the back plate 14. The back plate 14 and the body 16 can be joined (such as by gluing, welding, etc.) along this rabbeted edge. Alternatively, the back plate can be provided with spring arms and the body can be provided with openings which snappingly receive fingers of the spring arms. This would allow for the backing to be snappingly connected to the housing body. The back plate and body could be connected in any other desired manner. The back plate 14 and body 16, when joined, form a cavity 17. As seen in the figures, the edges of the housing 12 are all preferably rounded, to thereby avoid sharp corners on the housing.
A pair of walls 26 (FIG. 7) extends inwardly from the body front wall. The walls 26 extend generally the height of the body 16 (from the bottom surface to the top surface) and are joined by a back wall 28. An opening 29 is formed at the middle of the back wall 28. The wall thickness around the opening 29 can be increased, as seen in FIG. 7. A member 27 (FIG. 6) extends between the walls 26 below the body upper surface 20 and a cleat 31 extends forwardly from the member 27. As seen in FIGS. 1 and 6, a pair of rails extend upwardly from the storage upper member 27, and the cleat 31 is upon the rails and extends forwardly of the rails. The back wall 28 and walls 26, in conjunction with the top and bottom surfaces 20 of the body and the member 27, define a storage compartment or area 30 for clips 32. The storage area 30 is not as deep as the body 16, such that the storage area back wall 28 is spaced from housing back plate 14. As seen in FIG. 7, the storage area 30 is closer to the flat end wall 24 than the curved end wall 22. The storage area 30 is opened at the body front surface. The housing 12 thus includes a cover 34 which closes the storage area 30. An attachment member 35 extends from the outer surface of the cover 34. The attachment member 35 can be connected to a bracket (not shown) on a wall opposite the wall W to which housing 12 is mounted, as will be discussed below. The attachment member preferably protrudes from the cover surface a distance sufficient to enable the attachment member to also be used as a grip, so that a user can easily pull the cover 34 from the body 16.
A take-up real or spool 36 is mounted in the housing cavity 17 proximate the curved end 22 of the body 16. In fact, the body curved end has a radius slightly larger than the radius of the take-up reel 36. The take-up reel is preferably journaled about a stem 38 which extends between the body front surface 18 and housing backing plate 14, such that the reel 36 can rotate about the stem 38. A clothesline 40 is wound about the reel 36. The clothesline 40 extends from the reel 36, is threaded through the hole 29 in the storage area back wall 28, extends through the storage area 30 and is connected at its end to the storage cover 34. The clothesline 40 can be connected to the inner surface of the cover 34 in any conventional manner. For example, the cover can be provided with an eyelet or opening through which the line 40 can be threaded. Alternatively, the line 40 can be glued or welded to the inner surface of the cover 34. The thickened wall around the opening 29 allows for a larger diameter opening through which the chord or line 40 passes. Further, as seen, the wall surrounding the opening 29 is radiused. This will provide a smooth surface (as opposed to a sharp corner) over which the cord passes.
The take-up reel 36 is provided with a spring 39 which will cause the reel 36 to rotate on the stem to wind the clothesline 40 onto the stem, as will be described more fully below. As best seen in FIG. 7, the reel stem 38 is generally parallel to the walls 26 of the storage area 30, and thus, the reel 36 rotates in a plane that is perpendicular to the storage area 30. This orientation of the take-up reel allows for the housing 12 to have a slim-line appearance, and reduces the amount by which the housing protrudes from the wall W to which the housing is mounted. This thus maximizes length of clothesline available from which garments G can be hung.
The clips 32 are formed from a highly resilient material that enables them to grasp and firmly hold a damp garment, even though they are substantially smaller than conventional clothes pins, both traditional and spring loaded pins or clips. The clips 32 comprise a body 50 having a lower generally rectangular portion 52 and an upper portion 54 which is generally in the shape of a rounded-off triangle. An opening 56 is formed in the clip upper portion 54 through which the clothesline 40 extends. The clip opening 56 is preferably generally triangularly-shaped, with the corners rounded-off. The apex of the triangle will thus rest on the clothesline 40, as seen in FIG. 1. Preferably, the clips have a radiused side edge 57 that enhances a user's ability to more easily insert and withdraw a garment G.
The body lower portion 52 defines an opening 59 having a tongue 58 extending from an upper edge of the opening. The tongue 58 is preferably generally S-shaped as best seen in FIG. 9. The S-shape of the tongue 58 provides the tongue with an upper convex portion 58a which extends forwardly of the clip body and a lower concave portion 58b, which, at is back-most point, is approximately even with the clip body, as seen in FIG. 9. The S-shape of the tongue, in combination with the clip body, gives the clip a generally R-shaped appearance when viewed from the side, as seen in FIG. 9. The shape of the tongue 58 allows a larger transition radius between the tongue 58 and clip bottom portion 52, further reducing stress and increasing the clip's useful life. This shape of the clip flexes the free end 58c of the tongue outwardly from the clip body 50, so fabric can be more readily slipped into the clip rather than forcing the clip over both the fabric and line as would be required when using a conventional clip. The fact that the tongue has a point that is at least even with the clip body 50 provides a point of positive engagement between the clip and the garment G so that the clip better engages the garment G. A space or gap 60 surrounds the tongue 58 and separates the tongue from the body lower portion 52. This space 60 is sufficiently large to allow a multi-layer garment (such as a sock or a waist band) to be readily secured in the hanger without placing excess stress on the flexed clip. As can be appreciated, the tongue 58 is flexible. To facilitate the flexibility of the tongue 58, the clip 32 can be made from a metal (which is either rust proof or coated) of from a flexible plastic material.
The overall front-to-back thickness of clip 30 (i.e., between the forward and rearward most points of the clip) is far greater than the thickness of the material from which the clip is made. This is readily seen in FIG. 9. However, the design of the tongue 58 and body 50 are such that when two clips are nested together, the resulting stack height increases by only the material thickness, rather than by the full front to back thickness of the clips (as seen in FIG. 7). This increases the number of clips that can be stored within the storage area 30 when the housing is closed. The clips can have a front to back thickness of 3/16'', in which case a stack of twenty clips 32 would fit within a housing 12 which projects from a wall approximately 21/2''.
The hole 56 at the top of clips 32 is designed to allow the clips to rotate in a vertical plane with respect to clothesline 40. That is, the clips can rotate between a position in which the clip is generally perpendicular to the clothesline 40 (as in FIG. 1) to a position in which the clips are generally parallel to the clothesline 40 (wherein the upper portion 54 of the clip would be substantially in contact with the line 40 along the side-to-side width of the clip). This rotation helps to generate the nested parallel orientation of each of the clips when the clips are not in use and need to nest together for storage in the storage area and allows the clips to hang more parallel to the clothesline, such as when two clips are used together to hold a heavy garment. As the clips 32 become more parallel to the clothesline 40, they become more resistant to sliding along the line, thereby maintaining spacing and airflow between adjacent garments to facilitate faster drying of the garments G. Preferably, the hole 56 is triangular in shape, although hole may also be circular or semi-circular in shape. Preferably, the hole 56 has at least one elongate edge to allow the clip to rotate between positions in which the clip is generally perpendicular to and generally parallel to the clothesline.
Operation of the retractable clothesline begins by pulling the cover 34 from housing 12. The clothesline 40, as noted above, is connected to the cover 34, and thus is extended by pulling the cover 34 from the housing body 16. The clothesline is pulled until the cover 34 reaches the opposite wall. The cover is then mounted to a bracket on the opposite wall using the attachment member 35. When the clothesline is extended, the clothesline 40 is wrapped around the cleat 31 to prevent the clothesline from being further unwound from the reel under the force of gravity and the weight of garments G when garments G are hung from the clips 50. (For purposes of illustration, in FIG. 1, the clothesline 40 is not shown wrapped about the cleat 31.) The force of the spring 39 would not be sufficient to overcome the weight of the clothing, and the cleat is needed to prevent the clothesline from unwinding further from the reel 36 (and therefore sagging) under the weight of the garments suspended from the line. Stop mechanisms other than a cleat can be used to prevent the clothesline from unwinding further from the reel after the cover 34 has been mounted to its bracket. For example, the reel could be provided with a cog or gear, and the housing could have a stem which engages the gear. The engagement of the stem and gear would then prevent the reel from rotating in an "unwinding" direction to prevent the clothesline from being further unwound from the reel. The reel could also be provided with discrete holes into which the stem could be pushed to prevent further unwinding of the line from the cable.
As the clothesline 40 is extended, clips 32 may automatically be withdrawn from the storage area 30. Any clips remaining in the storage area can be pulled out, if desired. Garments G are then fixed to the clips 32 by fitting a portion of each garment between clip body 50 and tongue 58. Multiple clips may be used for heavier garments. After the garments G have dried and have been removed from the clips 32, the clothesline is unwrapped from the cleat 31 (or any other locking mechanism is released) and the cover 34 is removed from its bracket. The spring of the take-up reel 36 will then automatically rotate the reel 36 to pull the clothesline into the housing to be rewound about the reel 36. As the clothesline 40 is pulled into the housing and wound on the reel 36, the clips will be automatically brought into the storage area 30 and will automatically nest against each other, and the cover 34 will close the opening to the storage area 30. The device is then ready for its next use. Although the clothesline system is provided with clips, additional independent conventional pins or clips may be used in conjunction with the clips 32 if desired.
The clothesline system 10 comprises a single clothesline 40. The clothesline system can alternatively be provided with two clotheslines. Such a system 110 would appear as shown in FIG. 10. In this system, the two covers 134 are at opposite ends of the system housing 112, and two take-up reels are positioned internally in the central portion of the housing 112. With the system 110, single garments can extend between the two extended clotheslines, or garments can be hung from the clotheslines in two rows.
The clothesline system 10,110 has many advantages over currently available retractable clothesline systems. For example, the clips are stored in the housing 10,110. This will reduce the need to store clips independently of the housing, and may even reduce the incidence of lost clips. The clips 32 will nest together, allowing for ultra-compact storage so that several clips 32 can be stored in the housing storage area 30. The clip hole 56 allows for the clip to rotate about a vertical plane relative to the clothes line 40, enabling multiple clips to be used to hang a single garment from the clothesline. The shape of the tongue 58 allows for a "quick slip" insertion of garments onto the clips and withdrawal of garments from the clips. Conventional clothes pins can be used in addition to the clips 32. The housing 12 occupies vary little space, and thus can be permanently mounted to a wall (such as across a bathtub) without interfering with normal use of the space. The housing front surface 18 (or other surfaces, if desired) can be imprinted with graphics and/or logos, enabling the product to be used for promotional purposes.
Changes can be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. For example, the length of the clothesline 40 and number of clips 32 provided can be varied with no change to any of the mechanical components. The clip can be provided with a slot which extends from an edge of the clip to the opening 56 to allow clips to be added to (or removed from) the line 40 without the need to disconnect the cover 34 from the line 40. Of course, such a slot would have to be positioned such as not to interfere with the hanging of the clip from the line. For example, such a slot could extend diagonally upwardly toward a bottom edge of the hole 56. The back wall of the storage compartment 30 could be replaced with a bar or rail extending between the two walls 26. In this instance, the back wall hole 29, through which the clothesline 40 is threaded, would be formed in the bar. Similarly, the compartment side walls 26, 28 can be defined by bars or rails, and thus need not be as tall as the clips 32, as long as the bars/rails defining the storage area 30 are sufficient to capture and contain the clips 32. These examples are merely illustrative.
Patent applications by Alan Sherman, Clayton, MO US