BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The invention relates to a device for holding a roll of paper towels on a horizontal surface so that the paper towels can be dispensed efficiently and maintained neatly.
2. Description of the Related Art
Paper towels typically are wound onto a hollow cylindrical cardboard core that has an inside diameter of about 4 cm and a length of about 28 cm. An elongate strip of the paper towels is perforated, typically at 28 cm intervals, and is wound around the core. Thus, rectangular towels can be torn from the roll and used for a variety of household cleaning, drying and wiping chores.
Rolls of paper towels commonly are used in kitchens, and are stored and employed most frequently near a kitchen sink. Additionally, most households prefer to maintain the roll of paper towels in a neat and orderly fashion to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the kitchen. Accordingly, devices are widely employed for storing rolls of paper towels in a manner than enables rectangular sections of the paper towels to be separated from the roll as needed.
Households periodically will want to access paper towels at a location other than a location adjacent the sink. For example, it may be necessary to employ paper towels on a kitchen island where food is being prepared, at a dining counter in a kitchen or at other locations. Additionally, there may be instances where a household will want a kitchen to be especially attractive, and hence will not want the roll of paper towels to be present at all.
Some paper towel holders have a mounting panel and two end panels. The mounting panel has a length approximately equal to the length of the roll of paper towels and the end panels extend perpendicularly from the mounting panel. The end panels each include a central aperture configured to receive a spindle. Paper towel holders of this type are employed by permanently securing the mounting panel to an underside of a cabinet or to a wall so that the end panels project away from the cabinet or wall. The roll of paper towels is positioned between end panels with the central aperture through the core of the roll of paper towels aligned with the apertures through the end panels of the paper towel holder. The spindle then is passed through the first end panel, through the core of the roll of paper towels and then through the second end panel. Thus, the roll of paper towels is rotationally mounted under a cabinet or on a wall, and typically near a sink. This type of prior art paper towel holder functions well. However, many households would prefer not to mount a paper towel holder permanently to a cabinet or wall. Additionally, paper towel holders of this type do not permit the roll of paper towels to be moved from one location to another in a kitchen. Furthermore, paper towel holders of this type do not permit the paper towel holder to be removed from view.
Some paper towel holders are configured to mount vertically on a horizontal surface of a kitchen counter. These paper towel holders typically include a horizontal base with a diameter approximately equal to the diameter of a full roll of paper towels. A spindle projects centrally up from the base and is cross-sectionally dimensioned to telescope into the hollow core of the roll of paper towels. A simple paper towel holder of this type has two drawbacks. First, the free end of the roll of paper towels is likely to unwind partly from the roll and will provide an unsightly appearance. Additionally, forces exerted to tear a paper towel from the roll can tip the entire paper towel holder. The tipping of such a paper towel holder can damage glassware or other fragile items that might be on a kitchen counter. Additionally, such tipping presents an annoyance and inconvenience to the person working in the kitchen.
Several attempts have been made to prevent the above-described paper towel holder from tipping in response to forces generated during the separation of a paper towel from the roll. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,297,750 shows a paper towel holder with a plurality of suction cups mounted to the lower face of the base. Each suction cup includes a downwardly concave surface that can be pressed downwardly against a horizontal surface on a kitchen counter. These downward forces will urge air out from the volume beneath the suction cup. The suction cup then will resiliently return toward its initial position and create a low pressure region beneath each suction cup. The low pressure tends to hold the paper towel holder in position on the kitchen counter. However, a paper towel holder of this type is difficult to move for those situations when it is desired to have the paper towels at a different location in the kitchen.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,405,973 shows a paper towel holder with a single large suction cup mounted to the lower face of the base. The suction cup includes a downwardly concave surface that can be placed on the horizontal surface of the kitchen counter. The entire holder is then pushed down so that air initially trapped beneath the suction cup is urged outwardly. The suction cup then will resiliently return slightly toward its original position, and hence will create a low pressure region beneath the suction cup that holds a paper towel holder in place, in much the same manner as in U.S. Pat. No. 5,297,750. The suction cup of U.S. Pat. No. 6,405,973 also includes an upwardly projecting tab at an outer periphery of the suction cup. The tab can be gripped between a thumb and forefinger and lifted up to release the suction force. Thus, the towel holder can be moved. The towel holder shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,405,973 also includes a side bar that extends parallel to the central spindle. The side bar is intended to minimize the unsightly unwinding of the free end of the roll of paper towels. The towel holder shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,405,973 can be difficult to release from the supporting surface when the roll of paper towels is full or nearly full. In particular, the tab is very near the outer periphery of the roll of paper towels and hence can be difficult to grip conveniently. Furthermore, the tab projecting up through the base of the paper towel holder shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,405,973 is an obtrusive appendage to an otherwise streamlined configuration. Additionally, the side bar shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,405,973 is effective for neatly holding the free end of the roll of paper towels when the roll is full. However, the side bar is less effective when the roll of paper towels is partly depleted. Additionally, the device shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,405,973 requires the inconvenient downward pushing on the device to activate the suction mechanism. The holder shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,405,973 would not work well if the user did not push the entire holder down sufficiently or if the user forgot to push the holder down.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,012,007 shows a suction-mounted paper towel holder that does not require the downward pushing of the entire holder to activate the suction mechanism. Rather, the spindle of the device shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,012,007 includes a movable section that is attached to the suction cup. The movable section can be rotated and cooperates with a helical cam surface to pull the center of the suction cup up. This upward movement of the center part of the suction cup creates a low pressure that holds the suction cup in place. The suction forces can be released by rotating the movable member in the opposite direction to lower the center of the suction cup. The required rotation of the movable member to activate the suction cup is an inconvenience.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,076,527 shows a suction device that can be adapted to a plurality of different articles that require secure retention on a horizontal surface, but also require movement periodically. In particular, U.S. Pat. No. 5,076,527 provides a downwardly concave suction device mounted to the underside of the article that requires support. The suction device includes at least one aperture at a central position for providing air communication to the concave region beneath the suction device. The article that requires support is movably mounted relative to the suction device between a lower position where the article blocks the aperture through the suction device and an upper position where the article opens the aperture. This device is employed by mounting the concave face of the suction device on the horizontal surface and then pushing the article down. The downward movement simultaneous closes the aperture in the suction device and forces air transversely out of the suction device. The suction device then will resiliently return toward an undeflected condition, but will remain in close contact with the article that is being supported. Hence, the aperture through the suction device remains closed and a low pressure is created beneath the suction device to hold the article securely on the supporting surface. The article can be moved merely by lifting the article up relative to the suction device. This upward movement of the article opens the aperture through the suction device and releases the suction force that held the article in place. The device shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,076,527 works well for those types of articles that are conveniently lifted. However, some articles do not provide convenient region that can be gripped and lifted to release a suction force. Additionally, the device shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,076,527 requires the inconvenient downward pushing on the device to activate the suction mechanism.
The downwardly concave suction devices shown in the above-described patents all are used in a condition where the resilient material of the suction cups is urging the entire device away from the supporting surface. Additionally, these suction devices will flex during each removal of a paper towel. These inherent resilient biasing forces of the suction devices when combined with the periodic flexing of the suction devices will cause minute amounts of air to seep into the space between the supporting surface and the suction device. Hence, the supporting forces of the suction devices will gradually weaken over time.
In view of the above, it is an object of the subject invention to provide a device for securely holding an object to a horizontal surface, such as a kitchen counter.
It is a particular object of the subject invention to provide a paper towel holder that will securely hold the roll of paper towels in a selected position on a horizontal surface.
It is another object of the subject invention to provide a paper towel holder that does not require a downward force to be activated.
It is a further object of the subject invention to provide a paper towel holder that can be moved easily from one location to another on a horizontal supporting surface.
It is still a further object of the subject invention to provide a paper towel holder that will neatly contain the free end of a roll of paper towels regardless of the number of paper towels that remain on the roll.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to a paper towel holder with a base having opposite top and bottom faces and an aperture extending continuously between the top and bottom faces. The base preferably is formed from a substantially rigid material, such as a molded synthetic resin. The bottom face of the base may be substantially concave. In a preferred embodiment, the base includes a generally planar top wall that includes the top face of the base. A generally cylindrical skirt may extend down from the top wall concentrically with the aperture.
The holder further includes a rigid generally tubular spindle that extends upwardly from the top face of the base. The tubular spindle preferably defines an outside cross-sectional dimension less than the inside cross-sectional dimension of a roll of paper towels. The tubular spindle further defines a length approximately equal to the typical length of a roll of paper towels. The tubular spindle includes a hollow interior extending continuously from the top end to the bottom end of the spindle. The hollow interior of the tubular spindle communicates with the aperture in the base of the paper towel holder.
The paper towel holder further includes a thin flexible disc with opposite top and bottom surfaces and a central aperture extending between the top and bottom surfaces. The disc includes an outer periphery that may substantially conform to the external dimensions of the base of the paper towel holder. The bottom face of the disc is substantially planar across a major portion of the surface regions extending from the outer periphery toward the central aperture. However, the bottom surface of the disc may include a small concave region close to and surrounding the central aperture. The upper surface of the disc is substantially planar or slightly convex at locations extending inwardly from the outer periphery of the disc. Any such slightly convex configuration for the upper surface of the disc is attributable to a slightly greater thickening of the disc at locations closer to the central aperture through the disc. A generally cylindrical collar projects upwardly from the upper surface of the disc at locations near the central aperture through the disc. The collar has a greater thickness than parts of the disc closer to the outer periphery. Hence, the collar is at least somewhat rigid. The extreme upper end of the collar preferably is substantially planar and circularly generated. A valve seat is defined between the collar and the central aperture. The upper surface of the disc may further include a short frustum-shaped section surrounding the collar.
Portions of the upper surface of the disc surrounding the mounting collar are securely affixed to the lower face of the base so that the central aperture through the disc communicates with the central aperture through the base and with the hollow center of the tubular spindle. Portions of the disc extending a substantial part of the distance inwardly from the outer periphery toward the collar are sufficiently thin to exhibit flexibility in response to forces exerted on the disc. Additionally, the substantially planar lower surface of the disc preferably is very smooth to provide good surface-to-surface contact with a smooth supporting surface, such as the supporting surface of a kitchen countertop.
The paper towel holder further includes an elongated valve stem having opposite top and bottom ends. The valve stem is disposed slidably in the tubular spindle for at least limited axial movement therein. A valve surface is defined at or near the bottom end of the valve stem and is configured for sealing engagement with the valve seat on the disc when the valve stem is in its lower position relative to the tubular spindle of the paper towel holder. However, the valve surface of the valve stem is spaced above the valve seat on the disc when the valve stem is in its upper position. The top end of the valve stem preferably is disposed above the top end of the tubular spindle to facilitate manual gripping and movement of the valve stem relative to the tubular spindle.
The paper towel holder may further include a towel stop hingedly mounted to the base and biased into a position toward the tubular spindle.
The paper towel holder is employed by rotating the stop away from the tubular spindle and then telescoping a roll of paper towels over the tubular spindle. The paper towel stop then is permitted to move resiliently toward the outer layer of paper towels on the roll so that the towel stop engages at least part of the outer layer for holding the outer layer of paper towels closely against inner layers, and thereby preventing an unsightly unwinding of paper towels from the roll. The assembly of the paper towel holder and a roll of paper towels then is merely supported on a generally horizontal supporting surface, such as a kitchen countertop. In this position, the lower surface of the disc assumes its natural substantially flat state across a major portion of the bottom surface of the flat disc. Thus, the bottom surface of the flat disc is disposed substantially in face-to-face contact with the supporting surface. In this condition, there is no active gripping force between any part of the paper towel holder and the supporting surface. As a result, a horizontal force exerted on the paper towel holder may permit the paper towel holder to slide horizontally on the supporting surface.
Paper towels can be removed from the paper towel holder merely by pulling the free end of the roll of paper towels generally horizontally and then pulling the paper towels downwardly to sever a towel or a plurality of towels from the remainder of the roll along a perforation line. Forces generated by pulling on the paper towels are in a direction that could tend to tip the paper towel holder. However, such forces will not affect the position of the valve stem relative to the disc. Hence, the valve surface of the valve stem will remain in sealing contact with the valve seat of the disc. As a result, a slight tipping or lifting of the paper towel holder will cause the base to tilt or lift and will elevate the center portion of the flexible disc upwardly relative to the supporting surface. However, outer peripheral regions of the disc are very flexible, and hence will remain in contact with the supporting surface. Consequently the volume beneath the flexible disc will increase without directing additional air into the volume beneath the disc. Accordingly, a low pressure condition will exist beneath the disc, and the lower pressure will resist and/or prevent the tipping or lifting of the paper towel holder. Accordingly, the paper towel holder is highly stable.
The paper towel holder can be moved readily from one location to another merely by gripping the valve stem at a location adjacent the top end of the tubular spindle and slightly above the top end of the roll of paper towels mounted on the paper towel holder. The valve stem then is lifted to separate the valve face of the valve stem from the valve seat of the disc. Accordingly, the region of the paper towel holder beneath the disc is placed in communication with the ambient air pressure in areas between the tubular spindle and the valve stem. Thus, there is no low pressure region pulling the paper towel holder down, and the paper towel holder can be lifted easily for repositioning.