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Publication numberUS20050194488 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/049,989
Publication dateSep 8, 2005
Filing dateFeb 3, 2005
Priority dateFeb 3, 2004
Publication number049989, 11049989, US 2005/0194488 A1, US 2005/194488 A1, US 20050194488 A1, US 20050194488A1, US 2005194488 A1, US 2005194488A1, US-A1-20050194488, US-A1-2005194488, US2005/0194488A1, US2005/194488A1, US20050194488 A1, US20050194488A1, US2005194488 A1, US2005194488A1
InventorsPatrick Radle, Debra Weich
Original AssigneeRadle Patrick J., Weich Debra L.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Fish tape ratchet winder
US 20050194488 A1
Abstract
A winder assembly includes a lever member that drives a hub attached to the reel of a fish tape reel assembly to wind or unwind fish tape within the reel. The lever member can be a ratchet with a handle at one end and a rotatable drive lug at the other end that engages a socket in the hub. The hub has spokes with ends that removably engage the reel so that torque from the lever member is transferred to rotate the reel with respect to its handle. The spokes can have hooks received in openings in the reel to apply torque to the reel.
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Claims(20)
1. A ratchet winder for a fish tape reel that is rotatable about a center axis relative to its handle to wind or unwind fish tape within the reel, the winder comprising:
a lever member; and
a hub receiving the lever member to be rotatable by a ratchet movement of the lever member, wherein the hub engages the reel such that rotation of the hub rotates the reel about the center axis so as to wind or unwind the fish tape.
2. The winder of claim 1, wherein the lever member includes a ratchet head.
3. The winder of claim 2, wherein the ratchet is reversible.
4. The winder of claim 3, wherein the ratchet includes a locking ball.
5. The winder of claim 2, wherein the ratchet head includes a multi-sided rotatable lug.
6. The winder of claim 5, wherein the lug has a square cross-section.
7. The winder of claim 6, wherein the lug is essentially ⅜″ wide.
8. The winder of claim 1, wherein the lever member has a handle at a free end opposite and offset from an end engaging the hub.
9. The winder of claim 8, wherein the handle is spaced from the hub engaging end of the lever member in a direction along the center axis.
10. The winder of claim 1, wherein the hub has a socket opening to at least one side of the reel sized to receive a lug on the lever member.
11. The winder of claim 10, wherein the socket opening is essentially ⅜″ square.
12. The winder of claim 10, wherein the hub has two oppositely opening sockets.
13. The winder of claim 10, wherein the socket is defined by an insert molded steel member.
14. The winder of claim 1, wherein the hub defines a plurality of spokes that engage the reel.
15. The winder of claim 1, wherein the spokes define hooks extending at least in part in a direction along the center axis that are received by openings in the reel.
16. The winder of claim 16, wherein the hub engages the reel by inserting the hooks axially into the openings in the reel and then rotating the hub about the center axis until the hooks engage the reel.
17. The winder of claim 16, wherein the hub includes at least one locking feature tending to keep the hub engaged with the reel.
18. The winder of claim 17, wherein said at least one locking feature engages the reel in at least two locations.
19. The winder of claim 17, wherein said at least one locking feature is at least one spring tab formed integrally with at least one of the spokes.
20. The winder of claim 19, wherein said at least one spring tab includes a boss that engages a recess in the reel.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/541,347, filed Feb. 3, 2004.

STATEMENT OF FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates to fish tapes of the type used by electricians to pull wire through conduit or other spaces, and more particularly to a device for winding the fish tape onto a reel assembly.

2. Description of the Related Art

A fish tape is a stiff but bendable wire, flexible rod or flat tape typically used to install wire in conduit, through existing walls, or other tight spaces. Because typical electrical wire is very flexible, pushing it through long lengths of conduit is virtually impossible. Pulling wire along the desired path is much more effective. In order to pull the wire, a fish tape, being more rigid than electrical wire, is first pushed along the desired path. Once an end of the fish tape reaches the end of the desired path, the electrical wire is attached to the fish tape end, and the fish tape is retrieved which pulls the wire with it.

The fish tape is typically coiled inside of a reel assembly. For example U.S. Pat. No. 4,092,780 has a generally annular tape receiving chamber bounded at its periphery by a pair of opposed lips, which separate to permit winding and unwinding of the fish tape in the chamber. A handle having a tape passage is mounted between the lips, which provides passage of the tape out of and into the receiving chamber. This reel arrangement makes it somewhat difficult to wind and unwind the tape. Given the relative rigid and springy characteristics of the fish tape, coiling the fish tape can require significant force and can be time consuming and frustrating, particularly if the fish tape binds inside of the reel.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,361,021 discloses a fish tape device having a similar structure as in the above patent. To facilitate winding of the fish tape, this reel assembly is adapted to be driven by a power drill or driver. In particular, it has a large gear attached to the rotatable part of the reel assembly. Another small gear is rotatably mounted to a fixed part of the reel assembly by an axle extending to the exterior of the reel assembly that can be engaged by a socket of the power driver. Operating the driver thus turns the small gear which meshes with the larger gear for winding the fish tape within the reel assembly. While this greatly aids in the winding process it requires a power drill, which is large, expensive, needs external power and may not be readily available at the job site.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,224,038 discloses another solution to the winding difficulties associated with conventional fish tape reels discussed above. In this patent, the fish tape is contained in a cassette that loads easily into the main body of the reel. The cassette has its own handle for rotating the cassette relative to the reel body and thereby winding the tape. While this design provides significant benefits over conventional fish tape reels, the cassette feature adds expense and is generally designed for shorter length fish tape.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a ratchet winder for a fish tape reel that is rotatable about a center axis relative to its handle to wind or unwind fish tape within the reel. The winder includes a lever member and a hub. The hub receives the lever member so that it can be ratcheted by the lever member. The hub engages the reel such that rotation of the hub rotates the reel about the center axis so as to wind or unwind the fish tape.

Preferably, wherein the lever member has a curved or offset handle at a free end opposite a ratchet head. The ratchet head can have a reversible locking ball type rotatable lug, preferably being multisided to readily transfer torque to a correspondingly shaped socket at the center of the hub. The lug and socket are preferably square in cross-section and of a standard ⅜″ nominal size. The socket can open to one side of the reel. Or, a through socket or double blind socket can open to both sides of the reel to lever to be attached to either side of the reel, and thereby allow for both left and right hand operation. Preferably, one (or two) steel members form the sockets and can be insert molded integral with a plastic hub.

The hub can have a plurality of spokes, for example three equi-angularly spaced spokes, that engage the reel. The spokes can be formed with L-shaped hooks extending at least in part in an axial direction. The hooks are received by openings in the reel. The hub engages the reel by inserting the hooks axially into the openings in the reel and then rotating the hub about the center axis until the hooks engage the reel. The hub can have one, or preferably two or more, spring tab locking feature(s) tending to keep the hub engaged with the reel. Each spring tab includes a boss that engages a recess in the reel.

Thus, the lug and socket transfer torque applied to the handle of the lever member to the hub. The spokes and hooks in turn transfer the torque to the reel, which is designed to be rotatable about the center axis with respect to the handle of the reel assembly. The reel is coupled to the fish tape and as it is rotated it winds or unwinds the tape.

The advantages of the invention will be apparent from the detailed description and drawings. What follows are preferred embodiments of the present invention. To assess the full scope of the invention the claims should be referenced as the preferred embodiments are not intended as the only embodiments within the scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a fish tape reel assembly with the ratchet winder of the present invention, shown with a ratchet handle removed;

FIGS. 2-4 are left side, end and right side views thereof;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a three spoke hub of the ratchet winder;

FIGS. 6-8 are front, side and back views thereof;

FIGS. 9-12 are various views of the ratchet handle; and

FIGS. 13 and 14 illustrate another embodiment of the ratchet winder of the represent invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention pertains to a ratchet winder for a fish tape reel assembly. A preferred fish tape reel assembly with which the winder of the present invention can be used is disclosed in detail in co-pending U.S. provisional application Ser. Nos. 60/493,678 and 60/493,819, both filed Aug. 8, 2003. The disclosures of these applications are hereby incorporated by reference as though fully set forth herein. The specifics of the fish tape reel assembly will thus not be discussed in detail herein.

The drawings referenced herein illustrate a preferred version of a ratchet winder 20 for a fish tape reel assembly 22. The ratchet winder 20 includes a winder hub 24 and a ratchet lever 26. Referring to FIGS. 9-12, the ratchet lever 26 is preferably an elongated metal or hard plastic body having a ratchet head 28 and a handle grip 30. The grip 30 is offset axially from the ratchet head 28 by an angled midsection 32, as shown in FIG. 10. This offset spaces the grip 30 from the reel assembly 22 to allow room for the operators fingers. The grip 30 is preferably a soft, tactile material formed into an ergonomic shape for being held in a person's palm.

The ratchet head 28 has a rotatable multi-sided lug 34, preferably square in cross-section and of a standard ratchet wrench size, such as ⅜″ or ˝″. The ratchet head 28 includes a conventional ratcheting mechanism, such as a gear and pawl arrangement, to permit the lug to apply rotate with the ratchet lever 26 in one rotational direction (so as to apply torque) and then be overrun in the opposite rotational direction (so as not to apply torque). The rotational direction of torque can be reversed using a selector switch 36. A spring loaded locking ball 38 protrudes from one side of the lug 34 to lock it into a socket 40 of the winder hub 24. A release button 42 relieves the spring force on the ball 38 so that it can be moved inwardly and clear the detent (not shown) in the socket 40.

Referring now to FIGS. 5-8, the winder hub 24 has three spokes 50A-50C extending radially outward and equally spaced about a center axis 52. The spacing of the spokes is preferably large enough to allow room for a hand to fit therebetween so that they can grasp the grips 53 (see FIG. 1) along the inner periphery of the reel assembly 22. The middle the winder hub 24 defines a cylindrical center opening 54, which is gusseted for strength and houses a socket insert 56. In one preferred form, the socket insert 56 is a metal, such as a suitable steel, for increased strength and the remainder of the winder hub 24 is plastic, such as a rigid ABS. The socket insert 56 is preferably insert molded integrally with the winder hub 24 so that the socket insert 56 will not rotate independent of the hub 24. The socket insert 56 preferably defines two sockets 58 and 59 sized to receive and engage without slipping the lug 34 of the ratchet lever 26. The two blind sockets 58 and 59 open to opposite sides of the reel assembly 22. This makes the device readily operated with either the left or right hand, by simply attaching the ratchet lever 26 at either socket 58 or 59. This same advantage could be achieved by using a single square hole extending all the way through the socket insert 56 or by using two separate socket inserts. As mentioned, the sockets 58 and 59 are preferably square in cross-section and of a standard socket dimension, such as ⅜″ or ˝″. It should be noted, however, that any multi-sided socket, for example a hex socket, or other coupling technique could be used.

Near the ends of each spoke 50A-50C is an L-shaped hook 60 formed as a molded part of the winder hub 24. Legs 62 of the hooks 60 extend axially and legs 64 extend radially, or in a plane perpendicular to legs 62. Legs 64 have an inner rounded edge 66. A spring tab 68 is formed in spoke 50A that is connected to the spoke 50A only along a living hinge 70. The spring tab 68 has a projection or boss 72 (see FIG. 8) designed to fit into a recess in the reel assembly 22, as described below.

Referring now to FIGS. 1-4, the ratchet winder 20 mounts to the reel assembly 22 as follows. The winder hub 24 is placed adjacent the right side (see FIG. 4) of the reel assembly 22 and the hooks 60 are inserted axially into oblong openings 80 in a reel section 82 of the reel assembly 22, which rotates relative to its handle 84 to wind and unwind the fish tape (not shown). The winder hub 24 is then rotated counter-clockwise about the center axis 52, approximately 5 degrees, until the hooks 60 engage the reel 82, that is until the axial legs 62 abut the left edges of the openings 80 and the other legs 64 are located behind the wall of the reel 82 such that they would interfere with the winder hub 24 being pulled straight away from the reel assembly 22. In this position, the winder 24 and the reel assembly 22 is centered on the center axis 52. The spring tab 68 will “lock” the two parts in this position, by engagement of the boss 72 in a recess (not shown) for fastening the two halves of the reel 82 together.

In this position, the ratchet lever 26 can be coupled to the winder hub by fitting the lug 34 into either of the sockets 58 or 59. And, with the selector switch 36 (see FIG. 11) in the proper position, the ratchet lever 26 can be grasped by the grip 30 and pivoted back and forth while the reel assembly 22 is supported by grasping its handle 84 with the other hand. When set to wind, pivoting the ratchet lever 26 counter-clockwise will apply a counter-clockwise torque to the winder hub 24 and then to the reel 82. The fish tape is connected to the reel 82 and will thereby be wound on the reel 82 as it is rotated counter-clockwise. Pivoting the ratchet lever 26 clockwise will overrun the ratchet mechanism so that essentially no torque is applied to the winder hub 24 or the reel 82 (in either the wind or unwind directions). This ratcheting action is thus continued until the desired amount of fish tape has been wound. It should be noted that by changing the position of selector 36, the winder 22 can be used to unwind the fish tape. In this case, the ratchet lever 26 applies the torque when moved in the clockwise direction and overruns the ratchet mechanism when moved in counter-clockwise. Unwinding the fish tape usually requires less torque such that the winder 20 can be held attached to the reel assembly 22 by the spring tab 68. However, the hooks could be modified so that the legs 64 could extend on both sides of the axial legs 62 so that they would overlap the wall of the reel 82 at the right side of the openings 80.

FIGS. 13 and 14 illustrate another embodiment of the ratchet winder 20′ that is similar to the aforementioned embodiment. The ratchet winder 20′ has a hub 24′ with a socket insert 56′ like described above. Its three spokes 50A′-50C′ are arcuate or curvy and thus give this embodiment a different aesthetic appearance, and also increase the clearance for grasping the inner grips 53 of the reel assembly 22. Like the previously described embodiment, the ends of each spoke 50A′-50C′ have a hook 60′ feature with axial legs 62′ and radial legs 64′, which have a D-shape in this case. Two of the spokes 50B′ and 50C′ have spring tabs 68′ that can flex along living hinges 70′ and have bosses (not shown in FIGS. 13 and 14, but see FIG. 8) that fit into recesses in the reel assembly 22, as described above. The additional spring tab in this embodiment provides a second locking attachment point that better resists separation of the winder 20′ from the reel assembly 22, particularly when torque is not applied to the winder 20′ such that the hooks 60′ are not fully engaging the reel assembly 22. Other than the two spring tabs and the D-shape of the hooks, the ratchet winder 20′ mounts to the reel assembly 22 and is operated using the ratchet lever 26 in the same way as described above with respect to the first embodiment.

It should be appreciated that merely preferred embodiments of the invention have been described above. For example, while the ratchet mechanism is shown and described herein to be part of the lever member, it could instead be part of the winder hub so that a simple straight (or offset) lever member could be used to turn the winder. Moreover, it should be noted that the winder device of the present invention could also be used to wind and/or unwind to and from the reel without any ratchet mechanism. These and many other modifications and variations to the preferred embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Therefore, the invention should not be limited to the described embodiments. To ascertain the full scope of the invention, the following claims should be referenced.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7044415 *Feb 12, 2004May 16, 2006Actuant CorporationFish tape winder insert
US8496229 *Feb 23, 2012Jul 30, 2013Jonathon A. MayhallPowered fish tape
Classifications
U.S. Classification242/395
International ClassificationB65H75/40
Cooperative ClassificationB65H75/406, B65H2701/376, B65H2402/412
European ClassificationB65H75/40B
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 6, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: ACTUANT CORPORATION, WISCONSIN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:RADLE, PATRICK J.;WEICH, DEBRA L.;REEL/FRAME:016201/0278;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050429 TO 20050502