US 20050194488 A1
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.
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.
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This application claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/541,347, filed Feb. 3, 2004.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Referring now to
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
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.