US 20060138792 A1
A tool includes different tool heads, and an angularly adjustable handle. The angular adjustability allows better ergonomic body posture during use, thus reducing stress, injury and pain, and also allows multiple functions for each tool. The handle comfortably receives a user's hand, with the user's thumb or forefinger located at a release button. The release button is conveniently located on the handle, is easily actuated and is sized to be big enough to be actuated by the end of a finger, but not big enough to be inadvertently actuated by the contact surface of a hand or finger(s) when the handle is being gripped. The release button is spring-biased and includes teeth that inter-engage with teeth on the tool head to latchingly hold a selected angular position, and potentially includes a resilient cover encasing the handle and the release button.
1. An adjustable tool comprising:
a handle connected to and adjustable relative to the head for adjustment around a pivot axis; and
a button mounted on the handle and configured to release and engage the head allowing adjustment and securing of the head to the handle in at least two different positions, the outer surface on the handle defining a continuous shape and including marginal surface material forming a button hole, the button being positioned in the button hole and having an outer end surface not extending beyond the continued shape of the handle, whereby a user can grip the handle at or around the button without fear of accidentally actuating the button.
2. The adjustable tool defined in
This application is a continuation of patent application Ser. No. 10/635,104, filed Aug. 6, 2003, entitled TOOL INCLUDING ADJUSTABLE HANDLE, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
The present invention relates to tools, and in particular relates to a tool having an adjustable handle adapted for positioning in different orientations for comfort, function, preference and ergonomics (to prevent stress and pain). The illustrated tools are hand tools such as for gardening and yard work, but the present inventive concepts are not believed to be limited to only such uses and tools.
Serious gardeners, landscapers, and outdoor yard workers want hand tools that are comfortable. They also want tools that are adjustable for individual preferences and for multiple functions, and further that are ergonomically designed to minimize stress and injury to arms, wrists, and hands. Many hand tools are not designed this way. For example, most hand trowels, cultivators and transplanters for gardening are designed so that the blade is in line with the handle. As a result, the worker must awkwardly bend his/her wrist and raise his/her elbow and upper arm when driving the blade into the ground. This causes the user's awkwardly-bent wrist and arm to position his/her bones, muscles, and tendons in a non-aligned and unnatural position, where the stress from using is unbalanced, poorly directed, and unhealthy. As a result, this can cause tendonitis and bursitis and can result in injury and pain in the arm, wrist, and hand. According to The American College of Rheumatology, “The most common cause of tendonitis and bursitis includes injury . . . due to bad posture, or uses of the affected limb in an awkward position.” Compounding this problem is the fact that many handles are not ergonomically designed for grasping, but instead are designed using traditional cylinder shapes and sizes that are not easily grasped, are not optimally suited to assist in holding onto the tool when driving the head into the ground or when wet, and are not designed for optimal ergonomic use.
Though optimal alignment and positioning of the wrist is important, the optimal handle position on a hand tool may vary for different users and/or for different jobs. However, it is not economical for the retailer to carry multiple versions of the same tool, nor for the homeowner to purchase a different tool for each job. Hence, it is desirable to provide a tool that can be adjusted to an optimal position to meet different user preferences, different user needs, and different jobs.
Though adjustability is important, so is the ease of adjustment. Any adjustment should preferably be easily made, so that the user does not have to struggle to accomplish it. Further, the adjustment preferably should not require separate parts and pieces, since the parts and pieces can get lost. Also, the adjustment should be able to be done without the need for other tools, and should not take much time, since the worker wants to get at his/her task, and not spend considerable “getting ready to get started” time. Another problem with hand tools, particularly those used in gardening and yard work, is that the tools quickly become dirty and corroded, with dirt and debris being packed into crevices and clearances needed for allowing the adjustment.
In the past, adjustable tools have been designed with “extra-ordinary” measures and/or secondary safety features to ensure that the adjustment mechanism on the tool is not inadvertently actuated and adjusted while the tool is being used. For example, see the two exemplary adjustable tools disclosed in Exhibits A and B in the attached Information Disclosure Statement, the two tools being made by a very well known, major tool manufacturer and sold through major retail stores in the United States, such that they are made by those skilled in the art of tool design, one tool of which includes a raised ridge around an actuator button and the other of which includes a raised actuator button. This appears to be in response to the belief that the adjustment mechanism could not be located where the tool was to be gripped (under the hand or fingers) in fear of the inadvertent actuation of the adjustment mechanism. However, by virtue of the “extraordinary” measures and/or safety features, adjustment (i.e. actuation of the adjustment mechanism) on adjustable tools has been unnecessarily complex and/or cumbersome or located in a less preferred area from a use or design standpoint. Further, it has lead to unnecessary expense and cost on parts and components in the adjustment mechanisms of the adjustable tools. Improvements are desired in adjustable tools having simplified, more-easily actuated mechanisms . . . but that are unlikely to be inadvertently or accidentally actuated.
It is potentially important to note a difference between “tool handle applications” and “non-tool applications”, because “non-tool applications” typically do not have the same requirements, do not involve extended gripping, nor do they present the same environmental concerns, as “tool handle applications”. The reasons are many and varied. For example, “handled tools” (tools with a handle) are designed to be grasped for a period of time to perform a task where “non-tools” are not. Also, stresses and forces on “handled tools” are potentially larger or subject to high loading peaks (and/or abuse by the user), since tools are specifically intended to do work . . . such as by communicating forces through the tool from an operator to the work product. Further, inadvertent actuation of the adjustment mechanism in a “handled tool” is much more likely and potentially quite undesirable, since a user's hand is often at or around the actuation button (i.e. the user is gripping the tool's handle). This is not true for “non-tool applications”, where a person adjusting the “non-tool” item is not likely (or at least much less likely) to have their hand around the “active” area where the adjustment mechanism is located. It is noted that this distinction between “tool handle applications” and “non-tool applications” is particularly emphasized where the “non-tool application” is intended for use in a clean environment or an environment where stresses are substantially below that likely to be experienced in a tool or where stresses are more predictable in size and direction. For this reason, I argue strongly that it is not proper to ignore (nor de-emphasize) the intended environment of a particular adjustable joint design. By way of example, I note Chuang U.S. Pat. No. 5,265,969 which discloses an angularly adjustable joint noted for use on a collapsible chair (see column 1, line 6). I also note Tung U.S. Pat. No. 6,364,562 which discloses a tiltable sunshade (i.e., umbrella-like structure) having a jointed support tube. I interpret these two patents as being examples of “non-tool applications”, where the stresses and the intended environments are so different as to place them in a totally different class of goods, i.e., a class that is non-analogous. Further, in my opinion, they are not only non-analogous, they are not within a scope of where a person of ordinary skill, including those skilled in the art such as those who designed the adjustable tools disclosed in Exhibits A and B in the attached Information Disclosure Statement, would look to solutions for problems associated with design of a tool. Further, I would argue that any “solutions” that they present are not applicable, because a different problem is being solved . . . due in large part to tools with handles being designed to be gripped for an extended period of time while performing a task, the different environment and different stress problems (and different likelihood of abuse) being presented.
The tool industry is highly competitive, and accordingly, any tool design must be cost-competitive to manufacture and assemble, durable and long-lasting in use, and ergonomically designed for optimal user comfort for added appeal.
Accordingly, a hand tool is desired solving the aforementioned problems, and having the aforementioned advantages.
One aspect of the present invention includes an adjustable tool having a head, a handle connected to and adjustable relative to the head for adjustment around a pivot axis, and a button mounted on the handle. The button is configured to release and engage the head to allow easy adjustment and securing of the head to the handle in at least two different positions. The outer surface on the handle defines a continuous shape and includes marginal surface material forming a button hole, and the button is positioned in the button hole and has an outer end surface not extending beyond the continued shape of the handle. By this arrangement a user can grip the handle at or around the button without fear of accidentally actuating the button
It is an object of the present invention to provide an adjustable tool where the button is positioned on the handle in an immediately accessible area, such as in an “active” area where a person grips the handle, but where the button and surrounding handle surface are configured and arranged so that, despite being in the “active” area, the button is not inadvertently depressed and actuated. It was observed during the development of the current invention that adjustment actuators on tool handles of prior art were either not located where the tool could be held (i.e. under hand or fingers) or were raised or protected in such a way that the handle would not be grasped over the adjustment actuator. After initially limiting my design direction in the same way, I eventually discovered during the development of the current invention that the premise on which that was done, to not inadvertently actuate the adjustment mechanism, was incorrect. The current invention takes into account that the contact surface area of a hand or finger(s) when a handle is gripped is greater than the surface area of the end of a finger. Thus, the current invention claims to be the first to locate the adjustment actuator on a handle where it can be gripped, by sizing the adjustment actuator on the handle great enough to be activated by the end of a finger, but small enough not to be inadvertently actuated by the contact area of a hand or finger when gripping the handle.
It is important to note that because of the widespread acceptance in the tool industry of the false past premise (i.e. the false premise that the actuator can not be placed in the gripping area), Applicant strongly believes that it is not proper to assume that one of ordinary skill in the art would look outside of actuators for “tool handle applications” nor would consider actuators of “non-tool applications”. Clear evidence of this is seen when viewing prior art of “tool handle applications” with adjustment actuators, where the present invention can not be found and in fact where the prior art teaches away from the present invention by protecting, raising and locating actuators that go so far as to prevent gripping at the actuator. For example, we again refer to the two exemplary adjustable tools disclosed in Exhibits A and B in the attached Information Disclosure Statement, the two tools being made by a very well known, major tool manufacturer, and sold through major retail stores in the United States, such that they are made by those skilled in the art of tool design, one tool of which includes a raised ridge around an actuator button and the other of which includes a raised actuator button. Therefore, if the present invention can not be found among “tool handle applications” and if “tool handle applications” even teach away from the present invention that prevents gripping at the actuator, then it can be viewed that the current invention is not obvious to one skilled in the art (one involved with the design of “tool handle applications” such as those who designed the tools in Exhibits A and B in the attached Information Disclosure Statement).
Concurrently, the location of the present button on the present handle is believed to be novel and patentable because it is located on the handle in an area that is meant to be gripped while the tool is in use. I spent significant time trying to design away from this location and position, until I realized the advantages and usefulness at this location . . . and realized that it did not have to result in inadvertent and/or accidental release of the adjustment mechanism. I observed that existing adjustable tool handle designs reflected my initial assumption that locating the button in an area to be gripped would cause inadvertent adjustment of the tool. These existing designs all locate the adjustment actuator away from where the tool can be gripped and/or prevent gripping at the actuator by disrupting the shape of the handle or raising it above the handle surface, which teaches away from my invention. But what I discovered, and which I claim to be novel, is that the contact surface area of the hand or finger(s) when a handle is being gripped is significantly more than the surface area of the end of a finger. Thus, I reasoned and tested to be true, that the button head area could be sized to be activated by the end of a finger, but not be large enough to inadvertently be activated by the contact surface area of the hand or finger(s) when the tool is being gripped. Thus, I believe that my invention is the first to locate the adjustment actuator on a handle where it can be gripped, such as by sizing the adjustment actuator on the handle great enough to be actuated by the end of a finger, but small enough not to be actuated by the contact area of a hand or finger when gripping the handle.
Another reason to not consider “non-tool applications” prior art is the contrasting functions and environments of “tool handle applications” and “non-tool applications” which obviously present different requirements. Designing tools with handles take into being gripped for extended periods of time and thus recognize the comfort to the users' hands, wrists and arm, whereas those are not concerns when designing “non-tool” items. Also, tools are designed to do work, such as prying, digging, and the like. Thus, there are significant forces and stresses that the tools must withstand as part of their environment. Contrastingly, non-tool environments and applications do not have the same requirements, nor do they experience the same environmental concerns (such as the effect on a user's hand, wrist and arm) in terms of the effects of inadvertent actuation of the adjustment mechanism on an adjustable tool.
Another aspect of the present invention includes a garden hand tool with an angular adjustable handle to provide for better ergonomic hand, wrist and arm positions. Heads of conventional garden hand tools extend substantially in-line with the handles. The present invention provides for the angular adjustment of the handle for the head to extend at a downward angle (say 15° to 30°) which puts the wrist in a more natural position, thus providing a much better ergonomic condition and reducing stress on the wrist, hand and arm.
It is also an object of the present invention to provide a tool that is easily and readily adjustable, so that the tool's working end can be used for many different functions. For example, a tine can be arranged parallel a handle for use as a fork, or can be arranged at an angle to be useful by dragging as a cultivator. Also, for example, a trowel can be arranged parallel a handle for use as a shovel-like digger, or can be arranged at an angle for use as a V-hoe. Also, for example, a transplanter blade can be arranged parallel a handle for transplanting, or arranged at an angle for bulb planting. In each of these different uses, the handle can be positioned at an ergonomic angle to reduce stress on a user's wrist and forearm.
These and other aspects, objects, and features of the present invention will be understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art upon studying the following specification, claims, and appended drawings.
A hand tool 30 (
The trowel/V-hoe tool head 31 (
The handle-connected end 44 includes a stem 45 and a disk-shaped flange 46 with flat sides that extend parallel the stem 45, and that define a thickness. The disk-shaped flange 46 has a thickness and includes an arcuate edge flange 47 that comprises about 20%-25% of its thickness, a row of teeth 36 that form about 50%-60% of the thickness along an outer edge on one side of the flange 46, and an arcuate channel 48 forming about 20%-25% of the thickness along an outer edge of the other side of the disk-shaped flange 46 opposite the teeth 36. The illustrated teeth 36 have an angled outer corner surface 49 so that the mating teeth 35 on the release button 33 do not have to move transversely as great of a distance in order to disengage the teeth 36. The illustrated teeth 36 are seven in number, although more or less can be used. In the illustrated teeth 36, one is located approximately at a center line of the tool head 31, two teeth 36 are located above the center tooth and four teeth are formed below the center tooth. However, it is contemplated that more or less teeth can be constructed, and further, that different shapes of teeth can be utilized.
The handle internal structure 38 (
The cover 37 (
The release button 33 (
The location of the button 33 is believed to be novel and patentable because it is located on the handle 32 in a forward area that is meant to be gripped while the tool is in use, and located in the recess 52 at a “grip location” formed by the configured outer surface of the handle meant for ergonomically receiving a person's hand. (See
To assemble the present construction, the release button 33 and spring 34 are arranged within the handle internal structure 38 and depressed sufficiently enough to allow the tool head 31 to be positioned. Thereafter, the pivot pin 64 is engaged in the holes 60, 62, and 61. If desired, the pivot pin can be frictionally, permanently press-fit into position. Alternatively, it is contemplated that the pin 64 can be made removable such as by providing a threaded end and screwdriver-receiving head. Thereafter, the cover 37 is pulled onto the handle internal structure 38, with the lip 70/71/72 being pulled into position on the enlarged section 54/56/57. This assembly allows manufactures an optimal sequence where one handle can be assembled to any one of several different tool heads, thus reducing inventory.
In use, an operator can press on the button cover area 77, which is aligned with the release button 33 to depress the release button and cause the teeth 35 on the release button to disengage from the teeth 36 on the tool head 31. This allows the tool head 31 to be angularly adjusted about pivot pin 64 until the ends of the channel 48 engage mating portions of the release button 33 to limit angular position. As shown in
A transplanter/bulb planter tool head 31A (
A cultivator/garden fork tool head 31B (
It is to be understood that variations and modifications can be made on the aforementioned structure without departing from the concepts of the present invention, and further it is to be understood that such concepts are intended to be covered by the following claims unless these claims by their language expressly state otherwise.