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Publication numberUS3356434 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateDec 5, 1967
Filing dateApr 5, 1966
Priority dateApr 5, 1966
Publication numberUS 3356434 A, US 3356434A, US-A-3356434, US3356434 A, US3356434A
InventorsTheodores James L
Original AssigneeTheodores James L
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Modular furniture
US 3356434 A
Abstract  available in
Previous page
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

D 5, 1 7 J. THEODORES 3,356,434

MODULAR FURNITURE Filed April 5, 1966 3 Sheets-Sheet 1 INVENTOR.


MODULAR FURNI TUR E Filed April 1966 f Sheets-Sheet 5 F 6. 4 F/ 6. 5 Eg 5 g g g g lln/ JAMES L. THEODORES /d K did/1412x1101 ATTORNEY 2 4 7 1' 29;, T 16 W M INVENTOR.

United States Patent 3,356,434 MODULAR FURNITURE James L. Theodores, Box 124, Yorktown Heights, N.Y. 10598 Filed Apr. 5, 1966, Ser. No. 540,346 2 Claims. (Cl. 312-250) ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE A modular furniture unit for afiixation to an abutment wall or to other furniture units, the furniture unit including support roller means to facilitate translatory movement, characterized by complemental connectors afiixed to the module and the abutment and vertical adjustment means. on the module shiftable to floor engaging and module lifting position, the noted shifting movement serving to lift the complemental connector of the modular unit upwardly into engagement with the complemental connector carried by the abutment, thereby to lift the support roller means from the floor, the unit being firmly affixed in position by the reactive force exerted against the floor through the vertical adjustment means and This invention relates to modular furniture and more particularly to mobile furniture units which may be selectively assembled to each other or in fixed relation to a support surface, such as a wall or bulkhead.

More particularly, this invention relates to an assembly comprising one or more self-supporting modular furniture I units which may be readily secured to a wall support or to other, similar furniture units, to arrive at a predetermined and fixedly positioned composite.

This invention further relates to an assembly including furniture units of the type described which may be readily mounted and demounted, and in which the modules are susceptible of individual use or of being attached to a bulkhead or wall structure, the units, when in attached condition, being positively fixed not only at the junction with the bulkhead but also at other portions, positively to prevent disorientation or movement of the device when w in fixed condition.

The invention relates still further to roller mounted furniture modules having locking means complemental to other locking means mounted either to a bulkhead or to a second furniture module. The locking means may be inter-engaged, preferably by a vertical, bodily movement of the module itself, such vertical movement, in addition, deactivating the rollers, casters or other means by which the modules are rendered portable.

In certain applications, as particularly exemplified in schools or like institutions, it is desirable to provide a great deal of flexibility as to the orientation of certain furniture components. Particularly in school science laboratories, it may be desired to have the laboratory units in a first orientation when the classroom is to be used for lecture purposes, and in a second and different orientation for seminars, for instance.

In accordance with present practice, laboratory work benches, particularly those connected to utilities for the provision of gas, compressed air, water and the like, are

customarily directly and permanently connected either to the wall or to the floor, to provide the necessary solid foundation which will assure that the work bench is not shifted relative to its desired position. The permanent aflixation of a science unit or bench, for instance, required careful planning, and once installed, it was necessary for the students to accommodate to the existing conditions rather than permitting the physical environment to be accommodated to the students.

Also, in accordance with present practice, it is considered necessary to coordinate room dimensions to the size of available science units. Additionally, as will be evident, the permanent installation of such units, involving the installation of fittings in concrete, floors, bulkheads or the like, involves considerable expense.

With the foregoing in mind, it is an object of the invention to provide modular furniture, and particularly modular furniture for use in a science classroom or the like, which may be selectively associated and disassociated from prefabricated fittings applied to the wall, bulkhead or the like, the units being readily shifted to any desired position;

A further object of the invention is the provision of a modular assembly of the type described wherein the units, when locked in a desired position, are substantially free from any tendency to move under the influence of inadvertent pressures exerted thereagainst.

Still a further object of the invention is the provision of modular units of the type described which may be selectively, rigidly assembled against a wall, bulkhead or the like, or removed therefrom and interconnected with other, similar modular units in a plurality of attached configurations.

To attain these objects, and such further objects as may appear herein or be hereinafter pointed out, I make reference to the accompanying drawings, forming a part hereof, in which:

FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of a series of modular units showing the units both in attached and unattached position with respect to each other and to a utility installation;

FIGURE 2 is a magnified horizontal section taken on the line 2-2 of FIGURE 1, showing a mechanism for attaching and detaching the modules;

FIGURE 3 is a vertical section taken on the line 3-3 of FIGURE 2; I

FIGURE 4 is a section taken on the line 44 of FIG- URE 2;

FIGURE 5 is a section taken on the line 55 of FIG- URE 2;

FIGURE 6 is a magnified side elevational view showing interlocking mechanism in accordance with the invention, in the open or unattached position thereof;

FIGURE 7 is a view similar to FIGURE 6, showing the mechanism in the locked condition thereof.

Referring now to the drawings, in accordance with the invention, a classroom or the like having a wall W and floor F, as shown in FIGURE 1, is provided with one or more prefabricated utility or like components 10. The components 1%, which are securely fastened to the Wall, include water outlets 11 and such other outlets as may be' desired in view of the nature of the laboratory or classroom. As examples of such other utilities may be illuminating gas, compressed air, hydrogen sulphide, etc. In the illustrated embodiment, the components 10 incorporate trough portions 12 connected in the usual manner to drain facilities.

For use either with the components 10 or separately therefrom are independent furniture modules 13 which may be selectively connected to the components 10 and/ or to other modules. In the illustrated embodiment, the

modules 13 comprise science work benches, it being understood that any desired furniture elements may be employed.

The modules 13 and the components are provided with attachment means in the form of independent, interlocking elements. For this purpose, at spaced points along the component 10, there are fixedly mounted a series of interlocking elements 14see FIGURES 6 and 7-which optionally but preferably may comprise aluminum extrusions which are cut to any desired length and mounted at spaced intervals along the component 10.

The element 14 includes an attachment leg 15 which 18 made fast to the component 10, and a downwardly directed locking finger 16, the inner face of the finger 16 including a downwardly and inwardly inclined locator cam surface 17. A bumper member 18, of rubber or like compressible elastomeric composition, is made fast on the outer face of the attachment leg 15.

The modules 13 are provided with complemental locking mechanisms adapted to interfit with the attachment means 15, securely to hold the modules against relative lateral movement with respect to the component 10.

The locking means 19 of the module 13 comprises an extended extrusion of aluminum or the like, and preferably runs substantially the entire length of the rear side 20 of the module. The locking means 19 has an attachment leg 21 which is made fast to the module and which includes an offset arm 22 extending laterally beyond the rear side 20 of the module.

At the outer or free end 23 of the arm 22, there is provided an upwardly directed complemental locking finger 24, arranged clampingly to be engaged with the downwardly directed locking finger 16 of the lock means 14. The finger 24 is provided with an inclined cam surface 25 of complemental slope to the cam 17 of the locking means 14.

As will be evident from a comparison of FIGURES 6 and 7, the fingers 16 and 24 may be interlocked by an upward relative movement of the locking means 19 with relation to the locking means 14.

I have discovered that a mere interlocking of an attachment mechanism of a module with an attachment mechanism mounted on a fixed unit, such as the component 10, will result in an unsatisfactory structure. Specifically, the portable module, if merely interlocked with the component, will transmit tremendous stresses to the interlocking mechanism, in the event that an impact is absorbed by the module. As will be readily recognized, such an impact is not infrequently experienced in a classroom or the like wherein students are hurrying to their positions. Other impacts, as for instance, from cleaning equipment, floor waxing equipment, supply carts, etc., are common and I have determined that a mere interlocking between a support surface and a module or between adjacent modules, while permitting the modules to remain portable, is an undesirable feature and is to be avoided.

Accordingly, there is next to be described a novel feature of the invention which simultaneously deprives the module of its portability and causes the inter-engagement of the locking mechanism. This interlocking mechanism is shown in detail in FIGURES 2 to 5. The mechanism is preferably applied at each corner of the module and since each mechanism is in all respects identical, a description of one such mechanism will suffice.

As shown in FIGURE 3 in solid line position, a conventional caster assembly 31 is fixed to the under-surface of the module adjacent the corners. The caster assemblies include the usual yoke 32 carrying a caster wheel or roller 33, rotatable on cross shaft 34, the opposed ends of said shaft being supported on the spaced legs of the yoke 32. The yoke 32 is mounted for rotation about a vertical axis in the usual manner, as by bearing assembly 35 interposed between the yoke and the caster bracket 36.

In proximate spaced relation to each caster assembly 31, there is disposed a lift mechanism 40 operable by the user bodily to lift the corner of the module ad acent the caster, thereby to clear the caster from the floor to the dot and dash position shown in FIGURE 3 and thus eliminate the functioning of the caster. I

The lift assembly includes stub shaft 41, which is horizontally disposed and rotatably mounted in spaced brackets 42, 43, made fast to the module. A short length 44 of the shaft projects laterally beyond the module, a ratchet wheel 45 being keyed to this extending part of the shaft. A lift lever 46 is rotatably mounted on the shaft, the lever including a bearing arm 47 having a cen' tral aperture or slot (not shown) which is rotatably mounted about the shaft. A spring pawl 48 is fixed to the upper surface of the lever and includes a depending tooth 49, FIGURE 5, which engages behind the teeth of the ratchet wheel 45.

From the foregoing description, it will be evident that a clockwise movement of the lever 46 will cause a com comitant clockwise rotation of the shaft 41, the lever being free to move or rotate about the shaft in a counter clockwise direction, as depicted in the views.

A holding ratchet '50 is keyed to the shaft 41 in spaced relation to the ratchet 45. A spring pawl 51 is pivotally mounted to the module in a recess 52 formed therein, the pawl being pivoted to a bracket 53 carried by the module. The pawl is spring urged downwardly against the ratchet by a biasing spring 54 which is disposed under tension between the spring seat 55 on the pawl and a retainer seat 56 on an extension of the bracket 53.

A release lever 57 forms a continuation of the pawl 51, the end portion of the lever 57 extending outwardly of the module through an aperture 58 formed in the module for this purpose.

It will be evident from a consideration of FIGURE 4 particularly, that the shaft 41 will be permitted, by the ratchet 50 and pawl 51, to rotate in -a clockwise direction but not in a counter-clockwise direction. Similarly, it will be apparent that by downwardly moving the release lever 57, the locking pawl 51 will be relieved of its connection with the ratchet 50 and the ratchet shaft will be thus freed for counter-clockwise movement.

The lift assembly incorporates a U bracket 60 having legs 61, 62, defining spaced, vertically aligned apertures 63, 64. There is further provided a foot portion 65, preferably of rubber, which has a generally cylindrical shaft 66 slidably mounted within the apertures 63, 64. A spring housing 67 is disposed within the bracket 60, a compression spring 68 being disposed within the housing surrounding the shank 66. The lower end 69 of the spring 68 is biased against leg 62 of the bracket, the upper end or convolute 70 of the spring bearing against a collar 71 which is made fast to the shank 66.

A lifting cam 72 is made fast to the shaft 41, the cam being disposed directly above the uppermost end 66a of the shank 66. The cam 72 is optionally but preferably generally oval in configuration and may incorporate a somewhat flattened end portion 73.

It will be seen from the foregoing that the spring 68 acts normally to press the foot portion 65 and the shank 66 upwardly to a position clear of the floor, as shown in solid lines, FIGURE 3, with the upper end 66a of the shank bearing against the under-surface of the cam.

The operation of the device is as follows:

In the normal or lowered position shown in solid lines in FIGURE 3, each module rests on its casters 31 and may be readily wheeled to any desired position. When it is desired to attach the module, for instance to one of the components 10, the module is wheeled to a position adjacent the component wherein the finger portion 25 of the locking means of the module is located as nearly as possible in alignment or, more accurately, slightly inwardly of the downwardly directed finger portion 16 of the locking means 14 of the component. The alignment aforesaid is facilitated by the provision of the compressible bumper member 18 which enables the parts to be moved together without likelihood of damage to, or burring of, the interlocking extrusions.

When the module is aligned in the manner noted, the operator applies pressure with his foot against the lever 46, causing a clockwise rotation of the shaft 41. It will be understood that since the weight of the module may be considerable, it is desirable to employ the lever in a manner to make the greatest possible use of the mechanical advantage of such lever. Thus, the lever may be successively depressed a few degrees and then elevated with the toe, each depressing movement causing a rotation of the shaft and each lifting movement merely realigning the lever. Optionally, spring means for realigning the lever may be provided.

As the shaft 41 is rotated, the holding ratchet and pawl 50 and 51, respectively, will maintain the shaft in its clockwisely rotated position against counter-rotation. At the same time, the cam member 72, which is afiixed to the shaft, will progressively force, by its engagement with the follower 66a of the shank 66, the shank to move downwardly, carrying the foot portion 65 progressively closer to the floor F.

Further pumping movements on the lever will cause the foot portion to be pressed into engagement with the floor, lifting the corner of the module bodily substantially to the position shown in dot and dash lines, FIGURE 3. The bodily lifting movement aforesaid will cause the locking fingers 16 and 25 to shift from the released position shown in FIGURE 6 to the locked position shown in FIGURE 7. The opposed cam surfaces 17 and 25 will automatically cause the units to compensate for any initial misalignment of the module with respect to the component.

It will be understood that after the lift mechanisms adjacent the side 20 of the module have ben actuated, the other lift mechanisms are preferably also actuated so as to free all the casters from any connection with the floor.

It will be apparent that the connection achieved will be far more secure than would be the case if the module were supported on its casters and one side of the module were merely connected by some form of locking means to a support surface or component. When positioned in the manner noted, accidental impact against the unit will not stress the locking component since the unit has already been rendered substantially immovable by its being supported on the foot portions 65.

To release the modules from their locked position, it is merely necessary to depress the releasing lever 57, permitting a counter-clockwise rotation of the shaft 41. The releasing operation, and particularly the freeing of the pawl 51 from its connection with gear 50, may be facilitated by initially applying a downward pressure on the lift lever 46, to relieve the pressure from the pawl 51, and then lifting the pawl from its engaged position in the ratchet.

Alternatively, the unit may be lowered by a continued pumping of lift lever 46 without operation of the release lever 57, to bring a shallower portion of the reverse side of cam 72 into contact with follower 66a. Where floor irregularities or high spots may prevent a complete rotation of cam 72, use must be made of lever 57.

In order to prevent any rapid dropping of the unit, it is desirable that the lever 57 be retained in depressed condition and the downward movement be controlled by slowly permitting an upward movement of the lift lever From the foregoing description, it will be readily recognized that by attaching sections of locking elements 14, similar to the elements 14 mounted to the component 10, to side portions of the modules, an interlocking of the modules to each other can be achieved. In a like manner, the utility of the device may be enhanced by providing on another side of the modules, a locking extrusion 19, which is similar to the extrusion 19, which is applied to the rear face 20 of the modules.

The units may be connected in complete alignment or may be connected in slightly offset position one with respect to the other, as will be evident from the foregoing disclosure.

While the invention is illustrated as applied to work benches in a science laboratory, it will be readily recognized that the same is not limited to such employment.

In a similar vein, while the specific lift mechanism for clearing the casters from the floor and effecting the desired connection between the parts has been illustrated for purposes of complying with statutory requirements, the invention is to be broadly construed, within the scope of the appended claims, to cover other forms of lift mechanisms. For instance, it is also possible to effect the desired connection by lowering a side or sides of the modules onto upwardly directed locking mechanism formed on the stationary component, so that a downward movement of the unit effects both the locking connection and the release of the casters from their supporting function.

Having thus described the invention and illustrated its use, what is claimed as new and is desired to be secured by Letters Patent is:

1. A furniture assembly comprising a furniture module, a first connector member supported on said module in horizontal position adjacent a side of said module, said connector member including an upwardly extending lock portion, an abutment member to which said module may be removably secured, said abutment member having fixed thereto a second horizontally directed connector member at a predetermined fixed height above a floor, said second member having a downwardly directed lock portion, complemental cam portions on said first and second locking members including slope components directed toward said abutment, a vertical upward movement of said first connector member with respect to said second connector member being effective to inter-engage said cam portions and said lock portions and align and secure the latter against relative horizontal movement, support roller means disposed at the corner of said module for movably supporting said module for translatory movement across a floor surface, and vertical adjustment means including foot portions for simultaneously lifting said roller means clear of the floor and said first connector member into inter-engaged position with said second connector member whereby said module is fixed in position by a force component reacting through said foot portions against said floor and upwardly stressing said first against said second connector member.

2. A furniture assembly comprising a furniture module, a first connector member supported on said module in horizontal position adjacent a side portion of said module, said onnector member including an upwardly extending lock portion, an abutment member to which said module may be removably secured, said abutment member having affixed thereto a second horizontally directed connector member having a downwardly directed lock portion, a vertical upward movement of said first connector with respect to said second connector member being effective to inter-engage said lock portions and secure the latter against relative horizontal movement, support roller means disposed at the corners of said module for movably supporting said module for translatory movement across a floor surface, vertical adjustment means for simultane ously shifting said roller means clear of the floor and said first connector member into inter-engaged position with said second connector member, said adjustment means ineluding foot portions disposed adjacent said support roller means, shafts rotatably mounted to said module, a cam aifixed to each said shaft, said cam being disposed above and in contact with said foot portions, rotation of said cam serving to project said foot portions downwardly below said module, spring means yieldably urging said foot portions upwardly into contact with said cams, cam operatingmeans including a lever and a first ratchet member for rotating said shaft in a first direction responsive to opera tion of said lever means, said ratchet means resisting rotation of said shaft in a direction opposite said first direction, a second ratchet affixed to said shaft in spaced relation to said first ratchet, a pawl biased into engagement with said second ratchet 'for preventing rotation of said ratchet and, hence, said shaft in said opposite direction, and a release lever operatively connected to said pawl extending to the exterior of said module for releasing said pawl from connection with said second ratchet, whereby said shaft may be rotated in said second direction.

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 872,742 12/1907 Oesterle et a1. 16-32 934,480 9/1909 Treiber 28043.14

'8 9/1934 Clapp 280-4314 12/1939 Albach et a1 28043.14 X 9/1955 Bastian 280-4314 X 6/1956 Lucker 254-133 X 7/1956 Brown 2542.2 X 12/1960 Mohr 280-43 .24 2/ 1964 Faulkner 2592.2.

FOREIGN PATENTS 3/1914 Great Britain.

BOBBY R. GAY, Primary Examiner.


15 JAMES L. KOHNEN, Assistant Examiner.

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Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
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U.S. Classification312/351.13, 312/111, 16/34, 312/243
International ClassificationA47B91/00, A47B37/00, A47B91/02, F16M11/42, F16M11/00
Cooperative ClassificationF16M11/42, A47B91/02, A47B37/00
European ClassificationF16M11/42, A47B91/02, A47B37/00