This invention generally relates to handles for containers, and specifically
to an improved apparatus and methods of assembly and use for such devices, which
provide comfort, security, economy, and ease of operation to the user.
Background of the Invention:
Frequently, people use containers to store, protect, manipulate, and
transport various items, such as paint, water, sand, or any of a wide variety of
other things and materials. To make these containers easier to use, handles are
commonly provided, typically pivotably attached to the upper portion of opposed
sidewalls of the container. These handles provide a relatively easy means for carrying
the container as well as an easy method for pivoting the handle away from the opening
of the container, to permit (for example) stacking of the container or access to
the interior of the container. Such handles typically can pivot through a wide
arc, from "upright" (e.g., above the container) to "down" against either side of
the container. These handles also permit users to more readily hold and pivot the
container to empty the contents from the container, or to scoop water, sand, or
similar materials into the container.
Despite these positive attributes, current handles still lack several
characteristics that provide increased comfort, economy, security, and ease of
use to the user. One early example of such a handle is a metal bail "secured" to
holes on the side of a bucket by bending the ends of the bail through and around
those holes (for example, see U.S. Patent No. 308,343). Not only are such metal
handles relatively difficult to assemble onto containers (metal that is sufficiently
stiff to carry loads in the bucket are correspondingly difficult to bend into engagement
with the holes), but the combination of such a metal handle on a plastic container
or bucket can complicate recycling efforts as the container is being discarded
after use. In addition, metal handles remain at least somewhat susceptible to damage
from corrosion, although the risk of such damage can be reduced by selecting a
normally more expensive metal.
Plastic bails overcome some of the shortcomings of metal bails, but
typically include their own limitations. Among other things, they typically consist
only of the bail element; the inventors are not aware of rotatable handgrips ever
being provided on plastic handles. This limits their usefulness or at least their
comfort during use, especially where repeated lifting and transporting of containers
is required (e.g. without a rotatable handgrip, the handle can pinch and bind the
user's hand when attempting to carry, fill, or empty a container). Moreover, these
plastic bails are typically extremely flexible and thus they may not be useful
for carrying heavy loads or large containers (that flexibility focuses the heavy
loads too greatly on the center portion of the user's hand). Furthermore, even
plastic bails that might be reinforced with stiffening elements (so as to not be
too "flimsy") still do not provide a separate or rotatable handgrip.
Objects and Advantages of the Invention:
It is, therefore, an object of the invention to provide an improved
apparatus and related methods that provide a comfortable and convenient handle
and gripping portion for a user to carry, transport, and otherwise manipulate containers.
The preferred embodiment of the invention constitutes an improved handle for a
container in which the handle includes a plastic bail and a plastic sleeve to provide
a comfortable gripping surface for manipulating the container.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a handle of the
aforementioned character in which the bail or strap includes a plurality of structures
to transmit and/or distribute load forces between the bail and the sleeve.
It is still a further object of the invention to provide a handle
of the aforementioned character in which the bail is pivotable with respect to
the container, and the sleeve is rotatable about the bail, further including corresponding
engagement structures on the bail and sleeve to retain the sleeve at a selected
position along the lengthwise axis of the bail.
It is yet a further object of the invention to provide a handle of
the aforementioned character in which the bail has a first end and a second end,
and the bail includes a clip member adjacent at least one of the ends to engage
with the container. The preferred clip member is configured with positioning means
thereon for locating and engaging the handle in a selected position with respect
to the container.
It is another object of the invention to provide a strap member for
carrying and transporting a container in which the strap member includes at least
one load-distributing structure for distributing load forces between the strap
member and a surrounding generally cylindrical sleeve member.
It is still another object of the invention to provide a strap member
of the aforementioned character wherein at least one of the load-distributing structures
engages with one or more beads located on an inner surface of the sleeve member.
It is yet a further object of the invention to provide a strap member
of the aforementioned character in which the strap member includes clip means having
an elliptically shaped stem with at least one rib element on the stem to provide
selectable positioning of the strap member when the strap member is engaged with
It is another object of the invention to provide a sleeve member for
a container handle wherein the sleeve member is retained along the length of a
strap member by detent means located on the inner surface of the sleeve member.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a sleeve member
of the aforementioned character wherein the retained sleeve member is rotatable
about the strap member.
It is still another object of the invention to provide a clip element
on an elongated container handle strap member wherein the clip element includes
a wide portion and a narrow portion situated between the wide portion and the strap
member, wherein the narrow portion includes at least one rib element thereon to
provide selectable temporary positioning of the handle with respect to a container
on which it is engaged.
It is yet a further object of the invention to provide a clip element
of the aforementioned character in which the wide portion is configured to permit
a rotatable sleeve to slide thereover for assembly on the container handle at a
position spaced from the clip element. Depending on the respective sizes of the
sleeve and the handle's clip portion, one or the other may need to be shaped or
configured to prevent interference between the two as the sleeve is slid over the
It is still another object of the invention to provide an opening
in a container to permit engagement of a handle therewith, in which the opening
includes at least one groove to engage a corresponding rib on the handle.
It is yet another object of the invention to provide a selectably
positionable handle and container assembly, including positioning means such as
corresponding mateable elements on each of the container and the handle, in which
the container and the handle are formed from plastic and the corresponding mateable
elements permit the handle to be positioned and retained with respect to the container
in at least one selected position.
It is yet a further object of the invention to provide the handle
and container assembly of the aforementioned character in which the container includes
at least one slot formed thereon for receiving a clip element formed on the handle,
in which the mateable elements include at least one interengageable groove and
It is still another object of the invention to provide a method for
assembling a plastic handle for use on a container including the steps of: a) sliding
a plastic sleeve member over an elongated plastic strip member; and b) engaging
one or more positioning beads on the inner surface of the sleeve member with corresponding
engagement sites on the strap member.
It is yet a further object of the invention to provide a method of
connecting a handle to a container including the steps of: a) providing an elongated
strap having a clip member with a stem portion thereof having an elliptically-shaped
cross-section; b) positioning the stem portion adjacent a slot formed on the container
so that a shorter axis of the elliptically-shaped cross-section is generally perpendicular
to a longitudinal axis of the slot; c) sliding the stem portion through a narrow
portion of the slot along that longitudinal axis of the slot while the axes are
generally perpendicular to each other, into a wider portion of the slot; and d)
rotating the stem portion so that the shorter axis of the elliptically-shaped cross-section
is out of the generally perpendicular alignment with respect to the longitudinal
axis of the slot.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a method of the
aforementioned character, further including the steps of providing at least a pair
of cooperating engaging members on the stem portion and the wider portion of the
slot, and temporarily affixing the handle against rotation about the stem by engaging
the cooperating engaging members.
It is yet a further object of the invention to provide a method of
the aforementioned character, further including the steps of temporarily retaining
the handle away from the container to permit various operations or handling relating
to the container assembly, such as filling of, or printing on, the container.
It is still a further object of the invention to provide a method
of the aforementioned character, further including the step of assembling a cylindrical
sleeve member on the elongated strap; and engaging the cylindrical sleeve member
with the strap along the length thereof by engaging a positioning bead on the inner
surface of the sleeve member with an engagement site on the strap.
It is still another object of the invention to provide a method of
the aforementioned character wherein the steps are automated. Similar to other
automated processes, including automation of container and strap fabrication and
assembly, the benefits of the present product and method can be more fully realized
or can be realized in different ways by automating same.
It is yet another object of the invention to provide a bucket and
handle combination including: a) a bail ear on the bucket; b) a clip element formed
on the handle for engagement with the bail ear; and c) cooperating engagement means
acting between the bail ear and the clip element whereby the handle can rotate
through a range of movements with respect to the bucket and can be temporarily
positioned into at least one selected position with respect to the bucket.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a bucket and handle
combination of the aforementioned character in which the cooperating engagement
means includes at least one locating groove in the bail ear opening and at least
one rib or detent formed in a cooperating location on the clip element.
Other objects and advantages of the invention will be apparent from
the following specification and the accompanying drawings, which are for the purpose
of illustration only.
Brief Description of the Drawings:
Description of Preferred Embodiment:
- FIG. 1 is an isometric view of the preferred embodiment of the invention illustrating
an assembled handle and container;
- FIG. 2 is an exploded isometric view of preferred embodiments of the strap
member (illustrating a centrally located engagement site), each end of the strap
member, and the sleeve member;
- FIG. 3 is a partial sectional view of the preferred assembly of a strap member
and a sleeve member of the invention;
- FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view along reference line 4-4 in FIG. 3;
- FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the preferred embodiment of a clip element
along reference line 5-5 of FIG. 2;
- FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view along reference line 6-6 of FIG. 1, illustrating
the engagement of a clip element of a strap with a hole or slot on a bucket;
- FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view along reference line 7-7 of FIG. 6;
- FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view along reference line 8-8 of FIG. 7, depicting
the cooperative engagement of a stem portion of a clip element with a hole or slot
on a bucket; and
- FIG. 9 is similar to FIG. 8 and illustrates the rotatable properties and engagement
of a handle with a container.
Referring to the drawings, and particularly to FIG. 1 thereof, we
show a preferred embodiment of a handle and container combination 10 assembled
in accordance with the teachings of the invention. The handle and container combination
10 preferably includes handle 20 and container 200. Handle 20 preferably includes
a strap or bail 22 and a gripping means 40, such as sleeve member 42, positioned
thereon. Container 200 preferably constitutes a bucket 210, but as will be apparent
to one of ordinary skill in the art, container 200 can embody a wide variety of
objects to which the handle might beneficially be attached. Examples include, without
limitation, pails, boxes, etc., whether round, square, rectangular, oval, cubic
or other configuration.
Handle 20 is preferably configured to have bail or strap member 22
pivotably mounted on bucket 210, with a portion of strap member 22 configured to
cooperatively engage handgrip 40. Among other things, and as described herein,
handgrip 40 preferably provides a convenient gripping surface for lifting or manipulating
the assembly. Strap 22 and sleeve member 42 are preferably injection molded from
plastic, but one of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that either or both
members may be manufactured with other suitable materials or methods. Desirable
characteristics in these components include providing a flexible strap that can
retain its shape, and a handgrip that provides increased comfort to the user. As
described below, both strap 22 and sleeve 42 are preferably bi-directional (e.g.
they can be assembled with respect to each other and with respect to the bucket
in either direction). although unidirectional or other non-bi-directional embodiments
can be provided and used.
The assembly of handle 20 and bucket 210 is preferably accomplished
by engaging a clip member 50 (see FIG. 2) located near one of the ends of bail
22 with an opening such as a "bail ear" 228 (see FIGS. 8 and 9) on bucket 210.
Preferably, opening 228 includes a channel portion 224 that tapers from a mouth
area 225 to a preferably generally semicircular seating portion 229. In the preferred
assembly, clip element 50 engages with opening 228 by sliding a relatively narrow
stem portion 54 (see FIGS. 2 and 5) of clip means 50 through the mouth 225 of slot
224 to the seating portion 229 in hole 228.
Preferably, bucket or container 210 includes two openings (one each
on opposing sidewalls of the bucket) to permit the attachment of the handle 20
to both sides of the bucket. However, as would be apparent to one of ordinary skill
in the art, if one end of the handle is permanently affixed to one side of the
bucket, it would only be necessary to provide one hole on the opposing sidewall.
Among the many alternative embodiments of the invention, the preferred engagement
could be provided on one end of the strap 22 and some other engagement mechanism
on the other end.
In the preferred embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 6-9, opening
228 is formed in a bail ear or other clip-receiving element 220 that includes a
wall member 222 generally parallel to the sidewall of container 200 and spaced
radially outwardly therefrom. Wall member 222 is preferably secured to container
200 by supporting structures 226. Thus, preferred clip member 50 can readily engage
with bucket 210 without having to provide an opening within the actual sidewall
of the bucket itself, thereby retaining sealing and structural integrity within
the bucket itself. In alternative embodiments, of course, the bail or strap could
be attached to the bucket or other object in a variety of other configurations,
such as by providing an opening similar to opening 228 directly in the wall of
the bucket or object (not shown). Persons of ordinary skill in the art will understand
that certain aspects of the invention can be practiced with any pivotable connection
between the handle and container.
In the preferred embodiment, clip element 50 includes a relatively
more narrow "stem" portion 54 and a wider head portion 52. It is sometimes convenient
to refer to the narrow portion 54 of clip element 50 as a "stem" or a "neck", and
the wide portion 52 of clip 50 as a "clip head". When preferably engaged on container
200, stem portion 54 acts as an axle rotatable within seating portion 229 of hole
228 in the side of bucket 210. Clip head portion 52 helps maintain the preferred
rotatable engagement between handle 20 and bucket 210, by interferingly engaging
with the parallel wall member 222 upon application of lifting force on handle 20.
Where necessary (given the factors and design considerations discussed
herein), the side edges of clip head 52 can be "trimmed" (such as to form the relatively
straight edges 62 and 63, FIGS. 2 and 6) or otherwise formed or configured in "non-round"
shapes. Among other things, such non-round configurations may be necessary to facilitate
the passage of the preferred sleeve 42 onto the strap 22, for embodiments in which
such a sleeve is used, as discussed elsewhere herein. Depending on the relative
sizes of the clip head 52 and the inner diameter of the sleeve 42, an "untrimmed"
clip head 52 could prevent assembly of the sleeve onto the strap. Trimming or otherwise
altering the sides of the clip head 52 can address the problem, while still maintaining
good engagement between the strap and the bucket (see FIG. 6). For embodiments
which generally align the trimmed edges 62 and 63 with a lengthwise axis of the
handle 20, the "untrimmed" portions 60 of the clip head 52 extend further from
the handle 20's axis of rotation and are normally aligned to effectively engage
the wall member 222 and prevent the clip head 52 from being pulled out of engagement
from the container 200 upon the application of lifting or similar force on the handle
The preferred interrelationship of clip element 50 with hole 228 is
more fully appreciated in FIGS. 6 and 7. FIG. 6 illustrates the placement of clip
element 50 in hole 228 after being slid through slot 224. FIG. 7 shows the placement
of clip head 52 of clip element 50 against the inner side of the wall member 222.
In this preferred embodiment, the engagement of clip 50 with hole 228 secures clip
50 to bucket 210 by the positioning of clip head 52 around hole 228. As will be
appreciated by persons of ordinary skill in the art, the entire underside or interior
side of clip head 52 is preferably positioned to engage with wall member 222 (excepting
at any gap, such as slot 224 in wall 222). The wider clip head thus prevents disengagement
of the clip, and the handle, from the bucket.
As more easily seen in FIGS. 8 and 9, the "stem" or neck portion 54
is preferably generally elliptical in cross section. Among other things, this enables
the strap to be inserted through mouth portion 225 of slot 224 (by aligning the
narrow axis of the ellipse shape to make the stem "thin" so it can pass through
the tapering slot) and thereafter pivotably retained in seating portion 229 of
bail ear 228 on the side of the bucket (such as by, among other things, rotating
the strap sideways to "misalign" the narrow ellipse axis and effectively "widen"
the neck so it does not readily fall back down the slot 224). Following engagement
of strap 22 on bucket 210, the "narrow" axis of the stem normally will only be
"aligned" with slot 224 when bucket 210 is being carried. That very act of carrying
will in most circumstances prevent the downward disengagement of the neck 54 out
of slot 224 because the "carrying" will involve a lifting force on the handle 20
in the opposite direction. In effect, during those "carrying" periods, the lifting
force exerted on the handle 20 will tend to keep the stem 54 from falling downwardly
out of the slot 224. In other words, when bucket 210 is being carried, strap 22
will not normally "fall" out of engagement because, by definition, the user will
be lifting the strap "up", and thereby pulling stems 54 of clip elements 50 of
strap 22 away from slot 224. Furthermore, the narrow portion 54 of clip element
50 is shaped to provide greater strength to the clip element in the direction of
load, whether the container is being carried, poured from, or otherwise experiencing
a load on the handle,
Moreover, the preferred slot 224 tapers to a slightly narrower width
at its narrowest location 227, FIGS. 7-9, so that sliding the neck 54 through location
227 is an interference fit. In other words, the edges of slot 224 forming that
narrowest location 227 preferably elastically deform slightly to permit the passage
of the neck 54 therethrough, and preferably spring back to their approximately
original position to help retain neck 54 from falling out of seating portion 229.
However, persons of ordinary skill in the art will realize that several factors,
such as the materials and dimensions of the member defining the slot 224, affect
the amount of force required to insert the neck 54, the memory (or "return") the
edges have after the neck 54 is inserted, and the difficulty of disengaging the
neck once engaged.
At many or most times other than during lifting, strap 22 will normally
be rotated sideways in some degree (see FIG. 9, illustrating a 90 degree rotation)
so that the "wider" stem axis of the elliptical neck 54 helps keep the strap 22
from disengaging from bucket 210.
Among other things, pouring from bucket 210 is more "secure" than
with prior art circular necks because the widened elliptical neck is less likely
to pull out of engagement. For example, and as illustrated in Fig. 9, typical pouring
may involve holding the bottom of bucket 210 with one hand while holding handle
20 with the other. Such pouring (or scooping material into the bucket, as discussed
elsewhere herein) may be facilitated by rotating the handle 22 about an axis of
clip element 50 (in FIG. 9, the axis may be viewed as an imaginary line perpendicular
to the page through the center of element 54), as indicated by arrow A in FIG.
9. As will be apparent to persons of ordinary skill in the art, the handle 22 preferably
can be moved through a "normal" full range of movement (from upright to "down"
against the side of the container 200).
Additionally, and as more fully described below, the handle can be
temporarily "retained" or otherwise positioned at any number of degrees through
arc A, by engaging positioning means such as mateable elements 56 and 230 positioned
around stem 54 and around the perimeter of opening 228, respectively. Persons of
ordinary skill in the art will understand that the precise number of such mateable
elements 56 and 230 and their location may be affected by a range of factors, including
the nature of the materials from which handle 22 and bucket 210 are molded, the
application for which the assembly is intended, and others. Similarly, such persons
will understand that the various dimensions and materials from which the apparatus
is fabricated can affect the strength of the "engagement" between the handle and
the container, and correspondingly the amount of effort required for a user to
move the handle from one such position to another.
While this handle rotation occurs, a user can hold the rotating grip
sleeve 40 and the bucket, and have little, if any, twisting or discomfort caused
by the handle 22. Instead, the handle remains aligned with respect to its clip
members engagement with the container 200 by simply rotating within the handgrip
(which will typically be held from rotating by the user).
In addition to the comfort and usability afforded by rotating grip
sleeve 40, the elliptical stem (see Fig. 9) in this "rotated" position preferably
positions the widest elliptical dimension of neck 54 against slot 224, thereby
reducing the risk of stem 54 pulling back through (out of) slot 224. Persons of
ordinary skill in the art will understand that varying degrees of this benefit
can be achieved at varying positions of the handle 22 through the arc A. In the
preferred embodiment, the maximum benefit in this regard occurs when the handle
22 is positioned as shown in FIG. 9.
In contrast, prior art "circular neck" clips typically present a constant
cross-section against the slot, regardless of the handle orientation. This cross-section
is typically equal to the narrower of the two diameters of the elliptical stem
as illustrated in the present application. In effect, and unlike the beneficial
design of the invention, the prior art effective neck stem dimension that is small
enough to permit the circular stem to be engaged with the container (roughly the
same dimension as the preferred embodiment's "narrow" diameter) does not "increase"
as the handle is rotated from the vertical.
In the preferred embodiment, positioning means such as one or more
rib elements 56 are preferably provided on the sides of neck 54, and are sized,
located, and shaped to permit selectable, frictional engagement with mating grooves
230 provided in hole 228 of bucket 210. Ribs 56, of neck 54 can retainingly engage
with grooves 230 to temporarily position handle 20 at a desired rotated position
with respect to bucket 210. Preferably, rib or ribs 56 and grooves 230 are formed
from a sufficiently deformable, resilient material to permit the movement of ribs
56 into and out of engagement from groove or grooves 230 with the application of
some reasonable amount of force by a user
As indicated above, the preferred elliptical shape of neck 54 permits,
among other things, the insertion of clip element 50 into hole 228 and the subsequent
engagement of ribs 56 with grooves 230. Preferably, rib or ribs 56 are positioned
on neck 54 at locations off of the "narrow" elliptical axis so as to, among other
things, not interfere with snapping neck 54 through the narrowest location 227
of slot 224. In other words, ribs 56 on stem 54 are preferably located on opposite
sides of the longitudinal axis of the elliptical stem 54 (as best shown in FIG.
8). However, in alternative embodiments, any number of ribs or grooves can be provided
at any convenient position (such as out of alignment with each other or with the
axis of the stem 54) to'provide a desired range of movement and securement.
In addition, and as will be apparent to persons of ordinary skill
in the art, alternative embodiments can even possess no ribs and yet still maintain
certain beneficial aspects of the invention. For example, the elliptical shape
of stem 54 can still provide increased strength across the longitudinal axis of
the elliptical cross-section of the stem and resistance to disengagement at various
handle positions, as compared to prior art stems having a circular cross-section.
As described below, ribs 56 and grooves 230 constitute mateable elements
to permit, among other things, a user to position and temporarily "retain" the
strap in various selected positions with respect to bucket 210. Among the many
useful applications of this aspect of the invention is the ability to position
the strap out of the way when filling, or printing on, the bucket, without the
use of external machinery or equipment. In other words, the preferred bucket and
strap assembly incorporates within its own structure the ability to desirably position
and temporarily retain the strap at a selected location (rather than simply hanging
down against the side of the bucket, in the way of imprinting or other actions).
As persons of ordinary skill in the art will further appreciate, the frictional
engagement of ribs 56 and grooves 230 preferably permits, among other things, an
end user to position and keep the handle in a vertical or nearly vertical position
when the container is not being carried or used. Among other things, this provides
an additional ergonomic benefit to the end user by eliminating or reducing the
amount of bend the user must employ in order to grasp the handle. For example,
if the container and handle assembly is left with the handle so engaged vertically,
a person can pick up or otherwise manipulate the container via the handle, without
having to stoop as far down to reach the bail as would be required with conventional
In contrast to this ergonomic improvement, conventional handles typically
fall and rest on the side of the container. Thus, the end user of these prior art
containers must bend over much further to grasp and lift the handle and container.
Among other things, this increases the risk of physical injury to the end user
as well as results in an increase in the expenditure of time and effort to grasp
the handle. The speed at which various processes are executed (such as assembly
line processes) can thereby be increased. Persons of ordinary skill in the art
will understand that similar benefits can result from the aforementioned engagement
of the preferred handle and container, for positions other than vertical.
Similarly, prior art containers and handles typically require the
use of additional machinery to temporarily move and retain handles away from the
container to permit printing thereon. The preferred embodiment of the instant invention
eliminates the need for manufacturers, suppliers, or other users to invest in the
additional cost and space for such machinery, by providing means within the handle
and bucket assembly itself to temporarily retain the strap at a selected position
(such as during imprinting on the outside of the bucket).
FIGS. 2-4 provide further details regarding a preferred embodiment
of the central portion 23 of strap member 22. Among other things, preferred central
portion 23 includes one or more engagement sites 30 for positioning sleeve 42 along
the length of strap 22. For many or most applications, it will be desirable to
have sleeve 42 at least generally centered between the ends of strap 22. Persons
of ordinary skill in the art will understand, however, that various aspects of
the invention can be practiced with the sleeve 42 positioned other than at the
center of strap 22.
Moreover, various aspects of the invention can be practiced without
any "positioning" at all of sleeve 42 along the length of strap 22. Such positioning
can, however, retain the sleeve 42 at a generally optimal location for lifting
or other manipulation of the container assembly, as discussed herein.
The desired positioning of sleeve 42 in that regard is preferably
accomplished by providing an engagement site 30 along the length of the strap,
including one or more recessed channels 36, which can be conveniently bounded by
two circular discs 34 formed on strap 22. As indicated below, engagement structures
(such as elements 36 and 44) acting between the sleeve and the strap can be located
at any number of engagement sites (or at multiple sites) along the length of sleeve
42 or strap 22 (respectively), depending on the particular application and the
user's needs. As indicated above, however, preferably such a channel 36 is provided
at the center of engagement site 30 acting to engagingly receive internal annular
bead 44 on the interior of sleeve 42 (as best illustrated in FIG. 3). Persons of
ordinary skill in the art will understand that the internal annular bead 44 can
be provided in many alternative embodiments (not shown), including, for example,
one or more detents formed on the interior of sleeve 42.
The preferred configuration of channel 36 and bead 44 on sleeve 42
permits generally free rotation of sleeve 42 around strap 22. Among other things,
this enhances comfort during use because there is no sliding friction or related
pull on a user's hand. Instead, the gripping surface provided by sleeve 42 preferably
rotates upon the application of transverse force, eliminating sliding between the
user's hand and sleeve 42.
In the illustrated preferred embodiment, the central portion 23 of
strap 22 further includes load-distributing structures 33 such as generally longitudinal
elements 32 along the longitudinal axis of strap member 22 and one or more spaced
circular discs 34 (preferably formed orthogonally to the longitudinal strap axis.
The supporting structures 33 provide a number of benefits, including helping to
distribute the bucket's weight across the sleeve 42 when lifting the bucket 210.
Persons of ordinary skill in the art will understand that a wide variety
of suitable supporting structures and patterns 33 can be readily formed or provided
on strap 22(in alternative embodiments not shown). Such alternative embodiments
would preferably permit the desired assembly and rotation of the sleeve about the
strap, as discussed herein.
As further shown in FIG. 4, the preferred embodiment includes four
longitudinal elements 32 and six circular discs 34, but in alternative embodiments,
any number of longitudinal elements or circular discs (or other supporting structures
providing load-bearing contact between the sleeve 42 and strap 22) could be provided.
FIG. 2 also illustrates a preferred embodiment of rotatable sleeve
member 42 prior to its assembly onto strap 22. Preferably, sleeve member 42 is
cylindrical in shape, but as one of ordinary skill in the art can appreciate, the
exterior gripping surface can embody a variety of shapes such as ovular, ribbed,
or even more complex shapes to fit the contours of the users hand or fingers.
FIG. 3 shows further details regarding the preferred rotatable sleeve
42 and its preferred assembly onto strap 22. FIG. 3 is a partial-sectional view
of the sleeve member 42 operatively engaged with strap 22. Sleeve 42 is preferably
configured with detent means 44 centrally located on an interior surface of sleeve
42, with detent 44 defining a continuous annulus that circumscribes that interior
(as indicated above, detent 44 can be provided in a wide variety of alternative
embodiments, including without limitation a plurality of such interior annular
rings 44 spaced from each other inside sleeve 42). The preferred sleeve's interior
ring 44 engages the strap's complementary recessed channel or locator ring portion
36 described above. In alternative embodiments (not shown), multiple interior annular
rings 44 might engage multiple corresponding recessed channels or locator ring
Thus, among the many other embodiments of the invention are those
utilizing a plurality of detents (rather than a single, monolithic ring) to provide
the desired engagement between the sleeve 42 and the strap 22. By way of further
example, although detent 44 preferably is a continuous ring-like structure, it
can be sectioned (e.g. quarters or eighths or otherwise, even randomly) and still
permit the engagement of the sleeve with recessed ring 36 of the engagement site.
Similarly, although the preferred location of the sleeve's detent
44 and strap channel or locator ring 36 is midway along the respective longitudinal
axes of sleeve 42 and strap 22, (which, among other things, permits the bi-directional
assembly of those parts with each other), alternatively the engagement structures
(such as elements 36 and 44) can be located at any number of sites (or at multiple
sites) along the length of sleeve 42 or strap 22 (respectively), depending on the
particular application and the user's needs. As indicated above, in the preferred
embodiment both the strap and sleeve are made of plastic, but they can be made
of any suitable material.
Persons of ordinary skill in the art will understand that, for embodiments
including both the attachment structures at the end of the strap 22 (to attach
the strap to the container 200) and the inventive sleeve 42 of the invention, some
coordination of various design elements may be required. For example, and as indicated
above, FIGS. 2 and 5 illustrate the preferred embodiment of protruding clip element
50 at each end of strap 22. The particular size and shape of clip 50 will normally
be selected and determined based on a number of factors. To provide a secure engagement
with the bucket, clip 50 should be relatively large (e.g. the greater the anticipated
load on the strap, the larger the clip probably needs to be). Because sleeve 42
preferably slides over the end of strap 22 to be assembled onto the center of the
strap, however, the relative size of clip 50, sleeve 42, and other elements of
the strap (e.g. circular discs 34 and longitudinal ribs 32) must be coordinated
to provide both adequate load capacity (to provide sufficient strength and engagement
of the handle 20 with the container 200 so that the anticipated load on the strap
does not pull the strap out of engagement from the bucket) and permit ready assembly
of the sleeve 42 onto the strap 22. One of the many approaches that can be taken
(and may be necessary) in that regard is the aforementioned "trimming" of the clip
head 52. As indicated above, this can be readily accomplished by, among other things,
forming flat surfaces 62 and 63 on opposing sides of the head 52.
The apparatus and methods of our invention have been described with
some particularity, but the specific designs, constructions and steps disclosed
are not to be taken as delimiting of the invention. Obvious modifications will
make themselves apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art, all of which will
not depart from the essence of the invention and all such changes and modifications
are intended to be encompassed within the appended claims.