Patent application title: Nut Gatherer and Method of Constructing Same
Stephen M Pope (Lenexa, KS, US)
IPC8 Class: AA01D5100FI
Class name: Harvesters fruit gatherer
Publication date: 2012-11-08
Patent application number: 20120279194
A nut gatherer includes a hollow drum formed by a plurality of wires.
Each of the wires has a bowed middle segment and two end portions. The
end portions are preferably hooked. A pair of hubs secures the hooked
ends of the wires to form the drum there between. A handle is rotatably
mounted to the hubs and a handle extension is removably coupled with the
handle. In use, the handle or handle extension is used to rotate the drum
into contact with an object, such as a nut, where the object then forces
the wires to separate and permit the object to move from outside the drum
to inside said drum. Once contact between the object and the wires is
terminated, the wires return to their original position thereby trapping
the object within the drum.
1. A nut gatherer for collecting debris, comprising: a hollow drum formed
of a plurality of wires, each of said wires having a bowed middle segment
and two end portions; a pair of hubs, each of said hubs configured to
receive one of said end portions of each of said wires; a handle
rotatably mounted to said pair of hubs; and wherein when said drum
rotates into contact with an object, the object forces said wires to
separate and permit the object to move from outside said drum to inside
said drum where it is trapped.
2. The nut gatherer of claim 1, wherein each of said hubs comprises a hub disc coupled with a hubcap, whereby said end portions of said wires are trapped between said hub disc and said hubcap.
3. The nut gatherer of claim 2, wherein said hubcap is substantially bell-shaped.
4. The nut gatherer of claim 2, wherein said hubcap includes a bottom plate.
5. The nut gatherer of claim 2, further comprising a bolt for coupling said hub disc with said hubcap.
6. The nut gatherer of claim 5, wherein said bolt includes a hollow end for receiving said handle.
7. The nut gatherer of claim 2, wherein said hub disc defines a plurality of cavities configured to receive said wire end portions, and wherein said hub disc defines a plurality of grooves aligned with said cavities such that when one of said wire end portions is received into one of said cavities, a portion of said wire end portion is received into one of said grooves.
8. A method of making a nut gatherer for collecting debris, comprising: providing a plurality of wires; bending said wires to form a bowed middle portion and two end portions; providing a pair of hubs comprising a pair of hub discs and a pair of hubcaps; coupling each of said hub discs with one of said hubcaps such that said wire end portions are trapped between said hubcaps and said hub discs, whereby a wire drum is formed between said hubcaps.
9. The method of claim 8, further comprising providing a handle and rotatably mounting said handle to said hubs, wherein said wire drum rotates along a surface in response to directional force applied to said handle.
10. A method of making a nut gatherer for collecting debris, comprising: providing a plurality of wires; bending said wires to form a bowed middle portion and two end portions; providing a pair of hub discs defining a plurality of grooves; loading each of said hub discs with said plurality of wires such that a portion of each of said end portions rests within one of said grooves; providing a pair of hubcaps; and coupling each of said hubcaps with one of said hub discs loaded with said wires, whereby a wire drum is formed between said hubcaps.
11. The method of claim 10, further comprising bending said end portions such that each of said end portion comprises a first leg and a second leg.
12. The method of claim 11, wherein each of said hub discs further comprises a plurality of cavities aligned with said grooves and wherein loading each of said hub discs further comprises inserting said second leg into one of said cavities until a portion of said first leg rests within one of said grooves.
13. The method of claim 10, further comprising providing a handle and mounting said handle to said hubcaps, wherein said wire drum rotates along a surface in response to directional force applied to said handle.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application is based on and claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/482,012, filed on May 3, 2011, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 Not applicable.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Gardening and yard maintenance require a variety of tools. Many of these tools are designed to efficiently remove debris or yard waste. Rakes and brooms are typically used to maneuver yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings and branches into piles for removal. Some items, such as nuts and pine cones, are not easily corralled using rakes or brooms because they pass through the tines of the tool, are too bulky to be swept or roll away. Yet these items are precisely the sort of yard debris that most gardeners prefer to clear away as they do not decompose quickly, can cause damage to lawn mowers and create a slipping hazard for people desiring to use the space for recreation or leisure.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention is directed to a gardening tool for gathering nuts and other debris, including but not limited to pecans, acorns, walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, filberts, gum balls, seeds, fruit, small balls, pine cones, seed heads, shotgun shells and reusable paintballs. In a preferred embodiment, the device includes an oblong wire capsule with a hub positioned at either end. Each hub includes a hubcap coupled with a hub disc. The hubcap has a flat bottom surface that mates with the hub disc when the two components are coupled together. When assembled, each end of the wires that make up the wire capsule is trapped between the bottom surface of one of the hubcaps and one of the hub discs. A handle is rotatably mounted to the hubs such that the wire capsule can freely spin between the handle ends. A handle extension is preferably attached to the handle, which allows a user to roll the wire capsule along the ground or other surface to be cleared from a standing position. As the wire capsule contacts items, such as nuts and other debris, the wires flex to permit the items to enter the interior of the capsule where they are trapped when the wires return to their original position.
 Additional aspects of the invention, together with the advantages and novel features appurtenant thereto, will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following, or may be learned from the practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and attained by means of the instrumentalities and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the nut gatherer.
 FIG. 2 is a side view of a wire used in the construction of the nut gatherer of FIG. 1.
 FIG. 3 is an exploded view of a hub used in the construction of the nut gatherer of FIG. 1.
 FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the hub shown in FIG. 3.
 FIG. 5 is an enlarged plan view of a segment of a hub disc.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
 With reference to FIG. 1, a nut gatherer in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention is shown and generally designated by reference number 10. Nut gatherer 10 includes a convex wire drum 12, two hubs 14, a handle 16 and a handle extension 18. The drum is formed of a plurality of flexible wires 20. As described in further detail below, wires 20 are secured at either end by hubs 14 to form drum 12. Handle 16 is rotatably mounted to hubs 14 such that drum 12 spins freely in either direction between the ends of handle 16. Handle 16 is also configured to be removably attached to handle extension 18.
 As shown in FIG. 2, each wire 20 has a bowed middle segment 22 and two hooked ends 24. Bowed middle segment 22 is shaped such that it has a convex exterior surface and a concave interior surface. Each hooked end 24 is preferably L-shaped. A first leg 24a extends down from the end of bowed middle segment 22 and a second leg 24b extends from the distal end of first leg 24a in an inward direction under a portion of bowed middle segment 22. In a preferred embodiment, approximately 72 wires of similar shape are used to form drum 12. The wire is made of a metal material that is sufficiently rigid to hold the basic shape described above but sufficiently flexible and resilient that it will flex away from a piece of debris during contact and return to its original position when the contact with the debris is terminated.
 With reference to FIG. 3, an exploded view of a hub is shown. Each hub comprises a hubcap 26, a hub disc 28, a bolt 30 and a nut 32. Hubcap 26 is hollow and approximately bell-shaped, having a wide, round, open end and a narrow, round, open end. A flat plate 34 extends across the wide end of hubcap 26. Plate 34 defines a center aperture having the same center axis as the narrow round open end of hubcap 26. Hub disc 28 is round and has approximately the same diameter as plate 34. Hub disc 28 also defines a center aperture that shares the common center axis described above with reference to plate 34 and hubcap 26.
 As shown in FIG. 4, one surface of hub disc 28 defines a plurality of grooves 36 and a plurality of cavities 38. Each of grooves 36 is aligned with one of cavities 38. Cavities 38 are arranged in a circle on hub disc 28. Grooves 36 radiate out from cavities 38 to the perimeter of hub disc 28. Each groove and cavity pair is shaped to retain a hooked end 24 of wire 20. The depth of each groove 36 is slightly less than the diameter of first leg 24a, such that when second leg 24b is fully inserted in cavity 38, a portion of first leg 24a rests within groove 36 and a portion of first leg 24a remains above the surface of hub disc 28. Hub disc 28 is preferably made of a material that is sufficiently rigid to hold wires 20 in place but sufficiently flexible such that it will permit slight lateral movement of the wire within the groove during use.
 Returning to FIG. 3, bolt 30 has a hollow threaded stem 40 and a head 42. Threaded stem 40 is shaped for insertion into the center aperture defined by hub disc 28 and plate 34. Head 42 is shaped to retain bolt 30 on one side of hub disc 28. The interior surface of nut 32 is counter-threaded to threaded stem 40 such that bolt 30 and nut 32 cooperatively work together to couple hub disc 28 with hubcap 26 when hub 14 is assembled. As described in further detail below, threaded stem 40 is shaped to receive an end of handle 16.
 With reference to FIG. 5, hub 14 of nut gatherer 10 and a portion of wires 20 are shown in an assembled state. Each end of wire 20 is sandwiched between hub disc 28 and flat plate 34. To make the nut gatherer of the present invention, multiple pieces of wire 20 are cut to approximately the same length and bent such that they each have a bowed middle segment 22 and two hooked end portions 24. Each wire 20 is then mounted onto a hub disc 28 at either end. Hub discs 28 are loaded with wires 20 by inserting the end of second leg 24b into one of cavities 38. Once second leg 24b is inserted, a portion of first leg 24a rests within corresponding groove 36.
 After hub disc 28 is fully loaded with wires 20, i.e., all of cavities 38 have been filled with wires 20, flat plate 34 of hubcap 26 is secured to the surface of hub disc 28 where wires 20 have been inserted using bolt 30 and nut 32. Threaded stem 40 of bolt 30 is inserted through the center aperture of hub disc 28 and plate 34 and nut 32 is threaded onto the stem such that nut 32 is housed within hubcap 26. Coupling hub disc 28 and hubcap 26 in this manner retains each of wires 20 in a cavity 38 and groove 36. Wires 20 are thus evenly spaced around the perimeter of hub 14 and their bowed middle segments 22 collectively form drum 12. Friction between first leg 24a of hooked end 24 and plate 34 of hubcap 26 prevents hub disc 28 from rotating relative to hubcap 26. Friction, in conjunction with grooves 36, also prevents wires 20 from collapsing onto one another during use. As shown in FIG. 1, handle 16 is coupled with hubs 14 by inserting one end of the handle into the exposed hollow threaded stem 40 of bolt 30. Preferably, a handle extension 18 is removably attached to handle 16.
 In operation, handle extension 18 is used to push and pull nut gatherer 10 along a surface to collect debris. As nut gatherer 10 is pushed or pulled along a surface with slight downward pressure applied by the user, drum 12 rotates. When a pair of wires 20 is pressed onto a piece of debris, such as a nut, acorn, or other object, the debris forces wires 20 to temporarily separate and permit the debris to enter the interior of drum 12. Once the debris has entered the interior of drum 12, wires 20 return to their original position such that they will not permit the debris to pass back out of the drum. Nut gatherer 10 can be operated in a forward or backward motion, as drum 12 freely spins in either direction between the ends of handle 16.
 In alternative embodiments, more or less wires may be used to form drum 12. The number of wires may depend on the size of the target debris; if the target debris is small (such as an acorn), then more wires should be used so that the wires are spaced closer together, and if the target debris is larger (such as a walnut), then less wires are needed as the spacing between them can be greater. The bowed middle segment 22 of wires 20 may also be bent to a greater or lesser degree. The more the wires are bent the more disc-shaped drum 12 becomes, which means less surface area is in contact with the ground at any one time. The less the wires are bent, the more oblong-shaped drum 12 becomes, which means more surface area is in contact with the ground at any one time. Although metal wires are described with reference to the preferred embodiment, plastic material that is sufficiently rigid yet flexible and resilient may also be used.
 In another alternative embodiment, the ends of the wires have an inverted L-shaped end portion, where the second leg extends from the distal end of the first leg and outward and away from the bowed middle segment of the wire. In this embodiment, the end of each wire is in a stair-step configuration where the first leg is the riser between the second leg and the middle segment. To accommodate wires having the stair-step configuration, the plate of the hubcap defines the cavities and grooves described above, instead of the hub disc, and the hub disc has a flat surface for contacting the surface of the hubcap, i.e., the plate, where the wires are inserted. In the assembled state, the second leg is inserted into a cavity and the corresponding groove retains a portion of the first leg in a similar fashion to that described above with reference to the preferred embodiment. The wires are loaded into each of the hubcaps until all the cavities and grooves are full. The hub disc is then coupled to the loaded hubcap using the nut and bolt such that the wires are trapped between the hubcap and hub disc in their respective grooves and cavities.
 In yet another embodiment, the ends of the wires include only a single straight leg extending downward from the bowed middle portion. In this embodiment, no cavities are provided in either the hub disc or the plate of the hub cap. The straight leg is simply trapped between the hub disc and hub cap when the two components are coupled together. Preferably, grooves are provided in either the hub disc or the bottom plate of the hub cap such that the straight leg of each wire end partially rests within the groove and the wires are prevented from collapsing onto one another during use. Alternatively, no grooves (or cavities) are provided and the straight wire end portions are held in place between the hubcap and hub disc by frictional forces.
 In a further alternative embodiment, no pre-made grooves are provided. In this embodiment, the component defining the cavities (either the hub disc as described with reference to the preferred embodiment or the plate of the hub cap as described above with reference to an alternative embodiment having wire ends in a stair-step configuration) is made of a material that is sufficiently pliable, such as rubber, to trap the wires in the proper location when the hub is fully assembled. The wires are pressed into the hub disc or plate to such an extent that they are prevented from collapsing onto one another during use.
 While specific embodiments have been shown and discussed, various modifications may of course be made, and the invention is not limited to the specific forms or arrangement of parts and steps described herein, except insofar as such limitations are included in the following claims. For example, the end portions of the wires may be curved to form the hooked ends instead of bent at angles and any method known in the art for coupling the hub disc to the hubcap may be used instead of a nut and a bolt, such as a screw or bolt and a threaded socket.
Patent applications by Stephen M Pope, Lenexa, KS US
Patent applications in class FRUIT GATHERER
Patent applications in all subclasses FRUIT GATHERER