|A serving device including one or more scoops mounted for pivotal movement, a handle and an actuating element mounted at or with the handle adapted to cause relative movement of the scoop, wherein the handle is or incorporates therein a compressible resilient shape that, in use, transfers a push or pull force to the actuating element .
The serving device of claim 1 wherein the handle is a compressible oval or oblong shape made from a resilient material .
The serving device of claim 1 or 2 wherein the handle has incorporated therein a resilient means to compress and actuate the actuating element.
The serving device of any of the preceding claims, further including a locking mechanism to temporarily lock the scoop position in either an open or closed position or both.
The serving device of claim 4 wherein the locking mechanism includes a button mounted for pushable movement into a scoop end of the handle and has a keyhole aperture to be engageable with a ridge on the actuating element.
The serving device of any of the preceding claims wherein there are three or four equally spaced/opposed scoops mounted for relative pivotal movement such that they achieve a "grab" function. The serving device of any of the preceding claims wherein at least one scoop has a lever or stub for engagement with a bush associated with the actuating means.
The serving device of any of the preceding claims wherein the actuating element is a rod.
The serving device of claim 3 wherein the resilient means includes a resilient element located between two opposed parts of the handle, with the actuating element attached thereto .
The serving device of claim 1 or 2 wherein the handle includes a distal end in the form of a loop that is attached to the actuating element at its inner surface.
The serving device of any of the preceding claims wherein at least one scoop includes a drainage hole.
The serving device of any of the preceding claims wherein at least one scoop includes a pointed edge.
TECHNICAL FIELD The present invention relates to a serving device, particularly for serving salad or other foodstuffs.
BACKGROUND ART The most common type of serving method for salad is to use a pair of spoons and/or forks to capture and carry the foodstuff therebetween. This concept has been developed into the use of tongs, often featuring a spoon and fork arm adapted for relative movement about a spring loaded or otherwise resilient joint. Also known are scissor—action variations that include spoon, fork or spatula-like ends. Preferably these devices are able to be used with one hand while the other hand is often used to hold a plate or steady the salad bowl. While such devices can be simple and cheap they have varying degrees of success in efficiently serving food, i.e. preventing salad falling from the device before it is placed on a plate.
DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION
The present invention seeks to improve upon or at least provide an alternative to existing salad tong devices.
In one broad aspect of the invention there is provided a serving device including one or more scoops mounted for pivotal movement, a handle and an actuating element mounted at or with the handle adapted to cause relative movement of the scoop, wherein the handle is or incorporates therein a compressible resilient shape that, in use, transfers a push or pull force to the actuating element.
Preferably there are three or four equally spaced/opposed scoops mounted for relative pivotal movement such that they achieve a "grab" function. It should be noted that the term "scoop" should be given its widest interpretation. It could otherwise be referred to as a finger, fork, spoon or claw in the context of the invention to perform an equivalent function.
Preferably the handle has incorporated therewith a resilient means or equivalent spring bias capability to transfer a push/pull force to the actuating element and thereby cause the scoops to open/close relative to one another. Preferably the handle is constructed from a resilient material, e.g. including a compressible oval shape, whereby a squeeze action imparts a pushing or pulling force on the actuating element, which is preferably a rod. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
Figure 1 shows a frontal perspective view of the serving device according to a first embodiment of the invention;
Figure 2 shows a rear perspective view;
Figure 3 shows a side elevation view (closed position) ;
Figure 4 shows a side elevation view (open position) ;
Figure 5 shows a side elevation section view;
Figure 6 shows a perspective view of a second embodiment with the tongs in the open (resting) position;
Figure 7 shows a perspective view of the second embodiment with the tongs in the closed position;
Figure 8 shows an exploded perspective view of the serving device of the second embodiment; Figures 9A and 9B show a section view of an open position of the tongs with a locking mechanism in the unlocked position; and
Figures 10A and 10B show a further section view of a closed position of the tongs with the locking mechanism in the locked position.
MODE ( S ) FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION Figure 1 best shows an overview of components for the serving device 10 according to a first embodiment of the invention. Device 10 includes a handle 11 including a resilient element 12 connected to an actuating element or rod 13 that causes a gripping movement in a plurality (in this case four) scoops 14. Each scoop 14 is pivotally mounted by a pin or fastener 15 at an even spacing. Preferably the foremost ends of each scoop 14 come together to form a holding area 16, best seen in Figure 2.
Figures 3 and 4 illustrate "closed" and "open" forms of the tongs respectively. It will be apparent that, in this first illustrated embodiment, the "at rest" form of the invention is closed (Figure 3), but when a squeezing force F is applied by manual manipulation to the outside of handle 11, the scoops 14 move away from each other to an open state (as seen in Figure 4) . In use, salad or other articles can be positioned between the scoops with a view to grabbing and lifting them (by relaxing the manual force F) .
Figure 5 best illustrates the opening mechanism, namely utilising the resilient nature of the handle 11 which forms, in one-piece, an internal oval with element 12. Squeezing the handle in the direction of arrows F causes the oval to squash (Figure 4) and a pushing force P to be applied to rod 13. This is possible because the compressible oval is otherwise held in a fixed relative position to pivots 15 by extending arms 11a. This in turn actuates a sliding bush 17 within a cavity 18 adjacent mounting of the scoops at pivots 15. Bush 17 includes notches 19 or an annular channel to receive stubs 20 extending from the handle-proximal end of scoop 14 adjacent where it is mounted for pivoting via pin 15. The linkage is akin to a common wine bottle cork removal device and, in fact, additional stubs or channels could be incorporated to modify the relative gearing.
It will be apparent that, due to proportions of the leverage arrangement illustrated, a small lateral movement in the direction P generates a relatively pronounced opening movement in the scoops 14 (Figure 4) . Thus, with a relatively small hand squeeze (F) a user can open the scoop/claw arrangement and position it over an object to be held/gripped within area 16.
It will also be apparent that, once released, scoops 14 close under the resilience of handle 11/12 introducing a pulling force U to rod 13 (Figure 3) . Accordingly, device 10 can grip an item indefinitely until a squeezing force F is applied to again open scoops 14. It is intended that the embodiment of Figures 1 to 5 can provide a simple gripping mechanism, easily operable by one hand. The construction can be substantially completed in metal or plastic so long as the required resilience is present in handle 11 and element 12. The preferred form is a one-piece resilient handle of suitable plastic, however, the resilient element 12 could be a separate insert, either fixed or free moving in a channel, achieving the same functionality. Further modifications may be possible. For example, the distal end 21 of handle 11 may be discarded, so long as bowed resilient element 12 imparts a force onto rod 13. Alternatively, as illustrated in the second embodiment of Figures 6 to 10, resilient element 12 may be discarded wherein rod 13 extends to the far curve of end 21. In this configuration rod 13 is effectively pulled by a force U relative to the mounting pivots 15 as handle 11 is squeezed. Therefore the "resting state" of the device is in an open configuration (Figures 6 and 9) and manual squeezing causes the scoops 14 to close (Figures 7 and 10) .
Figure 8 illustrates an exploded view of the second embodiment where similar components are visible to the first embodiment of Figure 5, i.e. rod 13 extending to a bush 17 with a notch/channel 19 for receiving stubs 20 on each pivotally mounted (15) scoop 14. When assembled, rod 13 is affixed to the distal end 21 of handle 13 via a screw thread or any other suitable connection.
The second illustrated embodiment also features a locking mechanism in the form of a slide button 21 that moves within an aperture 22 in the handle 11. When assembled, rod 13 passes through an irregular or keyhole shaped aperture 23 within button 21 and limits the sliding movement of said button between two extremes (visible in Figures 6 and 7 respectively) .
The section views of Figures 9B and 10B illustrate the unlocked and locked forms of the mechanism respectively. Specifically, according to Figure 9A the rod 13 and an annular ridge 24 adjacent to bush 17 are able to move freely through keyhole aperture 23, whereas according to Figure 10B the slide button 21 is engaged such that keyhole aperture 23 captures ridge 24 and prevents movement of rod 13 and, hence, scoops 14.
Figures 10A and 10B show the device in a locked and handle compressed position via the engagement of slide button 21 which a user may use to hold objects grasped between scoops 14. This locked state may also be used for storage of the device, since the natural resting state is with the scoops open. A locking button 21 may also be incorporated into the configuration of the first embodiment to lock the tongs open or closed dependent on the keyhole 23 position.
Either embodiment could be modified using skill in the art to include a gear (intermeshed teeth) mechanism to reverse the forces such that a pulling force on rod 13 causes the opposite movement of the claw to that illustrated.
It is preferred that the scoops are closed in the rest position as this will occupy less space during storage. However, the open scoop position can be used to conveniently stand the device on its end on a kitchen worktop..
In both embodiments the scoops preferably include drainage holes 25. Most preferably, each scoop has two drainage slots to allow fluid to drain irrespective of the angle at which the apparatus is held. However, it may be the case that only one or more scoops have one or more drainage holes, which may be simpler or cheaper to manufacture.
The scoops preferably have a forked edge 26 to enable the food or other small objects to be separated or rearranged by the forked edge to arrange the food advantageously for scooping. Alternatively the scoops may have a pointed edge for a similar purpose .
The scope of all embodiments of the invention extends to three scoops up to any number of scoops arranged around a stem. The scoops may be substantially spoon or fork shaped or may be flat, curved in only one plane, or any shape capable of picking up objects. The scoops may comprise one or more hooks, nets, a mesh or other means of retaining objects.
Furthermore, one or more scoops may be fixed (i.e. no pivot) to cooperate with one or more moving scoops operated by the actuating mechanism. INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY
It will be apparent that the present invention suggests a useful serving device as an alternative to available tong designs. In practice the device is likely to be injection moulded from suitable plastics, however, the device can be fabricated from any suitably resilient material, e.g. brushed stainless steel or the like.