FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention pertains to the field of natural stone products. In particular, the present invention describes a natural stone basin and a method for manufacturing the same.
DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART
Homeowners are using natural elements to create a natural feel in their homes. Countertops, flooring, and furnishings are manufactured from stone. However, these pieces generally are flat panels or tiles that have been cut or machined from a larger rock or stone into regular geometric shapes. While these pieces retain the physical properties of natural stone, they are generic insofar as their dimensions are constant and the only thing unique about any given piece is the natural coloring.
Natural stone is one element that is highly desirable for its appearance with the added benefit that properties of natural stone means it will last for many years. Natural stone is an excellent material in bathrooms, kitchens, and other rooms that have plumbing because stone naturally weathers moisture well. It is therefore desirable to manufacture a basin from solid natural stone as a way of incorporating natural elements in utilitarian furnishings. It is further desirable to accentuate the natural stone appearance to create unique and distinctive designs.
Currently, most natural stone basins for use on vanities are manufactured by grinding the underside of the stone until the stone will lay flat. In addition to changing the natural appearance of the rock to have a manufactured appearance, this requires an extensive machining process that can be time consuming, expensive, and labor-intensive. It is desirable to manufacture a natural stone sink that appreciates the natural look and unique shape of the natural stone. It is further desirable to minimize the machining processes.
One reason for grinding the underside flat is to prevent tipping of the basin. A person leaning on one side of a natural stone could tip the basin enough to spill the contents or possibly cause the piece to fall off the counter. If there are plumbing lines or electric lines connected to the natural stone, they could be severed, resulting in a dangerous or messy situation. It is therefore desirable to support a natural stone basin to prevent tipping or rolling.
The advances in composite materials make it possible to manufacture basins with simulated rock texturing and appearance. However, simulated stone basins are typically mass produced, which decreases the cost, but results in a generic look. Furthermore, a simulated stone basin is not going to weather as well as a natural stone basin, and could show defects after only a few years unless great care is taken. It is therefore desirable to have the aesthetic qualities of natural stone incorporated into the functional requirements of a basin or sink.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In one respect, the present invention is directed to a natural stone basin manufactured from a natural stone, comprising a natural stone having a portioned machined therefrom to form a basin, one or more cavities bored to a selected depth in the natural stone; and one or more legs, each of the legs comprising a support member having a first end bonded in one of the one or more cavities and a second end extending a selected length outside the cavity, and a sleeve attached to the second end of the support member, the sleeve comprising a first end machined to abut the natural stone basin, and a second end machined to abut a selected surface. In other narrower respects, the present invention further comprises an endcap joined to the second end of the support member and wherein the second end of the sleeve is machined to abut the endcap. In other narrower respects, the sleeve is welded to the support member. In other narrower respects, the present invention includes a drain in the bottom portion of the basin. In still other narrower respects the present invention includes comprising one or more holes for electric devices, plumbing, or storage receptacles.
In another broad respect, the present invention is directed to a method for manufacturing a natural stone basin from a natural stone by machining a portion of a natural stone to form a basin in the natural stone, boring one or more cavities in the natural stone, bonding a first end of a support member in each of the one or more cavities, wherein the second end of the support member extends a selected length from the cavity, attaching a sleeve that is machined to abut the natural stone to one of the one or more support members, and attaching an endcap to the second end of the support member that is adapted to receive the endcap and the second end of the sleeve is adapted to abut the endcap. In other narrower embodiments, the method further comprises the step of bending one or more of the support rods to have a selected radius of curvature or a selected angle.
These and other embodiments of the present invention, along with many of its advantages and features, are described in more detail below and shown in the attached figures.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a natural stone basin in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a side cutaway view of a natural stone basin according to one embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a side cutaway view of a natural stone basin according to one embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 4 is an isometric view of a natural stone basin in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 5 is an isometric view of a natural stone basin system in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)
The present invention overcomes the shortcomings of existing stone basins by supporting a natural stone basin on legs. Advantageously, the legs improve the safety of natural stone basins by preventing the natural stone basin from tipping over and open new possibilities for unique designs incorporated with functional requirements of everyday living.
Now referring to the figures, FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a natural stone basin according to one embodiment of the present invention. For purposes of this disclosure, the term "stone" refers to a concretion of earthy or mineral matter naturally occurring. Natural stones vary widely in color, texture, shape and weight and are generally selected based on design criteria. The uniqueness of a naturally occurring stone allows designers to combine a one-of-a-kind natural element with everyday functionality to create a unique piece.
Referring to FIGS. 1-5, a natural stone basin 110 generally comprises a natural stone into which a basin 140 has been machined and a drain 150 has been bored or otherwise machined to allow water to drain from the basin 140, the natural stone basin being supported by legs 125. Legs 125 allow a designer to support the natural stone basin 110 and create a unique design using a natural stone, a home builder to safely support the natural stone basin 110, and a homeowner to enjoy a natural stone integrated with the functionality of a traditional basin. Legs 125 can stand alone, or may be connected by one or more spans, crossbars, frames, or rings to provide additional stability or change the aesthetic appearance. The number of legs 125 depends on the setting in which the natural stone basin 110 is used and the desired appearance. Legs 125 may be straight, curved, or angled. Each leg 125 comprises a support member 130, a sleeve 135 attached to the support member 130, and an endcap 138 affixed to one end of the support member 130.
To accommodate the legs 125, the natural stone has one or more cavities 120 that are bored to a selected depth and of sufficient diameter. For purposes of this specification, the term cavity is used to describe a hole that does not penetrate through the natural stone basin 110. In drilling operations, cavity 120 might commonly be referred to as a blind bore. However, cavity 120 is not required to be drilled and could therefore have other cross-sectional geometries without affecting the scope of the present invention. Furthermore, cavity 120 is not required to be the same dimension throughout its depth. For example, a counterbore near the surface may be used to reduce stress in the natural stone and prevent cracks.
Cavity 120 is bored in the natural stone basin 110 to a selected depth. The location and orientation of cavity 120 is based on design, safety, and material criteria. As a result, one or more cavities 120 may be located generally on the underside of natural stone basin 110 as shown in FIG. 1, 3, or 4, on the side as shown in FIG. 2 or 5, or on the topside surface as shown in FIG. 5. Each of these possible locations allows a designer to select a configuration that creates a unique natural stone basin 110. Furthermore, each cavity 120 may be bored at different orientations or angles, as shown in FIGS. 1-5. For example, cavity 120 may be bored perpendicular to the base surface on the underside of natural stone basin 110 or at some angle.
The material from which the natural stone basin 110 is manufactured may also factor into the orientation and placement of cavity 120. For example, the natural stone basin 110 may crack or suffer other damage if the cavity 120 is bored too close to the basin portion or near a natural seam. In these embodiments, boring the cavity 120 in a different location or boring the cavity 120 from another angle may reduce internal stresses and prevent cracking and damage.
One end of each support member 130 is inserted into cavity 120 and the other end attaches to sleeve 135. Support members 130 are selected from any material of sufficient strength to support the natural stone basin 110. Furthermore, support member 130 may be bent a selected angle or radius as shown in FIGS. 2 and 5. In preferred embodiments, steel rods have the desired strength to support the natural stone basin 110 and can be bent to different angles or radii.
Each support member 130 may have any cross-sectional geometry that will bond well inside cavity 120. For example, support members 130 having a circular cross-section provide the greatest surface are for bonding to the wall of circular cavity 120. In a preferred embodiment, epoxy glue bonds support member 130 to a wall of cavity 120. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that support members 130 may be bonded to cavity 120 using different methods without departing in scope from the present invention.
When considering the placement and orientation of legs 125, safety may also be a factor. For example, in settings in which the natural stone basin is used as a sink, it may be common for people to rest a hand on a corner of the sink, which can tip an unstable sink. In these embodiments, it would be advantageous to locate two legs 125 at the front of the natural stone basin 110 so that if a person leans on a corner of the natural stone basin 110, the person's weight will not tip over the natural stone basin 110. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that no two stones are alike and therefore the safe placement of any leg 125 in a particular natural stone basin 110 should be based on the particular natural stone basin 110.
Now referring to FIG. 3, in some embodiments, a portion of the natural stone basin 110 is supported by a ledge. In these supported embodiments, the natural stone basin 110 may need only one or two legs 125. In free-standing embodiments, three or more legs 125 support the natural stone basin 110. In preferred embodiments having three legs 125, the natural stone basin 110 will naturally set without wobbling.
Now referring to FIG. 4, a portion of a natural stone basin 110 is shown, having (from left to right) a cavity 120; a support member 130 that has already been inserted into such a cavity 120 and further having an internal thread end capable of attaching an endcap 138; and a support member 130 already inserted into the natural stone basin and a sleeve 135. Sleeve 135 has already been machined at the upper end to accommodate the uneven surface of the natural stone basin. Support member 130 is also shown having an internal thread to accommodate endcap 138. In other embodiments, a support member 130 may have the second end machined for external screw thread so that endcap 138 is retained.
Sleeve 135 is attached to support member 130 to provide a desired aesthetic appearance. In embodiments in which sleeve 135 is metal, sleeve 135 may be welded to support member 130. In other embodiments in which welding is not an option, epoxy glue or some other adhesive may be used to attach sleeve 135 to support member 130. As shown in FIG. 4, sleeve 135 and support member 130 are not required to have the same cross-sectional geometry. Sleeve 135 may have any cross-sectional geometry provided sleeve 135 can be bonded or otherwise attached to support member 130.
Sleeve 135 may support some weight of the natural stone basin 110, but is not required to support any weight. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that sleeve 135 abuts a natural stone basin 110 on one end and abuts an endcap 138 in contact with a surface on the other, and therefore may experience some compressive force from the weight of the natural stone basin 110.
Endcap 138 connects to support member 130 and abuts sleeve 135 so that the weight of natural stone basin 110 is supported essentially by one or more support members 130. Endcap 138 is selected based on design and utilitarian criteria. For example, regarding design criteria, endcap 138 may be selected to close the end of sleeve 135 and complement the appearance of leg 125. The material of endcap 138 is also selected such that the weight of natural stone basin does not damage the endcap 138 or any surface on which the natural stone basin is sitting. Endcap 138, therefore, may be selected from any material that is durable and does not damage the surface on which the natural stone basin 110 contacts. In some embodiments, endcap 138 is manufactured from material such as wood, stone, or metal. In other embodiments, endcap 138 is manufactured from synthetic materials such as plastics or resins. The aesthetic appearance of endcap 138 may be the same as sleeve 135, may be complementary, or may be contrasting, based on the desired effect.
Now referring to FIG. 5, embodiments of the present invention make it possible to create unique designs of multi-tiered natural stone basins 110. The upper natural stone basin 110 shown in FIG. 5 has a machined basin 140 into which water flows. Water flows out of the upper natural stone basin via a drain or, as shown in FIG. 5, a channel machined into the natural stone basin. Water may also flow from upper natural stone basin 110 via a naturally occurring channel. Water flowing from upper natural stone basin 110 flows into lower natural stone basin 110. Upper and lower natural stone basins 110 may be arranged so that water is constantly in a channel, or natural stone basins may be far enough apart to create a small waterfall.
The preceding examples are included to demonstrate specific embodiments of the invention. It should be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the techniques disclosed in the examples represent techniques discovered by the inventors to function well in the practice of the invention, and thus can be considered to constitute preferred modes for its practice. However, those of skill in the art should, in light of the present disclosure, appreciate that many changes can be made in the specific embodiments which are disclosed and still obtain a like or similar result without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The natural stone basin may also have additional cavities and holes drilled in it to accommodate plumbing such as lines and fixtures, electric devices such as light fixtures or conduit, and storage receptacles such as a soap holder. Furthermore, an endcap may be adjustable to allow leveling or tilting to a small degree. Therefore, the scope of the invention should not be determined with respect to the description recited above. Rather, the scope of invention should be determined with respect the claims recited below, including the full scope of equivalents thereof.