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Kit for Making Decorative Structures and Method Relating Thereto

Imported: 10 Mar '17 | Published: 27 Nov '08

Lee A. Shepherd

USPTO - Utility Patents

Abstract

A kit for making a decorative structure is presented. The kit comprises a three-dimensional primary support structure having a shape of a structure. The primary support structure has at lease one panel receiving slot. The kit further comprises at lease one panel. Each panel has at least one panel tab extending therefrom. Each panel is of a shape corresponding to a portion of the primary support structure. A method for making decorative structures using the kit is also presented. In practicing the method, at least one panel, having a pliable material affixed thereto, is affixed to the three-dimensional primary support structure by inserting a panel tab into a panel receiving slot.

Description

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to kits for making decorative structures, such as gingerbread houses, and methods for constructing such decorative structures. In particular, it is related to a decorative structure kit having a primary support structure and panels, adapted for supporting a pliable material, which are attached to the primary support structure.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The art of making decorative structures, in particular those in the shape of houses, has been existence for many years. Typically, decorative structures, such as gingerbread houses, are found during various holiday seasons and times of celebration such as birthdays and weddings. Often such structures are used not only for decoration but as toys or for instructional purposes. Many of these structures are made of edible materials such as cookie dough and chocolate.

A typical house structure has two end walls, two side walls, and two roof members. An opening, representing a door, is usually found in either an end wall or a side wall along with openings serving as windows. In preparing the house structure, each wall or roof member is baked individually in separate pans, removed from the pan and then bonded together, typically using royal icing, to form the structure. However, several problems result when this method of assembly is practiced. First, because the design of the house is free-standing, the house builder must find some way to prop up the wall structures while the icing is setting. This is typically achieved by the house builder holding the walls together as the icing sets and then moving to bonding the next pieces together. Such a process is time consuming and frustrating as walls become strained and often collapse during the process. Another problem is that if the dough used to form the walls is not properly mixed, the resulting wall and roof structures crumble.

Babos in U.S. Pat. No. 4,431,395 describes a group of molds or baking tins for placement of dough therein and in which the dough is baked. The molds constitute the pieces or parts making up a gingerbread house. Also included is a group of inserts referred to as cookie cutters, for forming openings in the wall panels. All of the molds include a bottom element and an upturned rim completely surrounding the bottom element. Dough is placed in the molds, filling them to the top of the surrounding rim, and the molds are then placed in the oven and baked. Thereafter the baked dough is removed from the molds, forming panels for placement together to construct the gingerbread house. These panels become rigid by the baking thereof, and are self-supporting when placed upright, and the roof panel placed atop the walls. The problem with this construction is that the panels are subject to falling over during assembly.

Kolz in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US2004/0142063A1 describes a system and method for building an interlocking decorative house. A special tabbed pattern is integrated into a series of forms. The forms may be cookie cutters adapted to cut baked dough or other material set to desired density to provide a series of panels corresponding to the cutters. The panels are adapted to be joined together to form a decorative structure. The tabs are sized and positioned to provide a dovetail joint along each edge of the structure. The protruding tabs or ends are of a slightly smaller dimension than the notches that they fit inside of to provide a secure fit. This self-interlocking design allows each individual piece of the structure to be fitted together, one at a time, while maintaining an acceptable degree of stability throughout the assembly process. The problem with this design is that the panels must be cut from baked cookie dough rather than unbaked dough. If the dough is too rigid, it will crumble when placed under the pressure of the cookie cutter and the panel is then not useable. In addition, the baked cookie scraps cannot be used so there is much waste.

Green in U.S. Pat. No. 2,775,523 presents a decorative house that is made from blanks made of any material of a permanent nature, such as a heavy metal foil, that is susceptible to being cut, and folding into a pan-like structure. The blank is defined by a bottom edge, two inclined side edges, and two top edges. Outstanding from each of the side edges and each of the top edges are a pair of spaced tabs, all of which are substantially alike. An appropriate pastry mixture such as gingerbread, cake, bread or cookie dough is filled into the pan. After the pan has been filled to substantially the level of flanges on the pan, it is subjected to a baking operation to harden or set the mixture. The various end walls, side walls, and roof members are assembled into a house construction by brining the various wall and roof elements together. The tabs on one element will come into meeting face to face engagement with the tabs on an adjacent element. The tabs are bent or curled over into the construction, securing the assemblage. Cracks and seams are covered by frosting. The problem with this construction is that the baked pastry is subject to sliding off of the pan when the pan is vertical.

An object of the present invention is to provide a kit for making a decorative structure which will permit the structure to be assembled one panel at a time while maintaining stability of the structure.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a kit for making a decorative structure where a three dimensional primary support structure is prepared from a two-dimensional primary support structure and where panels corresponding to a portion of the primary support structure are provided such that the panels are eventually attached to the primary support structure to form a decorative structure.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A kit for making a decorative structure is presented. The kit comprises a primary support structure having a three-dimensional shape of a structure. The primary support structure has at least one panel receiving slot. The kit further comprises at least one panel. Each panel has at least one panel tab extending therefrom. Each panel is of a shape corresponding to a portion of the primary support structure.

A method for making decorative structures using the kit of the present invention is also presented. In practicing the method, the kit is provided along with a pliable material. The pliable material is affixed to a side of each panel such that it is integral with the panel. Each panel tab which extends from each panel is only partially covered with the pliable material such that a portion of each panel tab is completely free of any pliable material. The panel containing the pliable material is attached to the primary support structure by inserting each panel tab into each panel receiving slot.

The kit of the present invention is useful for making many decorative structures. Examples of such structures include but are not limited to: gingerbread houses; cruise ships; Noah's ark; Easter baskets; Christmas trees; plaques; signs; menus; birthday cakes; wedding cakes; cars; trucks, such as dump trucks; cities; gift boxes; castles; volcanoes; tee pees; draidels; wagons; window boxes; wishing wells; graduation caps; baby blocks; trains; churches; carousels; log cabins; animals; space ships; carry-out food boxes; cradles; books; pyramids; and treasure chests. The decorative structure is made from any pliable material and the pliable material may or may not be baked or hardened. Examples of pliable materials include but are not limited to: cookie dough; cake mix; confections; clay; plaster; and ceramic materials.

Additional objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part, will be obvious from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention will be obtained by means of instrumentalities in combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In general, the kit of the present invention comprises a three-dimensional primary support structure having at least one panel receiving slot and at least one panel having at least one panel tab extending therefrom. Each panel is of a shape corresponding to a portion of the primary support structure. Although the figures depict the structure as a house, it is understood that other structures such as: gingerbread houses; cruise ships; Noah's ark; Easter baskets; Christmas trees; plaques; signs; menus; birthday cakes; wedding cakes; cars; trucks, such as dump trucks; cities; gift boxes; castles; volcanoes; tee pees; draidels; wagons; window boxes; wishing wells; graduation caps; baby blocks; trains; churches; carousels; log cabins; animals; space ships; carry-out food boxes; cradles; books; pyramids; and treasure chests to name a few, are also included in this invention. As a most preferred embodiment, the structure is either a house, Easter basket, or a Christmas tree.

Referring now to the figures where similar elements are numbered the same throughout, FIG. 1 depicts one embodiment of the invention where the kit comprises a primary support structure 20 having a two-dimensional shape of a structure. The primary support structure 20 has at least one primary support structure tab 30 extending therefrom. The primary support structure 20 further comprises at least one primary support structure slot 40 and at least one panel receiving slot 50. It is understood to one of ordinary skill in the art that the primary support structure 20 may further include at least one flange (not shown) extending from at least one edge of the primary support structure. The flange is folded under the primary support structure or alongside the primary support structure to add further stability to and/or ease of assembly of the primary support structure. The flange may or may not be affixed to another part of the primary support structure. When affixing the flange to another part of the primary support structure, any means for attachment known to one of ordinary skill in the art such as: gluing, taping, stapling, or using some form of a fastener or adhesive may be employed.

Referring now to FIG. 2, the kit further comprises at least one panel 60. Each panel has at least one panel tab 70 extending therefrom. Each panel 60 is of a shape corresponding to a portion of the primary support structure 20 (of FIG. 1).

Referring back to FIG. 1, the primary support structure 20 is made of any material known to one of ordinary skill in the art. In cases where the primary support structure 20 is derived from a two-dimensional primary support structure, the material is such that it may be bent to form a three-dimensional structure and is strong enough to support the panels 60 (of FIG. 2) that are to be attached to the primary support structure 20. Preferably, the primary support structure 20 is comprised of a semi-rigid material that is folded to form a three-dimensional primary support structure (not shown). Most preferably, the semi-rigid material is a corrugated material such as corrugated cardboard or corrugated plastic board. Alternatively, other materials known to those of ordinary skill in the art may also be used for those cases where the primary support structure is pre-formed in three-dimensions. Examples of these materials include but are not limited to: perforated sheet metal, wood, wire mesh, wire grate material, aluminum, plastic, pliable corrugated plastic, baking stone, and baked clay.

FIG. 1 depicts a preferred embodiment of the invention where the primary support structure 20 is a single pre-cut piece in the shape of the structure (as shown, a house). However, it is understood in the art that the primary support structure 20 may have multiple pieces which are assembled together by inserting the primary support structure tab 30 into the appropriate primary support structure slot 40 to form the three-dimensional primary support structure 20. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, the primary support structure 20 is a single piece which is folded along scored portions in the structure (depicted as heavy lines). The primary support structure tab 30 is then inserted into the appropriate primary support structure slot 40 to form the three-dimensional primary support structure 20. Alternatively, the three-dimensional primary support structure is pre-fabricated using conventional means so the end-user does not have to assemble the primary support structure.

In constructing a decorative structure using the kit of the present invention, panels 60 (FIG. 2) having shapes corresponding to various portions of the primary support structure are attached to the primary support structure (not shown) by the panel tabs 70 which extend from each panel. The panels 60 are made of any material known to one of ordinary skill in the art. For example, the panels are made of burlap; cardboard; plastic; canvas; metal; and wood. Preferably, the panels are made of cardboard; plastic; or metal. In one embodiment, the panels 60 are comprised of a material having at least one surface adapted for receiving a pliable material. FIG. 3 depicts one embodiment of the invention where one side 80 of the panel 60 is plain (or unmodified) and where the reverse side 90 of the same panel has been modified to receive a pliable material (not shown). The panel 60 surface is made adaptable by any means known to one of ordinary skill in the art. Such adaptations include but are not limited to perforation and corrugation. In one embodiment, several holes are made along the sides, top and bottom of the panel so the pliable material may be mechanically anchored into the panel. In another embodiment, the material used for the panels 60 is a corrugated material having at least one grooved surface. Most preferably, the panel 60 is made from a corrugated material having at least one grooved surface. The grooved surface of the panel is horizontal to the primary support structure after the panel tab is inserted into the panel receiving slot on the primary support structure.

As an alternative embodiment to the invention, the kit further comprises a pliable material. By pliable, it is meant that the material is flexible, capable of being shaped, or conforming to the shape of the surface on which it is placed. Any pliable material known to one of ordinary skill in the art is suitable for the present invention. In particular, such pliable materials include but are not limited to: a dough; a wax; a confection; a clay; and a plaster. Examples of a dough include but are not limited to: pastry dough; gingerbread; cookie dough (such as sugar cookie); and a cake dough. Waxes include all forms of wax such as beeswax and paraffin wax. Confections include candy mixtures such as gumdrops, chocolates, taffy, caramel, and hard candy mixtures. Clay includes modeling clayboth synthetic and natural. Plaster includes plaster of Paris, sheetrock, mud, and ceramic materials. In a preferred embodiment, the pliable material is a dough and most preferably, the dough is a gingerbread dough.

As yet another embodiment of the invention, the kit further comprises a storybook. The storybook tells a story about the structure and may or may not be fictional.

FIG. 4 depicts the steps in assembly for one embodiment of the invention where a decorative structure is assembled from a kit having a primary structure that is originally two-dimensional. The shape of the resulting decorative structure is dependent on the primary support structure provided in the kit. For example, if the primary support structure is a cruise ship, the resulting decorative structure will be a cruise ship. Although the figures depict the decorative structure as a house, it is understood that a house is only a preferred embodiment and that other decorative structures such as: gingerbread houses; cruise ships; Noah's ark; Easter baskets; Christmas trees; plaques; signs; menus; birthday cakes; wedding cakes; cars; trucks, such as dump trucks; cities; gift boxes; castles; volcanoes; tee pees; draidels; wagons; window boxes; wishing wells; graduation caps; baby blocks; trains; churches; carousels; log cabins; animals; space ships; carry-out food boxes; cradles; books; pyramids; and treasure chests are also included in this invention.

When practicing the method of the present invention, the kit is provided (FIG. 4, step 1). In the embodiment shown, the kit contains a primary support structure having a two-dimensional shape of a structure 20. The kit further contains a plurality of panels 60, each panel having a shape corresponding to a portion of the primary support structure 20. (Also see FIGS. 1 and 2.) The primary support structure 20 is folded and each primary support structure tab 30 is inserted into each corresponding primary support structure slot 40 (FIG. 4, step 2) to form a three-dimensional primary support structure 100 (FIG. 4, step 3). The primary support structure 20, is shown with flanges along the bottom 120 and sides 130 of the primary support structure 20 (FIG. 4, step 1). The flanges along the bottom 120 enable the structure to have additional support and not collapse. The flange along the side 130 further includes a means (such as an adhesive) for attaching the side flange 130 to a portion of the primary support structure 20 to form the three-dimensional structure. A pliable material is also provided. The pliable material is affixed to a side 90 of each panel 60. The pliable material is positioned on the panel such that it is integral with the panel and each panel tab 70 is left plain or partially uncovered by the pliable material 110 (step 4). The panels containing the pliable material 110 are attached to the primary support structure 100 by inserting each panel tab 70 into each panel receiving slot 50 on the primary support structure 100 (step 5). It is well understood that when the primary support structure is provided already in its three-dimensional form that the steps for assembling the primary support structure from a two-dimensional form into a three-dimensional form are not necessary or are omitted.

As a preferred embodiment, the pliable material is baked after it has been affixed to a side of each panel and before each panel is attached to the primary support structure. When the pliable material is to be baked, it may be desirable to modify the panel so that holes or perforations are made to the panel to allow moisture to escape from the pliable material as it is baked. The pliable material is affixed to the panel using any method known to one of ordinary skill in the art. In particular, the pliable material is affixed by the following method. The pliable material is first provided and then flattened onto a releasable surface. Any method of flattening the material is suitable for the present invention. In particular, the material is flattened by using a rolling pin. The releasable surface is preferably a surface of waxed paper or parchment paper. A panel is then placed onto the flattened pliable material. The panel is pressed into the pliable material. In the case where the surface of the panel is a grooved surface, it is desirable to provide enough pressure in the pressing process so that the material becomes integral with the panel. The pliable material is trimmed around the panel and the pliable material is removed from a portion of the panel tab. Lastly, the panel containing the flattened pliable material is removed from the releasable surface. As an additional step, the panel containing the flattened pliable material is removed from the releasable surface and is baked in an oven.

The decorative structures prepared using the kit of the present invention have some unique distinctions from those found in the prior art. In particular, all of the decorative structures have an underlying three-dimensional primary support structure to which panels containing a pliable material are attached. In other words, panels containing a pliable material are affixed directly to the primary support structure. The presence of the three-dimensional primary support structure overcomes the problem in the prior art where free-standing structures had a tendency to fall or crumble during assembly. Moreover, the panels of the instant invention become an integral part of the structure instead of being used as simply a means to form or cut out parts of the structure. The panels are actually embedded in the pliable material prior to attachment to the primary-support structure instead of removing the material from the panel as is done in the prior art. Once the panels having the pliable material are affixed to the primary support structure, the finishing touches such as covering seams and closing gaps with various cover materials, such as icing, are made. The kit of the present invention simplifies the art of making decorative structures and removes the problems associated with making such decorative structures.

The above description and drawings are only illustrative of preferred embodiments which achieve the objects, features and advantages of the present invention, and it is not intended that the present invention be limited thereto. Any modification of the present invention which comes within the spirit and scope of the following claims is considered part of the present invention.

Claims

1. A kit for making a decorative structure comprising:
a three-dimensional primary support structure having at least one panel receiving slot; and
at least one panel, each panel having at least one panel tab extending therefrom and wherein each panel is of a shape corresponding to a portion of the primary support structure.
a three-dimensional primary support structure having at least one panel receiving slot; and
at least one panel, each panel having at least one panel tab extending therefrom and wherein each panel is of a shape corresponding to a portion of the primary support structure.
2. A kit according to claim 1, wherein the three-dimensional primary support structure is comprised of a material selected from the group consisting of: perforated sheet metal, wood, wire mesh, wire grate material, aluminum, plastic, pliable corrugated plastic, baking stone, and baked clay.
3. A kit according to claim 2, wherein the wherein the three-dimensional primary support structure is comprised of perforated sheet metal,
4. A kit according to claim 1, wherein the three-dimensional primary support structure is derived from a primary support structure having a two-dimensional shape of a structure, wherein the primary support structure has at least one primary support structure tab extending therefrom, at least one primary support structure slot, and at least one panel receiving slot.
5. A kit according to claim 4, wherein the primary support structure is comprised of a semi-rigid material and wherein the semi-rigid material is folded to form a three-dimensional primary support structure.
6. A kit according to claim 5, wherein the semi-rigid material is a corrugated material.
7. A kit according to claim 4, wherein the two-dimensional primary support structure further comprises at least one flange extending from at least one edge of the two-dimensional primary support structure.
8. A kit according to claim 1, wherein each panel is comprised of a material having at least one surface adapted for receiving a pliable material.
9. A kit according to claim 8, wherein the material is a corrugated material having at least one grooved surface.
10. A kit according to claim 9, wherein the grooved surface of the panel is horizontal to the primary support structure after the panel tab is inserted into the panel receiving slot on the primary support structure.
11. A kit according to claim 1, wherein the kit further comprises a pliable material.
12. A kit according to claim 11, wherein the pliable material is selected from the group consisting of: a dough, a wax, a confection, a clay, and a plaster.
13. A kit according to claim 12, wherein the pliable material is a dough.
14. A kit according to claim 13, wherein the dough is a gingerbread dough.
15. A kit according to claim 1, wherein the kit further comprises a storybook.
16. A kit according to claim 1, wherein the structure is selected from the group consisting of: a house; an Easter basket; and a Christmas tree.
17. A method for making a decorative structure, the method comprising the steps of:
a) providing the kit according to claim 1;
b) providing a pliable material;
c) affixing the pliable material to a side of each panel wherein the pliable material is integral with the panel and wherein each panel has at least one panel tab extending therefrom wherein each panel tab has a portion not covered by the pliable material; and
d) attaching each panel to a corresponding portion of the primary support structure by inserting each panel tab into each panel receiving slot.
a) providing the kit according to claim 1;
b) providing a pliable material;
c) affixing the pliable material to a side of each panel wherein the pliable material is integral with the panel and wherein each panel has at least one panel tab extending therefrom wherein each panel tab has a portion not covered by the pliable material; and
d) attaching each panel to a corresponding portion of the primary support structure by inserting each panel tab into each panel receiving slot.
18. A method according to claim 17, the method further comprising the step of baking the pliable material after the pliable material has been affixed to a side of each panel and before each panel is attached to the primary support structure.
19. A method according to claim 17, wherein the pliable material is affixed to the panel by the following method:
a) providing the pliable material;
b) flattening the pliable material onto a releasable surface;
c) placing the panel onto the flattened pliable material;
d) pressing the panel into the pliable material;
e)trimming the pliable material around the panel and removing the pliable material from a portion of the panel tab; and
f) removing the panel containing the flattened pliable material from the releasable surface.
a) providing the pliable material;
b) flattening the pliable material onto a releasable surface;
c) placing the panel onto the flattened pliable material;
d) pressing the panel into the pliable material;
e)trimming the pliable material around the panel and removing the pliable material from a portion of the panel tab; and
f) removing the panel containing the flattened pliable material from the releasable surface.
20. A method according to claim 17, wherein the three-dimensional primary support structure is derived from a primary support structure having a two-dimensional shape of a structure, wherein the primary support structure has at least one primary support structure tab extending therefrom, at least one primary support structure slot, and at least one panel receiving slot; wherein the three-dimensional primary support structure is formed by folding the two-dimensional primary support structure and inserting each primary support structure tab into each corresponding primary support structure slot to form a three-dimensional primary support structure.
21. A method according to claim 15, wherein the pliable material is a gingerbread dough.
22. A method according to claim 19, further comprising the step of baking the panel containing the flattened pliable material after the panel is removed from the releasable surface.
23. A decorative structure prepared by the method according to claim 17.