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1. WO2018124966 - OYSTER OPENING APPARATUS

Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

[ EN ]

Oyster Opening Apparatus

Field of Invention

[001 ] The present invention relates to an apparatus for opening live oysters in a safe and expeditious manner.

Background

[002] The most common apparatus for opening live oysters is an oyster knife. In use, the blade of the oyster knife is inserted between the two half-shells somewhere near the hinge or beak of an oyster. After the blade is inserted into the oyster, the knife is moved in a twisting motion towards the hinge or beak to partially open the two half-shells; the knife is then manipulated to cut the adductor muscle, which connect the upper half-shell to the lower half-shell. After removing the upper half-shell, the adductor muscle attached to the lower half-shell is cut whilst keeping the lower half-shell in a horizontal manner to prevent the oyster liquor from spilling. Openi ng a live oyster requires dexterously welding of the oyster knife and good hands-eyes coordination. When opening large numbers of live oysters in a routine food preparation facility, such a task becomes physically taxing and laborious; therefore, there is a need to provide a new and more efficient apparatus to open live oysters in a safe and expeditious manner.

[003] In one approach, US Patent No. 5,482,500, issued to Boettner et al., provides an oyster opener having a base plate, a support channel for receiving and supporting an oyster, and a lever with an engaging tip to pivotly crack and open the oyster. In another approach, US Patent No. 6,785,967, issued to Allievi, provides a handheld oyster opener; the oyster opener has two cooperating pivot members. The lower pivot member is curved and toothed, whi lst the upper member has a wedge. To open an oyster, the oyster is clamped between the lower and upper pivot members and the wedge is forced to open the oyster shells. In yet another approach, US Patent No. 7,785,176, issued to Le, provides a portable oyster opener; the opener is used to manually force open the oyster shells by a down stroke of a reci procati ng pi unger.

[004] It can thus be seen that there exists a need for another type of apparatus for opening oysters in a safe, efficient and quick manner, even by a novice.

Summary

[005] The following presents a simplified summary to provide a basic understanding of the present invention. This summary is not an extensive overview of the invention, and is not intended to identify key features of the invention. Rather, it is to present some of the inventive concepts of this invention in a generalised form as a prelude to the detailed descri pti on that is to fol I ow.

[006] The present invention seeks to provide a new oyster opening apparatus that is operable in a safe, efficient and expeditious manner. This apparatus is adjustable and can be used to open oysters that come i n a wi de range of sizes and shapes.

[007] In one embodi ment, the present invention provides an oyster opening apparatus. The apparatus comprises: a support channel; a stanchion connected to the support channel to form a base of the oyster opening apparatus, wherein an open slot is formed at a top end of the stanchion on a face that is contiguous with the support channel; a hinge rod disposed transversely to the open slot on the stanchion; a connecting rod disposed to engage loosely with the hinge rod, so that the connecting rod is pivotable about the stanchion in a rocking manner, with a longitudi nal axis of the connecting rod substantially along a length of the support channel; and a lever having an upper lobe and a lower lobe at a proximal end, and a handle at a distal end, with the upper lobe being pivoted to the connecting rod and a shucking member being connected at the lower lobe. When an oyster is placed on the support channel and in contact with the stanchion, the shucking member is operable to contact an indentation near the hinge of the oyster and when a force is applied onto the handle, the shucking member progresses to direct an oblique and upward force to pry open the oyster.

[008] In another embodiment, the present invention provides a method for opening an oyster. T he method comprises: supporting the oyster stably on a support channel and in contact with a stanchion; applying a force on a lever and transmitting the force to an

i ndentati on near the hi nge of the oyster vi a a shucki ng member; connecti ng the I ever to the stanchion in an articulate manner through a connecti ng rod; and allowing the shucking member to slide on a lower half-shell of the oyster and directing the force at an oblique and upward manner in order to pry open the oyster. T he method further comprises removing the oyster from the support channel, and cutting the adductor muscle at least at the lower half-shell to free the flesh of the oyster or loosening the flesh of the oyster from the adductor muscle.

Brief Description of the Drawings

[009] This invention will be described by way of non- limiting embodiments of the present invention, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0010] FIG. 1A illustrates an oyster opening apparatus according to an embodiment of the present invention; whilst FIGs. 1 B-1 C illustrate a support member and a stanchion of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1A;

[001 1 ] FIG . 2A ill ustrates an oyster openi ng apparatus accordi ng to a vari ati on of the above embodiment; and FIGs. 2B-2C illustrate plan views of stanchions according to two variations; and

[0012] FIGs. 3A-3D illustrate progressive opening of a live oyster using the above apparatus.

Detailed Description

[0013] One or more specific and alternative embodiments of the present invention will now be described with reference to the attached drawings. It shall be apparent to one skil led in the art; however, that this invention may be practised without such specific details. Some of the details may not be descri bed at length so as not to obscure the invention. For ease of reference, common reference numerals or series of numerals will be used throughout the figures when referring to the same or similar features common to the figures.

[0014] FIG. 1A shows an oyster opening apparatus 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 1A, the oyster opening apparatus 100 includes a support channel 110, an upright stanchion 120, a connecting rod 140, a link bar 160, a lever 170 and a shucking member 190. The support channel 110 is connected to the stanchion 120, preferably fixedly by weldi ng, or removeably by screws. Preferably, the connecting rod 140 is rectangular in cross section, of a uniform thickness and arcuate in shape. There is a series of notches 144 formed along part of an inside curved edge 143 of the connecting rod 140. When assembled, a notch 144 on the connecting rod 140 is loosely engaged on a hinge rod 130 located on the stanchion 120, whilst a proximal end of the connecting rod 140 is pivoted at P1 to the link bar 160. The opposite end of the li nk bar 160 is pivoted at P2 to a first lobe 172 on the lever 170. The lever 170 terminates with a handle 180 at a free end, whilst the shucking member 190 projects from a second lobe 174 on the lever 170 towards an oyster 10, which oyster is disposed on the support channel 110. In use, the oyster openi ng apparatus 100 i s pi aced on a stabl e surface, such as a table top, with a user' s hand to actuate the I ever 170 as i ndi cated by a force F 1 and preferably with another hand to stabilize the connecting rod 140 as indicated by another force F2. After the two half-shells have been forced or pried open beyond a predetermined limit, the two half-shells of the live oyster remain open, and a user would then remove the oyster from the support channel 110 and manually cut the adductor muscle with a knife to loosen the flesh of the oyster for consumption or processing. A lternatively, when the two half-shells are pried open, the force F1 on the handle 180 can be further applied until the adductor muscle is torn, so that the two half-shells are loosely connected. A user can then remove the oyster from the support channel and manually cut the adductor muscle at the lower half-shell with a knife to loosen the flesh of the oyster or simply loosen the flesh from the lower half-shell. When opening an oyster with this apparatus 100, a user does not need to hold the oyster with a hand. The oyster opening apparatus 100 thus provides a safe and efficient tool for openi ng live oysters; in addition, this apparatus 100 makes opening of oysters simple and expeditious, even to a novice.

[0015] As shown in FIGs. 1A-1 C, the support channel 110 and the stanchion 120 are formed from sheet metals, such as stainless steel or aluminium; the oyster opening apparatus 100 is thus lightweight and portable, yet sturdy and stable. In addition, these

sheet metal parts can be joined by known means, such as by welding or with screws. FIG. 1 B shows the support channel 110 is formed with a substantially M-shaped cross section, ie. with a centre V- or U-shaped depression 112 to support an oyster stably, without a user requiring a hand to hold the oyster 10 during operation. Preferably, an open slot 114 is provided at an end of the V -shaped depression 112 which would be contiguous with the stanchion 120. The slot 114 prevents water, liquid from the oyster or any small broken pieces from the oyster shells from collecti ng on the support channel. Also preferably, the longitudinal free edges 116 at the base of the support channel 110 are formed inward, so that the contact faces at the base are flat and non-scratching onto a support surface; in addition, polymeric or rubber materials may be disposed onto the contact faces to provide non-sl i p contact with the support surface.

[0016] FIG. 1 C shows the stanchion 120 is formed into a truncated V-shaped upright structure with two slant sidewal Is 121 a, 121 b. T he bottom of the slant sidewal Is 121a, 121 b define a base, which is slightly wider than a width at a top end. As seen in FIG. 1 C, a face 121 of the stanchion that would be contiguous with the support channel 110 has a centre slot 122, which is open from the top end. A width of the slot 122 is dimensioned to loosely receive the thickness of the connecting rod 140. The hinge rod 130, disposed transversely to the slot 122, is fixedly connected to the sidewalls, so that the open notches 144 on the connecting rod 140 can rock loosely on the hi nge rod 130 during operation of the apparatus 100. The loose connection between the connecti ng rod 140 and the stanchion 120 allows the user to adjust the connecting rod on the stanchion according to a size of the oyster; at the same time, the loose connection between the notches 144 and the hinge rod 130 allows the user to tilt the connecting rod/handle with some lateral freedom of motion; this li mited lateral freedom of motion is useful because the shapes of the oysters are often irregular. Motions of shucking oysters will be described with reference to FIGs. 3A-3D. Whilst the connecting rod 140 is preferably arcuate, it is not so restricted; the connecting rod 140 can also be general ly straight i n shape.

[0017] Also as seen in FIG. 1 C, an aperture 124 on the stanchion face 121 is preferably formed at a distance below the open slot 122. When assembled, the aperture 124 is at a level above the V-shaped depression 112 of the support channel 110. Preferably, a width of the aperture 124 tapers to each of its two ends. When the apparatus 100 is in use, an oyster 10 is placed on the support channel 110 with part of the posterior end (which is opposite to the hinge) of the oyster projecting through the aperture 124; in this manner, the oyster is stably supported on the apparatus 100 at substantially three points, two points on the V -shaped surface 112 of the support channel 110 and a third point at the aperture 124. In addition, to further accommodate the odd shapes or large sizes of oysters, a stopper plate 125 i s provi ded above the aperture 124, preferably at the end of the open si ot 122. W hen i n use, the stopper plate 125 provides an alternative third point of contact for the oyster to be held stably on the apparatus 100; this is seen more clearly in FIG. 2A. When the oyster is relatively small, the posterior end is simply placed in contact with the stanchion face 121.

[0018] Referring back to FIG. 1A, the lever 170 has two lobes, an upper, first lobe 172 and a lower, second lobe 174 at a proximal end, with a distal end terminating at the handle 180. The link bar 160 is pivotedly connected at the upper first lobe 172 whilst the shucking member 190 is welded to the lower second lobe 174 such that the shucking member 190 is directed to contact the oyster 10 disposed on the support channel 110. The link bar 160 provides a flexible or articulate connection between the lever 170 and the connecting rod 140; this flexible connection allows additional degrees of freedom of motion in directing the shucking member 190 at an indentation near the hinge of the oyster. Preferably, the handle 180 includes a pair of members made of wood or plastic being riveted to the lever 170 to provide the user with a more comfortable grip at the handle. The shucking member 190 has a pointed end 192, preferably formed with chisel -shaped edges; preferably, the chisel -shaped edges are faci ng upwards, but they are not limited by this orientation of the shucking member 190. The pointed end 192 of the shucking member 190 can also be pointed like that of a pencil, although a thick pointed pencil end may cause edges of the oyster shells to crack.

[0019] FIG. 2A shows an oyster opening apparatus 100a according to another embodiment The oyster opening apparatus 100a is similar to the above apparatus 100, except that the link member 160 is now dispensed with. Without the link member 160, the rocking or seesaw movements of the connecting rod 140 on the hinge rod 130 may go through larger amplitudes; the degrees of movements of the shucking member 190 may also be reduced but the apparatus 100a remains useful and efficient for opening oysters.

[0020] FIGs. 3A-3D illustrate progressive opening of an oyster 10 using the above oyster opening apparatus 100, 100a. As described above, the oyster is supported or contacts the apparatus 100, 100a at substantially three poi nts of contact. In FIG. 3A, the shucking member 190 is initially di rected to the indentation near the hinge of an oyster 10, where the hinge is at an anterior end of the oyster. As a force F1 is applied onto the handle 180, the pivot P1 and/or P2 at the connecting rod 140 or link bar 160 tend to be displaced upward, resulting in the shucking member 190 being moved to the right and upward, as seen in FIG. 3B. Further application of force F1 on the handle 180 causes a lower side of the shucking member 190 to slide on the lower half-shell at an angle, alphal; as a result the shucking member 190 becomes positively inserted into the indentation near the hi nge, and the two half-shells become slightly pried open. Further application of the force F1 on the handle 180 causes the shucking member 190 to further slide on the lower half-shell and to further pry the oyster 10 at an oblique and upward angle, alpha2, as seen in FIG. 3D; as a result the oyster is pried open and the adductor muscle is stretched beyond an elastic limit and the two half-shel Is remai n opened. T he oyster 10 is then removed from the support channel 110 and a knife can then be easily inserted into the oyster to cut the adductor muscle near the upper half-shell before the upper half-shell is removed; the adductor muscle connected to the lower half shell is then cut to loosen the flesh of the oyster from the lower half-shell; the lower half-shell, which is generally cup-shaped, is preferably held in a substantially horizontal manner to prevent the liquour of the oyster from spilling. Alternatively, it is possible that the force F1 is applied continuously until the adductor muscle becomes torn, so that the upper half shell can be easily removed; the adductor muscle at the lower half-shell may then be further cut with a knife, when necessary, or a knife is used to simply loosen the flesh of the oyster from the adductor muscle.

[0021 ] While specific embodiments have been described and illustrated, it is understood that many changes, modifications, variations and combinations thereof could be made to the present i nvention without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, a round hinge bar 130a may be fixed onto a rear of the stanchion face 121 at the end of the slot 122 by welding, instead of connecting it to the sidewalls, as seen in FIG. 2B. In yet another example, the stanchion 120 is bent about the vertical axis (Z-axis as indicated in FIG. 1 C), of course before fixing a stopper plate 125a, so that the stanchion face 121c is slightly V-shaped, as shown in FIG. 2C.