Dateline: 16 August 2013
|An early prototype clothespin|
I drove to Memphis today. No, not that Memphis. I'm talking about Memphis, New York. It's less than an hour from my home, but I've never been there before. Memphis is a very little rural hamlet along what was once the Erie Canal. I'm led to believe the place was a bustling center of commercial activity back in the early to mid-1800s. But there's no bustle of economic activity in Memphis these days. From what I could see the town has a volunteer fire department and a lumberyard. It was the Memphis Hardwood Lumber Company I was interested in. I had ordered nearly 200 square feet of 3/8" thick ash lumber for my first production run of Classic American Clothespins. This day has been a long time coming.
It was back in April of 2012 when I announced at this here blog that I wanted to start up an American-made clothespin company. I had come to the realization that American-made, hardwood, spring-action clothespins were no longer being made, and American line-dryers weren't happy with the, cheap, poor-quality, imported clothespins being sold in the Walmarts and Dollar Stores of the land.
My announcement brought a surprising number of positive and encouraging comments from readers. I took that as validation that I ought to proceed. I soon contacted a spring manufacturing company and we worked together to create a high-quality stainless steel clothespin spring. I invested in an initial order of 50,000 springs and got them in June of 2012.
|Custom-made stainless steel clothespin springs|
In retrospect, I am a little surprised at myself for moving so quickly on the idea. I dare say it was almost impulsive. But I was feeling positive and springs are a critical part of the product. My plan was to get the springs made and then develop the clothespin design.
Then, last September that I posted the following picture...
I made a LOT of prototype clothespins and just about had my final specifications figured out when I posted that picture. But I wasn't quite there. Into October I continued to tweak the measurements and I used up every last scrap of hardwood lumber in my work shop. The last piece of wood I cut up was a short section of wormy chestnut that Earl the Bee Man had given me years ago.
The wormy chestnut clothespins came out just right. I finally had my critical dimensions. I was pleased with that, but winter was coming and I had to get on to some other projects. I stashed the chestnut beauties in a safe place and determined to get back to the clothespin project after I finished The Planet Whizbang Idea For Gardeners, and that's pretty much what I've done.
Since my little workshop is too crammed to make the clothespins, I've set up an outdoor workshop under a tent...
|View from the steps of my shop, down into the clothespin workshop. The hat is over a post at the top of the stairs. That clothespin on the hat is one of the wormy chestnut ones. (click picture for a closer view)|
Where there's a will, there's a way, eh? I have a table saw and three router tables set up under the tent. The weather is supposed to be good into next week. Even if it gets bad, the tent sides drop down.
So I'm on my way with the American-made clothespins. I will be keeping track of my time and material costs going into this first production run. Then I can figure a selling price. I'm afraid the cost of these crafted clothespins will end up being more than most people will want to spend, but they will be heirloom-quality clothespins that are strong and dependable, unlike the cheap imports.