Ash & Providence
(2014 Clothespin Update)

Dateline: 31 August 2014

$1,200 worth of ash lumber for this year's first production run of Classic American clothespins.

My goal to bring the manufacture of high-quality, traditional-style, wood-and-spring clothespins back to America is progressing (see ClassicAmericanClothespins). Last year's first two production runs of clothespins sold out pretty fast. 

There is clearly an enormous market for good clothespins, and many people are willing to pay a premium for them. The only problem is that I can't begin to meet the demand, especially since I am trying to make clothespins and operate an otherwise busy mail-order business selling how-to books and things like chicken plucker parts.

So I'm faced with the conundrum of trying to pursue what may be my best entrepreneurial idea ever by working at it part time. If I were the kind of person who put all his eggs in one basket, I'd drop everything else and just make clothespins. But I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to plug away at trying to make as many clothespins as I can, when I can, while making specifications and springs available to other wood crafters so they can have their own clothespin-making home businesses.

I have sold specifications and springs to several woodworkers, but not as many as I expected I would. There is opportunity in this idea. But it does require some professional skills and tools, as well as a lot of initiative to get the business going. Thus far, I only know of one person who is  making and selling their own handcrafted clothespins, and one other is about to.

It was my plan to start making clothespins for this year a month ago, but it hasn't happened (I've had a lot of hay down, if you know what I mean). So I'm scrambling to get on with it before the cold and wet weather of autumn arrives. 

Like last year, I'm making my clothespins outdoors, under a 10' x 10' tent. My little wood-frame workshop is crammed full of other Planet Whizbang business stuff. I am severely space challenged. When Marlene and I drive somewhere, I'm always checking out different barns along the way… "Look at that barn, Marlene! That would be perfect for the Planet Whizbang business."

If you're a long-time reader here you know that I will not borrow money to build a workshop-production-storage-shipping-retail building for my business. And you know that there is no room on the rural lot where my house sets to put up a such a building. And you know that I would not consider having my business location anywhere other than next to my house.

So I'm making do, and that's what I'll continue to do, until something else, in time, Providentially falls into place, or not. That's pretty much the story of my life.

I often get e-mails (or actual letters) from people who read this blog and lament that they do not have land, or enough land, or the right land, to live a simple, more self-reliant lifestyle. My advice over the years to such people is always the same: Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are, and be content with that.

It is another way of saying, "be faithful with small things." That is a biblical admonition, and it is one of the foundational precepts of the Foundations For Farming ministry that I have written about here a few times in the past. But I digress.

Day before yesterday I finally got some clothespin wood (pictured above). That is 300+ square feet of beautiful ash hardwood. It will make thousands of Classic American clothespins. But they don't come easy. I'll put 80+ hours into making precise little clothespin halves out of those boards. And I'll do it all under that tent in the background. If all goes well, I'll get another load of ash and get a second production run in before the weather turns too cold.

Then, after the cold comes, with thousands of halves safely stored in bins, I'll turn my attention to tumbling, sorting, oiling, assembling and packaging the clothespins.

To help facilitate the production of these clothespins, I'm trying to make a saw that will do in one pass what I have done previously in three passes. That will save a LOT of time. But I'm having a problem with blade wobble. A machinist is helping me to fine-tune the tool. Hopefully that will come together very soon.

So I'm narrowing my focus to clothespins for awhile. Bear with me. I'll probably be writing more on this subject over the next couple of months.

The Finished Product


You Can Call Me Jane said...

I, for one, can't wait to own another set- I always seek them out in my clothespin bag! Keep us posted:-).

dfr2010 said...

Focus and dedicate away! I missed out the last time you had some for sale and am hoping to get some this next time. Being in Florida, we hang our laundry out year-round.

Anonymous said...

Your clothespins are to pricey for me so I am thankful my grandma's clothespins, which I inherited, are still working fine.

timfromohio said...

What sort of blade wobble? Table saw? I've seen dampeners made by Forrest (they make excellent table saw blades, though pricey) but have never had need of one.

Herrick Kimball said...


My homemade table saw with three blades and spacers (for cutting the grip grooves) has some wobble. I have Freud blade stiffeners but they are not helping. The problem is, I think, due to using a shaft with ACME screw threads. I'm pretty sure my machinist can solve the problem. I'm just waiting for him to do it.