We're Making Clothespins!

Dateline: 27 August 2013

My son and I are focused heavily on getting our first production run of clothespins made. My son is enthused about making clothespins. That pleases me. It is tedious work and he wants to get through them fast, but I keep stressing that making clothespins is a marathon, not a sprint, especially when making a lot of them, as we are doing.

The process of making clothespins involves some basic woodworking power tools but I would not classify this as a basic woodworking project. Everything has to be done just-so. The pictures that follow were taken by me last year when I was prototyping my clothespin design. I have changed the overall design slightly from what these pictures show, but the process is pretty much the same. These pictures give you an idea of what we've been doing under the "clothespin-making tent" outside my workshop.

(click pictures to see enlarged views)

The wood is ash. Boards are planed down to 3/8" thick. Each board is crosscut into pieces 3.5" long. I call these pieces clothespin "flitches."

Each clothespin flitch is machined just-so before the clothespin halves are cut. In this picture you can see the three "grip grooves" that have been cut with the table saw.

Various other cuts are made in the flitches using a router mounted in a router table.

Here you can see the machined flitches

The flitches are clamped to a "flitch sled" for ripping on the table saw, as shown here.

The mouth end of the flitches is ripped down with the blade at a slight angle. Then the flitches are flipped 180° and the handle end is ripped at an angle. The second ripping cut is shown here.

The final cutting step is to rip the clothespin halves out of the machined flitches, and that's what is happening in this picture.

After the halves are cut out, they are put in plastic bags and tumbled for a period of time. This tumbling action serves to "sand" the sharp edges smooth. Then, pieces of terrycloth, dampened with linseed oil and turpentine are added to the bags and the halves are tumbled some more. After the second tumbling, the pin halves look like you see here. After air-drying, they will be assembled with stainless steel springs.

Our first production run of clothespins will be offered for sale on this blog. First come, first served, until they're gone. I still don't know what the price will be. That depends on our total yield and the labor we've invested in making them. I'm looking forward to showing you the finished product.


Sunnybrook Farm said...

Wonderful! Keep cutting!

Barb. said...

Gosh, that sounds complicated. Good on you both. Do you put the *spring* on by hand? What a job that would be.


Anonymous said...

It's ON!! The Great Clothespin War of 2012! Ha - just kidding - best of luck. Thanks for letting us in on how it's done. To a novice, it appears a very laborious process full of quality assurance pitfalls. I'm sure you have some thoughts on how you'll be able to scale up the process to speed production and reduce waste. (just slightly now... :) nothing wrong with improving a process)
Good Luck - Best Regards,

Herrick Kimball said...


The springs will go on by hand. The whole process is a lot of work. But I have a device that makes putting the springs on very simple and easy. It was invented by my friend, Tom O'Neill, who is organic farmer and an amateur mechanical genius. I'll be showing the tool at some point and Tom will be getting a box of the very first clothespins.

You are correct in that there are numerous quality assurance pitfalls. That's a good way to put it. There is not a lot of wasted wood as the process is now, but there are ways to speed up production and I'll be implementing them, I hope, in time. I also expect that when I make the springs and specifications available to woodworkers "out there," that many of those people will come up with new ways to improve the process. But hand-crafting something like this will always be a laborious process.

LindaG said...

Good luck!

Unknown said...

Sign me up..... I want a supply of your first production clothespins.
Your blog is a breath of fresh air as you share ideas of viable small business. I have been trying to understand how to bring "the kingdom of God" into our homestead.... I think you are doing just that very thing with your homestead and family.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! Thanks for the update and may the clothespins be a rousing success!

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I like what you said.

kathyinozarks said...

these clothes pins are just so cool can't wait to see the finished product-will you be selling them online? Kathy

Herrick Kimball said...


Yes, I'll sell my first production run of clothespins right here.

Unknown said...

My daughter and I love your blog and want to buy your clothespins when ready. We'll keep an eye on the blog; how will the orders be handled? (paypal, or??)

Herrick Kimball said...

Payments will be handled through PayPal, but you don't need to be signed up with PayPal to make the payment. There is an option when checking out to just make the payment with a credit card. I've used PayPal for many years.

We're hoping to have the clothespins all done and ready to sell by September 9. But it depends on what else comes along to take us away from the project.

Thanks for asking.

Anonymous said...

I might have to install a clothesline just to buy these and try them.

Tanya Murray said...

I read your post some days ago and it had me pondering and reaching back into the recesses of memory. I felt I just had to blog about it and other pegs. I hope you don't mind, I used one of your photos and I have clearly linked back to your post. From all the comments I can see these being very popular and it is gratifying to see people wanting something so simple yet full of integrity back in their homes again. I have added the link to my post and if you are unhappy with it please let me know. Kindest regards, Tanya from Suburban Jubilee

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Tanya,

No problem. I appreciate you letting others know about the clothespins we're making. I've been to your blog in the past. You have a lot of good information there. Tasmania seems like such a neat place to live. Best wishes.

daltxguy said...

Seems to me like you are trying to recreate a clothespin designed to be produced by a machine, by hand.
Instead, why not produce a clothespin by hand, which was designed to be produced by hand? such as a shaker clothespin?
I have also thought to make wooden clothespins and this was because where I was living at the time, the wooden clothespins were very expensive. But I think the issue is the design, not the ability to handmake economical wooden clothespins.

Eric@831 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric@831 said...

Please send me pricing...this is a lost craft. Bravo to you all!