Clothespin-Making Update
September 2014

Dateline: 24 September 2014

(click pictures to see enlarged views)

I am still working at making clothespins outdoors under the tent. Good fall weather is in the forecast for the rest of this week and I hope to finish up this year's first production run of clothespins from the 300+ square feet of ash lumber I bought three weeks ago. 

I'll be finished (hopefully) to the point that the wood halves are made. Then comes tumbling, sorting, sealing, assembling, packaging, and all of that.

My plan was to mill a second batch of wood into clothespins before the cold weather gets here. But my plan was also to start making these in early August, not early September. I lost a month of productive clothespin-making time. So it looks like I will just have a single production run of clothespins this year.

I'm making these clothespins part time. Every day until about 1:00 I have to tend to the Planet Whizbang business. Then, weather permitting, I work under the tent until dark, which is getting earlier and earlier at this time of year. 

But I need to dig potatoes. I need to get the garden cleaned up for winter. The raspberries need to be thinned and tied up. Garlic will need to be planted. I have firewood coming this weekend. It will need to be split and stacked. This is an especially needy time of year.

Making clothespins is incredibly tedious work. But I came up with a way to make the hours spent at the table saw go by a lot easier. In the picture above, you can see a portable CD player on my table saw. I bought a copy of Wendell Berry's book, Jayber Crow, on CD. I tuck the player inside my shirt, plug the ear buds into my ear sockets, and put my hearing protectors on.

The book amounts to 15 hours of listening time. I'm about half way through. If the book finishes up before I finish the saw work, I have I Am Hutterite to listen to.

I've mentioned in the past that I'm not much of a novel reader, but listening to a novel is something different. And Jayber Crow is something different in a novel. Were I to have bought the book to read, I surely would never have finished it. I would have bogged down in the poetic wordiness and self-conscious philosophical ramblings of Port William barber, Jayber Crow, recounting his life story. But the man who does the reading does an excellent job of it, and the story holds my attention pretty well.

Wendell Berry is clearly a master wordsmith and I marvel at his talent. Jayber Crow is considered by many to be the best of Berry's fictional works, but I'm still undecided about what to think of the actual story line. I enjoy hearing of the chronicle of life as it once was, and would be, in Port William through the decades, along with stories about the many colorful personages of that small rural town. But the one-sided love story between the bachelor barber, Jaber Crow, and the much younger Mattie Keith Chatham is just plain weird. I'm to the point in the story where Jayber "marries" Mattie (who is already married) in his mind and vows to be true to her. 

Well, anyway, about those clothespins….

The picture above shows a box of clothespin "flitches" that have been milled. The next step will be to rip the many clothespin halves out of all the flitches. I estimate that box in the picture will render around 900 clothespin halves, which would, of course, equal 450 finished clothespins. When I get done, this production run should yield over 10,000 clothespins. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but I don't think my supply will last long, based on the number of people who have signed up for the Planet Whizbang newsletter, and are awaiting the announcement that the clothespins are finally for sale.

Clothespin Confusion

I put together 30 of my Classic American Clothespins, sealed them with tung oil, and gave them as a wedding gift last month. The bride's mother e-mailed us later to say it was "the best wedding gift ever."

She furthermore said that when her daughter opened the gift, all the country wives that were there oohed and aahed, realizing how special the quality clothespins were. But the groom's mother, an urbanized woman who does not hang up her laundry, didn't get it. What was the big deal?

This is typical, and it is interesting to see.

I see it when I tell people I am making clothespins as a business venture. Some people respond with  excitement, enthusiasm, and genuine interest. When this is the reaction, I know that person uses clothespins (and they know that all the store-bought clothespins are junk).

And other people respond like the groom's mother. They seem  a little confused. "You are making clothespins?" There is no interest. No enthusiasm. They don't use clothespins. They can't relate. They think to themselves, 'That's dumb.'

This "clothespin confusion" may, I believe, explain why the several woodworking magazines I contacted about my clothespins have no interest in them. 

I sent clothespin samples and the specifications booklet I put together for woodworkers who want to make their own heirloom-quality clothespins. What a great woodworking project, right? Well, apparently not. I got absolutely no response from any woodworking magazine I contacted. Obviously, none of the magazine editors line-dry their laundry. 


David The Good said...

Great update.

It's just too bad you hate America, home businesses, entrepreneurship and green living!!!

Herrick Kimball said...


Thank you for noticing that I hate America, home businesses, entrepreneurship, and green living.

I am truly awed by your perspicacity.


Unknown said...

Howdy Mr. Kimball,
I am one of those eager folks awaiting the completion of this production run.
I am biding my time and reading something you might be interested in or have already read.
Michael Bunker's "Surviving Off Off-Grid, Decolonizing the Industrial Mind". He uses the "agrarian" word a bunch and is a faith based writer.
Pam Baker

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Pam,

I reviewed Surviving Off Off-Grid in my February 2011 Blogazine.

It's an excellent book, with a lot of practical information.

Thanks for the recommendation.

Unknown said...


We cant wait to receive the clothespin specifications we order a couple of days ago. Truly hoping we can make a go of this as a family business!

I live in a large metropolitan area ( hopefully not for long) and there are a lot of people who snub their noses at hanging laundry out. Ive said over and over I hope its the one thing I can continue you to do well into my sunset years!



Anonymous said...

oh my I love hanging my laundry out, I moved out of the city so I could do this and many other things. Then those cheap clothes pins from the dollar store just don't hold up. I am seriously thinking of ordering some of your clothes pins. I am not interested in starting a business, but I would like some clothes pins that last a little while.

SheilaG said...

Herrick, I should be on that list too, and if not, please let me know so I can opt in again.
I really, really, really NEED the clothes pins.
Oh how my Aunt Audrey would have loved your clothes pins. She was in her 90's and just loved hanging up her clothes outside every day.
I can remember the day that my little brother had a fit, when he saw my aunt hanging up her clothes OUTSIDE! He had never seen a clothesline before.
With 7 children, my mother had a machine clothes dryer before he was born.
That was many, many years ago, and my brother is now a grandfather!

ELittle said...

Hi Herrick, Just wondering how you separate the pins from the flitches? Do you use the tablesaw and a close fitting insert, or do you use a bandsaw and guide?

Was David speaking with tongue in cheek, or seriously? I was instantly peeved that someone would say that till I read your response. Even then I wasn't to sure till noticed the little "face" for punctuation!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Lisa,
If your family undertakes to make clothespins there isn't a doubt in my mind that you can sell all you make. The only hard part is actually making them.

The marketing strategy I suggest once you have the product made is to get a web page (all my web pages are free blogs), establish a local outlet where they can be purchased, then send samples of your clothespins to the Features Editor of every local newspaper. They will do a story about your business and you'll be on your way.

I've yet to do this because I don't have a local outlet to sell the clothespins (so far, they sell pretty quick via just the internet) and don't want people coming to my home.

Years ago I sent information about my then-just-published book on making garlic powder to a local newspaper and they did a story about it, and all of a sudden people were calling me, or finding my home, and stopping by looking to buy some of my homemade garlic powder.

I wasn't prepared for the response.

Herrick Kimball said...

Anonymous & Sheila,
My plan is to have clothespins ready in early November and I will be letting readers of this blog know at the same time I send out my newsletter announcement.

Herrick Kimball said...

I will cut the halves out of the flitches with a table saw and a zero clearance insert. I also use a thin kerf saw blade. it removes less wood which means I can often get an additional half out of a flitch.

This year I'll be using a new Forrest thin-kerf blade. As you may already know, the Forrest blades are top of the line, lifetime saw blades.

Re: David's comment….
I answered that quick because I didn't want anyone to misconstrue his humor. What he says, and my response to it, relates to an e-mail exchange he and I had awhile back when I posted about "Jacqueline's Snarky Sorry."

I don't want to explain it all here. Suffice it to say that David is a good guy. He wrote a great review of my clothespins last year on his blog, and my Whizbang wheel hoe before that.

Thanks for the comment.

Darren (Green Change) said...

I'm with you on the audio book thing. I've knocked quite a few books off my "must read before I die" list over the last few years by borrowing the audio version from my local library. I'd have never got through them in book form.

I don't know why, but like you I find it much easier to get through a book in audio form. If a paper book is hard going, wordy, and dense, I often fall asleep after just a page or two. But an audio book ploughs on inexorably with little effort on my part, dragging me along with it.

Even if I'm not really enjoying a book, I'll usually still listen to it through to the end - I can't say the same for a paper book!

Jim Janknegt said...

I liked Jabar Crow but I liked Hannah Coulter a lot better. Give it a try if you can find on audio.