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Interesting to Making Clothespins

Wooden clothespins

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…

wooden 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.

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