Making & Selling Handcrafted Clothespins

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Forum topic by farmbeet posted 01-15-2014 02:29 PM 5454 views 9 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 1622 days

01-15-2014 02:29 PM


This is my first post to these forums. I’ve worked 25+ years in the building trades. Back in the 1980’s-1990’s I wrote several articles for Fine Homebuilding magazine and three books for The Taunton Press. Over the years, I’ve pursued several different entrepreneurial ideas and most of them related in one way or another to woodworking.

My latest idea, which I started to develop back in the spring of 2012 is making and selling wooden clothespins. The common torsion-spring clothespin was invented in the United States back in the 1800’s, and US manufacturers made millions of clothespins over the years. But the last American clothespin manufacturer went out of business several years ago as a result of cheap foreign imports.

The problem with the foreign imported clothespins is that they’re junk. They are made out of Chinese-mystery-wood with wimpy springs. They don’t hold clothes on the line and they fall apart easily. My wife brought this to my attention. When I went to the internet to check it out, I found that there is widespread discontent among the clothespin users of America because they can’t buy a good-quality clothespin (like used to be made in America).

So I put a LOT of effort, a LOT of time, and a fair amount of money into this idea of making and selling high-quality, handcrafted clothespins. I call my business Classic American Clothespins and I have a web site where I sell them (

The clothespins I make are crafted from ash and have heavy-gauge, full-coil stainless steel springs. They are made to last a lifetime…. and then some. I just started selling the clothespins back in November of 2013. I’ve sold thousands of them. People who use clothespins love them. One person who bought some wrote about them at the Mother Earth News blog… Craftsman Brings Back Classic American Clothespins

My reason for posting here is 1.) to inspire and encourage anyone who reads this to pursue your ideas. The fact is, after pursuing various creative ideas (some good and some not so good) since 2002, I was finally able to develop and build my home business to the point that I could quit my factory job in early 2013. 2.) I’m trying to let other woodworkers know about this clothespin idea, and encourage any who are interested to consider making and selling “artisan”clothespins too. There is no way I alone will be able to supply the demand once the word gets out that it’s once again possible to purchase a “good ol’ clothespin,” and there is no way I want to.

For now, I’m making clothespins using a table saw and router tables. It is tedious work. In the spring I will upgrade my equipment to a shaper with a power feeder, and some other tools/jigs. I think I can cut my production time to less than half of what it currently is.

So that’s my “sweating for bucks through woodworking” story.

If anyone has questions about crafting clothespins, I will do my best to answer them here. I’m not posting about this at any other woodworking groups for now. This is kind of a test to see if I can generate some interest in a new-old idea.

Herrick Kimball
Moravia, New York

39 replies so far

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3048 days

#1 posted 01-15-2014 03:34 PM

Know what you mean about the clothespins. Most housing developments frown on ugly things like cloth
lines, so a lot of people do not understand what you are talking about. I grew up sleeping with sheets and clothing with that fresh line dried smell. I stocked up on American clothespins back when, but my stock is
running low, so I may have to buy some of yours. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Thalweg's profile


97 posts in 3369 days

#2 posted 01-15-2014 04:00 PM

Do you make the springs too?

View bigblockyeti's profile


5086 posts in 1683 days

#3 posted 01-15-2014 04:14 PM

How much time is invested per clothespin? How many do you typically make at one time? This is very interesting to me as trying make something in what amounts to batch manufacturing compared to mass manufacturing would be difficult to do. The big thing you’ve got going for you is the ever poor quality.

View farmbeet's profile


18 posts in 1622 days

#4 posted 01-15-2014 08:30 PM


I live in a rural area of upstate N.Y. and so far we have retained the freedom to hang out clothes to dry, and enjoy that fresh line-dried smell. But a few years ago a town next to me came close to passing an ordinance prohibiting people from line-drying clothes. The “problem” was that several Amish families had moved into the town and some folks didn’t like looking at their laundry. A surprising number of people showed up at the town meeting to speak in favor of letting the Amish hang their laundry outdoors. I spoke in support of them and invited all Amish families to move into my town. I told them I’m on the town board and the last thing we would ever do is use the force of law to stop our neighbors from line-drying clothes. I’m glad to say the ordinance did not become a reality.

View TiggerWood's profile


271 posts in 1569 days

#5 posted 01-15-2014 08:45 PM

farmbeet It’s scary the laws they pass that take away basic freedoms that really don’t hurt anyone.

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18 posts in 1622 days

#6 posted 01-15-2014 08:50 PM


You got that right! I think about moving to a less regulated state often. Kentucky and Missouri appeal to me. But I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life. It’s hard to leave a community where you know a lot of people and are comfortable.

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18 posts in 1622 days

#7 posted 01-15-2014 08:56 PM


I don’t make the springs. I found a spring manufacturer and worked with them to come up with a good quality (Made in USA) spring. That was a major expense, especially since I went with stainless steel. I am making the springs available in small or large quantities to anyone who wants to make their own clothespins, either as a hobby or a craft business.

View dhazelton's profile


2753 posts in 2259 days

#8 posted 01-15-2014 08:58 PM

I see a lot of developments go in and they ban outdoor clotheslines. That’s perfect – they make you consume more electricity to screw with the planets resources. I try to hang clothes or sheets when weather allows and I don’t bring my pins in so they rust and the wood shrinks. Maybe you could sell clothespin holders that keep your pins dry to hang out on the post or tree as well. And nice wooden laundry baskets with a cloth liner like mom used to have.

View TiggerWood's profile


271 posts in 1569 days

#9 posted 01-15-2014 09:01 PM

farmbeet I lived in southern Missouri for a year and it was great. You were able to do anything you wanted on your property, anything. The price of property ranges from three thousand for a one bedroom on a lot to forty thousand for four multi-family houses on one hundred acres. However, I had two problems. One is the KKK and two, there is nothing going on there. Everyone is in bed by 8 and up by the literal cock-a-doodle-doo.

View Texcaster's profile


1273 posts in 1637 days

#10 posted 01-15-2014 09:15 PM

We can’t even get the crappy wooden ones, just crappy plastic. You might try a post on a luthier site, many use CP to glue the linings to the sides.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

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18 posts in 1622 days

#11 posted 01-15-2014 09:25 PM


I have made two production runs of approximately 5,000 clothespins each. I made them last fall, outdoors, under a tent, because my small workshop is so crowded. I actually enjoyed woodworking outdoors… until the weather got cold in the fall.

I kept track of my time real well on the 2nd production run but can’t find the paper with the numbers right now. I’m pretty sure I had around 90 hours of time cutting and milling the wood to get the halves. So that’s 1.08 minutes per clothespin. However, there is more time required for tumble-sanding the pieces, sorting, and so forth.
I sell unfinished assemble-them-yourself clothespin kits, which don’t require a lot more labor, and I sell sealed and assembled clothespins, which take the most time.

I can only guess at this point (because I haven’t done any time studies) that the AVERAGE additional time per clothespin would make for a total of 3 minutes.

Like I said in my initial post, I believe that time can be cut down significantly with the help of a small power feeder on the table saw and a shaper. Also, the three grip grooves on the handle ar made with three passes on the table saw. I will soon be making my own table saw with three blades to cut the three slots at the same time. I can only gang two blades together on my old Craftsman table saw. Such a tool, again with a power feeder, would cut a lot of hours off the process.

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18 posts in 1622 days

#12 posted 01-15-2014 09:32 PM


That’s where the stainless steel springs are a nice feature. I was going to make and sell old-style clothespin but there is already a woman doing so (she wrote the Mother Earth News blog article I mentioned). I just bought one of her clothespin bags for my wife yesterday.

View Northwest29's profile


1637 posts in 2453 days

#13 posted 01-15-2014 09:35 PM

Now you are one cleaver and creative fellow. What a great idea to bring back such a practical and quality made product. The last time I saw any clothes pins they were small and mad of cheap plastic. I too grew up with a mother who dried her clothes outside on a line your pins bring back fond memories of those days.

When you make a ‘run’ of clothes pins approximately how many do you make at one time?

-- Ron, Eugene, OR, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

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18 posts in 1622 days

#14 posted 01-15-2014 09:38 PM


Yes, clothespins can be handily little clamps. Don Williams (amazing guy) bought a couple of my clothespin kits. He blogged at his “Barn on White Run” web site about how he uses clothespins in his woodworking endeavors. Here is the link: Behold The Humble Clothespin

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18 posts in 1622 days

#15 posted 01-15-2014 09:39 PM


Thanks. Approximately 5,000.

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