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How To Assemble
Your Classic American
Clothespin Kit

By: Herrick Kimball

click any of the pictures on this page to see an enlarged view

When you purchase one of our clothespin kits, as pictured above, you get one example clothespin (sealed and assembled), along with 38 unfinished wood halves, 19 Classic American stainless steel springs, and some sandpaper. It’s up to you to finish-sand, seal and assemble the 19 unfinished clothespins. The photo tutorial below tells and shows how to get the job done.

Step #1
Finish-Sand the Halves

The 38 clothespin halves in your kit are made of ash hardwood. They have been machine-tumbled for three hours. This tumbling action serves to smooth and soften sharp corners. But the pieces will need some additional sanding here and there to remove any remaining roughness in the wood and/or or sawblade burn marks on the edges. A small sheet of 180-grit sandpaper and an emery board are included in the kit for this purpose.

Step #2
Seal the Wood Halves

Oiled clothespin on top. Unfinished on bottom.

You don’t have to seal the clothespin wood if you don’t want to. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t just jump ahead to Step #3 and assemble your clothespins and put them to work, unfinished in any way. But if you take the time to seal the wood, as I’m about to explain, your clothespins will last longer and look a whole lot nicer. Here is a picture of some clothespins that have been oiled and waxed.

There are only two finishes that I recommend for sealing the wood... boiled linseed oil or tung oil.

Tung oil and boiled linseed oil are natural oil finishes that penetrate, seal, and dry thoroughly. If you don’t already have one of those oils, simply ask around among your friends. There are, I’m sure, partial cans of both oils in basements and garages all over your neighborhood. Two tablespoons will be sufficient for sealing 19 clothespins. Surely you can mooch (or “borrow”) that much from some kind soul and not have to go buy a new can.

Or, here's a radical scrounging idea If you happen to have an old can of oil-based paint, remove the cover without disturbing the contents and you may find a nice supply of perfectly good boiled linseed oil atop the settled pigments. 

To apply boiled linseed or tung oil, you can use an artists brush, or even an old toothbrush. Give the oil a few minutes to soak into the pores of the wood, then rub the excess off with a soft cloth and set the pieces aside to dry for a couple hours. Repeat the process if you want to get an extra layer of protection on the wood. A heat gun or hair dryer directed onto the oiled clothespin halves can help the oil penetrate better.

After the halves are coated, set them aside for a week or two to dry thoroughly before using them. 

Very Important: boiled linseed oil on rags can spontaneously combust. Always put rags used with linseed oil outdoors to dry thoroughly before disposing of them. 

Simply oiling the clothespins is sufficient to bring out a rich natural patina and protect the wood from weathering. And that is all you need to do before assembling the clothespins.

If, however, you want to go a step further, you can apply a thin coating of furniture paste wax and buff the wood with a soft cloth. If you want to get real serious about your clothespin finish, you can make your own Classic Clothespin Wax... check out THIS RECIPE.  

Step #3
Assemble The Clothespins
(click on pictures to see enlarged views)

Hold the spring and one clothespin half as shown here. 
Push the clothespin down on the lower "tail" of the spring, 
and slide the upper tail into the slot. 

The spring should fit on the clothespin half as shown here.

Turn the clothespin half with the spring on it so it is inside up. 
Then lift the tail with your index finger 
enough to slide the other half into place.

If you don't have the finger strength to spread the spring
 to lift the tail (as shown in the previous picture), you 
can do it with a pair of pliers, as shown here.

An assembled Classic American clothespin!

Close-up view of the assembled clothespin.
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."
(John Keats)

22 December 2014

Pete Lilja of Cedar Falls, Iowa, just sent me pictures of some clothespins he made with the Classic American springs, and he put the springs on a different way than shown above. I just assembled some clothespin halves using Pete's idea and was amazed to find that the springs not only seat so  much better in the spring-seat groove, but the whole clothespin seems to "fit" better, meaning with less tendency to "overbite." I think Pete is a mechanical genius and I recommend that you try putting the springs on the way you see them in the following picture. It's more work to assemble them this way but I think you will be more pleased with the final results I may use this arrangement on all the clothespins I make from now on.

click picture to see an enlarged view