Monday, November 18, 2013

American-made artisan clothespins (that whip their Chinese counterparts)

When I was a kid, Mom would hang out the laundry on sunny days. Our backyard had a tangerine tree, a royal poinciana and a grapefruit tree where Dad had built a tree fort for my brother and I.

The clothesline was right next to it, and we often played in the sand or in our fort, whittling spears, digging little rivers and filling them with the hose, or even throwing little unripe grapefruit at each other. Really hard.

On laundry day Mom would join us in the backyard for as long as her basket of wet laundry lasted. We'd always wheedle her to stay out longer, but being the diligent woman she is, she wouldn't stick around for long.

All that to say, I don't have a clothesline in the backyard because I'm trying to save lots of money or the planet or anything else. I have it because I like to see long lines of bright clothing hanging out to dry, and because there's a sweet simplicity to the thing. It's good and wholesome, and reminds me of being a kid.

Unfortunately, like most everything else, the slave-manufactured goods of China have crept into this traditional household chore. If you try to get a decent clothespin, you'll fail. We've gone through plenty of lousy pins.

That said, when I saw Herrick Kimball was going to reinvent the clothespin and bring it back to being made in the USA, I was amused. Dollar Store clothespins are garbage, sure - but they're CHEAP garbage! I figured there's no way Herrick would turn a profit and that Planet Whizbang had finally jumped the shark.

"Hi, I'm Herrick Kimball and I'm totally insane!"

Who would take the time to re-invent and resurrect something as humble as the clothespin? It seemed silly at first... until I thought back again on what we've lost as a nation. Craftsmanship, the free market, small businesses, hand-made goods...

Herrick cares about those kinds of things, as anyone can tell when they read his blog... and I do too. I've gotten pretty tired of Chinese junk and politicians who sell us down the river over and over and over again. I've spent a lot of time broke, and just saying "hey, don't buy imported stuff!" to folks that don't have money doesn't always work. Sometimes there aren't even options other than imported. We've got union bums here and slave labor overseas.

So... I don't care if it's nuts to buy artisan clothespins. When I have a few extra bucks I like to put them towards good things... if I can find them. Like the Meadow Creature broadfork... or American-made clothespins.

By the time Herrick held his inaugural sale on "assemble-your-own" kits, I had sold myself on the idea. I figured... what the heck, I'm buying in, so I did.

A few days later, I got this in the mail:

I was #74 of 225. Sweet! Collectible!

20 clothespins, 20 stainless steel springs, plus two pieces of sandpaper and an emery board so your wife can do her nails while she looks down her pointy nose and contemptuously watches you put the pieces together.

These sets sell for $24.95. Yes, that makes for expensive clothespins. But hey... these are the best dang clothespins I've ever seen.

Perfect for putting on your nose during the next election!

To show you how different they are from the regular cheapo clothespins you'll find in the store, I took some dramatically artistic side-by-side black and white images.

Upwards #74 (High Tension series)

The Classic American Clothespin is on the left, and the Cheap-rump Dollar Store Crunkpin is on the right.

And again:

The Perspicuity of Sound

See the difference in the spring gauge? The grip on the junky pins is really sissified compared to the firm grasp of Herrick's design. Let's take another dramatic black and white look:

The Relational Failings of Mortal Coils

And now for a couple of notes on assembly and use.

Putting these pins together was fun, but it took me over an hour, including light sanding and finishing them with linseed oil. My time is very valuable, so I didn't put myself on the clock. If I had, these pins would be completely unaffordable. Also, though Herrick encourages you to sand the clothespins, they were already in mostly smooth shape right from the package. A little touch here and there with the emery board would have been enough, but I'm neurotic and spent much more time than was needed.

The operation of the pins still suffers slightly from the misalignment common to the offset spring design, but at no point do the pins feel as if they're going to slip apart. The grip is easily five times stronger than that of the cheap clothespins we already owned, making affixing these pins to your ears, nose or tongue quite painful. Don't do it.

Herrick didn't pay me off to write this review and I'm not going to tell you these are cheap... but I can honestly say they're quite satisfying to build and use.

I'm tempted to throw all my shirts in the dirt, just so I can do a new load of laundry and mess with these some more. If you're in the market for a nice Christmas gift for the homesteader on your list, it would be hard to go wrong with these babies.

To learn more about the demise of the American clothespin and the creation of the Classic American Clothespin or to order your own pins, visit

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At November 18, 2013 at 8:16 AM , Blogger Herrick Kimball said...


I was pleasantly surprised to read this review. And I laughed out loud when I read the sentence under my picture. You have a great sense of humor.

Your childhood recollection of your brother and you playing outside and in the sand, throwing grapefruit at each other (really hard) brought back a childhood memory of my own. I was six and my mother an I lived in an apartment building in Springfield Mass. Me and some other boys were playing out back of the building and decided to dig a hole to China. It was quite the project. We got maybe a foot and a half deep, which isn't much, but it seems like a lot when your only four feet tall.

Anyway, we took a break from the digging to explore in the weeds and one of us found an old metal door knob, which we proceeded to throw at each other. Really hard. Well it was a lot of fun until I got hit in the head. I ran back to the apartment (probably crying) with blood pouring down my face and onto my shirt. My mother tended to the wound. I guess it wasn't bad enough to go to the hospital. But, who knows, that little incident might explain my total insanity.

Thank you for such a great review. If I ever get to Florida, I'm going to look you up and maybe we can throw unripe grapefruits at each other out by your clothesline.

At November 18, 2013 at 4:01 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

"we took a break from the digging to explore in the weeds and one of us found an old metal door knob, which we proceeded to throw at each other. Really hard."

HA! It's amazing children live to adulthood. And you're totally on for an epic citrus battle if you ever visit the Sunshine State.

At November 19, 2013 at 5:01 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the fun review of Herrick Kimball's Classic American Clothespins. Mine is on order and I hope I can do adequate job of assembly. I have not hung out laundry since the 1960's. We have built a small cabin on 12 acres raw land next to Crockett National Park and I plan to hang out laundry for many years out there.

At December 6, 2013 at 2:56 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Sounds great, Shannon.

At August 21, 2014 at 3:35 AM , Anonymous crossword said...

As men's style developed, you saw men's trousers getting baggier and baggier until it became it outlined on the absurd that trousers were 50 percent dropping off Bums' American counterparts and the genitals was almost to the legs. When factors go that far, the pendulum usually shifts in the other route and that is why men's leggings are creating a return.

At June 4, 2015 at 1:34 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

Yikes! Grapefruit and doorknob!!!!! We threw green pinecones at each other!!! I've shared this article because of the humor, and the American-made, quality product. It is one of my greatest desires: to have my neglected clothesline erected. I will definitely get the Planet Whizbang clothes pins. We have housed people here at Johnson Mountain from Europe, who scratch their heads at our use of a dryer. Seems that folks over there prefer the great outdoors and the clothesline!


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