American made clothespins (that whip their Chinese counterparts)

ClassicClothespinOtherToo2

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.

 

Herrick Kimball and his American made clothespins
“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

Assembling and Using Herrick’s American Made Clothespins

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 www.classicamericanclothespins.com.

A Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe Review

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It’s time for a Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe review!

When I was offered the use of a chunk of land for my field crops, I knew some of my gardening methods needed to change. The plot we paced off was a quarter acre. That’s way too much space for raised beds, double-digging, or hoeing by hand. Unless you own slaves. And I don’t, since that’s wrong and bad.

Some time back, I discovered an old school tool called a “wheel hoe.” It’s basically an oscillating hoe, also known as a scuffle hoe or hula hoe, with a wheel (or a pair) in front of it and two handles. The idea is that you can roll along a lot faster than you can walk and chop. You get extra leverage from the wheel and handles, too.

I couldn’t really use a wheel hoe for my little beds… but the new plot finally provided me with an excuse to buy one.

Being a cheapskate, I didn’t immediately go buy a Hoss or a Valley Oak model. I’m sure both of those are great – and I’d really love to try them out – but without getting my hands on a tool, I don’t like to drop a chunk of change. (Hey, though… if you guys want to send me one… I’ll give it a go!)

The Whizbang wheel hoe.

As I researched, I came across a model from Planet Whizbang.

I have to admit: I’m a total fan of Herrick Kimball. The dude invented a chicken plucker you can build at home that will pluck a chicken in seconds. Most people sit around and watch TV – this guy solves problems. And, like me, he’s a homesteader. When I found out that he had his own version of the wheel hoe, I was already sold.

 

I demonstrate the Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe in my in-depth Homesteading Video – download your copy for only $4.99

 

The other thing that got me was this: you get to assemble it yourself.

I like Legos, so this works for me. There’s a plan online, you buy a $99.00 hardware kit and a wheel from Northern Tool (coupons here: http://verified.codes/Northern-Tool).

Get your bits together, paint ’em, start building, and VOILA! Wheel hoe!

My cost:

$99 for the hardware kit (shipping included)
$17.99 for tire from Northern Tool
$7.49 shipping from Northern Tool
$0.00 for plans
$0.00 for paint (I had an old can already)
$0.00 for wood (I already had a board laying around)

Total: $124.48

It takes a little basic carpentry skills, as in you need to measure and cut the handles, but other than that, building this hoe can be done in a couple of hours, including painting the parts. My handles are made of mahogany. Yep. Mahogany.

Using the Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe

Once built, this wheel hoe is a weed-eating machine. I took it through my corn patch and it performed admirably. I have the wide blade as well as the standard blade for it. The wide blade is very good in my large garden, since I can cover more ground with less walking.

With tall weeds, the hoe tends to choke up and needs regular clearing, but with short ones it’s a champ. I used it on a piece of lawn as a test. Yes, you can clear it one chunk at a time but it will KILL you. A wheel hoe is made for using in already worked soil. It’s a clean-up tool that’s not really suitable for breaking ground.

Compared to a regular hoe, I can move about 10 times as fast through my garden. It doesn’t have the precision of hand-hoeing, but it’s really, really good on the straightaway.

On the down side, the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe is for weeding only, unlike some of its competition. You can attach plow pieces, cultivators and even a seeder to some other wheel hoes. I suppose if you were clever, you could make some of those upgrades yourself. Right now they aren’t available. This is okay, though, because it’s a tough-as-nails little tool at a killer price. You don’t spend $124.48 and expect miracles. This wheel hoe seriously over-performs for the price.

If you’re row gardening on anything larger than a couple thousand square feet, a wheel hoe is a really good investment. The Planet Whizbang version is a handsome little machine which is a lot more pleasant to use for weeding than a tiller. I’m happy with mine and it’s already killed many thousands of weeds.

One warning: once you start pushing it around, it’s hard to stop.

Final verdict?

4.5 SPUDS!!!