From the Hartford, CT newspaper, Courant and Mr. HandyPerson (no longer archived) comes this bit of advice on giving your clothes pins a long and happy, wooden life - I thought this was an excellent addition as I've wondered this myself. It's not useful for everyone, but if you've also wondered, now you know.


Q. Against the advice of my know-it-all relatives (who insisted, "Don't bother him with stupid questions" and "Just buy new ones"), here goes: How do I put back together separated wooden clothespins, the kind with a small spring in the middle?

I break my nails, my fingers get red and sore, and I still have not found an easy or fast way to do this. I bought new ones - plastic. But I am frugal, and I'd like to put all my old ones back together again.
A. Mr. HP guesses your advice-volunteering relatives are decent, upright people, but he's surprised they've forgotten the old saw, "There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers."

You might mention it to them sometime because it's an important concept.

Now about those clothespins. Mr. HP will tell you how to fix them but, he's a little curious why yours seem to be falling apart with regularity. Are they sometimes left out in the elements between wash days?

This is not a good idea because the unfinished wood can warp, shrink, crack and easily fall out of the spring mechanism (which doesn't rust when wet, staying the same size even if the wood shrinks). Weathered wood is the most frequent cause of breakage and falling apart.

Regardless, let's get your old clothespins up and running again.

A useful tool would be some needle-nose pliers. Hold the little spring firmly, with one of the "needles" of the pliers going through the spring.

Hold the pliers and spring flat on a firm surface with one hand. Then use the other hand to grasp and hold the two wood parts together at their thinnest ends (smoother sides out, bumpy sides facing together).

Insert the thin ends of the wood parts through the squared-off ends of the spring. Push them in to where they stop against the spring.

Then squeeze the other ends together and push them farther past the spring until they pop back into the right position around the spring.

It may take you a couple of tries before this goes as smoothly and easily as it does for Mr. HP, who has been doing it for years freehand - without the needle-nose pliers - because his hands are probably considerably less delicate than yours.

While experimenting with the needle-nose pliers on your behalf, though, he realized that as his fingers become more arthritic, from years of being worked hard, he'll probably use the pliers himself from now on.

Might as well give our trusty fingers a break, don't you think?

Like you, Mr. HandyPerson is frugal, too. His own know-it-all relatives and friends probably say "cheap" behind his back.

But he has this idea that something's off-key if he has to replace household tools, utensils and other things - designed to potentially last a lifetime - more than once in his life.

As Mr. HP understands the language, being frugal is still a virtue and being thought of as frugal is still a compliment.

About 40 years ago, Mr. HP bought his own set of a dozen wood clothespins. Since then, he has salvaged a few dozen more, usually found popped apart in the trash or on the ground near others' clotheslines. He's quite sure he still has his original dozen, although he has not gone so far as to identify and name them individually. But they do feel like helpful, familiar little friends when he uses them.

Considering that there are probably a good many people out there who have no idea anymore what a wood clothespin is or does, these little guys may be a collector's item one day. Hang on to yours!


  1. Lawrence @ CRB // Tuesday, November 17, 2009 5:17:00 AM  

    I'm surprised to hear of anyone using wooden clothes pins. Not that I don't think they're used anymore but it's just been such a long time since I've seen the used.

  2. Dawn // Tuesday, November 17, 2009 12:37:00 PM  

    I am beginning to think that wooden clothes pin come with the older houses. However you can find a bag of 25-50 at some dollar stores and mega-retail stores.