Introduction: Giant Wooden Clothes Pegs
This project originated after seeing a larger than usual clothes peg that had been designed for use as a photo or note holder. Admittedly, while the practical applications for anything larger than two or three times the usual size are limited, I did wonder how far I could take the process of upscaling.
The manufacturing process for wooden clothes pegs usually involves milling a longer wooden sheet into the correct shape first, before slicing it into the correct width, and depending on the brand, some clothes pegs may be cut wider for better ergonomics and a reduced tendency to twist while squeezing the ends together.
In light of the various widths of clothes pegs available, I scaled all of my dimensions based on the thickness of timber rather than its width. This avoided the need to trim the wood down to have the correct cross section, provided it was close enough to the 1:1.5 aspect ratio of a typical clothes peg. A scrap offcut of 2x4" timber that was lying around fit the criteria perfectly!
- Approx 120cm of 2x4 timber, or 60cm of 1x2" timber
- up to 200cm of round steel bar of varying diameter (3mm - 8mm depending on scale)
- Drill and hole saw set
- Sturdily mounted vice
- Saws (Circular saw or hand saw)
- Sanding blocks, files or a belt sander
Step 1: Scaling
There are actually only a few holes, grooves and angle cuts to be made per peg, although the offsets required to form ellipses rather than circles add a small amount of complexity. The dimensions required will be based on your choice of timber, but I've included a chart with some measurements (In mm) for the two different scales that I used, given in terms of a single half of the peg after separating it from the spring.
The blue lettering on the diagram denotes the diameter of the hole saw to use, or its closest equivalent.
Step 2: Cutting Holes
When using a hole saw to drill out the circles on the inner faces of the pegs, I used a scrap of plywood between them in order to make the cut out more elliptical. On an actual clothes peg, this ensures the cutout has a better fit around the clothes line when the peg is opened slightly.
I used 9mm ply for the 2x4" peg and 5mm ply for the smaller peg. Additionally, on the cutout for the spring I added a 2-3mm offset so that the two peg halves would not touch, which prevents the spring having a loose fit between the two halves.
The final cuts were the 45° bevels on the front (Made using a mitre saw, but easily done with any other kind of saw) and the shallow angled cuts on the rear, which I tried using a combination of circular saws and hand saws, but in both cases had to resort to a lot of sanding.
Step 3: Springs
This is where the sturdily mounted vice comes in. To create the spring I clamped a steel bolt upright in the vice, and began winding the steel rod clockwise up the bolt, leaving a 30cm section unwound.
The further you can bend the steel before having to re-position it in the vice, the tidier your coils will be, and given that it remains in its elastic deformation stage until you have completed around 1/6th of a turn, being able to rotate it at least 180° between adjustments is a huge time saver. It is also noteworthy that even after tightly coiling the steel rod, it will spring back slightly, so the final diameter of the rod will end up being 2-3mm wider than when it was initially wound up.
It becomes harder to bend the steel rod the thicker the cross section. Beyond 6mm rod I would have struggled to maintain a consistent angle, although a jig to hold one end would have freed up my other hand to apply more bending force on the upper winding. A regular peg uses approximately 1mm thick wire, so my 30mm thick timber pegs used 5mm steel rod, and I would have used 7-8mm rod for the 2x4" peg but I couldn't obtain any and just used 5mm as well.
Once I had wound around 9-10 coils, I seated the spring in the peg and marked where it intersected the groove on the outer face. When bending steel rod by hand, or in a vice, there will always be an offset between the start of the bend and the point at which it reaches 90°. For 5mm rod, despite being able to get fairly tight bends, I had to begin the bend around 5mm early for it to align with the channel.
The more coils are introduced, the greater the distance the forces acting on the spring will be spread across, resulting in a less powerful spring, however, it is necessary to add some pre-tensioning to the springs. I found that when wound such that the two ends lined up in the same direction, adding another 45° of bend (Requiring the steel rods to overlap each other) gave the spring a good resting clamp force. I also angled the tips of the rod inwards so that the force of the spring wasn't acting on the area of wood touched by the 90° bend in the metal.
Step 4: Finishing Up
These are the final photos of the pegs. I finished the 2x4" peg in a water based woodstain, whereas the neater walnut peg was simply given a matt clearcoat spray. Obligatory banana for scale
The weight and clamping force of the pegs mean they can actually be used as a provisional vice, although the smaller of the pair feels like it wouldn't be out of place used in a quirky restaurant's menu holder.
Given the instant recognisability of clothes pegs, they do make for some great photos of making things look smaller than they are in reality, especially when paired with a tilt-shift filter!
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