It starts with a prompt;  a kind of nudge from someone I don’t know, never met, never heard of who made something for his home–his family to use–to dry clothes or air them after ironing. This someone made something decades ago and its useful but not nice looking. I see its potential beyond its bare bones skeleton of a frame. That man only saw usefulness. Perhaps it’s all he had time for. Sixteen screw-threaded fasteners, half an hour’s chop-saw crosscutting it, and it has all the features of a basic mass-made-by-machine look. To the man it was never meant to be attractive—functionality first as in form follows function and not too decorative at all. Make it pretty and you’d be asked to do more.

You see all of the edges are dead square angular corners with no relief. The arris is still in place and, cutting-edged, has the ability to leave straight creases along anything hung to dry on it. Every time your hands hang out laundry or ironing your knuckles glanced the square corners and there is no attempt to reconcile it  because his hands would never have hung laundry or done any ironing otherwise he likely would. But the idea is good. It’s a piece needed in every home without a tumble drier and of course it is highly environmentally acceptable because, well, the nylon fibres last a thousand times longer in tact when no tumbler is used to thrash the flailing plastic around its innards.

At first my thoughts are, ‘is it too simple?‘ After a short while I am more sure it’s not. I’m looking forward to starting it so I start developing new joints in my head; something I almost always do, and I see them emerge in my mind’s eye bit by bit. It’s worth a go I’m saying so I start milling my wood for the prototype. By now I’ve climbed over my doubts yet again and continuing through the wood milling stage I feel the usual excitement. I’m thinking a little bit Shaker here. An arched foot first of all. Yes I like that half-crescent look my mind envisions. I start thinking rounded rails. No more creases and hard corners. It’s fun progressing things this way. Mental rehearsals gather the momentum for a full launch; spirit, soul, mind and strength.

I planed all of my sticks using two basic planes. The ribbons of pine and the smell  have their usual impact. It’s still a good workout that keeps me perpetually in training and I run out of breath now and then. I don’t really have big arms but my experience has show that big armed people usually don’t have too much spare anyway so I am glad. Constantly I am thinking for the joints I am planning to use. I have an idea, a new one. I sweep up the shavings, masses of them. The wood’s as smooth as silk, every face, knots and all. I gather the shavings into the dustpan and feel good about my waste bin and it’s cotton liner. This is the first full bag I’ve had. Izzy gets the shavings for her chickens and I get half a dozen eggs in return.

I do confess a little pride in making something useful that’s nice to look at and look into to. Maybe this next thing will be lovely to look at too. Thanks for the nudge!



  1. Frank McInroy on 3 September 2018 at 9:37 pm

    The clothes horse takes me back to woodwork classes at school in the 1950s . I seem to remember we had to use mortice and tenon joints , the top of each leg had radiuses on all four edges and butt hinges on the legs.
    The edges of the rails did have radiuses.
    It was fun taking it home on a bicycle.
    Later project to add to the household was an ironing board

    • Peter Compton on 4 September 2018 at 12:04 am

      Theirs a good Idea Frank. I never thought of an Ironing board. I think I will start whispering in the misses ear that the squeaky metal one can get a home grown upgrade 😀 😀 😀

  2. Peter Compton on 4 September 2018 at 12:01 am

    Yes I remember an early project of a clothes horse. We used it for years. Not until the family started to grow did it become too small and the inevitable shop bought metal structure start to take it’s place. Never the less it remained in use for 12 years which is not so bad. 3 frames of 30mm legs and 18mm rails, half lap joints, using a cut up old leather belt for hinges. In the end the wood did get re purposed but I can’t remember what for. I will be looking forward to your design Paul. Maybe it’s time I had a re visit to such a useful appliance around the home

  3. David K Webber on 4 September 2018 at 1:19 am

    What is it . . . I think I must be missing something. Or is it supposed to be a mystery???

    • António Santos on 4 September 2018 at 11:01 pm

      I’m not understanding what it is, either.

  4. Joseph Janutka on 4 September 2018 at 8:17 am

    Have you put wooden stiffeners inside the clamps and glued wood or leather faces to the clamp jaws? I use a wooden rack to dry practically all my washed clothes and hang some on a line in the basement.

    • Paul Sellers on 4 September 2018 at 8:42 am

      Yes; go here for the video.

      • Stephen Butler on 13 September 2018 at 11:12 am

        A lump hammer in a vice to make an anvil! Of course!
        Why didn’t I think of that? Because I don’t have your genius for innovation and problem solving. Continuing power to your elbow.

  5. Mike Z. on 7 September 2018 at 1:46 am

    Got to love the shaker way of thinking, just because a piece is made to serve a form or function does not mean it could not be pleasing to the eye in a simply adorned kind of way. The older I get the more I see the vernacular forms of furnishings and goods as a pleasant way to go – no queen anne or neo classical fits my life here at this point!

  6. Alan on 7 September 2018 at 2:51 am

    Is it a Ceiling Clothes Airer / Drying Rack, as opposed to a Clothes Horse? The kind raised and lowered by cord and pulleys?
    I can still picture my Nan struggling to raise her fully-loaded airer. The weight of the day’s washing almost lifted Nan to the ceiling, still clutching the cord!

    • Paul Sellers on 7 September 2018 at 8:03 am

      It is a freestanding airer designed and developed to build certain joinery skills.

      • Noel Rodrigue on 10 September 2018 at 3:35 pm

        I’ll bite … why the need for the clamping? I have one here made out of two 1X1s (roughly) joined by 3/8″ dowels, three such frames joined by loops screwed into the frame sides. I remember it from when I was … 3 or 4 years old, still works but really is looking for a refresh.

        Still clamping? You’re keeping us on edge Paul!

        • Paul Sellers on 10 September 2018 at 5:34 pm

          I don’t understand your question.

    • Michael Ballinger on 7 September 2018 at 12:57 pm

      I love those, sitting over an aga. Interesting about the weight, I guess if it was done with a different pulley system you could gain the mechanical advantage…

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