Consider an Old Fashioned Clothesline
What’s Super-Efficient, Super-Green, and Saves a Lot of Money on the Rural Home place? How About an Old- Fashioned Clothesline? It’s not exciting, and it’s surely not high-tech, but a well-made clothesline can be the most efficient “appliance” to be found on a rural home. After clothes, rugs, or bed linens have been washed, they can be freshened and dried for free on a clothesline- no gas, no electricity consumed- just the sunshine and a breeze will do the job. Let’s look at how to build a good, sturdy clothes line that will give years of service around the home.
Now I’ll admit, light-weight clotheslines can be purchased at any hardware store. I’ve even used these little things before. These little rigs are easy to install, but they won’t hold up to heavy, wet blankets or a big load of bath towels. I prefer a clothesline that will allow a couple of washer loads of blankets, rugs, and big beach towels to be securely hung with no worry of the whole thing collapsing- don’t laugh- I’ve had this happen, and it’s no fun getting to re-wash a load of heavy stuff that has fallen to the ground.
This clothesline we will put together will hold a massive load of wash, and it’s really quite easy to put together and plant in a good location. It’s cheap, too.
Materials: The basic components of this clothesline couldn’t be much simpler. Go to the hardware store and buy three treated 4 X4 timbers eight feet long. Please make sure the wood is treated, because it is going to be in long-term contact with the ground. Get two 6 inch threaded rods or bolts- at least ¼ inch thickness is needed- along with four half-dollar sized washers for the bolts. Six large screw-eyes for the actual line attachments will be needed. A couple of bags of pre-mixed concrete will help secure the posts in the ground. Buy a roll or spool of plastic-coated metal clothesline. Don’t get cotton or other fiber line- it will stretch badly, and uncoated metal line can leave rust stains on the dried clothes.
We’ll need a few hand tools. We’ll need a circular saw, an adjustable wrench, a hammer, a wood chisel, a drill and long bit, a bubble-level, and a set of post-hole diggers. We’ll need something to mix the concrete in- a wheelbarrow works very well.
Site Selection and Preparation:
Putting the clothesline in an open area where maximum sun-exposure occurs is a good idea, but putting it close to bushes is acceptable, too. Just put the line where it best fits.
Decide how long the line needs to be, and dig two good, wide post holes about 24 inches deep that far apart. I recommend about twenty feet apart. Any longer than this and the lines will tend to sag and allow drying laundry to touch the ground. Besides, we can hang a lot of wet laundry on three twenty-foot long clotheslines.
First, cut one of the 4X4 treated posts exactly in half. It may take a couple of passes with the circular saw to cut completely through the timber. Then, measure the exact half-way point on the two new four foot long crosspieces. Measure out two-inches on each side of the middle mark on the four foot pieces. This will be our “Slot” into which the support timber will slide. Mark the two edges of the slot, and with the circular saw, cut a series of slits halfway through the short four foot crosspieces. Make the slits about ¼ to ½ inch apart-it’s not too crucial. When the slits have “filled the slot” use a chisel and hammer to remove the material from the slot. Repeat this step on the second four foot crosspiece.
Next, we’ll measure four inches down from the ends of our two eight foot long support timbers. At this four inch mark, we’ll create another slot just like we made on the two crosspieces. When we have the slot made on the long timber, we can fit the short crosspiece into the long support timber. The two parts should nestle together snuggly. (Remember how Lincoln Logs worked when we were kids?) We may have to open a slot up a little, but that’s easy to do with the circular saw.
The third step is important. With our hand drill and long bit, we need to drill a hole completely through both joints of the poles. Go through both the support pole and the crosspiece. At this point we can take the bolt or threaded rod and run it completely through the two joined posts. The bolt may have to be tapped through the drilled hole with our hammer. Using the wrench, tighten the nut down onto the washer on the bolt until it is very snug. This will create a very secure joint that should not come loose under a heavy load of wash.
After the two posts are put together, we’ll put the six eye-bolts into the crosspieces. I’d put the two outside bolts about eight inches from the ends of the crosspieces, and the middle one will go right in the center of the crosspiece, somewhat away from the bolt which holds the parts together. Pilot holes for the eyebolts will be needed-it’s really hard to set a thick eyebolt into a timber without a guide hole.
At this point, we’re ready to do the groundwork. Put the foot of a pole into one of our pre-dug holes. There should be at least six feet of pole above ground- any less and laundry is likely to drag on the ground. Make sure the pole is plumb- use a bubble level to get it right. We may need to use rocks or other solid material in the hole to secure the pole while we work. After the pole is determined to be straight up and down, we can make a bag of pre-mixed concrete and pour it into the hole around the pole- try not to disturb the pole too much- re-bubble the pole after the concrete has been poured, and adjust it to assure plumbness if needed. We may want to slope the top of the concrete away from the pole toward the outside of the hole to help rain drain off, but this is not necessary. Then, LEAVE THE POLE ALONE! Don’t let the kids or dogs bump into it. Let the concrete set for at least a day- two or three days is better.
When the concrete has set, the actual lines can be attached to the eyebolts. These plastic-coated metal clotheslines can take a lot of pressure, but we don’t want to make the lines so tight they pull the poles out of the ground, Just attach one end to a bolt, walk the line to the other end, cut it six inches too long, and twist it hand-tight to the eye bolt. Repeat this for the other two eye-bolt sets, and we are in business.
By the way, some people may wonder why we would go to this much trouble to make a clothes line when we can just pile the laundry into the drier and run it a few hours. Well, if you’ve ever slept under sun-freshened and breeze-dried blankets and sheets, you know why we do this. We sleep better knowing that we have saved some energy resources as well as given ourselves the nicest smelling bed anywhere. That’s all very good!