Our Victorian Clothes Drying Rack: Pt. 1
It is not easy to lift heavy materials. This problem can be solved with the help of a simple machine like a pulley. A pulley comprises a wheel and a fixed axle, with a groove along the edges to guide a rope or a cable.
Pulleys are what we call simple machines. Without using an engine, they can help multiply the amount of force applied to lift an object. When you put two or more wheels together and run a rope around them, you have created a great lifting machine.
How do you get your clothes dry? Do you even have such a thing as an outdoor washing line? My guess is that your clothes drier is an electrical appliance, and that you seldom use a clothesline. That’s the norm these days – my son and his partner, for example, do have a small free standing rack for airing mostly baby things – but rely on a whiteware appliance to get their clothes dry.
One New Zealand company touts their rack as a “Lifestyle Colonial Clothes Airer’, another has ‘Victorian Range Clothes Drying Racks’. There’s nothing Victorian about our attitudes, and we simply cringe (having got over the ‘colonial cringe’ decades ago) at being lumped in (as so often happens) with the ‘lifestylers’, but, yes, we do have a thirty year old clothes dryer that looks pretty much identical to those ‘Victorian’ drying racks.
Get a fine day and a stiff breeze and everything dries on our rotary clothesline. But short winter days and gloom any time of year and the washing basket’s carried in overflowing with damp clothes. June leaves the straining to my aging male muscles and joints – hand-over-hand hoisting to ceiling level of a rack draped with clothes full of moisture.
The truism, “It’s only as strong as its weakest link,” borne out yet again when one day the heavily laden clothes rack plummeted down on our twenty something daughter Jemma. More shocked than knocked, her head had gone between a couple of the rods and they now sat, cushioned by clothes, on her shoulders. One of the prongs had broken off on the wall mounted cleat that secures the pulley rope.
It’s gone from being the weakest to the strongest part of the whole structure; I got Gibsons, the local engineering firm, to make me a heavy gauge stainless steel cleat, and I attached it to the wall with four long, heavy duty screws.
So much for thinking I’d sorted the ‘weak link’ when I installed the rack all those years ago. The two heavy duty eyelet screws that the pulleys attach to have long, threaded shanks but our ceiling is a mere 15 mm thickness of tongue and groove wood, and the ceiling joists don’t line up with where the screws need to go. I solved the problem by screwing through the tongue and groove and into a couple of four by two (4 inch by 2 inch) lengths of wood I’d secured between the joists.
The weakest link now would be the human operator – rope inadequately secured in the process of wrapping, tensioning and wedging it against the cleat prongs. If it were to slam down on someone fully loaded, then I’d hope they’d have as much luck on their side as did daughter Jemma!
I remember my dad, as I rushed out the door on the way to work at the local college, reeling off the names of the six simple machines. Never one to dwell overly long in the world of machines, it was news to me! The pulley was one of them, and the other five were the inclined plane, lever, wedge, wheel and axle, and screw. He was probably hoping I’d slot my “learnt something new today” into a lesson.
I’ve already told you about our wheelbarrow (The Red Wheelbarrow), another simple machine that we depend on round here. Actually, a wheelbarrow’s a combination of three simple machines: a lever, wheel and axle, and an inclined plane. No wonder it’s such a cool piece of kit!
I’m in awe of simple machines: “O mighty clothes rack! All hail!”
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully for this week. Next Monday I’ll tell you what else the rack’s good for – put like that it sounds like an instrument of torture!
Thanks for your company. Bye for now.