Clothespins FAQ

Using Clothespins
in BDSM Play

updated, edited and illustrated by the Fetish Information Exchange

Wood versus Plastic Clothespins

Wooden clothespins are a bit kinder, and have less tendency to abrade, so I'd suggest starting with them. Plastic clothespins tend to have much smaller ribbed gripping surfaces, and a 'feel' much stronger than the equivalent wooden ones. Extremely small plastic clothespins are very nasty indeed, and many may be used in the same area for greater intensity.

But here's the kind of clothespin we're going to be talking about in this article...

clothespin with legend

Wooden clothespins are available in several qualities, with the older, thicker ones being a bit better in my opinion (the thin ones seem to be more likely to splinter or have sharp edges). Since you can purchase fifty of these for a few dollars, these rank among the least expensive of toys, and among the most versatile. Almost anything you can do with fingertip squeezing can be done with clothespins, and several things that can't be accomplished with your fingers can easily be done with these tiny household beauties. Plus, of course, they leave your hands free for other activities.

Clamping Pressure

Unmodified, most wooden clothespins grip with between four and six pounds of pressure over an area of about one-quarter by one-half inch. This is too much for some, and not enough for others. The grip can be increased by wrapping the clamping end with elastic bands, and decreased in several ways. The simplest is by weakening the springs by clamping something that requires the clothespin to be open to its limit for several days. This will reduce the clamping pressure by several pounds, dependent on the initial strength of the spring, the width of the opening, and the length of time one allows for stretching. Carefully pulling the jaws wider than they would normally travel will stretch the spring quickly, but this is harder to control. Wrapping elastic bands around the legs of the clothespin will resist the tension of the spring and weaken the clamping force without permanently weakening the spring.

If you're willing to spend a bit more time, drill straight through both legs of each clothespin, about one-third of the way from the end, and thread a bolt through the holes. Tightening a wing nut on the bolt will allow for wonderfully precise changes in clamping pressure, since the bolt-nut combination adjustably limits the travel of the legs. You can drill a larger hole or even a slot in one leg for ease of adjustment. This requires perhaps 2 minutes per clothespin and is well worth the time, as the pressure may be slowly increased as your partner's ability to enjoy the sensation improves. Weights may be hung off of the clothespin by hooks or cords attached to the holes and hardware.

Some Standard Techniques

One classical place to begin with clothespins is the nipple, but there are many possible variations to this alone. The first grip recommended most often is with the clothespin pointing straight onto the nipple, not from the side, gripping the base of the nipple, not the tip, and perhaps a bit of areola as well. This does not have the same sort of 'bite' as grasping the nipple alone may, and often does wonderful things for sensitivity without causing severe pain. It's often good to start with a rather weak clamping pressure and work upwards. And if you're just beginning, try not to leave the pins on for too long. Start with what your partner can endure, and eventually work up to perhaps twenty minutes (I prefer not to leave them on longer than this, YMMV). The longer the clamping time, the more fierce the sensation caused by removing the pressure. The increased sensitivity afterwards may last from minutes to many hours, depending on the person, the clamping force and time. Several things might be done in this period to use that sensitivity to advantage (beating with the proverbial 'wet noodle' or even a featherduster is quite effective). Ice applied immediately after removing the clothespin may reduce the length and severity of the sensation if that's what's desired.

You can also the clothespin on sideways, with the nipple centered in the the hole in the clamping area. If you do this far enough back on the nipple base or areola, the tip of a large nipple will remain exposed for other things, such as ice, nibbling, or smaller clips and clamps.

You can clamp the nipple only, or work gradually out from the areola as your partner's ability to enjoy more increases. Tapping or lightly brushing the tips of attached clothespins is effective, and a light vibrator may also be used if held against or even taped to the legs of the clothespin.

One simple device works nicely for both nipples at once on all but the smallest female breasts. Take two clothespins and glue the outsides of the legs together with a slight overlap like so...

two clothespins glued

...then use the clamping ends to grasp both nipples from the sides at once. The pull will vary depending on breast size, but some will be present. Causing your partner to jiggle their breasts gently can be fun, and of course, this is often just the thing to add to tickling. Size differences may require an additional short piece of wood to link the pair together (length best found by experiment).

Pulling off a clothespin is more painful than squeezing the legs to remove it gently, and this is the basis for some devices we'll mention below. Again, the longer one leaves them attached, the stronger the result. It's also possible to flick off clothespins with a flogger or some other striking device, and combining the two is an interesting way to add some bright 'explosions' to the sensations of a 'standard' flogging without switching instruments or striking harder. When doing this near the front of the body, some form of eye protection is needed, a heavy blindfold will serve nicely.

Other body parts worth clamping

Many areas of the body might do well with a bit of clamping either for sensation or visual appeal. Other parts of the breast, and any portion of the torso and limbs where you can gather a bit of skin come immediately to mind. In view of the tiny expense, you cound use many dozens at one time on someone.

Specific classic variations include but are not limited to:

'Zippers' and other tailoring

Drill a hole through one leg of at least one dozen clothespins, thread them on a thong or cord, knotting them at small intervals, and you have created a zipper. One derivation for the name will become obvious the first time one tugs swiftly on one end of the cord and hears the sound made by the pins pulling off sensitive skin (there may be other sounds as well). The spacing may vary, longer ones may be made, and double rows of 20 or so clothespins are common. The inside of the upper arm or thigh are rather traditional for these, but most areas of the body are available, one of my own favorites being the side of the body normally covered by the arms, after binding the arms over the head. Ticklish and sensitive.

A 'tri-zipper' is my own name for three of these single zippers with one end of each fastened to a central ring (a keyring will do, but try to find something a bit larger). The ring is centered high on the belly, with the farthest pins attaching to the nipples and labia, perhaps with a bit of spiral towards the center of each region, and the nearest ones fastening to the skin near the center. The look of horrified anticipation as you grasp the ring and begin to pull slowly outwards, each pin popping off in turn as the three zipper lines move towards the most sensitive areas is not to be missed, while pulling faster often causes volumes of high-pitched shrieking.

Another design I haven't seen elsewhere I've dubbed the "Reverse Garter" (reverse in the sense of pulling down rather than up). Two bands of non-stretch material (webbing, fabric or leather will do) with buckles or other adjustable fasteners are put high up around each thigh, perhaps five inches from the pubis, although this dimension will vary. Sewn or riveted onto the band is a close (almost touching) row of four clothespins on the inside of the leg, with the clamping ends pointing upwards. These are first attached to the outer labia, then the band is adjusted to a position to gently stretch the lips and tightened so as not to be pulled further up the thigh. Intriguing in itself, and provides both more pull and an interesting display when she spreads her legs. Delectable. (N.B. There are major sensation differences between the outer lips and the inner lips and tissues, grasping these areas with the same force is likely to cause considerably more pain than anticipated.)

Modifying pins for more intense sensations

The simplest method is increasing the clamping force with one or more elastic bands round the clamping end, but there are several others.

Purchase some short one-eighth inch diameter brads or finish nails, and a drill of the same diameter. Drill three holes through the clamping end of two clothespins. Sand, grind, or file the ends of the brads to a smooth *ROUND* tip then push them through so they protrude into the clamping area while the clothespin is held open one-eighth inch. Use a drop of strong glue to hold the brads in place, and saw off the excess length from the outside of the pins after the glue dries.

These are exceedingly nasty, as the clamping force now concentrates primarily on three small areas rather than the entire clamping area. Use this carefully, preferably with a fully adjustable clothespin as described above, and make quite sure by testing on yourself first that the ends of the brads are NOT SHARP at all to avoid damage. Useful for those seeking more than a 'regular' clothespin may provide.

Several less extreme variations on the idea above are possible, all based on disassembling the clothespin, filing several grooves in the wooden clamping area, then reassembling the clothespin. Grooves and blunt 'teeth' aid in preventing slippage, and feel a bit more harsh than flat wood.

Removing about one-half of the side of the clamping area with a saw or rasp provides two benefits, the same clamping pressure will be applied over a smaller area, and double the number of clothespin tips may fitted to the same bit of anatomy. Remember to round the edges slightly with sandpaper to avoid splinters or other inadvertent injury.

Testing the clamping force of clothespins

Tradition demands testing on the web of your hand. This is well and good for impromptu buying and to get a subjective feel for the actual sensation of a new design, but lacks precision and repeatability, qualities dear to the heart of any engineer. Some thinking and a bit of experimentation resulted in the following frame to directly and accurately measure clamping force in clothespins. (I recognize the source of error from measuring the force at the hole rather than the clamping area, but it is a difference both trivial and consistent, and thus may be ignored for comparative testing.)

clamping force tester

Select two boards longer than eight inches, wider than one inch, and perhaps one-quarter inch thick, and place them together, lying flat on top of one another. Drill a hole through both boards, five inches or so from one end. Put a bolt through this hole, and thread a wingnut on the bolt. Clamp the other end of the boards firmly to a table or bench, slide one leg of the clothespin into the space between the two boards, then tighten the wingnut. This frame will hold the clothespin for testing. Once the pin is held firmly in place, use a thin cord attached to a spring tension scale, and pull downwards against the clamping area until the clothespin opens. (I use an 'anglers scale' accurate from 1 to 28 pounds, but any 'pulling' scale with a hook will do.) This measurement will vary from the pull necessary to just open the jaws to a higher reading before the jaws reach their limit of travel. As mentioned, the 'standard' clothespins I've tested fall somewhere in the region of four to six pounds. Stretching for several days may yield less than 3 pounds, and manual stretching of the clothespin spring will swiftly reduce the pressure to 1 pounds or less. If you have the time and interest, coding the various strength ranges of tested clothespins for different tastes and applications is possible, either by filing groove patterns in the legs to select by touch or by using color to indicate severity levels...

"Twenty of the red ones for a start, I'm in an evil mood tonight."

For more information on making your own equipment
use this link - "Kinky Crafts" - to go there now.