How to make laundry washboards

Written by kurt schanaman
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Before electric washing machines, and even before hand-crank washing machines, laundry was scrubbed on a rough surface between two pieces of wood. The apparatus was known as a washboard. During tough economic times, the washboard is still a dependable method of removing clothing stains. The following steps will lead you to being a proud owner of your very own DIY washboard.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Two pieces of 2-by-4 lumber, 24 inches long
  • Four pieces of dowel, 1 1/2 inch outside diameter
  • One piece of 3/4-inch plywood, 12 inches wide, 20 inches long
  • Twelve sheet metal screws, 1 inch long
  • Drill-mounted hole saw with centre guide bit
  • Screwdriver set
  • Wood glue
  • Flax oil

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    Prepare Side Boards

  1. 1

    Draw a line down the exact centre of each 2-by-4 board, from one end to the other.

  2. 2

    Measure 3 3/4 inches from each end and draw a line straight across from edge to edge, forming a cross-hair "x marks the spot" where the lines cross.

  3. 3

    From the centre of one of the crosshairs on either end of the 2-by-4, measure 5 1/2 inches further down the centre line and draw another crosshair line. Repeat this step once more. You should end up with four crosshairs spaced equally apart between the two ends.

  4. 4

    Perform all of the above steps to the second 2-by-4.

  5. 5

    Use a hole saw that will cut a hole at each cross-hair. Each hole should be slightly smaller than the outside diameter of the dowels you chose to use for your washboard. The dowel ends can always be sanded down slightly for a perfectly tight fit, but the holes cannot be reduced in size once cut. Place the hole saw bit in the centre of each crosshair and drill each hole completely through each location on both 2-by-4 sideboards.

    Forming the "Ladder"

  1. 1

    Slide the ends of the dowels into each of the four holes on one of the 2-by-4 side boards. If they won't go all the way through, lightly sand down the last inch and a half of the dowels until they go all the way through each hole. The end result you are looking for in this section is to create what appears to be a miniature ladder with the dowels serving as the rungs of that ladder. The dowels shouldn't protrude visibly from the outsides of the side boards. Repeat this step for the second 2-by-4 side board and the other ends of the dowels.

  2. 2

    Disassemble your "ladder" by removing all of the dowel ends from both boards. Apply a generous amount of wood glue to the insides of the holes and also to 1 1/2 inches on the ends of the dowels. Reassemble the glued dowel ends into the holes and make sure the dowel ends are evenly flush with the outsides of the side boards and let the "ladder" joints to cure for 24 hours.

  3. 3

    Within just three hours after beginning the joint curing segment, apply three to four coats of flax oil to all exposed areas of wood. Cover the entire ladder generously to seal and waterproof the wood. Allow the flax oil to dry for the remainder of the 24-hour curing period.

    Install the Wash Surface

  1. 1

    Place the piece of plywood between both of the 2-by-4 side boards and press down onto the dowel rungs. The ends of the plywood should hang slightly over the edges of the end dowels. Using 1-inch screws, screw the side edges of the plywood down onto each dowel, approximately 1/2 inch from the side boards.

  2. 2

    Place the corrugated tin over the plywood, trimming the ends of the tin with tin snips so that any sharp edges lie flush against the wood in order to prevent cuts to the hands when using the washboard.

  3. 3

    Drive screws in between the ribs (into the deeper recesses) of the tin just as you did with the plywood. Use two screws every 4 inches, making sure they are screwed in until flush with the metal surface to prevent snagging of laundry when the washboard is in use.

Tips and warnings

  • To use your washboard, fill a large tub about half full of hot water. Add laundry detergent and then set the end of the washboard into the tub at a diagonal so that the submerged legs press against the opposite side of the tub.
  • Soak the laundry in the water for about 10 minutes before rubbing each piece up and down across the raised ribs of the corrugated tin. Scrub vigorously for several minutes, especially the spots with difficult oil stains. Scrub until clean.
  • Always inspect your washboard before each use to ensure none of the screw heads have raised, even slightly. If you find any, simply use a screwdriver and drive back into the wood until flush with the metal.
  • Use caution when operating near the edges of your washboard to prevent cuts or abrasions.

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