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Perhaps no other production item has fooled as many penny-pinching studio execs and producers, or scarred as many unsuspecting newbs on set, as the humble clothespin. 

 

Though the origin story for the slangy nickname of this incredibly versatile item remains an ongoing topic of much debate, the time-honored manufacturing of C-47s has been meticulously documented. And it all begins in a land far, far away…

 

Only the finest CVG (clear vertical grain) Indian cedar is used for the wooden components of the humble C-47. The material is harvested from a rare subspecies of cedrus deodar – from the Sanskrit devdar, meaning “timber of the gods” – that grows exclusively in select regions of the western Himalayan mountains. Once the wood has been kiln-dried to between 15 and 19 percent moisture content, the clothespin’s two prongs are initially whittled by local craftsmen, each having completed a rigorous 22-year apprenticeship under a master C-47 artisan – known colloquially as “pinchers” in the regional dialect – followed by a weeklong, solitary vision quest, and finally a series of initiation rites that have been kept shrouded in secrecy for over five centuries according to the best contemporary, scientific estimates. 

 

If the prongs pass inspection by the highest ranking members of the regional C-47 guild headquartered in Kashmir, they are transported on the backs of highly trained donkeys raised from birth for this singular task, and then over 7,000 kilometers by a sequence of strictly traditional trains to northern Italy. 

 

Subsequently, the wooden pieces are further shaped in a Milanese factory – the only one of its kind in existence – by those individuals having obtained an intensely competitive technical diploma in woodwork with materials smaller than 15 centimeters. This stage is realized by means of a patented process of micro-planing in order to achieve a painstakingly even surface with a rating of no less than 180 epsilons, as dictated by the International Guidelines for the Standardization of Smoothness, or IGSS.

 

The completed pieces are then given a protective coating of linseed oil, followed by a varnish obtained from sea urchins imported from the Aegean Sea by Greek fishermen no younger than 52 years of age. After this finishing treatment, they are shipped via a dedicated fleet of Cessna 172 Skyhawks, in containers equipped with the latest technology in climate control to avoid any possibility of warping, cracking, or discoloration. 

 

The destination of the flight path – predetermined by a series of interconnected machines operated by a single ancestral line of Norwegian cryptographers, which alters the encrypted coordinates from those of all preceding shipments – is the foremost steel plant in Tennessee, specializing in the manufacture of miniature springs and Slinkys. Founded by two brothers, Clause and Pen, in the year 1907, it is currently co-owned and operated by each man’s only daughter, both coincidentally named Peg. 

 

Next, the finished C-47 components are joined into a dual-pronged, mirrored-symmetry, heavy-duty-stainless-steel-tension system with spring-loaded pressure sensitivity. The assembled items are transferred by Peterbilt ground transportation experts to the undisputed experts in all cedar-related matters at the WRCLA (Western Red Cedar Lumber Association) in New England for a final, 6-point inspection before being put on the market for consumer purchase. This last stage in the construction of professional-grade clothespins examines (1) all six easy-grip grooves, (2) the dimensions of the secondary hole for securing items of smaller diameter, (3) the interior surfaces of the primary clipping notch, (4) measuring the fit and snap-back capability of the spring, (5) how accurately the crafted materials maintain the 3-½” standardized length, and (6) the degree of symmetrical perfection of the fully-assembled device. 

 

After this minimum 30-day inspection, the officially approved and notarized C-47s are flown by helicopter to a facility in Thunder Bay, on the Canadian coast of Lake Superior. Here, each set for retail sale is wrapped in handmade Japanese rice paper, enveloped in bubble wrap, placed on a delicate bed of packing peanuts within a NASA-designed styrofoam housing held together by nylon ribbon tied with a double bowline knot, and shipped in a reinforced cardboard box, the seams of which are sealed by glue created in a laboratory by retired Mounties. 

 

Such is the extraordinary saga behind the deceptively simple design of each and every production-ready, Academy-certified C-47. From clipping filters on barndoors, to mischievous budget line item, to prankster antics and on-set crew games, its 1,001 uses and colorful history of apocrypha told by well-seasoned G&E raconteurs have enriched the lives of countless film crews across the globe. 

 

All hail the humble C-47. 

C-47

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