This is a very simple human powered washing machine that you can make in 15 minutes, and does a good job.
I went down to my basement and located the clean joint compound bucket (5 gallon) that I knew I had.
Then I grabbed an old 1 1/4'' x 23" wooden dowel, 1 plastic wall anchor, a 1/4" wood screw, old plastic desert plate that was destined for a garage sale or trash can (probably trash can), electric drill w/bit, and went to work. I drilled a hole in the center of one end of the dowel and tapped in the wall anchor. Next I drilled a hole the size of the screw into the plate. Then I put the screw through the plate and screwed it into the wall anchor in the center of the dowel. My agitator was finished!
I put about 1/2 oz of soap, a gallon or so of water, and a quilted shirt into the bucket, and started agitating! After just a couple of minutes at a rate of about 1 cycle per second there was a distinct change in water color. I probably agitated for 10 minutes, and the shirt came out perfect. After that (next day) I did a small load of underwear, then 3 regular (non-quilted) long sleeve shirts, and today 2 sweaters. It worked great on all!
I found that attaching the plate to the dowel so that the edge of the plate curves up (concave position) seems to cause more splashing if it breaks the surface of the water in the bucket. Attaching so that it looks convex as you look down on it into the bucket works better imo.
Diameter of the plate should not exceed half the diameter of the bucket i.e. 12" bucket - 6" plate. If too big of a plate is used, the clothing will have nowhere to circulate.
After you drill the hole in the dowel, fill the hole with hot glue or epoxy. Then tap the wall anchor into the hole while the glue is still hot. Now screw the plate into place, and set the assembly aside until everything has fully setup. The hot glue holds the wall anchor and associated screw better, and helps keep water out and therefore should resist rotting.
Since it is only a plate and not a real agitator, if the user simply moves the agitator up and down in the center of the bucket, the clothing will move, but will not circulate as in a real washing machine. To compensate, I've learned 2 techniques so far.
Hold agitator vertical but
against the side of the bucket, working all the way around.
Hold agitator at a diagonal with
the dowel sliding on the edge of the bucket
So, that's it. If you have the parts lying around, it only takes 15 to 20 minutes to throw it together and it works great.
Update from Fran -- April 8, 2009:
I have found that my manual agitator (the wood dowel/plastic plate combo) for my bucket washer has torn up a couple of my shirts !!
Upon closer inspection of the agitator, I found a couple of rough edges and BURRS on the Phillips screw that I used to attach the plastic plate to the wooden dowel.
The fix that I'm trying for the sharp edge/metal burr problem is covering the head of the screw with hot glue. Washing some whites as I'm typing this, and the glue is holding up nicely. About 1/16'' in thickness. I'm expecting (and hoping) this will be a good fix for the problem.
Have a look at Fran's advanced, basement to attic solar chimney ventilation system ...
March 26, 2009