So, lessons learned, refunds made, tuition paid, where does BCC stand today? Or, more to the point – and in answer to what so many of you have pointedly asked over the months – when do we begin dealing again?
A string of happy and timely accidents led me to the peculiar constellation of talents I need to make heavy copper cookware along a stretch of I-75 in Ohio, chief among them hand-tinning. It started at a raw milk dairy that I like to frequent in Massachusetts – they use milk canisters that are hand-tinned, and they have them redone every couple of years. A few phone calls later I was talking to folks in Ohio who have been doing this very thing since the 1930s, real molten tin masters, but relatively unknown as copper tinners. As common as it still is in Europe, tinning is a rare skill in this country, and every outfit that tins copper east of Hawai’i is booked for weeks or months, so solving for that part of the production equation allowed me to begin organizing other elements, such as spinning the actual pans and casting the handles.
There is a lot of itinerant metal-working ability concentrated in Ohio and, since the contraction of the auto industry, a lot of excess capacity and enthusiasm for new projects. I’ve found some excellent old-school engineering expertise and have been designing new pans and handles from the ground up. We will no longer be following either the Waldow or French traditional forms; instead every pan will be a BCC original, designed by me and Brooklyn’s own Barbara Stork, one of the last cast metal designers working in the US. Tooling a pan, as simple a thing as a pan may be, takes quite a bit of time from material specifications to drawings to making the first prototypes. As you can see we have drawings, and Barbara is at the point of modeling the handle castings while I finalize milling and engineering specs for lathe chucks. From putting money on the table to having the first proofs looks like about a 16 week spread, which means that we’ll be, regrettably, a little late for the holiday season this year. It’s going to be worth the wait, however.
Previously my primary aim for BCC was to make the case for the return of copper cookware to American manufacturing and kitchens. Well, it turns out my boosterism was misplaced – y’all know very well why you’re buying copper versus other metals and you don’t need me carrying the banner. For BCCv.2 the top priority is making a uniquely high-quality tool, and coming up with an operational scheme that guarantees we get our goods to you straight away. This does mean we’ll be reworking several steps, mainly on the spinning front, but BCC wares will still be cut, spun, cast and tinned by hand here in the US. Each piece will be unique, but gone will be some of the “artisanal eccentricities” characterizing so many pans so many of you have received over the months (with more good humor than I think we deserved at times). The mark of hand craftmanship will still be abundantly clear, but quality is going from subjective judgements of “good enough” to “Six-Sigma”.
To date BCC has been mostly yours truly and the four guys of Hammersmith. Going forward we’re getting help in Nashville on business development, Cincinnati for production management, Dayton for engineering, milling and spinning, Pittsburgh for casting, Lima for tinning, and top-notch talent in California rebuilding and managing our virtual side. Our offices and designers are here in Brooklyn, and we’re planning to open a showroom and workspace in the borough where we’ll be able to talk to you in person and maybe even demonstrate how a slab of copper becomes an heirloom.
I anticipate the first couple of years of BCC to have amounted to some great publicity, a proof of concept, a respectful sum of tuition paid and a short list of excellent customers and friends of the company (in which I count all of you). Although I could easily view this interregnum as a rough patch, I believe I’ll look back on it as the time BCC became the better version of an excellent original vision.