Makers Monday Interview With Borough Furnace

BY Taylor Rebhan

As part of our Makers Monday interview series, we asked Borough Furnace what it means to be American makers. The Borough Furnace cast iron skillet and bottle opener are available at select Shinola stores. Discover more makers on the Makers Monday website and onCool Hunting


What is it you make, and what should people know about your products?

We hand make cast iron skillets that are a modern update on the American classic. We’re currently making two models—a 9” frying skillet and a 12” braising version. The designs also have functional updates; for instance, the long handle on the 9” skillet dissipates heat so that it is cool to the touch for use on the cooktop. The skillets come pre-seasoned with organic flaxseed oil, so they’re ready for use right out of the box.

When did you commit to making your products in America, and why did you choose to do it here?

The environmental updates we made to our typical foundry practices necessitated that we produce our line ourselves. It was important to us that the production process adds value to our finished product. We run our shop-built furnace on waste vegetable oil collected from local restaurants and only use recycled iron as the source material for our castings. The sand used in our molds is also crushed up and reused so that there are no waste byproducts created by the process.


Where is your business located, and what makes your town uniquely American?

Our shop is in downtown Syracuse, NY, in an old daylight factory that produced gears at the turn of the 20th century. A Rust Belt city from the heyday of U.S. manufacturing, Syracuse is undergoing a revitalization. It’s exciting to be bringing new manufacturing back to the city–albeit on our very small scale!

What got you started, and what was the first thing you remember making?

John started his career as a designer for several studios in New York, working on a diverse range of products from fragrance bottles to custom pianos. Developing a line of products that we would produce ourselves was an opportunity to be much more hands on.


When you’re not busy at work, where might we find you? What do you like to do with your spare time?

Syracuse has a really amazing farmers’ market that’s one of our favorite aspects about living here. We spend almost all of our time in our shop, but we do try to get home to make a great dinner whenever we can.

Are there other brands and makers that inspire you?

A few years ago, John participated in a workshop with Alessi to develop designs that were “American” in spirit. One quality that has made Alessi such an iconic company is the close link between the formal design of the products and the manufacturing. The ways in which the metal is folded and formed has a direct impact on the look and feel of the products.

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