About this project
I made my first cast iron crepe pan about 5 years ago when I was studying sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the foundry, we learned how to make cast iron, so I decided to recreate a simple crepe pan that I had seen when I was living in Paris. The first one I made was big and heavy but people loved it and asked me to make them one. Over time, I sold a few, worked on a better design and came up with the brand and logo of "Captain Crepe Pan." It's been challenging and expensive to make these myself, so I did some research and found my way to a foundry in Wisconsin where I am able to cast my patterns in mass production. Also, I have invested a lot of time and money into a fabrication shop with a CNC machine which allows me to create my prototypes and patterns.
Now all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together and I'm ready with my prototype. I am set to do my first production run of my crepe pans for which I have come to Kickstarter to raise the initial investment and offset the cost of my fabrication shop. By supporting my project, you will receive the first edition of a unique and useful product that does not exist anywhere else. In the story below, I have a more detailed explanation of my journey.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
I was living in France and I had seen an antique cast iron crepe pan for sale.
It was basically a large flat cast iron disk and it came with a wooden spreader to spread the batter and a long flat spatula but it was expensive and heavy. I've always wanted one and I’ve never been able to find this design anywhere else. I wanted to make crepes the Paris street vendor way but could never find the right pan.
Most crepe pans on the market are basically a small cast iron skillet or thin aluminum with non-stick coating (that eventually gets scratched off). They have an edge and a handle. The problem with this design is that the edge and handle become an obstruction, thus crepes are smaller (less room for tasty fillings) and the edges tend to crisp and burn. Plus synthetic non-stick coatings are far inferior to well seasoned cast iron.
There are commercially produced crepe pans similar in size to the antique french design yet they are expensive electric machines, and usually only available to a restaurants or other food professionals. And unlike electric crepe makers, my pan can conveniently be used over any open flame.
As I gained skills in metal casting, I made my first cast iron crepe pan at an iron pour in my own homemade furnace with help from my friends. It’s a fairly basic process that involves wooden patterns and bonded sand yet is expensive and time consuming and perfect castings can be difficult to achieve in a DIY setting.
Over the years, people wanted a crepe pan yet due to the limits of the backyard iron pour, production is not easy. Somewhere in the mix, I developed the brand of Captain Crepe Pan, I can't tell you why or how this came to be but I knew that the world needed a French super hero to introduce the world's greatest crepe pan.
The beauty of the thicker design is that it holds a very even heat and requires little fuel to heat. Cast iron is loved by chefs for it’s evenly heated cooking surface and a natural non-stick coating (seasoned).
I’ve had my crepe pans tested by a variety of professional chefs in Chicago and they love the even heat that it produces.
Erica Fischer - Executive Chef of Julius Meinl Coffeehouse in Chicago commented when testing my pan about how well she was able to cook crepes in the classic French tradition, in particular she liked the even golden brown color that "every French chef is looking for" and that the crepes were made they way she was taught in school "smooth as a babies bottom"
Over time, I went through 3 design changes. The first design was made from a simple wooden disk (about 3/4 inches thick) with drafted edges. For the second design, I wanted a larger surface area, so I got a larger wooden disk. This design works great but at 3/4 inch thickness unfortunately it’s large and really heavy so it’s not very reasonable to produce commercially.
After my experiences with the first 2 designs, I decided to change my pattern making process. I wanted a thinner, lighter design while maintaining a large surface area. I determined that if I put a raised pattern, like a grill, on the underside, I would be able to make the pans thinner yet maintain the even heat distribution.
At the time, I had access to a laser cutter and I decided to use it to make unique decorative patterns for the bottom of the pan that would help with heat distribution.
I had a variety of shapes that I put on the bottom of the pan including a sun, swirls, a fleur de lis, and a skull. They're quite beautiful.
To date, I’ve made three of this design at various iron pours. The first two attempts, the castings were rough and incomplete.
But recently, I have successfully made my first prototype.
While I was going through this process, I realized the enormous difficulty and expense of trying to cast these on my own to meet the demand.
Realizing these constraints, I sought help and took my successful prototype to a small iron foundry in Northern Wisconsin, near my hometown. http://washburnironworks.com/?110040
For the last year, I have been in discussion with them about how to get a good casting of my crepe pans. They even have specific alloys of iron intended for cast iron cookware. It's a small and efficient operation and I'm happy to support a local Wisconsin business.
Additionally, in order to make this project happen and to create good patterns, I purchased a CNC machine for my shop. A CNC is a machine that precisely cuts material based off a computer design and is essential in good foundry work for creating exact patterns. It works better than a laser cutter because I am able to create "draftable" edges in order to make the pattern release from the sand in the molding process. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattern_(casting) In addition to creating foundry patterns, I am now equipped to mass produce the wooden spatula in my own shop.
So now that I have a successful prototype, a CNC machine to make good patterns and a place where I know I can get good castings, I am taking this project to Kickstarter.
The goal of this project is to help pay for my first production run of crepe pans and pay for my machine to make foundry patterns.
There are a variety of patterns and designs that I would like to experiment as this project evolves. Additionally with future production runs, I would like to experiment with an enameled finish to give it the ultimate durable non-stick coating and possibly create a detachable handle. I would also like to offer a variety of sizes.
Please note that the Backer Awards includes the $30 shipping and handling fee (domestic). International shipping is additional.
The estimated price per set once this goes to market is currently at $200 plus S&H. A final price will be determined based off of this project.
Care of Captain Crepe Pan: When you first receive your pan, you will need to season it to create the natural non-stick coating. Here are some helpful links.
REMEMBER! this is cast iron and as such it is heavier than most cooking materials. The pan is comparable in weight to a standard size cast iron Dutch Oven.
IMPORTANT!: Since there are no handles, you must either use hot pads to move the pan, or wait until it has completely cooled after cooking with it.
FAQ: The dimensions of my prototype are 15 inches round. 3/8 in thick. weighs about 16 pounds. The design that I am sending in for a production run will be lighter and thinner. My goal is to make the pan close to 12 pounds and that is what I will be sending out as the backer awards.
CAPTAIN CREPE PAN THANKS YOU FOR SUPPORTING THIS PROJECT!
It's all handmade by me. And the spatula is made of solid walnut. I have to sand down the edges to a taper so it can get under the crepe. Technically a bakers spatula (like the one you would use to spread frosting) would work the best as it's thin, flexible and durable but I'm an artist so I have to make it look nice. I left the option open to receive just the pan by itself so people could choose their own if they wanted.
Yes, this will work on an electric stove. I recommend caution if setting this on a glass induction stove top but otherwise it will work great.
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