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Finex Cast Iron Skillet: A Beloved Classic Updated's video poster
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The Finex 12" Cast Iron Skillet sports an octagonal shape, a quick-cooling wire-spring handle, and a beautiful CNC-machined interior. Read more

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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on November 17, 2013.

The Finex 12" Cast Iron Skillet sports an octagonal shape, a quick-cooling wire-spring handle, and a beautiful CNC-machined interior.

About this project

The Finex 12" Cast Iron Skillet is a long overdue redesign of a true American classic. 

WOW! Thanks to you, our backers, we have reached an amazing 800%+ of our goal! 

 The Finex team and I will strive to live up to the level of confidence you have shown for us and the product. 

 Please stay in contact by going to www.finexusa.com to continue to get information, and sign up for our newsletter. 

Again: THANK YOU! 

Mike Whitehead

                       
                                       
       

A NOTE to the media: A full press page (with full resolution images) is available at www.finexusa.com/press-resources

   

Why did I start this?

I love cast iron skillets but the well-finished ones are commanding an outrageous premium on Ebay, and they still have the old-school integrated handles that are too hot, too flat, and too small to use effectively. 

You see, the newer skillets are just quickly cast and then tossed out for sale.  The insides (where the action happens!) are rough and build up a kind of gross burnt-food surface -- completely different than the wonderful carbon-based, inherently low-stick surface that a great cast iron skillet gains as it seasons.

You see, the inside of the newer cast iron skillets are NOT machined - they are left rough and rugged, which is a problem for serious cooks. They just don't release the food easily (leading to 'fractured foods'), nor do they allow that wonderful crispiness that forms on the bottom of skillet-cooked food to be picked up by a spatula and be transferred to your waiting plate. 

I decided that I needed to machine the inside of my skillets - despite the cost - because the surface finish on the skillet equaled the finish on the food.

Re-designing a classic can seem brash

I've completely re-worked the design. But, fear not! I've kept the best parts and then carefully added just the features that were really needed to upgrade this classic.  And, I got to use the best of current casting and machining technologies to really put it a 'step-above'!

Made in the Pacific Northwest

Sourcing locally:

One design goal for me was to source everything in the US and to keep the sources close to my home city of Portland, Oregon. 

This allowed me to use my existing sources of supply from my 'day job' (the ones I knew could, and would, perform well), and it let me keep a close eye on things and intervene with an on-site visit when needed (or when I wanted to watch industry-in-action!)

Portland is known as a design and food-lovers destination - perfect for this skillet!

It's really hard to not love food when living in Portland. We've had the highest ratio of restaurants to population for decades. And, we were one of the earliest places for startups in the micro-brewery industry.

Innovative Octagonal Shape

The octagonal shape lets you put the skillet on its side (like for drying it after washing) and it won't roll around like those 'other' skillets.

Plus, it gives 6 directions that you can pour from, because each 'corner' becomes a pour-spout - it's a little bit like magic.

Those flat sides also allow a spatula to slide in easily for getting under pancakes, fried eggs, etc.

Spring Handle for Cooling and Comfortable Grip

There are three problems with the old-style skillet handle:

  • They are too small
  • They are too thin for comfort
  • They stay hot too long

Finex has solved these problems!

The Finex spring handle harks back to the classic woodstove handles that kept us from burning our hands when stoking the fire. The spring design is both tried-and-true and brilliant.  

The spring handle has lots of air space so it cools quickly after being used in the oven or on a gas-burner stove-top.  

Plus, its naturally curved shape fits in your hand giving a secure and comfortable grip, which is important when pouring or moving it around the kitchen with food in it. 

And, of course: it looks great!

You'll see that the handle is heavy-duty - it's made from 1/4" diameter stainless steel. That makes it solid and easy to grab, yet open enough to cool quickly. 

The bronze end-cap is a signature part of the skillet. It will also put up with anything you can throw at it in a kitchen environment. Bronze melts at 1,742 °F so unless you cook like my friend Charles, you'll be fine. (just joking about Charles' cooking!) :-)


Here's a video of the prototyping prove-out run that we did at the spring house:

CNC Machined Smooth Interior

The inside of the FINEX Skillet will be CNC machined. What this means for you is the inside will be very smooth - this makes it naturally less-stick, and easier to clean.

Plus, it won't build up that scary-looking burnt-food 'ruggedness' that cheap import skillets grow over time - instead, it will season to a beautifully smooth carbonized surface that will cook like nothing else in the world.

This is what separates the great cast iron skillets from the 'cheap-os'. It adds cost and complexity to the manufacturing process but the results are stellar!

Manufacturing the Finex Skillet:

The Finex skillet will be cast using the oldest method around: SAND CASTING.  It may be the oldest method, but it's still the best for short-runs like this skillet! 

The first-article pour will be streamed LIVE!

Of course, over the last 2000+ years, sand-casting has improved dramatically, as have the alloys of cast iron. I'll be using one of the Northwest's premium sand-casting houses to pour these beauties, and I'll be on hand for the first pour, which we'll be streaming live as it happens. 

Here's a quick overview of how sand-casting is done:

First, the design must available in digital form. Since the skillet was designed in CAD, that's already done.  

Then, the CAD file is turned into toolpaths for a CNC vertical machining center to mill the pattern from a solid block of aluminum. 

UPDATE:

The Finex Skillet mold is being made from a polyurethane block that will then be embedded in an aluminum plate. Willamette Pattern chose to use the polyurethane board because it machines more easily and for the skillet it is a better choice.

Here's a video of the mold being machined on Nov 5, 2013:

After it is machined, the finished pattern mold is placed between two casting frames (called the flask, consisting of the the cope on top and the drag on bottom) and has the sand rammed in around it. The aluminum becomes the negative space that the molten cast iron is poured into.

Project Timeline:

The Finex Coaster - a 'Thank You!' for our supporters

With over 90 craft breweries in the Portland area, it's hard for us not to appreciate a great coaster, and cork is the classic material, just like cast iron is the classic material for skillets.

I offer these as a 'Thank you!' for supporting this project at $25.

 This cork coaster will be offered ONLY through Kickstarter for our backers.

YES!  All Finex skillets will be lightly pre-seasoned

Since launching the project many people have asked: "Will it be pre-seasoned?" The answer is "Yes!":

Your Finex skillet will arrive lightly seasoned and include instructions for maintaining or re-seasoning it at any time.

The Finex skillet is seasoned with nature's ultimate oil - organic flaxseed oil that is cold-pressed and unrefined. Flax seed oil is fantastic at creating a hard, slick surface on cast iron that is the essence of cast iron's naturally low-stick cooking surface.

If you burn something in your skillet or a guest scrubs it with steel wool and soap (yipes!) - DON'T WORRY. Just use a little extra oil the next time you use it. When the cooking surface is this smooth it really takes the mystery out of seasoning the surface - that's one of the reasons we will be CNC machining the inside!

How much will the Finex Skillet weigh?

This is another question we've been getting and it points out that the (all-too-common) cheap import skillets are heavy! 

Why? Because they use inferior alloys of cast iron, less fine-grained sand for casting, and don't machine the inside.

All of those bits of extra attention to detail and specifications will make the Finex Skillet weigh in at around 6 to 7 pounds vs. a 'cheapie' skillet at 8+ pounds.

We don't have exact numbers yet because the first round of actual cast iron casting will take place (with YOUR support!) in mid-November. But we can assure you that the Finex will be much easier to handle and work with on a regular basis than the cast iron skillets you can buy off the shelf currently.

We can tell you that the CAD system calculations say the skillet is right about 6.75 pounds and we've weighed the prototype spring handle at 1/2 pound, so that's a total of 7-1/4 pounds without the bronze knob at the end of the handle. 

That's comparable to the weight of the best old-style skillet ever made, the Griswold 12" (which has the problematic handle).  So, the Finex with that lusciously large handle will be a breeze to maneuver!

Is a lid being planned?

Yes! A Finex skillet lid is being planned and we will announce it sometime after the first of the year.

We are making absolutely SURE that we do a great job of supporting our backers on this skillet before we take on more projects! 

However... we are excited about the lid as the Finex 8-sided design allows the lid to out-baste our competition with it’s almost air tight fit and it doesn’t have any air gaps where traditional pour spouts leak steam. 

Many people have asked about it scratching a glass stove top...

Cast iron is absolutely wonderful on smooth top ranges (glass and inductive heat).

That said, you are working on glass so I recommend minimizing how much you drag, slide or drop any cookware on glass topped ranges.

 A little bit about the team behind the Finex Skillet:

David Lewin - Finex Industrial Designer

David Lewin
David Lewin

Mike Whitehead approached David Lewin (http://www.lewindesigns.com/) with a gift of probably the hardest challenge an industrial designer could ask for -- create the ultimate functional product, using natural materials and local labor. Something that will literally last forever. 

David undertook shaping the skillet with respect to the traditions, added skillful insights and empathy for the everyday user. The result is a skillet that is elegant, versatile and a practical contribution to chefs everywhere.

Thank you, David!

.

Kip Buck - Finex 3D modeler and drafter

Nike, Adidas, Keen, FILA, Lewin Design,Specialized, I Generator, ARIAT, Leupold are companies that Kip has had the pleasure to work with. Design, engineering, CAD, RHINO, RP are all in his quiver ready to be deployed at a moment's notice.

Now he's conquered the FINEX challenge!  

Kip can be contacted at bluewolves4@yahoo.com 

.

Aaron Draplin - logo designer for Finex

Aaron Draplin
Aaron Draplin

Raised in the Michigan Northwoods, schooled at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and currently hunkered down in the mighty Pacific Northwest, Aaron Draplin proudly rolls up his sleeves on projects related to Print, Identity, Web Development and Illustration. 

His client list includes: Coal Headwear, Union Binding Co., Field Notes, Richmond Fontaine, Nike, Wired, Timberline, Ford Motor Co., Viva Voce, Hutchco, Patagonia, Chunklet, Incase, Giro, Cobra Dogs, Burton Snowboards, Hughes Entertainment, Megafaun and even the Obama Administration, if you can believe that. 

He prides himself on a high level of craftsmanship and quality that keeps him up late into the wet Portland night. www.draplin.com/

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Charles Waugh - Kickstarter guru for Finex Skillet

Charles Waugh
Charles Waugh

He's the guy that set up and ran the complete Finex Kickstarter campaign. Including buiidling this entire page - the videos (writing the script, doing the videography and editing, and voice-overs when needed), the graphics, the product photography and retouching, plus writing most of the copy on this page (including writing this entirely self-serving, but true, blurb).

As a fine art portrait photographer for over a decade, engineer, designer, sculptor, videographer, copywriter, calligrapher, and general maniac, Charles really does it all.  Having a portrait studio in Portland, a shop-to-die-for at his house, plus fine woodworking and design engineering in his background, Charles thinks sleep is highly over-rated.

This is Charles' third successful project on Kickstarter (www.woxom.com, www.simplepen.com), with two more in the works currently (keep your eyes peeled for them!)

Charles can be contacted at cw@charleswaugh.com 

Risks and challenges

I have been an engineering manager and product designer in Northwest industries like Boeing for decades. I have overseen projects in aerospace, consumer goods, and optics, so I understand how to design the product, select the vendors, and manage the process to generate the specified results. Of course while keeping it all on-time, on-spec, and within budget (plus having fun!)

As of the launch of this project, the CAD modeling is done, the 3D printed prototypes have been proven out, the prototype mold is soon to be machined, the spring house is selected and prototypes have been run, and the foundry is selected. The preliminary marketing is beginning to be put in place, and the packaging and sales support materials are shaping up.

The entire value stream has been carefully selected within the Northwest U.S., to keep things close to home, in the USA, and largely within my existing manufacturing relationships. I haven't just grabbed the lowest quote and hoped they might deliver - I know many of them, have worked with many of them before, and have visited and grilled the others to verify their credentials.

I've run the numbers of the business plan and we are right on track at this point: ready for a Kickstarter launch!

SUMMARY: All that is left to get this skillet cooking is for you to tell us you agree with our vision by pledging to support the project.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    8 backers

    THANK YOU! - You'll get all the backer's updates forever! Plus, you'll be kept up to date on all of our latest news.

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    5 backers

    Level 2: $25
    Thank you! You'll get all the backer's updates, plus four FINEX cork coasters featuring our logo. Just the ticket for keeping your ice-cold micro-brew from leaving nasty rings on your counter top.

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    1,343 backers

    You will get one of the skillets from the SECOND production run - targeted for roughly February 2014. (Retail $195)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $165 or more

    185 backers All gone!

    You will get one of the skillets from the very FIRST production run of Finex 12" Cast Iron Skillets! (Retail $195)

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    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (32 days)