People sometimes ask me if I’ll make different sizes of cookware, or if I could just adjust the length of a handle or the size of a pot. Of course I can. But it ain’t easy, and it’s certainly not cheap.
The making of a piece of copper cookware is not complicated now that I understand how to do it, but when I first started out with nothing but the notion that I wanted to make a locally sourced cookware line with American history as its starting point, this seemed utterly foreign. How does one make cookware—the whole process seemed impossible. How expensive is this going to be?
Turns out, it’s possible to make cookware. It’s also expensive.
Take our “Man Pan” copper skillet. It’s a little under 8lbs. It’s heavy, a solid 3mm thick copper, created in the shape (on a larger scale) a traditional coppersmith apprentice would have built as one of his first pieces of cookware. The handles are long and based on a modern take on an old design I’ve seen in historic villages around the Midwest and in books on 1800s copper cookware.
In order to get the copper body, we first design the piece (me: sketches on a napkin. My friend Julia takes that and puts it into computer software for machines to read) and then have to get the tool built for the CNC machine. That tool is anywhere from $1000 – $4000+.
Then there’s the handle. The handle cope and drag plates that will be put on a machine inside an iron foundry need to be designed from those same sketches-turned-computer file and then built by a tool and die maker into aluminum plates. Those plates are what forms the sand that the iron will be poured into…and those plates range from $1500 – $3000 depending on the size of the plate and the intricacy of the design.
Great! I now have tools to make cookware! Except…I have to have the material brought in, cut, melted, etc etc…so each copper body has a hard material and labor cost. And so does each handle. Then those parts have to be shipped to me from all over America.
Suddenly the hard material cost of the pan (just the copper body, the handle, and the shipping) makes this “Man Pan” at $225+…and then I need to factor In a bit to start paying off that $7000+ tooling cost, (and tooling cost for just ONE design!) too.
Oh! But it’s not done! Now the pots need to actually be built. Holes drilled. Rivets made and then shipped to me. Handles drilled and sanded and ground. I’m burning through electricity, powering up the rivet gun. And…it’s still not ready.
There are literally a handful of people in America (7, to be exact, counting me) who professionally hand-wipe tin inside copper pots. This means hand-wiping tin is a highly specialized, rare craft. Plus, there’s the cost of the tin and materials itself. The post-tinning clean up and buffing and polishing. Somewhere in there I need to charge for my time and the specialty of the trade. Probably?
Before I even put a mark-up of any kind (for instance, the copper skillet that runs $525 right now)… I’m actually not making any money until I pay off that tooling. (As my husband and his spreadsheet reminds me. LOL.) I believe in this so much I’m putting my personal savings to create a product, I’m hoping to save a trade that’s almost dead, and continue to support small foundries and family-owned American fabrication companies, AND offer something that will never ever go in a landfill, so we get to save the planet, too. I love this stuff. It’s worth every penny of my savings to try to share something so rich in history and in health with the world!
So yes, the copper in my collection is expensive. Of course it is – have you seen the market prices of copper? But there’s far more to it than that. Yay!