With the help of $33,000, raised via a Kickstarter campaign, John Truex founded Borough Furnace two years ago. He set up shop at the Gear Factory, a forgotten warehouse on the western outskirts of Armory. Seed money funded molds for frying skillets, braising skillets, and bottle openers and to build machines from scratch. His no-waste traditional casting method relies on recycled iron scraps—specifically car brakes—to form handmade cookware and old vegetable oil to fuel the furnace.
—Drew Osumi, staff photographer at Baked Magazine. Follow Drew on Twitter and Instagram @brosumi.
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The money raised from Kickstarter went towards creating this mold for frying skillets.
The sand-and-clay molds, weighing more than 200 pounds each, are carried from one point to the next on a forklift.
Truex uses a suction hose to remove any loose sand from the mold, which can potentially damage the finished product.
To make the molds, a mechanical fist, called a pneumatic sand rammer, compresses sand and clay at 1,600 beats per minute.
The molds’ hefty weight calls for strenuous exercise. To avoid strain, Truex uses a mechanical lift to transport them across the workshop, closer to the furnace.
Truex suits up in protective gear to protect his body from “The Skilletron,” the workshop’s handmade furnace.
It’s fueled by waste vegetable oil collected from local restaurants like ALFA and fire departments’ weekly fish-fry feasts.
Truex uses tongs to lift a stone, designed to hold 12 pounds of recycled iron.
Then, he carefully hand-pours the scorching liquid into a small opening at the top of a hollow sand-and-clay mold.
The skillet molds fit 12 pounds of iron, but the pan is scraped down and sandblasted after cooling overnight, leaving a finished product weighing 5 pounds.
Exceeding 3000 F, the furnace takes 4 hours to heat molten for just one skillet.
Truex, former industrial design professor at Syracuse University, first became infatuated with large-scale iron casting while studying sculpture at the University of Tennessee.
Customers are offered two options: a nine-inch frying skillet with a fork-based long handle that dissipates heat to stay cool on the fire ($280) and a 12-inch braising pan with a small, looped handle on each side meant to redistribute the weight ($320).
The metal-casting workshop produces 30 handmade skillets a week, all hand cast and pre-seasoned with organic flaxseed oil.
Borough Furnace, owned and operated by Truex and Liz Seru, continues to make small batches of handmade products using traditional casting methods with an environmentally-conscious footprint.
This recipe was originally featured in Baked’s Fall 2014 issue. Grab your copy on campus today!