Information on our Enameled Dutch Oven Backorder
We are still in a holding pattern waiting for an ETA on our outstanding materials. We're also painfully close to fulfilling the remaining Dutch ovens that are outstanding. The second I have information, we will share it here. Thank you so much for bearing with us on this!
We're still waiting on an ETA on our enamel resupply and I will post information as soon as I have it.
Hello! We're running two days behind on Group 3 - the last of these are shipping tomorrow.
For folks in the group 4 bucket (4/20 - 4/27) - we've been notified that our next enamel re-supply is delayed and that is going to impact some of these shipments. We are working on firming up the timeline and any steps we can take. We're so close!
We will have the replacement material this coming Monday, 3/28. Estimated ship dates will be as follows:
Group 1: 3/30 - 4/6
Group 2: 4/6 - 4/13
Group 3: 4/13 - 4/20
Group 4: 4/20 - 4/27
As noted before, we will work with anyone not up for the additional delay on a resolution. Thank you! We are very eager to put this period behind us.
OK! We seem to have fully resolved the problem with the sample material we received. As soon as we have an ETA on delivery here, we'll have ship dates on everything we owe you. Thank goodness - but really, thank you.
We have our enameling rep in the shop with us all week to get to the bottom of what’s happening with these defects. It seems most likely that the material we are using has an inconsistent grind, meaning that there are larger particles within our enamel powder that are causing the defects we’re seeing. While frustrating, it would be explanatory as to why the process rolls smoothly at times and then at others we have seen a huge fallout rate. In the past we had put that on ourselves, endlessly calibrating our equipment. We are getting replacement enamel milled for us now in a small quantity and if all looks good, they will express us replacement materials. I should have an update by week’s end and then reliable ETAs. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a swift resolution.
I am going to post updates at this web address as we have news on the progress of these belated shipments, but to start, here is some background for transparency and context.
In late fall 2020, we had just gotten our enameling setup running successfully and at the same moment, received a great amount of press. With more eyes than usual on us at the time, we opened up what we thought were a pretty conservative number of pre-orders for enameled Dutch ovens, with the goal of using the funds to scale our capability and make improvements to the first iteration of our production line.
Our shop is the only US manufacturer of enameled cast iron cookware. The process is complex, more an art than a science, and there is little universal guiding literature for the industry. Working out the unexpected complications we've encountered this past year has been, by far, more difficult than starting our foundry from nothing over a decade ago, having self-built the machines we used to make our line of cast iron skillets. As we continued to have problems with the Dutch ovens, we pushed the pre-order commitment date further and further out until closing all orders completely, expecting to be down for a couple of weeks, but ultimately closing our store, now over six months ago.
At its most basic level, to make an enameled Dutch oven is to spray a finished cast iron pot with a glass-ceramic slurry and fire it in a kiln, fusing the coating to the iron. In the lead up to Christmas 2020, we started having issues with the success rate of our firings. Our kiln was losing heat and we were not able to produce as many successful Dutch ovens per load as we should have been. We had purchased the kiln in Fall 2019 from a tile manufacturer in Nashville and the truck pulling it up here for us got in a wreck on the interstate. We repaired it and it was usable, but it was already a little janky before it started breaking down on us. When the kiln showed early signs of failing, we ordered replacement walls for it, essentially firebrick embedded with heating coils.
The old kiln with its shiny, new walls.
Here’s where the trouble really started for us. The new walls took forever to arrive and at a certain point, the old walls were too unstable to keep going. The turnaround on delivery was supposed to be 4-6 weeks, but we didn’t get the parts until March. The manufacturer had been continually telling us that the shipment would only be a few more days, no doubt a case of supply chain telephone... When they finally arrived, the top of the kiln did not fit, the design of the walls did not match what we had. The manufacturer agreed to send us a replacement lid and that did not arrive until May. We were working out contingency plans in the background - we have amassed a lot of decommissioned kilns in the shop, but couldn't get our numbers up in any significant way.
Something about how the refurbished kiln walls came together changed the environment inside (airflow, humidity, etc..) and we started seeing an incredible defect rate. Through all of this, we found an opportunity to pick up an enormous industrial kiln at auction from a factory closure and got it moved into our shop. It’s 50 feet long and can process as many pots in a day as we can feed into it - whereas the older kiln could only hold a few at a time, fired in batches several hours per go. The new machine is a huge upgrade. It also took us much longer to get online than anticipated.
The new kiln (with the old kiln in the background). It's a monster.
Where we are now: the conveyor kiln works, but we’ve started to see spray defects in a lot of the pots, but fortunately not all. From prior trials, we thought it must be another equipment calibration problem, but finally, recently, kicked the question back to our enamel supplier. They test sprayed what we sent back to them from our lot and are seeing the same problem - we’re now waiting to hear back on a resolution.
I want to be clear that this is not a food safety or adhesion issue - it's an aesthetic issue. Each batch of enamel we get comes to us certified to be free of lead and other pollutants of concern. Our supplier is specifically providing enamel for use on cookware, and because the information matters to many, is a US-based manufacturer.
As soon as we get an answer back, I am going to post it here above this note - and any further developments until we’ve cleared the deck.
A run from the new kiln when things were working as they should.
Compressing everything into a linear narrative, these problems seem pretty straightforward, but there is a lot here unsaid and we sprayed thousands of castings during this time that didn't make the cut. Also, while all of this was going on, the other side of business where we cast and produce skillets completely fell apart when we were unable to source the maintenance materials needed to run the furnace that melts our iron due to shortages. We’ve since brought in a wonderful woman to work with us and she is running a good portion of that production line right now. We’re almost completely caught up on the skillet-side of our operation and are resuming sales there while we continue to work the Dutch ovens out. It’s not a conflict, and after six+ months of closed sales, is a necessity.
These are the broad strokes of a very bad year. Lastly, and significantly, my own personal health took a big turn during this time, which is not in-itself responsible for the delays to your orders, but is fully responsible for how bad our communication and customer service has been during these challenges - and is explanatory for folks who were getting regular updates and then just were not getting them anymore. In hindsight, of course, it would have made sense to bring on more help on during this time, but that would have required an outside perspective of my limitations that I just did not have or see clearly. I lost perspective of the amount of time elapsed, got turned around on what had been communicated and to whom, and generally did a really (really) bad job. Borough Furnace has been in business for a decade and we've grown enormously during that time, something that would never have been possible if my dealings throughout 2021 had been our norm. I'm sorry if you've felt taken advantage of - it has been a very bad time and we can't wait to move past it.
We realize that many of you do not have an appetite to wait this out any longer, or really actually care about any of this at all! Some of these orders are a full year late at this point. We will work with you on a resolution if you would prefer to cancel, including subbing the Dutch oven out for another piece of our cookware, regardless of a difference in value. I will say that as soon as we hear back from our lab with some corrective information, everything we still have outstanding reflects about four weeks of production. I will also say that the people who have actually received their Dutch ovens seem happy with them, a small mercy!
Thank you so much for your patience with us all of this time. I will notify you when there are any developments and post them here - and also send out a blanket note that there is updated news.