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How Do You Make A KerfCase?

“Hi there, I have been searching for an actual wooden case for quite some time. I just want to make sure that this is actual wood”

-Email to KerfCase last week.  Trust me, we make real wood cases!  Check out the video below to see the proof.


WHAT IS A REAL WOOD PHONE CASE?


Being in the wood phone case business is a tough gig sometimes.  We make a high-quality, labor-intensive product, but our marketplace is littered with cheap imitators.  Do a search on Amazon or Google Shopping for “wood iphone case” and you’ll see what I mean.

Plastic iPhone 6 case
Add a little wood to this, and congratulations!  You have a "wood phone case".

As we’ve previously explained, there’s not exactly a standard definition for what constitutes a wood phone case.  Unlike Scotch Whiskey or Belgian Chocolate, which need to meet distinct guidelines in order to be advertised with those names, you can put a piece of wood on top of a mass-produced case, or even order a wood-and-plastic case overseas and sell it at a massive profit, and get away with it.  In an unregulated market, it’s up to the consumer to be extra sure they’re getting what they’re paying for, and for companies like ours to advertise our product in a way that emphasizes its authenticity.


That email up at the top of the page, which we received not too long ago, shows us that we need to do more to show you how we differ from the competition.  So today, we’ve decided to lift the veil on some of our production processes to leave no doubt to you, dear reader, that we are the real deal.


THE CNC REVOLUTION


You may have heard the abbreviation CNC before.  It’s short for Computer Numerical Control and describes a type of industrial equipment.  A CNC machine is not operated by hand; it takes a type of tool, such as a router or a laser cutter, and gives control of it over to a computer that feeds it a series of instructions.


The magic of a CNC machine is simple: as a human operator, you simply give the machine a program, press a button, check your Facebook for a couple minutes, and return to find that a complicated task has been performed automatically and with a high degree of precision.  If you know how to use one, you can perform a staggering variety of tasks with one machine.

CNC lathe
This CNC lathe can make some really cool stuff, if you have the budget and real estate for it.

We’re in the midst of what some are calling the Maker Revolution, where for the past decade there’s been an explosion of small businesses selling high-quality crafts.  Beyond platforms like Etsy that give individual sellers and boutique shops a venue for sales, what’s driving this trend is the miniaturization of CNC machines.  Once, owning a robot that could spit out a finished part would put you back a couple million dollars, but now there’s a thriving industry of companies that make 3D printers, laser engraving machines, and carving stations that are priced for small businesses or even crafty consumers!  We should know, since at our last count, we are the proud owners of 8 different CNC machines of varying shapes and sizes.


Today, I want to show you our Shopbot.  We’ve owned this helpful robot for about a year now, and it is the beating heart of KerfCase.  Every case we make starts its journey on it.


ShopBot CNC Machine
A machine this cool deserves a name.  Let's call it Shoppy.  Everyone, meet Shoppy!

This machine takes wood billets, or boards of a uniform length, width, and thickness, and turns them into a basic case shape.  Beneath the dust collector, a spinning router bit moves in a pre-programmed path, systematically carving out the inside of the case, then the camera and fingerprint holes, and then the outer edge.  Check out this time-lapse video of a Google Pixel case being carved from a rosewood billet:


I hope you have as much fun watching this time-lapse as I had making it!


Pretty cool, huh?  To make this video, I removed the dust collector and vacuumed up the sawdust by hand; ordinarily, the orange hose you see in the photo is connected to a shopvac that does all of the vacuuming automatically.  What was once a nigh-impossible task for a person to do by hand is done in about 10 minutes by a very predictable process.  As long as we perform routine maintenance on our Shopbot, and pay close attention to certain dimensions of the final product, we have a very reliable and quick first step of our assembly line!

Wood Collection
A bit of our wood collection.  Turning our raw lumber into standard-size billets is an important part of our production process.  It's also the loudest part!

 

NOT THE EASY WAY

This work didn’t come easy.  There’s a strong Do It Yourself streak built into operation of CNC machinery, and owning the equipment isn’t enough.  You have to teach it what you want it to make.  Fortunately, our deep ties to the Pittsburgh maker scene have given us the expertise we need to program our machines to do the specialty work we need them to do.  In the video, every sweep and pass the router bit does is to ensure that the final product is as predictably shaped, and undamaged from the carving process, as possible.  This optimization work is constantly evolving, and gets better and easier with every case we design!

Rosewood Wood Google Pixel case
The rosewood Pixel case from the time-lapse video, fitted with a custom strip of veneer.

 

If you’re paying attention to the video, you can see our second step as well.  After we remove the case from the ShopBot, we take its measurements and install a thin strip of wood veneer on the inside edge.  This custom piece serves two purposes: It provides additional structural support for the case, and the groove that runs through the middle holds the phone snug!  This creates the secure - but easy to install - friction fit that sets our cases apart from so many of our competitors.


We’d love to show you the whole process, but we’ve gotta keep some of the formula secret!  I hope you enjoyed this little taste of the Kerf production process, and I hope I’ve convinced you that we use real wood.  Let me know if you have any questions by sending me an email, I’m always happy to chat.

Phil Giammattei likes to wear lots of different hats.  Formerly employed at Apple, Google and Oracle, he loves applying his technical knowledge to making the best possible custom wooden phone cases.  In addition to writing the Kerf Blog, Phil’s duties at KerfCase include customer service, sales, production, shipping and fulfillment, and anywhere else he can be helpful.   Reach Out  to say hi and find out what choice cuts we have in stock!


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We take pride in offering the best customer service possible. Our customers consistently say we have the best wood iPhone cases on the market. Take a look at what some of them have to say:

"You guys did a fantastic job on this case! I will pass along to my high-end phone case friends. Keep up the good work, thanks for the prompt delivery. You guys rock!" -Steve

"The new case arrived today and you are definitely right - it is fantastic! It is just so different! Love it! Will be letting others know where to go when they want a quality, very different cell phone case." -Sherry

"I received my case yesterday. I love it. Generally, less is more for me with my iPhones. The phone is beautiful, I love the form factor and don't go with a heavier, bulkier case. However, yours is not that. Very unique case. I'm a big fan. Well done." -Jim Rome

"This case is a work of art." -Kurt

"I love this case. What separates Kerf cases from everything else on the market is the quality of the product. When you handle it, you feel like you're holding something special." -Brian

"This case checks all my boxes: eco-friedly, handmade, clean design, durable and light-weight." -Alexandra

"The quality of wood and craftsmanship are outstanding." -Webber

"Absolutely gorgeous, unique case like nothing I've owned before." -Debra

"This is the best case I have ever owned. Not only does it protect the phone but it is visually stunning and gets complimented constantly, truly a work of art." -Justin

"The character of the wood is stunning. It's not like any other wood I've ever seen. Each case is a one-of-a-kind, but this one is uniquely impressive in its beauty. So happy with this case! Thanks to Ben for the outstanding customer service with the speedy shipping and detailed emails. I'm a customer for life." -Lori

"The character of the wood is stunning … So happy with this case!" -L.A.W.

"This is an excellent phone case. It grips well on the hand therefore prevents accidental drops." -Jesus

"This spalted black walnut iPhone 6+ case was beyond my expectations. And the expectations were high … this product does not disappoint as the craftsmanship is five-star." -Steve

"I didn't know what to expect, but when I got it in the mail and put it on it was absolutely beautiful. It is a great looking case. I highly recommend." -Vincent

"Absolutely beautiful! A true work of art. Phone fits perfectly. Looks better than any case I've owned." -TM

"I'm extremely pleased with it. It's like having a work of art surrounding my phone." -Lori

"This case is crazy. No one else has this, it's on another level. Im always looking for something to stand out and this case is it." -Marcus

"I just received my new case and can not be more impressed and satisfied with this product. The flamed maple is awesome and the fit on the iPhone 7 is perfect!" -Andy

"I really love your products. They make me hate my phone a little less." -Johan

"Thank you for making awesome things. I love it." -Goran

"I received my case today. The fit is perfect and it is gorgeous!" -Tom

"I received my new phone case, and it is beautiful...a work of art!" -Dan

"I've never liked a case before. I've tried some different rubber and plastic cases and always end up taking it off within a couple days. This case, however, I will never take off. This is by far the best looking and best feeling case I've ever owned. Also loved the packaging touch. Keep up the good work, I will definitely be buying more in the future." - Yasir S

"The world could use more good design and less plastic!" - John C

"I just got my new Kerf case, and it’s beautiful! My company logo on the back came out sweet! And, I can charge the phone through the case on a Qi pad, which makes it even better. You all should be proud of your craftsmanship. " - Leroy N

"I received my Kerf Case this afternoon and I am really pleased with it! I love how it envelopes the phone and has a feel that is easy to hold. The buttons work great and I like that the silence button is recessed, it isn’t likely to be bumped. I really appreciate the job you did on the graphic on the back. Thanks for your work on this!"- Nels K

"This is the first time I will be using an iPhone case - ever!
I did my homework - I looked at many manufacturers online (none of them seemed worthy). This is a huge vote of confidence and testament to what I imagine will be amazing craftsmanship."- Matt K

"I just have received your product. I just couldn't be happier. It is much more than what I expected. There are few alternatives in terms of google Pixel phone case but your creation is much much better choice. Thank you for creating such an excellent product." - Y Ito

"In the end, what swung it for was the fact you were a small local business that sourced within your local community. Even though I live in Glasgow, Scotland, this really was important and I liked the fact your company was proud of your area, the resources it has and your product. The choice of woods was also pretty cool and at one point is was very torn between the walnut and the rosewood. I ended up opting for the walnut - very much looking forward to getting it on my new iPhone X." -Derek S

"I just received my iPhone case today and it's stunning, keep up the good work!" - Andrew D

"I really do appreciate the help that you guys have done, i know i was frustrated at first. But i do really appreciate companies that really help out with their products. means a lot from someone like me who has had multiple things sit broken in my room because companies would not help out." - Chris W

"I left my phone on the vinyl roof of my car (let’s not discuss that) and it finally flew off as I drove and landed on a busy street. When I was finally able to locate and retrieve it, it had been run over by a large truck and dragged more than 300 feet under the tire. When the truck turned, the case, phone, and wood separated and I found them about 20 feet from each other. Remarkably, my iPhone is fine! Also remarkably, so is the spalted maple backing! However, the steel frame, having done its job well, is now bent (but not mangled). I don’t know if any other case made out of any other material would have done as good a job." -Ben W

"Just received my Alloy case for iPhone 7 and I’m very impressed with the quality of the case. I will definitely purchase more products from your company and will recommend Kerf Case to family and friends. Thanks for a great product." - Gohar N

"As a woodworker I really appreciate the unique iPhone cases you craft. This is my second case. I bought the new iPhone 7 plus, so I had to order another one as soon as possible. I can't tell you how many comments I have received, with the main comment "that's so cool" and " really that's all wood? Thanks and keep up the good work." - Clarke

"I’m a woodworking hobbyist and was really impressed with your product! I have told several friends about it already and will be sharing links and pictures with them when it comes in! Thanks for making these." -B

"I received my phone case yesterday morning, and after the first 24 hours with it my first impression is wow! The quality of this case is beyond my expectation. It's so smooth and wonderfully sanded, I can smell the wood and that is one of my favorite parts of it. I love the little attention to detail that most wood phone cases don't have, like wood buttons instead of rubber. Being a man in the military I take extreme pleasure in attention to detail and your product definitely delivered. Thank you so much for not disappointing me! Good luck with your company I'll be rooting for you!" Very Respectfully, Petty Officer 3rd Class Dehart, Nathan D.

"I received my case last week and after seeing how amazingly made it was I had to order one for my wife right away. Thank you for making such and outstanding product!" - Daniel

"The spalted maple iPhone SE case I just received is wonderful!! A true work of art and totally functional. Love it! Thanks so much. Will recommend to everyone and when it's new iPhone time for me it will always be Kerf case time." - Eddie

"You just can't replicate that depth of color and texture with man-made materials. It brings my glass rectangle addiction one step back into the natural world, and I'll take that wherever I can get it." - Stephanie

"Thank you for making such an awesome product both durable and stylish. You have helped in every way I've needed and in an expeditious way....something you can't find in an owner of a business these days. I greatly appreciate everything." - Jake G Hampu

"I just wanted to let you know that I received my case today and it is quite possibly most beautiful iPhone case I've ever seen! I did a lot of research on wood phone cases and settled on Kerf Case because of the quality—I was not disappointed. The care that went into crafting and shipping the case is evident and I couldn't be happier with my purchase. Thanks for creating such a wonderful product!"- Kirstin

"Apologies for the delay in replying, but it was somewhat intentional. I wanted to wait until we received our cases yesterday. I am more than impressed with the craftsmanship that you and your staff put towards your products. The cases are beautiful and well worth what we paid for them. Thank you again. I will have no problems referring friends to KERF, who have as much of an appreciation for natural hand crafted products as I do." - Kyle Elias, BScH, DVM 

"They are going to become my holiday gift this season ....for all my people....Great product. Very original." - Christopher Bardasian

"Now that's customer service. Thanks Ben I appreciate the attention to detail you guys have with your business plan. No questions but I will tell you that you've earned my respect with the speed, efficiency and quality products you're providing with your customers." - Mark Wilson

"Just wanted to reach out and thank you again- I got my cases back this week and they are beautifully repaired (or replaced, I can't even tell)! Please give Cat my thanks as well for her craftsmanship. I was already a big Kerf fan and repeat customer but will definitely keep coming back thanks to your outstanding service and support. You guys rock, and your products are beautiful. Thanks so much." - Courtney Sanford

"Thank you for your direct contact. This morning I picked up the case from the German customs office. And let me tell you this case is amazing! Thank you so much, you guys did a great job." - Stefan

"Well beyond expectations. Craftsmanship is as close to perfection as possible. Customer service is impeccable and prices are lower than competitors who make inferior products." - Robert W 

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Custom Alloy and Real Wood iPhone Cases & Wooden Google Pixel Phone Cases - Handmade in USA