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On the Occasion of my Kerfiversary

Phil installs suede on KerfCase wood iPhone Case for iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus iPhone X
Phil's heaven: working with hands, using cool gadgets.

Anniversaries are a good time to reflect on where you were, and how you’ve grown during a stretch of time.  It’s Halloween, which happens to be one year to the day since I started my job at KerfCase.  It’s been a year full of challenges, growth, and lots of pretty trees, and I thought it would be fun to recap that year, and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.


It was the fall of 2016, and there was a lot to celebrate.  I had just gotten engaged, my band was playing some new, fun venues in Pittsburgh, and we were rapidly approaching the end of a contentious election, where surely a period of non-political peace would follow!  I was also getting worried.

I was working as a temp at a hip Pittsburgh tech office, working on a lot of cool data science projects with people around the world.  But temps could only be used for a limited time, and I was running out.  Looking for my next job turned out to be harder than I thought, as my working experience was very particular and scattershot.  Since leaving school (with an extremely marketable Religious Studies degree), I’ve done work in sales, tech support, graphic design, data analysis, and a lot of odd jobs, mostly in the service of giant tech companies.  I was looking for something that would let me do a lot of different work, and at a smaller company where I might be able to leave a bigger mark on the business than I could at a firm that employs 100,000 people.

Phil at a desk
In my sales career, 2013.  The giant monitor and Diet Coke have followed me.


Since I am a millennial, I found the answer on Reddit.  “[HIRING] Production Assistant”, read a new post on /r/pittsburghjobs, a site I visited daily and increasingly desperately.  Some of the qualifications desired:

  • Attention to detail
  • Does not get bogged down in details
  • Must be able to lift up to 50 pounds


I received my offer with three days left on my temp contract, and said goodbye to all of my coworkers dressed as Bojack Horseman.

"What are YOU doing here?!!"


Moving from a large company to a small company is a jarring transition.  Large companies tend to be made up of large teams of hyperspecialized employees, each responsible for one task and overseen by a manager who oversees their operation.  KerfCase was made up of a handful people who did absolutely everything.  I was able to make myself immediately useful doing the manual tasks my coworkers were too busy for: sweeping floors, folding boxes, sanding hundreds of cases.  Eventually I stepped up to become the point person for a number of tasks, and soon settled into a comfortable niche in charge of many of the company’s operational areas: customer service, shipping and order fulfillment, social media, content marketing (hello!), and process management.  


The most enduring lesson from this past year is that an open-ended job is a gift, albeit a scary one.  Very rarely was I asked to take charge of an area of a business; I simply kept doing something that needed to be done until it was clear that I was the go to guy for it.  I think that this opportunity to grow unchecked is something truly precious in a world where so many jobs are limited in scope and duration.  This freedom to define my role was extremely liberating after years of jobs with a limited scope, but it also introduces a terror that’s almost existential: if I can be and do whatever I want, what’s good enough?  Is it my fault if the company doesn’t make a billion dollars next year?  How do I take on a helpful but not prohibitive amount of tasks, and where do I find the proper balance to enjoy my work, stay sane, and maximize my impact as a worker?

Business Man
I became so good at business that I became a lifestyle model for Business Man on the Go! (Brands: Jos. A Bank leather jacket $99, Polo eyeglasses $199, KerfCase for Google Pixel XL $69)

I’m told that what I’m experiencing is a small taste of how it feels to be a small business owner.  This past year I’ve gained a lot of respect for small business owners who carry the weight of their enterprise on their shoulders.  Ben, KerfCase founder, has lived this life for four years, and maybe I’ll ask him in a future blog post how he keeps all of his plates spinning.

Perhaps my epiphany that my job scope is scary, and the fact that it is Halloween, are connected somehow.


It’s been fun to watch the march of technological progress and its effect on our business.  In years past I got the new iPhone jitters directly from the source: in June of 2010, I sold my first iPhone 4 to a happy fanboy who had waited outside the Apple Store I worked at all night.  Going on the yearly journey, from months of speculation, to eagerly awaiting the keynote, to binging on tech specs and first impressions, to late-night preordering, to receiving (or delivering) the latest megagadget in all its glory.  There’s a fun rush to the whole thing, one that for me now is tinged with nostalgia for my early twenties.

iPhone 4 Launch
iPhone 4 launch day.  We were babies!

Now we look to new iPhones with a mix of excitement and dread.  “Will it be cool?” becomes a secondary concern to “Will this work with our cases?” When you derive so much of your revenue to accessories for a constantly changing product, something as simple as the Pixel 2's squeeze function becomes a life-or-death .  One year ago, I arrived amidst a frenzy of orders for the new iPhone 7.  With minor changes to the form factor compared to the iPhone 6s, the 7 gave Kerf an opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief and completely redesign our cases.  I got to see how that process works when we expanded our offering to the Google Pixel, and all the work that goes into measuring, prototyping and iterating until a perfectly fitting design is achieved.  We get excited about new phones, but we also get ready to spend a few frantic weeks doing all the leg work necessary to support them.

This September was my favorite Apple keynote, not for the items presented (that honor goes to the Apple Watch keynote of 2014), but for how it was spent.  I dragged my computer setup into the shop, where while Apple was announcing the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, we were simultaneously performing production work on our cases for the week and updating our website to incorporate all of the info we were learning.  I was writing copy, Dagan was coding it in, and Ben was sketching out production timetables and strategy.  I’ve never felt so connected to a team, or so proud of the work I was doing.

iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus iPhone X launch event
Battle Station.


It's  a long way from Halloween 2016, but it's been a great year, and I know that the upcoming year is gonna be a doozy. So happy Kerfiversary to me, happy Halloween to you, and feel free to reach out if you’re curious about our quirky little company and the product we sell  We’d love to hear from you.

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 can read more verified customer reviews on our Google Reviews

"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, Samsung Galaxy, & Wooden Google Pixel Phone Cases - Handmade in USA