During the 9-5 grind, Ken Jasinski is an Industrial Designer and his wife Quan is a Color Specialist – both working in technology. While grad school has always been of interest to them, they instead chose to spend their hard earned money and spare time on launching Butter. During the past several years they have been slowly building Buttur and the brand’s first two products.
Designing and manufacturing these simple yet extraordinary clothing hangers named Fork and Woodie solely in the USA has taught Ken and Quan more about business, design and the culture of American manufacturing then they could have dreamed. They were obsessive in finding a manufacturing process that is true to the design intent and also prefered to take on a lot of the hand work themselves.
“There is a high level of pride when you can say this is your project, and that no one else can own it or take it away from you,” adds Ken.
How long has Buttur been in the making?
We started toying around with the idea for a clothing hanger in 2010, but over the last 2 years we maintained a high level of focus on it and wanted to make the hangers a reality.
The clothing hanger is an object we interact with on a daily basis and its form is driven purely by its function. Due to it being such a common object we saw an opportunity to make it better. Knowing that some people are super into fashion but are displaying their expensive clothes on random collections of hangers made us see an opportunity to create a clothing hanger that would display and bring beauty to your clothes. We wanted to use these hangers to launch our brand Buttur. We believe that the hangers show how we can bring an interesting solution to a basic product and also demonstrate the types of problems we like to solve.
“Fork is a clothing hanger that utilizes materials and manufacturing in an unexpected manner while retaining minimal aesthetics and structural integrity. Its design has been stripped down to its essential elements while adding a hint of curiosity.”
What were your goals in undertaking this challenge?
Our main goal was to keep all manufacturing in the USA, and we did. For us, at first it was not easy. Cold calling manufacturers is tough when no one knew who Buttur was. We often got pushed to the end of the list. I lost faith in the project a few times after hitting roadblocks with manufacturing challenges and cost. Many domestic manufacturers want easy production projects, and due to our designs we were presenting a few manufacturing challenges that were seemingly too much to take on. Quan has always pushed to move the project forward regardless of where we were at, without her this would still be a concept stuck in the prototype phase. It takes determination to find the right people who want to help and we are lucky and thankful to have found those people.
“Woodie is a hanger where a juxtaposition of materials are brought together. Aluminum makes the hangers light-weight, while the wood lends a warm touch point.”
What has been your experience with manufacturing these in America?
For this post we would like to focus on Fork, as it was more of a challenge to make. We spent an entire year reaching out to domestic manufacturers and working to find an efficient way to produce the hangers using anything from four slide machines, bending half round bar, and die casting. But each process cheated the original intent of a single piece of rod being cut in half and bent to shape, all for the sake of efficient manufacturing. After all that exploration we narrowed in on waterjetting which best kept our design intent and searched hard to locate our vendor who was as intrigued as we were about finding a way to split the rods in half.
The Making of a Fork Hanger:
First, Buttur’s supplier in Portland, OR bends the top hooks in 1/4 inch diameter mild steel rods. From there the rods with bent hooks are shipped up to an aerospace certified waterjet cutter in Kent, WA, where they perform the near impossible task of splitting the 1/4 inch rod up the center of the rod to just below the hook.
After Ken and Quan receive the split hooks their first step is to inspect them to assure the dimensions and cut quality were properly followed.
From here Ken hand forms the split hooks into their final position utilizing jigs and tools he fabricated.
The first jig is used to make the bend near the top of the hanger, it needs to be bent out to a specific location which is marked on the jig.
A second jig is used to form the two bends at the bottom of the hanger, accuracy of the bend is also important here as it forms the final shape of the hanger.
The bent hangers are then placed six at a time into the welding jig.
Each hanger is brazed using an Oxy Acetylene torch and a dab of brass to join the two ends together.
The final step in the assembly of the hangers is to clean off the weld using files and sandpaper to make the joint appear as seamless as possible.
Buttur typically does a run of 200 hangers at a time, which takes about a week for Ken and Quan to hand finish. When a full run of 200 hangers are ready they are sent back down to Portland, OR to a plater to get finished in a variety of finishes ranging from nickel, black zinc, and 24k gold.
Head over to the Buttur site to find out more about Buttur and order some hangers of your own.