Made In The USA: Lodge Cast Iron

Success carries its own kind of burden. We are knock-knock-knocking on the door of two million visits here at Riverside Green, and we’ve had more than twenty thousand comments in the past thirty months. This is all great news. The problem occurs when you are looking for a particular needle in that comment haystack.

A few weeks ago, one of the commenters recommended some American-made cookware. I wanted to go back and feature that company, but I couldn’t find the comment. I ended up calling up a list of American-made cookware manufacturers and searching the comments for the brand names until I came up with Nick D’s comment regarding Vollrath. They make some awesome stuff in the literal sense that I am in awe of their pricing. Check it out. Be aware that not all of their brand lines are USA-made, but the high-end stuff definitely is.

Meanwhile, here at Schloss Baruth of the West (the Eastern one is here) we’ve just taken delivery of some Lodge iron pans. The verdict so far?

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Made In The USA: Weiss American Issue Field Watch Cal. 1003

A few months go, I discussed the importance of Shinola and taking “baby steps” towards American manufacturing. Today, we are going to talk about the first mass-market-oriented USA-made movement to appear in my lifetime: Weiss Cal. 1003. I’ve just taken delivery of a Weiss American Issue Field Watch, and it would be an understatement to say that I’m thrilled with it. Below, I’ll explain why this new watchmaker, and new watch movement, is so critical for American manufacturing — and why Shinola is probably still more important for American watchmaking as a whole.

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Made In The USA: Unicomp Buckling Spring Keyboard

Good afternoon, everyone.

Meet Unicomp.

Unicomp makes keyboards. If Shinola is the perfect example of made-in-USA-as-branding-tactic, then Unicomp is the anti-Shinola. They make everything, soup to nuts, right here in the States. They are the inheritor of what is perhaps the oldest existing tradition in the relatively young field of personal computing. Their products are reliable beyond imagining and they are cheaper than the Chinese alternatives. If you want to own the best of something — anything — and you work at a keyboard, then today is your lucky day. You don’t even need to finish this article. Don’t need to click the jump. Off you go, friendo.

What? You want to hear the whole story? You have that kind of time? Well, let’s start with this: If you ever think that your childhood was lame, compare it with mine. Pretty much the biggest highlight of my nine-year-old life was going to my father’s office once a week or so, because I had a chance to use his secretary’s IBM Selectric II. What did I do with it? Very simple: I wrote the weekly newsletter for my school’s video-game/computing club.

Easy there, ladies. I’m spoken for.

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Made In The USA: Kirkland Signature Socks

Okay, I admit it. As of late, this “Made In The USA” series has been a little bourgeois. And the items that I have coming up won’t do much to address the criticism that’s been repeated by our readers again and again: namely, that this obsession with American-made products is really just another way to spend too much for things, the same way that the “foodie revolution” occurred because you have all these people in cities earning $250,000 a year who literally don’t have enough room in their apartments for a second bicycle but who still want to indulge in copious displays of economic well-being.

To counter this unfortunate trend of $175 extension cords and the like, I present to you: Kirkland Signature Socks. I paid $8.95 for these at Costco a while back. The best way I could think of to torture-test them was simple: use them for a day at work, then an evening at the skatepark, then another day at work, then 35 minutes on the elliptical machine. That’s not really equivalent to a year’s worth of hard use or anything like that, but it’s enough to cause visible wear in the overseas-made stuff you get from Wal-Mart. As part of this comparison, I would then evaluate the Kirkland socks against my limited-run, American-made Flint&Tinder socks, to see which set was better.

Surprise: The Kirkland Signature socks appear to be just as good as the F&T socks that cost literally ten times as much. But, as with everything, there’s a catch.

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Made In The USA: Shinola x General Electric

“Can’t believe that you, of all people, buy into the Shinola hype.” That’s what a commenter wrote on my Instagram page yesterday. I think that’s a compliment. And while my opinion on Shinola is, I hope, reasonably hype-free, I also can’t say that I’m immune to the brand’s charms.

I stopped by their Ann Arbor store late last night. This is, it has to be said, a profoundly satisfying place. The ground floor is designed around a selection of natural materials and carefully spot-lit to cast a flattering glow on everything from their boxes of traditional wooden pencils (that I bought for my son) to the handsome Runwell, Bixby, and Detroit Arrow bicycles.

The basement, reached down a set of wrought-iron-and-rough-wood stairs, is an authentic marvel. Brick-lined, with a fourteen-foot ceiling and that same careful accent lightning. A gloss-red bicycle sits between small, private alcoves for conversation. There’s a bar, tended during my visit by a painfully earnest and ruggedly handsome beard-and-suspenders fellow who cleaned glasses with the precise amount of vintage, authentic effort displayed by the android bartender in Passengers, where you can buy soda and baked goods. Beneath another soft spotlight, there’s a pair of bookshelf speakers and a selection of usual-suspect records (What’s Going On, Rubber Soul, Physical Graffiti, that sort of thing) for you to play on their stunning new Shinola (by VPI) turntable. A great place to write a novel, meet your future wife, or just relax with a made-in-Detroit Shinola soda. At only $1.00, the twelve-ounce glass-bottled cola is probably the only genuine deal the brand offers.

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Buy American With “The American List”

The new Continental is a genuinely brilliant automobile. I’d take mine as a Black Label in Rhapsody Blue with the Chalet interior, three-liter 400-horse AWD and every factory option. Once you do that, you’re looking at seventy-eight grand, but the equivalent Funfer BMW costs fifteen stacks more and isn’t as nice inside. I’d say that the Continental heralds a genuine return of American-made luxury. (Unless you think Tesla already got there, of course.)

The problem for me is that I don’t really have $78k lying around. If I did, I think I’d spend it on a base Viper. In either case, however, I’d have the satisfaction of buying American. Would you like to experience that same satisfaction for somewhat less than the $78,000 price of a Black Label Continental or even the $44,300 of a Continental Premier? Then check out The American List at A Continuous Lean. It’s more of a guideline than an authoritative document on sourcing, but it’s a good place to start. And somewhere between Alden and Zippo you’ll find something that is just right for you.

Made In The USA, Sorta: Tempur-Pedic Dual Cooling Pillow

Six years ago, I paid nearly two thousand dollars to buy a foam mattress from The Original Mattress Factory. I can honestly say that it changed my life. Any X-ray of my body would look like a cheap jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of stuff from the hardware store laid across it, and as a result I find sleep both painful and unlikely. The foam mattress was a game-changer.

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Baruth demanded that I retire said long-suffering mattress and replace it with a proper name-brand Tempur-Pedic, which cost more than a Ducati Monster S2R in excellent condition. But — wonder of wonders — my life is once again improved. There are now actual nights where I go to sleep and wake up seven hours later, something that hasn’t happened in years.

I was so enthused by this development that I decided to get a new foam pillow to replace my old foam pillow. Tempur-Pedic has one that contains cooling gel. It’s brilliant. I can feel my habitual ill temper slipping away like ice on the roof of my house under the assault of the March sun. But if you know me, then you know that I can’t just be satisfied with a product being life-changing and delightful.

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Made In The USA: Westone UM2

Long-time readers… hell, even you fresh-off-the-Internet-boat-types may recall this one. Two weeks ago, I bought a set of Sennheiser headphones that turned out to be made in China. I promptly returned them to Amazon. It cost me nine bucks in shipping to do so — Amazon doesn’t consider “made in China” to be an acceptable reason for a free return — but it left me with some not-quite-cash burning a home in my pocket .

This past Saturday I was at Sweetwater Music in Fort Wayne, most positively and definitely not buying a new PRS Private Stock because I was able to tear myself away from it before the emotional weakness took over, and I saw that they had some entry-level Westone in-ear-monitors (IEMs) for sale.

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