Made In Detroit: Shinola Bronze Monster and Detrola I Voted

As our relationship with Shinola continues here at RG, I wanted to take some time to highlight two of my most recent arm candy acquisitions from our friends in Detroit: The Bronze Monster and the Detrola I Voted. They live at opposite ends of the pricing spectrum, but both are equally comfortable at home in my collection, and I think they’d make solid additions to yours, as well.

I’ll start with the Monster.

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Made in Detroit: Shinola Detrola Watches

Since we started our partnership with Shinola here at RG, several of you have purchased watches, jewelry, and leather goods through our link. We appreciate both your continued support of us here as well as your commitment to purchasing goods that are made in Detroit by American workers.

Some of you have indicated that you’d like to buy a watch, but that the prices are a little higher than you’d like. Fear not, friends—I decided to buy one of Shinola’s lower cost watches, the Detrola No. 2, to see if the lower price point compromised the style or quality that I’ve come to expect from Shinola.

For more info about Shinola’s entry level watches, click the jump.

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Made in Detroit: Shinola Ice Monster Review

When we announced our partnership with Shinola a couple of weeks ago, a few of you said something along the lines of, “That’s a lot of money for a quartz watch.” As we’ve discussed, there is real value in the realization of returning watch manufacturing to the United States of America, and I’d rather spend $550-600 for a watch that is assembled in America (as a few of you already have through our link, and we thank you for that!) than similar or slightly less money for one that is assembled elsewhere.

But for those of you who simply must have an automatic watch, Shinola has you covered there, as well. The first Shinola automatic was released in November of 2017, and it was a lovely dive watch called the Lake Erie Monster, referencing both the Great Lake that borders Shinola’s home state of Michigan and the 1894 legend in which sailors claimed to have seen a roughly 40 foot monster swimming in that same lake. It was a limited production run of only 500, and retailed for roughly $2500. It’s now rare to find one of these original Shinola autos for sale anywhere, and when one does, they typically go for over $4000 on eBay or similar auction sites.

Fear not—the success of the Erie Monster led to the subsequent creation and sale of several other Monster models, including the Huron, Ontario, Superior, and Michigan Monsters, thus rounding out the Great Lakes. These models are significantly less expensive than the original Erie, retailing at around $1250-1450 new.

But for my first experience with a Shinola Monster, I wanted the new Ice Monster.

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Made in Detroit: Shinola Runwell MD-80 desk clock



Okay, I hadn’t been planning to pimp Shinola product directly just yet, but this was announced today.

If you have done any domestic travel over the years, you’ve got an opinion on the MD-80. The ol’ Mad Dog had a version for each of the major American carriers—I did most of my time on Delta’s MD-88.

From the Shinola website:

“The MD-80 airplane, also known as the Super 80 and Mad Dog, was the workhorse of the American Airlines fleet throughout the 1980’s and beyond. When introduced, the Mad Dog was one of the most fuel-efficient commercial airplanes in the sky due in part to its iconic polished aluminum skin, and its retirement marked the end of an iconic era in American Airlines’ history.

Shinola has been given the honor of capturing a piece of that history. Original MD-80 aluminum paneling has been harvested and repurposed into one-of-a-kind limited edition Shinola Runwell desk clock dials and ID plates.

Assembled in our Detroit watch factory, this desk clock is built with a durable chrome casing and fastened with a caseback plate that displays an individualized serial number.”

I’ll probably buy one. If you spent any time in the seat of the MD, you might want one too. $395 is a steal.

As a reminder, a portion of the proceeds of any Shinola sale using our link goes to fund this website. This is #sponsoredcontent.

Made in the U.S.A.: Laser Cut Parts in 5 Days, Stamping Dies Overnight

Back to basics: The subtle science of burr-free laser cutting

While developing the latest iteration of the Harmonicaster electric harmonica, I’ve discovered a couple of American companies that provide outstanding service and quality.

Working with Jeff Lace I’ve been fine tuning a pickup based on *Lace Music’s Alumitone pickups that is thin enough to actually fit inside a harmonica. It may be the thinnest, lightest magnetic instrument pickup ever made. To make it I need some 1/16″ thick aluminum stock precisely cut, which I then bend to shape on a sheet metal brake. I initially was going to have it waterjet cut, like Lace does with their stock Alumitone pickups, but the setup charges at most cutting shops was rather expensive for a prototype that I wasn’t sure would work. As it happens, it works great and I even found a way to have the aluminum cut inexpensively. is a Reno, Nevada based laser cutting service that cuts a variety of metals and all of their work is done in-house.

How it works is you upload a standard 2D CAD file in DXF format to’s website. You then pick out a material, a thickness and the number of parts you want. Since the cost of cutting is proportional the amount of time on the machine, determined by the number and length of cuts, their software analyzes the file and you can get an immediate quote and place your order. They promise a five day turnaround, but in general they’ve been faster than that, and they use FedEx for reliable, free, 2nd day delivery. I have sent them files on the weekend and had the parts in my hand in the Detroit area by Thursday.

If you’ve ever done product development you know that there are many, many iterations before finalizing a part design. The guys at Sendcutsend will accommodate design revisions up to the point where they begin cutting. They stock aluminum and steel in various grades (including stainless and chromoloy) as well as copper, brass, and even titanium. They’ll also cut your own material provided it’s not too thick and will lay flat, and they offer custom quotes if needed.

Not only are they fast and accurate, parts are delivered shrink-wrapped to a cardboard liner so they don’t get jostled or damaged in shipment, and then protected by two layers of additional cardboard. Oh, and they work cheap. Their minimum price is $29 and they offer serious discounts as quantities increase. That’s cheap enough that I can order enough parts to have some to spoil while I’m working out fixtures for the sheet metal brake.

If you have a racing team or otherwise need metal parts accurately cut, check out Highly recommended.

I found another outstanding American company a bit closer to home, about 90 minutes away.

Branding is important and, without patting myself on the back I have to admit that Harmonicaster is a great brand name. You immediately know that it’s some kind of electric harmonica. However, having a great brand name without a professional and attractive way of applying that brand to the products doesn’t do much good. So far, I’ve tried using waterslide decals, which certainly work well enought that that’s how Fender puts their brand on their guitar headstocks. The problem is that you have to apply them very carefully, making sure there are no bubbles, they are very easy to tear while applying, and you can still see the decal’s outline even after everything has been clear-coated.

Since the parts are 3D printed, I’ve also tried printing the logo in a contrasting color. The problem with that is that when it comes out it looks great but it doesn’t always print well. Also, I’m now printing some parts in an orientation that gives me the best results and it isn’t suitable for color changes.

As a result of all this, I’ve decided to give hot foil stamping a try, using a cheap Chinese stamping press. Wait, I thought this was about Made In America. It is, but I’m not going to spend $1,800 on an American made Kingsley foil stamper to try out a process that I’m not sure will work. You can get a small foil stamping machine made in China for a little more than $100. I decided to get one with a few bells and whistles for about $250 and when American Express offered me a $125 gift card at Amazon’s checkout if I signed up for one of their business credit cards, that made the decision all the easier.

To put a logo on something with stamped hot foil, though, you don’t just need a machine, you also need a stamping die with your custom design. I could have ordered one made in China for about $50 but the Hong Kong seller’s page on Etsy promised delivery in 4 to 5 days in one location and then said there might be weeks of delay getting the dies made, mentioned someplace else on his page. The stamping machine was coming via Amazon prime and I didn’t really want to wait weeks to find out if I wasted money on it.

As it happens, the world’s largest photoengraver of metal is Owosso Engraving, located in Owosso, Michigan, less than 90 miles away, not that far from Lansing, and they too offer quick turnaround on uploaded designs. In my case, I ordered a magnesium stamping die one day and was able to pick up the finished die the next afternoon, and the finished die cost less then $40.  Even if I had them ship it to me, instead of taking my grandsons for a ride through rural mid-Michigan, it would have cost less than having it made in China.

Owosso works with many materials and they offer a wide variety of engraved and etched products ranging from dies to commemorative plaques and awards. Their salesman was very helpful walking this newbie through the ordering process

The quality of the die looks to be outstanding and I think the process is even going to work once I dial in the correct temperature and pressure. The foil stamped logos look very professional and visually “pop” better than even metallic decals. They’re also going to be more durable as the film is essentially melted into the surface, not only making it permanent but also pressing the logo slightly lower than the surface, preventing it from rubbing off.

Jeff Lace told me that Lace Sensor pickup covers are all foil stampted. They use a vintage Kingsley machine that his father, who founded the company to make industrial solenoids, bought. There’s something special about using your father’s tools.

There’s an old saying among manufacturers and tradesmen: “You can have it fast, cheap, and good, but you only get to pick two out of three.” That old saying is being disproven by American manufacturers like Owosso Printing and Send Cut Send.

By the way, Michigan has been one of the hardest hit states in the Covid pandemic and our governess has been one of the more draconian executive orderers in all of this so you’d expect the economy here to be really suffering. Once I got to the road where Owosso Engraving was located, the highway was literally lined with “Help Wanted” signs from a variety of businesses, so things may not be as dire as one would expect.

Disclaimer: I had already had this post in draft form when I got an email from, offering vouchers to their customers as rewards for posting about the company on social media, blogs, etc. so I may end up getting some kind of discount on future work as a result of this piece. As I was already being highly complimentary, I don’t think the offer has affected my opinion.

*Jeff and his brother Don run the company their father started. It’s a pretty cool story. Actodyne, the family firm, originally made (and still makes) industrial solenoids in southern California. When Lace senior came up with a new inductive sensor that he realized worked well as a guitar pickup, with some technical advantages over conventional pickups, he made a deal with Fender. He passed away in 1992 and his sons took over management of the company. A few years back, Lace introduced their Alumitone pickups, which are pretty clever. Instead of having a conventional pickup’s large coil of many thousands of windings of copper wire, in which voltage is induced by the vibrating string which has been magnetized by the pickup’s magnet, Alumitones use a piece of 1/8″ Aluminum that’s been waterjet cut to create a loop. That loop essentially becomes the primary winding of a small transformer coil, which use a small fraction of the copper used in a conventional pickup. Apparently, it’s current-based rather than voltage-based as conventional pickups are but I’m sort of at my limit of understanding electronics here so I’ll just leave it there for you to research. The result is a wider, flatter frequency response, with good tone, and a much lighter weight pickup. Working with Jeff Lace, I’ve developed a custom Alumitone for the Harmonicaster whose inductor is just 1/16″ thick, thin enough to slide into a harmonica without interfering with the reeds.

Made in the USA: CBDRL Hand Sanitizer


So perhaps you live somewhere (like, say, NEW YORK) where people have lost their minds and turned into caged rats, hoarding every last bit of toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning products, and all you want is to make sure that your hands are sanitized. Alas, the hoarders have bought enough hand sanitizer to keep their callous-ridden hands (you know what I’m talking about) germ-free until the next time they leave their parent’s basements.

You went to Amazon and the like online, but to no avail—the hand sanitizer is gone. Fear not, Riverside Green readers. We have a solution. And, of course, since this is the RG, it’s Made in the USA.

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Five Good Minutes with Cameron Weiss and Weiss Watch Company

cameron weiss

“If you wanted to make a 1920’s Ford,” explained Cameron Weiss, the owner, operator, and watchmaker at Weiss Watch Company, “the first thing you’d do would be to go look at a 1920’s Ford. You wouldn’t try to design the parts yourself, because it’s already been done.”

“That’s what makes watchmaking so cool—we’re dealing with old technology, but we’re finding new ways to do it.”

We’ve featured Mr. Weiss’ work here a couple of times before, but I was fortunate enough to have the chance for him to give me a guided tour of his Los Angeles facility last week. And what I saw was enough to convince me that not only do I need to earmark some more money for an Cal 1003 or Cal 2100 watch of my own, but that you probably do, too.

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Made In The USA: Weiss Standard Issue Field Watch


As many of you may remember, Brother Jack got his own Weiss American Issue Field Watch with the Cal. 1003 movement from Weiss Watch Company a few months back and raved about the quality of the product. Much of his writing that day, however, dealt with the movement contained within the case—the reverse-engineered Caliber 1003, which Cameron Weiss has painstakingly created in his shop in Los Angeles, California. It’s the standard bearer for American watches in modern times.

However, JB also mentioned that Mr. Weiss, who’s a disgustingly young and handsome man, started his business with the Standard Issue Field Watch. He still makes the crystals and cases in SoCal, but rather than using his hand-crafted automatic movement, he uses the Caliber 1001, a hand-wound fully mechanical movement which is imported from Switzerland and finished by hand. The end result is a watch that is no less beautiful that the American Issue, but costs half as much.

As I tend to rotate my watches more often than many men rotate their underwear, I wanted to support Mr. Weiss’ efforts, but I was reluctant to spend the nearly $2000 required for the automatic movement. As such, when it came time for me to buy my own Weiss timepiece, I opted for the Standard Issue, as you can see in the photos above (if you’re not familiar with the ‘gram, you can click on the image to scroll through the four unboxing pics).

It has, thus far, been fantastic.

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Made in the USA: Shinola


If you listened to the premiere edition of The BarkCast (and really, who hasn’t by now), you know that I’ve been envying Matt Farah’s Shinola watch for quite some time. Well, as luck would have it (and I literally mean luck at the Spanish 21 tables), I found myself in possession of enough money to swing by the Shinola Midtown Store in Detroit during the week of the North American International Auto Show. I’d like to point out that I visited before the POTUS did.

Shinola is a fascinating story. I won’t retell it here (you can click the link for the whole tale), but at the heart of it is the desire to build great things in America again.

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