Monday, October 11, 2010

Making Our Cheese Press- A Labor of Love

Jamie Eckley (The Cheese King) Gets it Done!

There are over 10 different vendors involved in the production of our cheese press (E28) and Jamie knows them all.  That's because he found all of them five years ago when he took over responsibility for making this beautiful piece of equipment.  He places the orders, picks up the parts, and assembles every press himself.

And that, as they say, is no small task.  This press looks simple enough, but looks can be deceiving- it is one complicated project and it's all made in the USA.

A family with a sawmill in New Hampshire makes the top bar, bottom bar and the base from sugar maple logs.  They cut them, sand them and drill the holes in them.
 Then, Jamie picks them up and takes them to a wood finisher in a nearby Vermont town where they receive a laquer finish.  (This may change soon because we are looking into changing the finish to oil and wax.)
The stainless steel molds and drip trays are made in Oregon where they get cut, stamped, rolled and spot welded.
At this point, they are still rough, so Jamie takes them to a company in Massachusetts where they get melted and polished to a smooth finish.  (Note:  The white stuff on the drip tray and follower is a plastic protective seal which can be peeled off.)
The rods, locks and ferrules are made in a local machine shop, as are the two plastic followers. 
The springs are made in Springfield (really!), a city 50 miles south of us, and the label and weight gauge are made in Connecticut.
The rest of the miscellaneous nails, screws, nuts and washers are provided by an industrial supply company.
When all the parts have arrived, Jamie methodically assembles each press and packs it in a special box with bubble wrap and cardboard for shipping.
 Angie (shown below) or Kathy add the free cultures and the direction sheet to each box and ship them off to our customers.
Do we make a profit on this press?  It's negligible.  So, why do we do all this?  This press is an important part of our mission- to make cheesemaking easy and fun for everyone.  Ricki had it designed for us over 30 years ago because it works and it looks good on a kitchen counter.  So, for as long as we're in business, we'll make it!


darius said...

What kind of plastic do you use for the followers?

Jeri said...

It's called- Ultra High Molecular Weight Plastic.

SStrantz said...

I find that I have to tend the spring press much more than I like. When the cheese consolidates in the mold, the pressure drops so I have to keep adjusting the pressure to maintain the weight needed.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Am I missing something that I need to know so that I don't have to tend it so often?

Crooked Shade Farm said...

I think it's just the nature of the beast. Unless you have loose weights on it, the spring tension will release as the pressure against it diminishes. Of course, if you have loose weights, the springs are moot.

Coriena said...

Will this press work with the tomme mold and follower?

Jeri said...

Yes, it does. It works with all our molds.
Happy cheesemaking,

Colette's blog said...

How safe is this plastic for food? I looked at Wikipedia and there is no reference there for using this material in the food industry. See
Do you know its safety profile/toxicity?

Love your press and your story... just want to make sure this plastic is safe for use near food.

Jeri said...


Jamie answered this:

UHMW is the industry standard used in cutting boards and cleanable surfaces in commercial kitchens & food processing facilities throughout the US. It is dense and chemically stable. Food inspectors look for it and are very skeptical about wooden cutting boards as they can harbor bacteria, where the UHMW is so dense and non-poreous that bacteria cannot live within it.

From a supplier, here is their description "UHMW sets the standards for engineering polymers with a unique combination of wear and corrosion resistance, low-friction surface and impact strength. It retains key physical properties to -30°C. UHMW is resistant to chemical attack and moisture absorption.

UHMW meets FDA, USDA, and 3-A Dairy guidelines for food processing and handling. Whether you’re moving grain, pharmaceuticals, pizza dough or frozen poultry, UHMW material predictably moves materials and products.

An excellent general purpose material, UHMW is a cost-effective solution to your food handling problems."