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The Design Story

How we set out to create a piece of practical philosophy and won an international design award 

The Churncraft butter churn is our company’s flagship product: a highly efficient, hand-powered, mechanical device that allows you to make the freshest, most authentic butter with ease.

To our great delight, our design has received the coveted Red Dot Award, the most prestigious international recognition for product design.

We like to think of our churn as a piece of practical philosophy at a particular moment in American culture. As a possible response to globalization, social alienation and disruptive technological challenge, we are witnessing a revival of classical crafts and tools. Cooking is a huge part of it.

From the creative chef to the urban farmer, the culinary world is rediscovering the thrill of making butter. It is a delightful opportunity to bring friends and family together. Revive an American tradition and explore the cultural dimension of food.

The origins of the design are rooted in personal biography. As a teenager growing up in the Hudson Valley, Kristin owned a cow, which she milked by hand daily. She used a vintage glass churn from the 1920s to turn the cream into the freshest butter possible. Kristin’s old churn became the starting point for our new design.

We wanted to create an icon that would feel both familiar and excitingly forward-looking yet also have superior mechanical functionality.

The shape of the churn came to us one Sunday morning in the kitchen. We were contemplating the elegant simplicity of a traditional Japanese tea kettle. Its handle was strikingly similar to the graceful curve of Kristin’s old milk bucket. When we saw this connection, we knew we had found our design.

The arc handle is the defining visual element. In addition to being graphically compelling, it provides a range of comfortable handholds and a rigid frame for the power train.
When you make butter with this churn, you see, hear and feel what you are doing.
Good feedback is essential; it is the fundamental difference between a hand-powered mechanical churn and an electrical device.

We were inspired by an anecdote attributed to Dan Barber, the celebrated chef, who makes butter from the milk of individual cows. According to the anecdote, the great Alain Ducasse could taste whether butter was slow-churned by hand or whipped up in an electrical blender.

butter churn puts you in control, like the driver behind the wheel of a race car, or the skipper at the helm of a yacht. The transparent dome and glass jar become your instrument panel or compass. Watch the whirring gears and the spinning paddle. See what happens as cream turns into butter. It is a visceral experience of culinary magic.

Designed to make butter

We have not just designed an object but an entire experience. Making butter by hand is a delightful activity to share with family and friends.

Picture yourself in your kitchen. You pour heavy cream into the glass jar and begin to crank the handle, applying some power. The paddle spins through the cream, creating swirling patterns. Before you expect it, the jar is filled with whipped cream. Ask a child or a friend to help you. It is a good time to be together, to talk, and to share a task.

Churn vigorously. Listen to the gears whirring along. The cream in the jar thickens and expands, soon filling the entire jar. Resistance is building up, and you begin to see bits of butter forming.

After a few more minutes of churning, the miraculous moment arrives: The volume inside the jar collapses, and the butter separates from the butter milk. Your reward is the freshest butter you have ever tasted. And the buttermilk is simply divine.

It is this image we had in mind when we decided to update the traditional American glass churn for the contemporary kitchen. The churn’s evident qualities speak of self-reliance and practical ingenuity, reaching back to a time before World War II.

Our new butter churn is a beautiful and practical object that respects its American heritage. We knew that design integrity would be essential—a compelling yet highly functional look, honest engineering and solid materials. Pick up the churn and feel how substantial it is. And that’s exactly the point.

When we set out to build this churn, we were guided by the belief that quality matters.

Designed to last

When you make butter by hand, you engage in a production process. So, for reasons of practical philosophy, we wanted to create a tool that would demonstrate our respect for honest manufacturing.

Kristin wanted to create a classic that could be enjoyed by generations, so the design had to be durable. We wanted to use simple, classic industrial shapes that would not look dated after a few years. The design had to be suitable for manufacturing in small product runs. It took a long time to find the right partners in America and overseas to machine the steel shafts, cast the frame and crank arm, mold the lid, dome and paddle, blow the glass jar and mill the wooden grip.

Using custom-made precision parts and premium industrial hardware, we assemble the churns by hand in our workshop in Connecticut. We paid close attention to the materials used in the design: hardwood, glass, stainless steel, bronze, aluminum, chrome, technical alloys and premium, food-compliant plastic resins.

The result is a highly effective machine, pleasing to the eye and hand. Nothing is hidden; everything is transparent. The shape, weight and texture of each part indicate how it is manufactured and what purpose it serves.

The power train, for instance, is built around the precision gears from Germany. For effective power transmission, the gears and shafts need to be tightly aligned, and the bearings must not not allow for too much play. The bronze bushings are self- lubricating, using food-grade oil.

The churn can be field-stripped and rebuilt with simple tools, which makes it easy to maintain. This is straight- forward, but it can only be achieved with quality parts. The design of the churn aims to preserve the honesty of traditional manufacturing.
When you are making your own butter, you are creating something exquisite. This deserves a well-made tool.

Designed to connect

The churn revives our cultural heritage. Considering the past encourages us to think about the future of food in America.

When we make butter by hand, we discover that it matters where our cream comes from. When we care about what we eat, we are encouraged to reconnect with the land.  The future of food will be shaped by our attitudes towards farm animals. Consider the cow!

For traditional peoples around the world, raising cattle was a way of life. Cows were a source of sustenance and wealth. Entire cultures emerged as populations in bronze-age Europe developed the ability to digest milk. Think about the relationship of early people with their cattle. Imagine how they must have marveled at the miracle of a cow turning grass into milk, and milk becoming butter and cheese.

In Irish bogs, archeologists have found ancient sacrifices of butter. From the mythologies of Egypt, India and Greece, all the way north to the mist-shrouded sagas of Iceland, the image of the divine, nurturing cow is deeply embedded in human history. Our own family's roots are in Switzerland, Scandinavia and the British Isles. Cattle enabled our ancestors to settle on land that was too harsh to sustain intensive agriculture.

In a similar pattern, early European settlers in North America relied on countless small family farms, often with a single cow that produced enough milk to support the family. Making butter was a means to store the nutritional value of the milk. Before World War II, the hand-powered glass churn was an icon of self-sufficiency on farms around the country.

The Churncraft butter churn revives this heritage. It allows us to explore the future of food in America by honoring an ancient way of life.

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