In the shop, my workmates are getting ready for our morning huddle, the time when we set our objectives for the day. By seven-thirty I’m at my seat in the assembly area with Misbah, my fellow assembly pal. Ten feet away, Danielle, our laser operator, is cutting down leather hides and prepping the wood veneer that’ll be heat-pressed to the leather for our wood and leather cases. The laser cutters, each of which are the size of a Smart Car, are whirring back and forth, the first step that will take the walnut plank inside from raw material to finished iPhone case. There’s a slight scent of burnt wood in the air that smells like incense.
We pull our gear for the first part of the day: leather covers, walnut and maple frames. We’ve got forty to get through. Step one is to sand a tiny chamfer on to the interior wooden edge of the cover. Next, we burnish the exterior edge of the leather. Midway through and it’s eight-thirty. Time to stretch.
It's nine-fifteen, and our co-founder Ken swings by for his daily check-in to see how we're doing. He's making the rounds, saying good morning to everyone on the team. Midway through and it’s ten and our first break of the day has arrived.
Time for a bit more coffee. We brew Portland Roasting Coffee, purveyors of fine beans, whose roastery is just a block from our shop. While we rest, we discuss the merits of the burrito trade within a one-mile radius of the shop: price, size, filling, taste, etc. They all have their strong points and there’s no clear winner.
I start by measuring and cutting five-foot lengths of cloth-wrapped cord. With a wire cutter, I snip through the cloth and wire insulation. Next, I strip the copper wires of their plastic sheeting and then twist the copper strands tight. I hand each stripped wire over to Misbah and he deftly coats the exposed copper with solder using the soldering iron.
Now it’s time to get the plugs onto the wire. We get down ten plugs and remove the rubber casing to expose the terminals. With a pair of needle nose pliers, the soldered copper is bent into hooks, latched over each terminal, and tamped down with the twist of a screwdriver. Then the rubber cover is put on. This whole process is repeated to attach the light sockets, and it's three o'clock before we know it.
And finally, the moment of truth. I screw in a bulb, plug it in, and click the button. Voila! Let there be light! I do one last check of the lamps to make sure there aren't any dings in the wood or globs of epoxy, and Misbah brings them over to the finished goods shelf.