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A Tour Through the Toast Cover Factory in Portland, OR

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These days, the “Made in the USA” label seems harder and harder to come by, especially in the consumer electronic accessories industry. The fact is, it is much cheaper to outsource production of phone cases to countries outside of America, given that the cost of materials is lower and so are employee wages. One local company that has taken this issue to heart is Toast, a cover manufacturer that builds and ships out their wood skins from wet and gloomy Portland, Oregon. 

The company got its first start on Kickstarter, hoping people would have an interest in wood covers for their iPhones. Receiving more than $16,000 in funding from about 300 backers, Toast’s founder, Matias Brecher was able to buy the company’s first laser cutter, and they haven’t slowed since. Now in their second year, Toast makes cases for an assortment of different devices – MacBooks, iPhones, many different Android devices, tablets, and specialty products for major corporations.

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Last week, I was invited by Matias and the Toast crew to come check out their factory in Portland. Upon first entering the building, I was surprised at how much smaller the space was than I had initially intended. When you first think about a company pumping out cases for phones, you think of big machinery and stations for packaging and shipping, but this was much different. It was much more natural.

In the front of the building is a break area, with a table and chairs. In the second room is Toast’s main control area – this is where the employees handle packaging, shipping, and all of the paperwork that comes with running a business. In the two back rooms is where all of the magic happens. It is where they store their supply of different woods and wood-working materials. If you ever took wood shop in high school, then you will know exactly what this space looks and smells like. To try to describe it, I would say that it smells just like fresh cut wood. It’s very refreshing and reminds me of Northern California.

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Once Toast receives wood from its suppliers, they measure out whatever it is they need for an order and then get to cutting. All the cutting and branding is done by the laser cutter, and the process doesn’t actually take that long. On an average day, Toast is churning out about 150 covers a day, but it all depends on how many orders they have to fulfill. On top of that, some skins are much more intricate than others, so how many or how fast they create covers all depends on the design.

At this time, Toast currently makes covers and skins for plenty of Android devices, including the HTC One, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 2, Xperia Z, Nexus 4, Moto X, Nexus 5, and the DROID Bionic. The company is also currently working on making covers for the Moto G and Galaxy Note 3.

Toast

As of right now, about 90% of all materials used by Toast come from the USA, with the other small portion coming from overseas. The product coming from outside of America are the bamboo and ebony veneers, but the other backing materials (walnut and ash), adhesive, and all of the packaging is made in the USA. And by taking a quick peek inside their trash can, I saw that Toast takes waste very seriously. Almost all of the wood they order is used for product, and if the laser cuts something wrong or there are other imperfections, they will reuse the material for another project. It’s a very efficient and non-wasteful process, which I admired.

Below I have a gallery of the Toast factory. It’s small, but they are pumping out great work, and it’s nice to see a small American business doing well for itself. I would like to thank Matias and Toast once again for the invite.

Cheers!

Gallery

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To check out the work Toast is doing or to buy a wood cover of your own, visit their website.

  • master94

    My S4 is great but it always felt cheap.This should take care of that. Very cool,

  • Team Toast

    Any Nexus 5 owners in Portland who want to swing by for free cover? We need to test fit our prototype on a white Nexus 5. If you can swing by Toast in SE Portland, we will hook you up. Just need one last functionality test before it goes live. Thanks! Email us at cs@toastmade.com

    • Alisan_C

      That nexus 5 looks so good, wonder tho how thick these are in terms of feel :/

      • Team Toast

        Toast covers are under 1mm in thickness, so very little is added in terms of bulk or weight.

        • Alisan_C

          Basically your covers are almost as thick as the vinyl sticker skins ? :)

          • Team Toast

            Our covers are about 1/32″ or 0.03 . About the thickness of a credit card.

  • Team Toast

    Thanks for the great article Tim-o-tato!

  • Sean Rowe

    I’d love a list of cell phone case manufacturers that make high quality hand made cases. I am kind of a case snob and the casemate, bodyglove, otterbox cases don’t get me excited. I like this kind of thing or the portenzo, treegloo, dodocase style cases. Are there any other high end cases with quality design?

  • PhillipCun

    I’m going to buy one so I can put it on my wood Moto X. Double wood.

  • Tim Buchanan

    Hey Tim, it looks like it covers up the IR-blaster on the HTC One. True?

    • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

      You can choose to use the side skins or not, but it does appears to cover it up. Don’t know if it affects the performance though.

    • Team Toast

      We have a button cover that goes over the IR/button. You can simply not install the button cover if you want.

  • J2886M

    Droid Bionic? Funny. Got excited thinking the LGG2 would make the list

    • Team Toast

      G2 is coming soon!

      • J2886M

        Soon you say? I sent a request submission via email. No reply from your team. I’d be interested in buying one of the firsts

  • Tim Buchanan

    Anyone used one of these before? I imagine the adhesive becomes a disaster after a while. Can anyone confirm/deny?

  • Zacharypt

    As a resident “Portlandian” I can’t help but be a bit dismayed by our portrayal as wet and gloomy… that stereotype always kills me.

    On the plus side, thanks for showing off one of our local businesses!

  • WinDroidGuy

    Also here’s a bunch of images of my Bamboo one on my Moto X http://imgur.com/a/XHvBA if anyone is interested

    • Jim Wilson

      THat looks really good. Where did you get the case from?

      • WinDroidGuy

        It’s the Air Jacket Grip from the Motorola website :)

    • Barlog

      Is the case over the wood, or wood stuck on the case? I like it, think I might do the same.

    • Team Toast

      Thanks for posting. It is good to know it is compatible with the Air Jacket Grip!

    • Hobie Helbich

      Thanks for the pics!! Just ordered the ebony for my Moto X with the black woven back, and I was wondering if i could still use my case with it. Looks amazing though!

  • Neal

    I didn’t even finish the article! Had one ordered before you could say ‘Shaddup and take my money!’

  • Brandon Shaw

    I was just thinking about taking advantage of the Moto X $100 off and replacing my black/navy X with a Ebony wood back one. This will be MUCH cheaper! Thanks Tim!

  • Jeff C

    I got the Ebony version for my Moto X Dev edition. Gives a nice contrast with the white sides and kind of gives it an Ice Cream Sammich look. ;)

    Nice quality…thin and excellent accuracy on shape/cutouts. I think the Ebony version is thinnest since it is made of wood fiber that is dyed (to be “sustainable”). It has gotten a few dings, but nothing that has gotten through the color. I think it is dyed the whole way through which will help it age better.

    Has a nice texture that makes the phone less slippery (Woven White backs are pretty slick). I usually run it with a black bumper case, or naked if I’m in bed or on the couch. The skin is also thin enough to work with other cases as needed (I use a Trident Kraken or Otterbox Defender when working outside).

    I have not removed this one, but I removed a skin from another company (Woodchuck) that has similar adhesive. Comes off easily with a little heat from a hair dryer. No residue left behind.

  • Macalee Harlis Jr.

    does it affect NFC or wireless charging?

    • MistaButters

      I don’t think it wood

  • Walter Partlo

    How are the edges on these? I had a DBrand skin that gave a sharp little edge for awhile, so I can only imagine what these are like.

    • Jeff C

      Not necessarily sharp…but it is there.

      • Walter Partlo

        Do they wear down a bit after a few weeks of going into pockets. The edges did on the skin, the dimple, not so much. I suppose a little sandpaper would fix that,

        • Jeff C

          I keep a bumper on it most of the time when it is going in my pocket, so I don’t know for sure…but probably. Seems like the dimple opening has worn down a bit. Be careful with sandpaper, especially on the non-ebony woods.

  • Dr_Buttballs

    Am I the only one that noticed the pile of doodie cutout for the back of the iPhone?

    • master94

      Says something about the iphone doesn’t it :p.

  • iheardulikemlg

    But just how well do they protect your phone?

    • Jeff C

      They aren’t really made for protection. The only “protection” it provides is as a cover for the original finish on the parts that it covers. It is more of a look/feel thing.

  • ljbad4life

    no nexus 5.. whomp whomp

    • Adam Smith

      They told me it’s available later this week.

  • lnimmer

    I hope they make something for the LG G2, and even cooler… If one for the Chrome Book!

    • frosty_nerd

      +1 for the G2! I all of a sudden desperately want one of these, but I am stuck with my lovely glossy-backed-fingerprint phone (not that I don’t love my phone)

  • tomn1ce

    At least what ever material they mess up they can always use it to make an iphone case because of its smaller size compared to the Android army…..lol

  • Josh P.

    Wishing they would redesign the N4 one to cover the sides.

  • kyle

    yay #pdxlove

  • Cory_S

    Some look down right tacky, others pretty good. They all look more like 70s laminate then wood to me though.

  • Raj Bhatt

    I saw these guys at CES! And I stuck one of their Bigfoot stickers in a random place at the Imperial Garden haha

    • Team Toast

      Thanks for the gorilla marketing!

  • moelsen8

    yup, this is impulse-buy territory for me..

    • Alisan_C

      I wasnt pro skins either, but I hear pretty good feedback

    • KID ANDROID

      There is a company that makes solid wood traditional cases but out of respect for the company featured here (Toast) I won’t mention the name but they are out there. The only issue is it’s extremely limited what devices they’re offered for by that company.

      Thinking about getting one of these toast skins for my Nexus 5 now, they look pretty good and I’ve been looking for some real wood on my N5

  • EricMayBell

    Also make cases for the Droid Bionic? That’s a definite curve ball. Love the idea none-the-less

  • H Class

    Definitely in need of one for my Moto G.

    • Team Toast

      Coming soon…

  • John Legere

    Somebody say toast? Damn. I’m hungry.

    I’ll always support Made in the USA, though. Murica!

  • Travillion

    Interesting product! Contrary to what was reported, their website makes no mention of the Nexus 5 :(

    • Adam Smith

      I emailed them about Nexus 5… they said they’ve been working on it, and it should be on their website by the end of this week.

      • Travillion

        Cool, thanks!

  • JoshGroff

    I’m half tempted to buy one for my Moto X, those look great.

    • Dan Churco

      Some one should put the Toast Wood on the Moto X Wood back… Just Because.

      • JoshGroff

        Make sure it’s the same color, to really throw people off!

      • Ej McCarty

        It’s wood within wood, woodception.

  • Philip J. Fry
  • razorwit

    I see a picture of a Nexus 5 with this article but it’s not an option on Toast’s website.

    • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

      The one pictured is their prototype and you should see them become available quite soon! You can follow them on Twitter to know exactly when they launch it.

    • Sean Elliott

      Went and got my hopes up, it looks so nice

  • Jim890

    I will definitely buy a cover for my galaxy note 3, whenever they decide to put it out.

    • Khaf

      Oh I hope they do

    • Toast Team

      Note 3 covers are in the works!

  • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

    Good Write up Tim! Wonder how they feel about the Wood Backs from Motorola? Do they think it will affect their business at all?

    • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

      I think what they found is that a lot of the Moto X buyers that didn’t opt for wood (or it wasn’t an option when they purchased months ago) now want wood on their phone. Moto X is apparently quite popular amongst the X owners.

      • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

        Cool. Good point a lot of device were sold before the Woods came out. You guys giving us a video look of these?

        • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

          Once I get a few covers in the mail we can probably do that for you. Might try to do some giveaways while we’re at it :P

          • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

            OH LORD here they come….All the Droid Life “Watchers”that don’t comment, ready to comment for free stuff!

            Looking forward.

          • wolfedude88

            Why does it matter if they comment or not? I’ve been on this site from the beginning and only comment from time to time.

            I understand what you are saying that some only come here for free stuff. But I see nothing wrong with people who just like to read the site.

          • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

            “I understand what you are saying that some only come here for free stuff.” – That’s all I was referring to. Anything else you said I didn’t refer to.

          • Barlog

            Same here,been here from day one but I still haven’t gotten used to commenting on forums. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

      • cgalyon

        Would love to see a review of the skin (for Moto X I suppose). My main concerns would be: 1) durability and how quickly it shows wear, 2) the adhesive and what it does to the device when removed, and 3) the general feel of the skin (if it feels solid, like part of the phone, or flaky).

      • AndrewScottRox

        ….wouldn’t the phone the person bought be popular with the owner of the phone? I think I know what you mean though; that the wood back is popular with those folks who got an X but didn’t have the wood option.

        • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

          Sorry, meant that the wood covers are quite popular among the X community. Derp