Slayer – What it is.


Apr 04, 2009

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Coming to terms–finding the right words!

Espresso machine manufacturers like to lay claim to a tradition of hand-made espresso machine manufacturing.  Maybe you’ve noticed this too.

Such claims can be confusing because they don’t elaborate on the actual characteristics of the product in question. In fact, these claims often pair up the contradictory concepts of “manufacturing” and “hand-made”.  But isn’t manufacturing what we got, when hand-made couldn’t keep up?  So it’s kind of disingenuous seeing both these concepts describing the same thing with no elaboration.

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Wordsmithing can be tricky, and I would imagine that in some cases the ambiguity is there because there wasn’t time to really think it all through.  It’s easy just to rely on the associations that some words automatically carry.

So what is Slayer doing about it?

Recently, Slayer had to consider what to say too, since a major trade show like SCAA seems like just the right place to let loose a string of smart, glowing adjectives around the work on display.

We thought a lot about what these words might be.  However, the whole exercise felt quite contrived, as we stretched innocent sentences into awkward contortions that made little or no sense.

Even our young bookkeeper cautioned us.  “You know”, he said, “when you think about the actual words that some companies come up with as slogans they are pretty bizarre.  Like GE.  We bring good things to Life.  What does this even mean?”

You can almost imagine incandescent bulbs marching on their humans, feeling betrayed that they are being ruthlessly replaced by CL lamps, in a kind of electrical genocide.

We finally threw our hands in the air. . .  and then it dawned on us.

All along we have tried to rely on a broader, ongoing conversation directly with our readers and now our customers too. This conversation (which admittedly felt like a monologue at times) allowed us to expand on our thoughts more completely in greater detail, than brochures or slogans.  This format is perfect for us too because we are endlessly bantering about brewing and coffee and espresso technology and issues of the environment and cool new stores anyway.

Elaborating on Slayer’s approach

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So in the spirit of saying more to avoid saying less, how does Slayer stack up against the ideas of craftsmanship, hand-made and tradition?

Obviously, the word craftsmanship appeals to us a great deal.  But the idea that there is a craftsman building these machines does not reveal the whole truth.

There is no one on our team who can single handedly pull off all of the arts and industrial craft required to create a Slayer machine to the degree of refinement we desire. Though there are three who will try at every turn.

A single craftsman capable of carving, turning and assembling wooden actuators & steam handles, sand-casting aluminum and steel, designing and assembling elegant wiring harnesses, welding tanks, machining custom mechanics for brewing and steaming, and so on, is hard to find.  At least it’s hard to find one person that can do all this on the level of a master craftsman.

Fortunately, there are a few great craftsmen to be found in each of the disciplines it takes to create a Slayer from scratch. The trick was finding them, seeking them out in the trees and along the shorelines of the Pacific Coast, searching through pre-gentrified urban artists’ communities, identifying the gems embedded in larger organizations.

Integrating craftsmen like this into our Slayer team was relatively easy because we have a culture of such monomania to begin with that anyone who has a similar extreme focus on a particular thing fits right in.  Personally I find this sort extremely interesting and usually a great deal of fun to be around.   Assemble a group of people like this around you and you are in a Theme Park  of your own devising. Extreme espresso machines, mean extreme specialization and focus.

Industrial CraftHand-crafted, artisanal, and then some.

So the process of building Slayer is the result of many different disciplines in concert, working on a smaller scale than an assembly line.  This concept actually has a name. It is sometimes referred to as Industrial Craft.  Industrial Craft is a post modern idea that allows for the latest techniques of production to be integrated into a design, but serves them up in the context of craftsmanship.  Contrast this approach to Mass Production.

For a long time, it was thought that only large scale production would allow for the use of certain industrial techniques because of their inherent expense.

For example, there is a common mindset that the cost of a metal casting must be spread over many, many years or thousands of units of production to be cost effective. This was perhaps true in bygone days.  But much has changed.  Traditional processes are now carried out to high degree of precision in small fully sustainable workshops locally.

For another thing, we could literally print full scale three-dimensional prototype designs of some Slayer parts using a technique called SLA modeling.  This process, which essentially uses an advanced form of ink-jet printer and laser to lay down a component layer by layer, cut development time by a significant factor and gave us tactile pieces that were more descriptive and spurred creativity much more than simple Solidworks or AutoCad renderings.  SLA modeling can is also used for making actual production pieces, but the material was not appropriate for Slayer’s application.

In Conclusion.


There are so many ways that the concept of Industrial Craft (or more appropriately, its practical application) made Slayer better, that this post could go on for tedious pages.   One last thing I would like to say before finishing off is this:  Have you noticed that when individuals really get into something, put something of themselves into their work, commit themselves deeply in the fulfillment of a goal, a product that reflects more than just the status quo emerges, the probability that someting remarkable will come out of it?   I think this is especially evident in the specialty coffee / boutique coffee industry right now, especially in coffee sourcing and bringing awareness to the possibilities of this.  The greatness lies in the personal efforts of individuals acting on their own self powered sense of purpose and passions, working together in small flexible groups, having fun, understanding what the result should look like, at least approximately, and carrying it out.

I have found this to be the way Slayer has been, on the machine side of things. I really hope you have a chance to see and experience the Slayer machine soon. Maybe as soon as the show in Atlanta later this week.  If you are there, make sure you stop by and say hello.

Eric Perkunder
in Seattle.


Slayer Corporate Headquarters

PHONE: +1 206.284.7171
707 Lind Ave SW, Renton, WA 98057