The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch - Thomas Thwaites

TITLE:  The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch


AUTHOR:  Thomas Thwaites




FORMAT:  paperback


ISBN-13:  9781568989976



"Where do our things really come from? China is the most common answer, but Thomas Thwaites decided he wanted to know more. In The Toaster Project, Thwaites asks what lies behind the smooth buttons on a mobile phone or the cushioned soles of running sneakers. What is involved in extracting and processing materials? To answer these questions, Thwaites set out to construct, from scratch, one of the most commonplace appliances in our kitchens today: a toaster.

The Toaster Project takes the reader on Thwaites s journey from dismantling the cheapest toaster he can find in London to researching how to smelt metal in a fifteenth-century treatise. His incisive restrictions all parts of the toaster must be made from scratch and Thwaites had to make the toaster himself made his task difficult, but not impossible. It took nine months and cost 250 times more than the toaster he bought at the store. In the end, Thwaites reveals the true ingredients in the products we use every day. Most interesting is not the final creation but the lesson learned.

The Toaster Project helps us reflect on the costs and perils of our cheap consumer culture and the ridiculousness of churning out millions of toasters and other products at the expense of the environment. If products were designed more efficiently, with fewer parts that are easier to recycle, we would end up with objects that last longer and we would generate less waste altogether.




The Toaster Project was an attempt by Thwaites to build a modern appliance, in this case a toaster, from scratch.  Starting with digging up the required ores and fabricating plastic and electrical cables etc from the raw materials.  The concept of this book is incredibly interesting, but the author failed in his attempt to build a toaster from scratch, without making use of modern equipment such as a leaf blower instead of the usual old-fashioned bellows, a microwave instead of a furnace etc.  I also got the impression that the author got bored with his project halfway through and lost interest.  The writing isn't all that eloquent or explanatory either, with a half-hearted attempt at reflecting on the cheap consumer culture.  The book is amusing and does make a valid point, but this was a missed opportunity to write a great book to explore modern consumer culture, the advance of technology and the creation of the modern age.