Thomas Thwaites has some interesting projects on his site, one of them being The Toaster Project which is all about “trying to build a toaster, from scratch - beginning by mining the raw materials and ending with a product that Argos sells for only £3.99. A toaster.”

Have a look at the project-website and also check out his vimeo site for further documentation of the process.

The image above shows all of the devices he used to build the toaster and it’s various components.


Nebo - The bot service that knows you and will make choices for you

Thomas Thwaites has been working on a project that speculates about a tech start-up that would counter the information overload provided by current web services and instead act as a self-inflicted life filter. It would aim to know you better than you know yourself, machine learning from data intercepted and collected via its WIFI router tower. 

The system would then be able to censor TV content, it will change the meaning conveyed by adverts, show you content you need to see and occlude content that is of no benefit to you. The wallet device regulates what you can and cannot buy, the GPS tracker on your boots will decide on your destinations.

I asked Thomas to give insight into his attempts to resolve the technology. He says the objects are partially working prototypes with hardware working but lacking in intelligent software, however he is not too bothered by that as the project also speculates that such a service would rely on a placebo effect through its quasi-religious and mysterious techgnostic aesthetic and marketing, obscuring its short-coming technology. Thwaites also produced Nebo’s fictional promo video.

B&N Nook Daily Find | The Toaster Project

“Should be required reading for artists, designers, consumers and anyone who has ever bought or thrown away a toaster….” —NPR

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites is today's B&N Nook Daily Find:
just $2.99 today only

In the 21st century, is it still possible for one person to create an everyday household object from scratch? A graduate student at London’s Royal College of Art, Thomas Thwaites was determined to find out.

Selecting as his test one of the most commonplace consumer goods there is, Thwaites sets out to build a toaster. The Toaster Project is the story of his quest, beginning with raw materials he pulls out of the ground himself, and ending nine months later with a home-made approximation of a product his local appliance store sells for less than £4.

“a kind of half-baked, hand made pastiche of a consumer appliance” Thomas Thwaites

Designer Thomas Thwaites wanted to unveil the complexity hidden in the everyday objects. He set about building his own toaster from scratch by mining and processing all of the raw materials himself. Along the way he attempted to extract metal using a chimney pot, some hair-dryers, a leaf blower, and a methodology from the 15th century. The toaster pictured above and took him nine months to make and cost 300 times more than the toaster he bought.

Thomas Thwaites’ toaster is on display in the Making Modern World Gallery, on the Ground floor of the Science Museum. Futher information on the project include films on the making of the toaster can be found here:

Photo credit: Daniel Alexander.


On how much knowledge is actually inside everyday products / designs.

It takes an entire civilization to build a toaster. Designer Thomas Thwaites found out the hard way, by attempting to build one from scratch: mining ore for steel, deriving plastic from oil … it’s frankly amazing he got as far as he got. A parable of our interconnected society, for designers and consumers alike. 
TED link

Thomas’ website:

My tutor at university lent me this fantastic book to read by Thomas Thwaites which explores the process of manufacturing a mass-produced toaster that costs £3.94 from Argos, from scratch. And by scratch, as far back as mining the minerals to make the components needed.

If you’re reading this, Daniel, I just got to page 188! ;)

The Toaster Project

I found a link to this gem on Neatorama.

Art Student Thomas Thwaites from the UK has embarked on a project to build a toaster…from scratch.

This means procuring all elements for said toaster, and finding ways to put it all together.

You can watch his progress on his website, The Toaster Project. It’s really fascinating, and I’m eager to see the end result!!

NOTE: Best clip is of him smelting iron ore in the microwave.

Step 2, Attempt 2: Smelting Iron Ore in a Microwave from Thomas Thwaites on Vimeo.

Watch on

So, this quirky British dude wants to make a toaster. And he’s my new favorite person.

“Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply make their own plastic…”

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites
Reviewed by Jennifer

Inspired in part by a Douglas Adam’s quotation, Thwaites decided he should build a toaster for his thesis project in design. From scratch.

Think about it—a toaster is a ubiquitous object that sits on most people’s countertops, and gets a fair bit of use, but could you build one? Now you can go down to the electronics store and buy all parts, assemble it, and voila, toaster, but that’s not what Thwaites wanted. He wanted to be from “as scratch” as possible. He would mine his own iron and smelt his own steel. He would make his own plastic. His toaster would plug into a standard outlet and it had to have the lever to press down and the bits that make your toast spring up automatically when done.

Of course, just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply make their own plastic. (Although it turns out you can smelt steel in your microwave. There are pictures and instructions provided.) Thwaites makes a toaster (you can see his result on the cover)—it takes 9 months and over a thousand pounds (he is English) and a lot of travel.

Not only is it an interesting look at where are things really come from, Thwaites’s easy-breezy style and ingenious work-arounds make it a very fun read. Plus, he majored in design, so it’s a beautifully designed book with a lot of full-color photographs documenting the journey.

When Jennifer is not reading about toasters, she is the manager at Cherrydale Branch Library.