Making a Toaster From Scratch

Toaster pops up two pieces of toasted bread
Where's the fun in just buying a toaster?.

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Thomas Thwaites attempted to construct a toaster from the most basic raw materials — hand-mined copper, iron, nickel, and mica. He's even trying to arrange a flight out to the North Sea oil rig to collect raw oil to make plastic. Every coil, screw, bar, knob, and the dial will be hand-crafted from these raw materials. And he has documented his efforts in a book, "The Toaster Project."

I LOVE this idea: This guy in England is trying to make a toaster. From scratch. Not toast, a full-on toaster. In an early step, Mr. Thwaites was able to process iron ore into a small blob of actual iron using his mother's microwave. But more adventures and challenges lay ahead for him.

It's a great brain poke for thinking about how detached we are from the things that make our comfortable lives possible. Most of us couldn't even fix a toaster if it broke, never mind the seemingly impossible task of building one from the ground (literally) up. It's the same detachment we have towards the oil and fossil fuels we use, the cows, chickens, and pigs that we eat, and ultimately, the enormous impact that our First World lives have on the planet.

Thwaite's toaster efforts were featured on a TED Talk in 2010 and you can find this and other projects on his website.