Dezeen Magazine

Dezeen Book of Ideas: The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

Every day this week Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs will pick one of his favourite extracts from our Dezeen Book of Ideas. First up is a homemade toaster by Royal College of Art graduate Thomas Thwaites.

"I came across this project at the RCA graduation show in June 2009 and it was my favourite exhibit at the show," says Fairs. "It highlights how dependent we are on manufactured goods and how far we've come as a society since the days when the goods people needed could be made at home or by local suppliers. It also illustrates the incredible economies of scale that mass-production brings."

"To attempt to make a toaster from scratch is a totally bonkers project and the result is much more expensive, far less functional and superficially way uglier than commercially available ones," Fairs adds. "But there is a weird kind of beauty to the end result that is both disturbing and compelling."

Dezeen Book of Ideas: The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

You can buy a toaster in a high street store for less than £5.00. Or you can attempt to make one yourself from scratch, extracting raw materials from the earth, processing them and turning them into components, then eventually assembling these into the final product.

Royal College of Art student Thomas Thwaites attempted the latter for his 2009 graduation show. The Toaster Project was an attempt to highlight the sophisticated global supply chains required to make even the most mundane product, but which often remain invisble to the consumer.

Thwaites did everything himself, from smelting iron ore that he collected in Wales in a homemade blast furnace to distilling crude plastic from oil. Instead of the 100-odd materials used in a basic toaster, Thwaites focused on just five essential ones: iron for the grill, copper for the electrical plug and wires, plastic for the case and electrical insulation, nickel for the heating elements and mica for the heating element cores.

His quest to replicate a £3.99 Argos Value Range two-slice toaster took nine months and cost £1187.54.

Dezeen Book of Ideas The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

Read more about this project on Dezeen | Buy Dezeen Book of Ideas

Reviews of Dezeen Book of Ideas

"From flip-flop art to a mirrored retreat in the sky" - Wall Street Journal

"The Sliding House and The Book of Ideas: Radical Thinking Required" -

"Fairs personally guides readers through the wonders of innovations like a balancing barn, a textile-skinned car, and the first aesthetically pleasing CFL — all of which share an 'I wish I’d thought of that' awe factor" - Sight Unseen

"Fabulous" - It's Nice That

“Totally wonderful!” - Naomi Cleaver

"Handsomely repackages Dezeen’s coverage of the best in architectural, interior and design ideas" - Glasgow Herald

"Teeming with innovative projects handpicked by the people behind Dezeen … readers will be hard-pressed not to find something to gawk over in this intriguing new compendium of beautifully articulated concepts" - Dwell Asia

"Beautifully laid-out, to suit the content, and straight-shooting, non-convoluted descriptions make it user-friendly as well as eye-catching" - Lifestyle Magazine