Staff Recommendation: The Toaster Project: or, A Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch

Have you ever looked at a simple machine or object and figured, given the right materials, you could make one? If you have, where do you think you would even get those materials? In The Toaster Project, Thomas Thwaites sets out to make, you guessed it, a toaster, completely from scratch. This small book is divided into sections based on the materials needed and how Thwaites sets out to acquire them, from pouring a gooey potato concoction into hand-carved molds to make a kind of plastic, to digging for iron ore. There are even correspondences with different experts who charitably (and with varying levels of enthusiasm) try to help Thwaites with his seemingly ridiculous goal.

I first picked up The Toaster Project in college to pass some time. It’s a pretty short read and, in my opinion, interesting enough that you can get through it in one sitting. It’s ended up really sticking with me, and when I saw it in our collection I knew I had to pick it up again. I think what I love about it is that the book and the project are at once self-contained and expansive. There’s something satisfying about getting from one end of the book to the other, seeing the initial conception of the idea and the journey all the way to the final strange-looking, mildly-functional toaster. Thwaites set out to make something and then made it, and that’s that. But the book also brings up broader questions about industry, the environment, the human experience, and more. Where do your things really come from? How long do they take to make and how long do they last? How separated are we from the production of the things around us? And what even is a toaster?

If you’re interested in those kinds of questions, or just in design, fabrication, sculpture, industry, environmentalism, or really any number of various related topics, I suggest giving this book a try. Aside from the project itself, the writing in the book is honest, funny, and just the right amount of self-deprecating. And if you’re interested in Thwaites’ work, you should also check out another of his well known projects, GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human.

Find The Toaster Project at Greenfield Library, call # NK1447.6.T49 A35 2011

~Recommended by Kait Sanchez, Music Library Circulation Assistant 

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