Thomas Thwaites


Thomas Thwaites made a toaster from scratch for his project at the RCA.

His project is about critiquing our culture of undervaluing materials. He found through making this toaster that self sufficiency in a world of seven billion people is not efficient. His toaster cost over £1000 to make, excluding labour cost. He had to travel quite a bit during the project.

He made steel from iron ore with first a furnace and then some microwaves, some of which were harmed in the making of the project.

He chipped some mica from cliffs himself.

He melted down nickel coins for the nickel in the toaster.

He made copper by electroplating the copper ions from copper rich water in a disused copper mine.

He tried making plastic from corn starch but snails ate it. He found old plastic toys in the dump and found a way to justify calling it ‘from scratch’. Apparently there is a debate about whether to start a new geological era: many species are dying out now and new materials are appearing from what we’ve made.

The special thing about this project is that he actually attempted to make a household appliance from scratch by himself. It doesn’t matter that it looks terrible, that’s part of the charm of the project. It’s good that it’s a fun way of critiquing value and how we treat the environment. I like humour. But the main thing is that he did it – it would be so easy to talk about making a toaster from scratch and not doing it. He had the adventures and the failures and he spent all his money and the bank’s. He was brave enough to do it against the odds, even against his own fear of the project’s worth.

Well done him. You can see the toaster in the Science Museum.

I quite like the layout of his book. I might take inspiration from it.

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