Anchor Marco Werman talks to Thomas Thwaites about his book "The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build A Simple Electric Appliance From Scratch." The book chronicles Thwaites's attempt to build a pop-up toaster entirely from scratch.
More about Thomas Thwaites's project:
After some research I have determined that I will need the following materials to make a toaster. Copper, to make the pins of the electric plug, the cord, and internal wires. Iron to make the steel grilling apparatus, and the spring to pop up the toast. Nickel to make the heating element. Mica (a mineral a bit like slate) around which the heating element is wound, and of course plastic for the plug and cord insulation, and for the all important sleek looking casing. The first four of these materials are dug out of the ground, and plastic is derived from oil, which is generally sucked up through a hole …
The practical aspects of the project are rather a lot of fun. They also serve as a vehicle through which theoretical issues can be raised and investigated. Commercial extraction and processing of the necessary materials happens on a scale that is difficult to resolve into the domestic toaster.