26 November, 2012

"A Toaster, From Scratch"

A quote from Thomas Thwaites' January 2011 TED Talk, "How I built a Toaster – From Scratch":
I got my suitcase of iron ore and dragged it back to London on the train and then was faced with the problem, okay, how do you make this rock into components for a toaster.  I went back to Professor Cilliers and he said go to the library.  So I did and was looking through the undergraduate textbooks on metallurgy.  [The books were] completely useless for what I was trying to do.  They don’t actually tell you how to do it if you want to do it yourself and you don’t have a smelting plant.  I ended up going to the history of science library and looking at this book [Georgii Agricolae di re metallica libri], the first textbook on metallurgy written in the West, and there you can see that woodcut is basically what I ended up doing.  But instead of bellows I had a leafblower.  That was something that reoccurred throughout the project.  The smaller the scale you want to work on, the further back in time you have to go.
When I heard that last sentence I thought, yes.  Handspinners also work on a small scale and use historical methods to make yarn and handspun cloth.

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