I just built this nifty little tea timer from a recycled toaster. I wish I had thought of the idea myself, but this is a rebuild of an article from MAKE, Volume 04 by Johnathan Nightingale.


I pulled apart an ugly $3 thrift store toaster and was pleasantly surprised by how nice it looked on the inside. Next, I snipped the connections to the heating element — all I needed to work was the capacitor-timed electro-magnet. This magnet is part of a catch that holds the popper in place when pushed down. The timer is a trickle-charged capacitor that steals power from the magnet, allowing the spring to throw the arm back up after the 1 to 3 minute brew-time selected on the dial.


Once I’d grafted on a wood arm to hold the teabag I took it for a test drive. It worked great, but ejected the bag from the mug with such force that I got sprayed with hot tea. No fun! I goofed around with a few different dampening techniques until it dawned on me that this thing was designed to eject two pieces of toast. So, I weighed two slices of bread and then cut two equivalent pieces of plywood to put in the slots. Bingo, no more boiling droplets to the face! It’s a fun, whimsical project that makes me feel a bit like Wallace when my wife asks for some tea.

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He works at Disney Research and writes for Make and Boing Boing. He is training for American Ninja Warrior. You can find him at jpixl.net and twitter @johnedgarpark — if you like that sort of thing.

  • name goes here

    That’s an awfully fancy toaster… All the ones I’ve disassembled have used some sort of physical switch using a type of “memory metal” that bends when heated, opening the circuit.

    To use an old toaster in this application you’d need to leave the heater coils connected, which may be a bit of a fire hazard, though it’d be great for having toast with your tea.

    • John Park

      Johnathan’s advice was if you’re at the thrift store or a garage sale, push the lever down. If it stays down, it’s not an electro-magnet. If it pops right back up, grab it for your tea popper!

  • Joe Bowers

    I was about to throw my old toaster away, but now I will harvest its organs for future projects.