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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.



  1. name goes here says:

    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.

    1. John Park says:

      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!

  2. Joe Bowers says:

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