simple stuff: a toaster.

July 5, 2022

James, who is more often on breakfast duty than I am, has been wanting to invest in a larger toaster since Calder started gumming bread in the morning, which was, notably, not yesterday. These days she’s not just scarfing up her dad’s sourdough, she’s buttering it herself. Sometimes it takes me awhile to come around to the idea of investing in new things. And sometimes I literally trip over them.

This new-to-us 4-slice toaster appeared, as if by magic, on a sidewalk around the corner from our apartment two weeks after I read Fixation by Sandra Goldmark. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was just a deep interest in stuff and fixing it, but when I found the toaster, cord clipped, one night when walking back home after dark, I hoisted it up like the worse-for-wear treasure that it was and carried it home, determined to find a fix for whatever ailed it.

In the introduction to her book, Sandra Goldmark explains that her own heightened interest in fixing came after a spate of broken items in her home when she was a new mother with an infant child. She writes:

I lay awake at night, yearning for rest, terrified about climate change, and thinking about my damn vacuum.

I began to connect the dots. I thought about how the vacuum, and desk lamp, and backpack, and toaster are part of a much bigger economic system of large-scale extraction of resources, poor design, rapid manufacture, global distribution, early obsolescence, and disposal. I thought about what it means to raise kids in a culture where we place almost no value on longevity, maintenance, durability—on care.”

Having just read these words, I clearly had no choice but to try to care for this abandoned toaster. Dualit toasters have been made in the UK since 1945 and they’re often touted as being some of the most durable—and repairable—toasters on the market. They’re also a real financial investment so finding one in relatively good shape on the sidewalk was a stroke of incredible luck. I knew this when I found the toaster, but I wasn’t sure how I would actually go about fixing it or finding someone else to, so I decided to reach out to Dualit directly.* They explained that each Dualit Classic Toaster is hand built by the same person from start to finish in their West Sussex factory with parts that are fully repairable or replaceable.

Folks in the UK can order spare parts and repair services through the company directly, and for US customers, the company partners with a repair shop in New Jersey called Electra Craft. I could have ordered a replacement cord directly through Electra Craft, but I was concerned that someone might have clipped the cord because of another electrical issue, so I decided to send the whole thing in for repair with someone more expert in the field. Less than a week later, they’d replaced the cord and the selector switch and the machine was back on my kitchen counter ready for the toast-hungry two-year-old in the next room.

It was luck and proximity to neighbors who weren’t planning to fix their fancy toaster, that made this possible. I’m not suggesting this is a journey that might be easy, or even possible, to replicate, but it was a process that made me very thankful that there are companies committed to producing goods that are not only designed to last, but designed to be repaired. Fixing toasters alone won’t halt climate change, but there’s no doubt that changing our relationship to stuff is a part of the puzzle. At the end of Fixation, Sandra Goldmark writes, “If fixing your toaster will disincline you to vote, or switch to renewable energy, or work to support local repair providers in your community, then by all means, don’t fix that toaster. But if you believe, as I do, that our collective actions—our culture—begin in our homes, in our daily lives, and in our hearts, then perhaps you will come to see, as I did, that fixing a damn toaster is just part of a larger fight that we all need to step up and join, each in our own way.”

Other things:

+ The exact toaster I found is no longer on the market, but it’s an older version of the current Dualit New Generation Classic 4-Slice Toaster. (This is an affiliate link to Williams Sonoma where you can purchase a Dualit toaster in the US.)

+ Dualit covered the cost of repairs for this toaster after I reached out to them about writing this piece. All opinions are my own!

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45 Comments

  • Reply Michaela July 5, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    Road treasure!

    1
  • Reply Evan July 5, 2022 at 12:56 pm

    How cool! Do you mind sharing what the cost of repairs would’ve been? I’m just curious what kind of investment fixing a toaster like that involves!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 5, 2022 at 1:00 pm

      Totally depends on what was wrong! I was quoted around $100 for the repairs, but that was just an estimate by phone before it went in and I’m not sure what they would have ultimately charged. Based on when this model was produced this is probably a 12-year-old toaster. My sister has had one of these toasters for 15 years and never needed a repair!

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      • Reply Lexie July 5, 2022 at 3:12 pm

        I was coming here to ask the same thing. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply EK July 5, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    Omg what an amazing find!!! Good for them for offering repairs too, that’s so cool!

  • Reply Nina July 5, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    What an incredibly lucky find!! I had a very frustrating Sunday taking our broken electric kettle to a ‘community repair café’ where it was determined to be beyond repair – by design. The heating element is the weak link and completely non-replaceable. We’d spent twice as much as usual on this kettle in the hope it would last twice as long (also because it had no plastic inside and was made here in Europe), and in the end it’s only lasted about 6 months longer than its cheaper predecessor. Banning planned obsolescence is very high up my ‘if I was in charge’ wishlist!

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 5, 2022 at 1:07 pm

      Ugh, totally. Often the case, unfortunately!

    • Reply Ailsa July 5, 2022 at 1:30 pm

      Could you use a stove top kettle? That’s what I replaced my electric one with when it was deemed irreparable.

      1
      • Reply Mari July 7, 2022 at 8:17 am

        Ailsa, would you mind sharing which stove top kettle you’re using? We’ve been looking to switch to one and having a hard time finding one that will work for our convection range, so I’m always curious what other people have.

        1
        • Reply s July 29, 2022 at 6:08 pm

          We have the staub teapot and it’s something I’m proud to leave on the stovetop all the time. It’s heavy duty!

  • Reply Beth July 5, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    You are going to love this toaster. Outs lasted over 25 years before it needed a new heating element.

    3
  • Reply riye July 5, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    There is something so satisfying about being able to fix something (or get it fixed). Right up there with finding that perfect pair of secondhand jeans! 😀

    1
  • Reply Sid July 5, 2022 at 2:26 pm

    This is such a great post for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I now know of a toaster company that actually makes fixable items. Thank you! Perhaps such a thing exists already and I just haven’t found it, but I would LOVE someone to create a listing of appliance companies/products that are truly repairable. Just putting that out there for the internet 🙂 It enrages me to no end that even the best, most expensive items will break down and not be fixable. The only trick I’ve found for large appliances that seems to be a good rule-of-thumb is that the simpler it is, the less likely it is to break down. More bells and whistles = more stuff to break.

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  • Reply Dot DeSanti July 5, 2022 at 2:31 pm

    I loved this story. I had this toaster on my wedding registry 25 years ago. It’s still going strong although my now grown kids hate the fact it’s only a 2-slice model and makes a ticking noise when’s its toasting. I’ve always loved the simplicity of its design and never wanted to upgrade. Thanks for sharing this!

    2
  • Reply Julia July 5, 2022 at 2:35 pm

    My parents have this toaster and it’s been going strong for 15 years. My dad kept buying more and more expensive toasters because they kept breaking. He finally got fed up and bought this kind in a two slot and it should last forever.

    2
  • Reply Susannah July 5, 2022 at 2:36 pm

    I was told by my local small engine repair shop that a three speed oscillating fan where only one of the speeds was working was “not worth it” for them to repair and it’s been sitting in a closet awaiting me to learn electricity so I can fix it. No time like the present!

    2
  • Reply Anna July 5, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    What a great find and post! I love that each toaster is assembled by one technician using replaceable and repairable components. I will definitely check their site and retailers out for this reason alone. I am on Team Calder when it comes to toast, too!

  • Reply Judith A Ross July 5, 2022 at 2:49 pm

    I have passed this on to my husband, who can fix just about anything. My real concern here is that luscious looking toast. James is probably sick of me hitting him up for bread formulas, but I’m going to do it here anyway. It looks like a nice honey/whole wheat.

  • Reply Maggie M July 5, 2022 at 3:40 pm

    This reminds me of my latest television obsession…Repair Shop!

    1
  • Reply Sarah July 5, 2022 at 4:26 pm

    I more and more look for things that are repairable when I look for durable goods. I used the same coffeepot (that I inherited from my college roommate, whose parents gave her a Keurig) for at least a decade. But the parts that broke are the plastic parts, and finding replacements for a model that old is annoying, if possible. Which is why I decided to buy a Moka pot to replace it. Even though I accidentally bought the wrong size, I am super pleased that it will work with any heat source, there are no mechanical/electrical parts to break, and the company provides replacement parts for just about all of it. The return of a lot of slow coffee trends has opened a lot of options in that regard, which is nice to see.

    3
  • Reply Lynn July 5, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    We have had our Dualit toaster for over thirty years and it is still going strong! Well found and worth the effort to repair!

    3
  • Reply Suzanne July 5, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    I thought of your blog, Erin, and of this same topic while visiting a beautiful (free) exhibit on the theme of repair at Somerset House in London: https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/eternally-yours.

    2
    • Reply Amanda July 29, 2022 at 2:20 pm

      It’s such a great exhibition isn’t it? My favourite was the last room of clothes that had been repaired – they looked more beautiful with the repairs. And thanks for the great article Erin, always good to know about companies doing things right. They also produce compostable coffee capsules.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 29, 2022 at 2:22 pm

        so wish i could see it in person!

  • Reply Meg July 5, 2022 at 7:04 pm

    I’ve been delighted recently in fixing up my free finds. In two separate occasions I’ve found that the tiny piece that would bring but nothing a kids toy was just a few dollars on the company’s website. I’ve been absurdly proud of each small fix. Thanks for the post.

  • Reply Sonya July 5, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    This is such a pretty toaster! My brother and sister in law found a beautiful abandoned Italian coffee machine in lockdown and repaired it for a tiny percentage of what it’s worth new. It was also an adventure in slow times. Now it’s keeping them caffeinated while they care for their new baby boy. I love the idea of waiting for things to find you if you can.

    2
  • Reply Carla July 5, 2022 at 9:14 pm

    My toaster is a General Electric from 1954 which I got at the resell store at a local landfill for a buck or two. I’ve had it a good 10 years now, and it’s never been repaired as far as I can tell! It works great but the slots are too narrow for bagels so I also have a 1930s one-side-at-a-time guy for that I learned how easy it is to repair these old toasters when I got them, so it’s just a waiting game until (or if!!) they die…then I get to be crafty.

    1
  • Reply Laurie L July 5, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    I recently found an abandoned toaster too! It was at my workplace & my boss said I could have it. This delighted me because we didn’t have a toaster & I knew my six year old would be thrilled to have one. I’m not much of a toast person, but my child has been having a blast making toast for breakfast for us. And I can’t turn down having a surprise toast breakfast from my little one.

  • Reply ramona July 5, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    Score!

  • Reply Danielle July 6, 2022 at 12:18 am

    This should be the default for all items, seriously! I discovered a tiny piece missing from my InstantPot which rendered it unusable, and of course this tiny piece could not be ordered. I contacted customer service and because my pot was 2 yrs old, they could no longer send me the tiny silicone cap I needed to make my pot usable again, but would happily send me a 25% discount to buy a whole new InstaPot. Ugh, no thanks. Thankfully after rummaging through a drawer I happened to find the missing cap and can now use my pot again. But seriously, they should be far more encouraging of replacing small parts.

    1
    • Reply Mindo July 7, 2022 at 2:06 pm

      Spare parts for InstantPots are available on Amazon, I lost and found (probably) the same piece and now have 5 spares for the next time it disappears.

  • Reply Laura July 6, 2022 at 12:54 am

    I’m 35 years old and my parents have had the same Dualit toaster my whole life. It’s even in the background of a commissioned oil portrait they had painted of me when I was six! Glad this one found a new life with you.

    1
  • Reply Nicola July 6, 2022 at 1:10 am

    We have this toaster and I can’t remember when we bought it but it was in our previous home and we’ve been in our current home since 2006. So it’s at least 16 years old. I bought it because our family of five are big toast eaters and I hated replacing the toaster every couple of years. I remember feeling a bit sick when I bought it because it was so eye wateringly expensive and we couldn’t really afford it but it has paid for itself over and over. I bought it knowing I could get it repaired but so far it has made millions of pieces of toast without needing any maintenance. Touching wood as I type. I can’t believe someone would dump one – you must have rich neighbours!

    1
  • Reply Catherine July 6, 2022 at 11:51 am

    Finding it very revealing how many of your readers have $400 toasters!

    4
    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 6, 2022 at 12:03 pm

      Six! Two of them belonging to their parents, and likely not the $400 4-slicers, but yes, as always, lots to unpack regarding the cost of appliances and household goods, the disposable income needed to invest in those that might last the longest, the privilege of the time and space to consider any of this stuff in the first place, etc.

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  • Reply Steph July 6, 2022 at 1:10 pm

    I also have a toaster rescue story! At the beginning of the pandemic, my 26 year old Rowenta toaster (made in West Germany) became unusable because the slider button came off. The bottom plate that allows access to its innards required a special tool. We started looking at toasters, but all the single slot long-line toasters had awful reviews, and we needed that specific size to fit into our teenytiny kitchen. We were able to track down the tool and fix the slider. Though the toaster is a little finicky – one side gets always darker than the other- it works for us. This set us off on a whole ‘make do and mend’ streak. It’s really satisfying, and our 11-year old also thinks about how something could be fixed.

    3
  • Reply anne July 6, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    Congratulations on your new addition!

    This post and the comments remind me of my favorite place for grumpy people like myself who like things to be repairable and to last, the Buy it for life Reddit forum: https://www.reddit.com/r/BuyItForLife/

    an excellent place for like minded repairers. 🙂

    2
  • Reply April July 6, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    I love this story! I love that there are still well made goods that are intended to be repaired and kept long term. Totally buying a DuaLit toaster if/when I’m in the market next time!

  • Reply Lindsey July 6, 2022 at 9:05 pm

    I bought a 10 dollar toaster at target my freshmen year of college, and now I’m 32 and it’s still going strong. Must be luck! I haven’t ever thought about higher end toasters before. Very interesting, might be the route I go if this one ever dies.

    1
  • Reply Sue July 7, 2022 at 9:33 am

    I always think that when you buy something you are investing more than just your money into it, and having things repaired is surely the way to go. Dualit are a brilliant company, yes the initial investment may be high for whichever product you buy from them, but you get that amazing follow up if things go wrong.

  • Reply Britt July 7, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    I just got Fixation on audio book from my library and am loving it. Thank you for bringing this awesome book to our attention. This is so cool!

  • Reply Barbara July 10, 2022 at 8:25 am

    I love this post! I found a Dualit toaster at my local thrift store about eight years ago for less than $10. I couldn’t believe someone wanted to get rid of it! It’s going strong, and now I know more of the history of the company. My grandmother could repair just about anything and I’m working to follow in her footsteps.

  • Reply Hannah July 25, 2022 at 8:05 am

    Our current toaster (10 years old) is falling apart in ways that aren’t easily or accessibly repairable and we decided last night that it’s time for a replacement. We have a house full of avid toast eaters and need something that will reliably last. We found many Dualit toasters on eBay for a fraction of the price! Our new-to-us toaster will be here on Wednesday. Thank you, Erin!

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