Engineering Toast and Butter

A Kickstarter campaign gives a new way to spray butter while a maker shows us how to cut bread and create toast at the same time.

Colin Furze calls himself a British garage inventor. I first heard of him yesterday, searching for innovative toasting methods to complement a new buttering device. In 2015 he built a Toaster Knife that toasts bread as you cut it. The suggestion came from reader comments on a YouTube video, most likely from a reader who saw the device used in a movie.

This first video is a demonstration of the knife in action and the next shows the ideation and construction of the device. An electrical current is run through the handle of the blade and heats the blade, and the knife heats the bread as it cuts. This doesn’t look like a repeatable process, looks to only heat the surface of the bread, and doesn’t seem safe. But as a first run on a new idea it’s compelling. More interesting to me is the video that outlines his build process.

First a transformer is taken from a microwave and the secondary coil used with a heavy cable to make the heating element. The process is shown taking a nail and heating it immediately to the point the coating burns off of the nail surface. Copper tubing is used to conduct the heat and then a base is built for the entire device. This is one of the first times I’ve heard a maker say breadboard and actually mean a board used for cutting bread.

The Toaster Knife and its maker spirit are a great contrast to biem, a new product that takes butter in stick form and turns it into spray. Doug Foreman introduces the biem as an easy way to butter toast, frying pans, vegetables, grilled cheese, and popcorn. Stick butter is placed in the device and is liquefied and sprayed onto food surfaces.

The innovation here seems to be in the nozzle design that Foreman says is patent pending. There aren’t any technical details available regarding the nozzle beyond saying that only heat and air are used to spray the butter. The device has an accelerometer that automatically powers the system and an integrated battery lithium battery with a charge expected to last about a week for a family of four.

There’s a great shot in the Kickstarter campaign video that shows several iterations of shapes and sizes for the biem that gives the sense of a long structured design process instead of a garage maker mentality. The body is made from silicone and brushed aluminum. After a few days biem blew by its funding goal of $40,000 for early production costs, and the project will be funded on April 2, 2016.

Watching two different approaches to engineering and product development is great. The biem discusses its ‘significant consumer testing’ while the Furze shows the process of idea to construction in a four minute video. It’s easy to say these are products that we don’t need and won’t need but I already have family members who swear that spraying butter while eating corn on the cob has changed their life.