Sunday, September 28, 2008

American Engineering - Toastmaster

American Engineering could have reached its peak in 1948. RCA ribbon microphones such as the 44BX and the 77DX have yet to be duplicated in terms of smoothness of sound and the Toastmaster Model 1B14 is certainly the 44BX of the breakfast world. Many of us grew up with this toaster in our homes, it was the most common wedding gift of the 1950's and at a retail price of $23.50, it was not inexpensive. Frustrated with the disposable toasters of today, I've been wanting to get an old Toastmaster and found one recently in Duluth. Paid $20 for it which raised the eyebrows of those around me but I have since made converts of my whole family. I wanted to "go through" the toaster before I started using it and disassembled it completely. What a true testament of an ethic when things were made to last. The model I have was made in 1948 according to the serial number and it was obviously well used. However, it was NOT worn out. A complete cleaning, burnishing of the electrical contacts, and reassembly left me with a toaster that rocks! Toasters nowadays are S-L-O-W due to manufacturer's concerns of liability for starting fires, so they keep the internal temp down. Well, the 1B14 can make toast in about 1/2 the time of a conventional toaster and the satisfying 'snick' of the pushdown is pure joy to those who appreciate quality. Internally, the 1B14 is extremely well made, with robust components and a design that just doesn't seem to have wear points.

A word of warning, however. I'd gotten my in-laws 1B14 that was in immaculate conditions however it used asbestos as the insulator between the nichrome heating wires. I was heartbroken as I couldn't in good conscience use this for food consumption. The 1948 model I bought in Duluth used mica for the insulation and is the reason I was so excited to find it as mica doesn't present the health hazard asbestos does. But think about it ... this toaster was made 60 years ago and works better than what you can buy today. hmmmmmmm.

44 comments:

Chris said...

How do you tell what material (mica or asbestos) is in your toaster ? I also found a 1B14 Toastmaster and would like to use it if it does'nt contain asbestos !

Dan Houg said...

Hi Chris-
Look at the backing material that the heating wires are fastened to... a mica insulator is very shiny and flakes can be teased off of it with a probe. The flakes will be almost transparent. The asbestos backing models have a gray cardboard look to them... sorta like the interior of a shoebox. When teased with a probe, the asbestos crumbles more than flakes.

Let me know what you find!

Anonymous said...

Bought Mama a 1B14 ca 1955. Works great except must keep dial on "lighter" for everything. Can't figure out how this works- there's just a brass nut inside the dial.

Anybody got a fix?

Dan Houg said...

In the center of the browning control is a fine screwdriver slot. Unscrew this, take the knob off, reposition it to "Dark" and put the screw back in.

Anonymous said...

Have this same toaster with wiring that should be changed. Do not have a diagrahm and unsure which screws will correctly lead me to the wiring. Appears that those screws below the bakelite handle would take me there however the this also messes with the bottom door hinge and want to make sure before opening pandora's box. Thanks. Jim

Chris said...

Hey Dan-

I have mica ! And, I have beautiful toast :)
I had the same experience with the browning control as Anonymous, so I'm gonna give your fix a try.
G'Day !

Anonymous said...

We have a 1B14 toaster from 1951 (according to serial number chart), are we free of asbestos? Thank you!

Dan Houg said...

I don't have a resource that tells whether the insulation material was made of asbestos or mica based upon serial number or year of manufacture. Just look at it and you can tell, per my first comment posted on this blog.

Jonathan said...

Just inherited a nice 1B14 from my late grandfather, and it works great, except that the toaster doesn't pop-up any more... After looking at the backside of the dark/light dial, there is just a nut on it. Was there anything attached to this that would make the toaster eject? Anyone have pictures? Thanks!

Jonathan said...

By the way, the dial turns right, as does the nut inside, and I have tried light and dark with no success... Thanks!

ToasterEric said...

I have restored many 1B-14s and I have NEVER seen one with asbestos plates. Even the Kenmore version that was made by Toastmaster for Sears-Roebuck (After the end of production of the Toastmaster version) came with mica plate. The Asbestos plate must have been replacement. Proctor used a lot of asbestos in their toasters.

The 1B-14 is the pinnacle of the American Pop-up.

RaNDeX said...

So, the backing material that I want to check for asbestos would simply be those square thin "plates" that sit behind the elements, right? What about the cord? I was told that those old cloth cords almost always contain asbestos, is that true? Are the cords easily replaced with modern, non-cloth ones?
BTW, does anyone sell an inexpensive liquid solution to test vintage appliances for parts containing asbestos?

Thanks

Paul said...

RandeX,

We you say, "behind the elements," I think you mean behind the WIRE GUARDS that keep the toast from touching the heating elements.

So, just so we're clear on terms. The heating element is the square boards that have wires running horizontally that heat up (turn orange). This board is what you should check for asbestos. Just follow Dan Houg's 11/3/2008 posting.

Asbestos is naturally occurring in nature and is only a problem when it's in a dry friable state which when it is, is susceptible to break into a fine dust that can get airborne. Bottom line, if you shine a flashlight into the toaster & it looks shiny (reflects the light) then it's mica (a stone that shears very easily).

Regarding the cloth cord. The cord's purpose is to conduct electricity from your house wiring to the toaster. The cloth & whatever is underneath it is an insulator so you don't get a shock plugging in and unplugging your toaster. Asbestos is like gypsum (drywall / wallboard), it's meant to be left alone & not handled at all. Asbestos's number one purpose is heat reflection not electrical insulation.

Anyway, yes you can replace the cord if the insulation is broken or so you just feel better. Go to the hardware store and buy the same gauge wire and plug. Both with tax should be well under $10, may even less than $5. Before you go, cut about 6" of the cord & take it along so you get the right gauge (size) of wire. Just guessing, you can't go wrong with 14 gauge 2 conductor wire. You may also want to measure the cord.

JONATHAN & JIM (aka Anonymous

Jon there's a spring on the bottom of the toaster. It might have jump off, or maybe it's broken. If it broke, just buy another spring at your local Ace / Lowe's or True Value hardware store.

Jim (& Jon) to get to the wiring & the spring you need to remove the bottom door hinge plate. Jon you'll see the spring right away, located dead center, or it should be if it didn't jump off. You'll need a pliers to re-hook the spring and maybe bend loop ends so their smaller.

Jim if you're working on the heating elements you remove the bottom hinge plate and door. If you're just replacing the cord, you just have to remove the baked plastic end.

First remove the 2 screws in the bottom. Then grab the toaster firmly and push downward on the plastic end, with the cord, while pulling up on the adjoining housing. It'll slide about a half-inch & then you can pull the 2 pieces apart. There's 2 screws that slide in a slot like a picture hangs on the wall. The heads of the screws in the plastic fit into a 1920's version of a keyhole (large hole with narrow slot adjoining it).

"Model 1B14 is introduced (in 1947). The toaster remained a staple in the Toastmaster line until 1961, winning the title of the world's most popular toaster for more than a decade." from www.toaster.org/tmaster_history

Paul

Paul said...

Just add .html at the end of the tag line I referenced above for the source.

Dan Houg said...

replacement cords... be sure to buy the readily available "heater cord". this is wire with rubber neoprene instead of PVC insulation and it stands much more heat. this is needed because if a PVC cord lies against the metal case of the toaster, the insulation can melt thru creating a shock and fire hazard.

Bob said...

My 1B14 has the exact same problem with the browning control knob. So there's supposed to be a spring in there on the inside? Any chance you can post a picture of yours that shows where the spring is connected? I can only imagine that the proper tension spring would need to be acquired as well, eh?

Daro said...

Hello, i have a 1B14, i bought SO cheap in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
But dont "pop up" the bread just heat.

im dessarm the toaster, and the "wheel" dark-light, inside "goes to nothing" (i think a piece is missing or something, equals the piece who free the mechanism.

i put so pictures from inside here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/teardropsonme/4858518513/in/set-72157624524711551

sorry, my english is soo bad.


perhaps, someone can help me
thanks
Dario

my mail: dario.crucil@gmail.com

Paul said...

Bob, I don't think the spring tension is critical. Just so long as the spring rate is sufficient to lift the toast up. There's a locking mechanism that has a positive engagement that doesn't release until the browning factor is satisfied.

I got a photo from a Google imagine search that I marked up. Here's the link to the imagine in it's virgin state: http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTcQW0AmXp83cnKpJi0pAd4VRLuVZ1JxNLSS6NcnKISej_8hf2v

I've magnified the imagine 8X and will try posting in flicker shortly. The imagine came from '1b14 toastmaster bottom' Google imagine search.

Paul said...

Here's the link to the marked up pic
http://picasaweb.google.com/thumannp/AmericanEngineeringToastmaster?authkey=Gv1sRgCPqvz6C03NuzNA#5562894640852921650

Jean said...

Hi Dan-
Just found this thread on old toasters and I share your appreciation of their durability and function. I have a 1939 Sunbeam T-9 toaster and want to replace the cord. I have found new, cloth covered cord at sundial wire (www.sundialwire.com) which I would like to use to keep the antique character of this beautiful art deco toaster. Is 14 gauge cord sufficient? They only have 3 wire, but I figure I can just clip the third. I just want to make sure the 14 gauge is safe.

Thanks!

Jim Barbera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Houg said...

hi Jean-
14 ga. wire would be fine. but i wouldn't clip the ground lead... attach it to the metal of the shell so that the shell is grounded. this will prevent electrical shock should the line voltage short to the case.

-dan

Anonymous said...

One of the heating elements on my Toastmaster 1B14 stopped working. Is the element repairable or replaceable? I love my toaster and would like to get another 60+ years out of it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Ferguson said...

Hi Dan et al,
I found your blogsite while Googling my Toastmaster 1B12 to find out if I had safety issues while repairing, re: asbetsos. Mica it is behind the heating elements - yea! Asbestos in cloth covered cord maybe, but it's OK for now, I will replace later if it deteriorates.

So I'm hoping the mechanism is similar to the 1B14 with which you are familiar.

The problem is that push down tab no longer "catches". It became "mushy" then no longer caught at all.

I have disassembled and I see how the inner mechanism of the push down tab should catch under a "beaked" lever which emanates from the lower part of the toaster where the heat control/timing elements reside. I can manually make the beaked lever move forward to "catch" the push down tab's inner arm, but what makes this happen normally?

I can send pics to anyone who may be able to shed light on this.

Thanks in advance for your time and help.

Charles
Pittsboro, NC

Georgia said...

Hi - I need to be sure about whether or not my Toastmaster 1B24 (1953) has asbestos. It seems to me it has qualities of both mica and asbestos. It's mostly dull gray, with some shiny sparkles, some of which flake off, mica-like, and some crumble. It seems to be a fairly hard material. (Of course it works great!) Well, OK, if I push harder with a sharp knife I get thin, clear flakes - mica?

Dan Houg said...

that sounds like Mica... the shiny flakes. the asbestos will look more like shoebox cardboard-- gray and slightly fibrous. if you send me a clear closeup of the material, i could give you an opinion. email it to engineer@kaxe.org.
-dan

Grummph said...

We have a 1B24 which exhibited the same symptoms that others have mentioned: it wouldn't pop up by itself. So, I tore the whole thing apart and found it was full of 60 years of crumbs and gunk from toasting raisin bread. After thoroughly cleaning it out, it worked! I, too, was puzzled by the "light - dark" adjustment. It doesn't do anything but screw a little disk in and out. Fortunately it has mica behind the nichrome wire toasting elements. The biggest problem was in getting the chrome cover back on without having the ceramic insulators on the top(8 of them) and toast guide wires (16 of them) fall out. I finally used masking tape to hold them in while reassembling. After it was back together, most of the tape could be removed, and the remainder burned off. I was amazed at the quality of build. It was made to last. And it makes perfect toast in record time. I am certain it will last for another generation before it has to be cleaned out again.

Grummph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I picked up one of these toasters this weekend. I'm guessing its from the mid 50's because there's a patent date of 1953 underneath. Anyway, mine has mica for the heating elements but I am definitely leery of the cord. The cord itself isn't frayed or damaged. But when you remove the right handle the cloth covering terminates before getting to the electrical connections. Thus there is an inch or two of what appears to be wires covered in some sort of woven white stuff. I'm not sure if its asbestos or fiberglass. Hard to tell. I sprayed it with a bit of water when I was investigating the contacts.

Anyway, if you have a cloth covered cord, is it almost guaranteed to be asbestos? I'm sort of paranoid about the stuff as you can tell.

Anonymous said...

I picked up one of these toasters this weekend. I'm guessing its from the mid 50's because there's a patent date of 1953 underneath. Anyway, mine has mica for the heating elements but I am definitely leery of the cord. The cord itself isn't frayed or damaged. But when you remove the right handle the cloth covering terminates before getting to the electrical connections. Thus there is an inch or two of what appears to be wires covered in some sort of woven white stuff. I'm not sure if its asbestos or fiberglass. Hard to tell. I sprayed it with a bit of water when I was investigating the contacts.

Anyway, if you have a cloth covered cord, is it almost guaranteed to be asbestos? I'm sort of paranoid about the stuff as you can tell.

Dan Houg said...

yes, the cord contains asbestos but it is encapsulated by the cord. see this thread:

http://174.122.4.235/~antiquer/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=169122

oldguy said...

My wife just purchased a Toastmaster 1B14 model. It will not pop up. I opened it up to watch the release mechanism in action. Unbelievable piece of engineering (to a layperson like me). As the light dark nut is contacted, initially there is some movement, but no pop up. Unplugging the toaster at that point, allows the bimetallic strip to move back to the start position. During that travel the toast carriage will pop up. Any thoughts?

FJ40Dave said...

I found a 1B14 today at a thrift store for $12.99....snapped it up!
Serial # is 253,509 making it a 1947-1948 model ... it toast's great!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog-nice older gent at cafe asked if I could repair his toaster cord-in the process, the wire guides fell out-where exactly do they fit-and which ones need the little white tube? Thanks for all the great info!!

Anonymous said...

Oops never mind figured it out!!

Anonymous said...

I have a 1B9 model that was my in-laws, manufactured between june 1941 and Mar 1942. The backing looks dull but when scraped gives shiny flake-like pieces. Given the year is it more likely mica or asbestos?

Anonymous said...

Would you say this is abestoes or mica via picture?

http://www.auctiva.com/hostedimages/showimage.aspx?gid=281947&image=605377151&images=605376949,605377055,605377151,605377191,605377263&formats=0,0,0,0,0&format=0

Thank you! (PS, time is of the essence yet I appreicate any input whatsoever). :)

ringals said...

Was it just the one year that used asbestos? I have the 1B9 and now I'm afraid! But it makes beautiful toast and I'd really love to use it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's any realistic danger from asbestos - the really bad stuff came from Australia in the 1930s. There was a lot of hype over it, culminating in the statement that any exposure at all would kill you in about six years. Remember those big asbestos gloves we wore in high school chemistry, and all the brake pad dust, and the insulation? If there was any real danger we'd all be dead a dozen times over. In any case there isn't enough dust coming off a cord to harm you. Enjoy your toasters and don't let some dated media hype ruin your day, it was all just to have something to say on the news.

Anonymous said...

I have two 1b14 toasters. Have damaged cords so disassembled them to do the replacement. I will pass on a couple suggested 1 turn the light dark knob clockwise all the way, thus provding more clearance to femove the cover 2 sqeeze inward on the cover and slide up on the handles to remove them. 3 do not turn the unit upside down to remove the cover. Raise it to eye level and align the light dark knob with the knotch.
nello

Rob W said...

I agree with all comments about what a great product this is. We've had ours for over 25 years and it worked great until one of the elements quit due to a broken segment. So, where do I get a replacement? I just need one, mica or whatever.

Rob

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

Would you recommend 16 gauge, or is 14 gauge better for replacing a frayed cord?

Dan Houg said...

it is more important to buy true 'heater cord' which has a natural rubber insulation and is heat resistant. just buy whatever gauge wire the heater cord comes in.