Use Your Antiques

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Archive for the tag “1950”

50’s Era Toaster

After a thorough cleaning and careful tuning my wife and I have been using the wonderful '50's era toaster for the past two-years.

After a thorough cleaning and careful tuning my wife and I have been using the wonderful ’50’s era toaster for the past two-years. 

This is a Sunbeam Model T-20B.  I purchased this little gem at a yard sale a couple years ago for just $5.00.  It was in nice shape but needed a  thorough cleaning the woman I purchased it from said it had been given to them as a wedding gift back in the 50’s but they had replaced it with a new on some time ago.  I took it home with the intention of cleaning it up and reselling it on e-bay.  I had purchased several ’50’s era toasters before and sold them for around $20 each on e-bay.  I soon discovered this toaster was different from the others I had purchased.

The Sunbeam T-20 toasters do not have a lever to lower the bread.  Instead they use heat activated, bi-metallic sensors, and what amounts to a Rube Goldberg system of internal mechanisms to automatically lower the bread into the toaster.  Sunbeam made toasters with this automatic mechanism from the ’50’s all the way into the mid ’70’s.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I took it apart to clean.

 I began my cleaning by removing the housing and Bakelite handles.  The internals had about 50-years worth of built-up crud on them so I decided to completely disassemble everything and use oven cleaner to remove the worst of it.  A digital camera is very handy when it comes to disassembling something this complex.  I photographed the toaster from every angle as I slowly took it apart.  Once apart everything but the electrical components and Bakelite was sprayed down with oven cleaner.

After setting for about hour I rinsed everything off in the sink.  The mechanism was more of a challenge to reassemble than I expected, even with the photos.  Eventually I got it back together.  Unfortunately when I went to test it I discovered it wouldn’t work.  I then realized I had never bothered to test it to begin with.  I spent about an hour on the internet researching how heat activated, bi-metallic sensors worked, then set about cleaning and tuning them.  The points style contacts were pitted from years of use, so I filed them smooth and square, then straitened the flexible piece of metal the outside contact is mounted to (someone had obviously tried to fix this in the past).

With the contacts working correctly I now needed to tune the mechanism itself.  On the bottom of these toasters, under the crumb clean-out tray, is a small screw which is used to adjust the sensitivity of the toaster.  The object is to get the toast to stay down long enough that it is almost black when the darkness knob on the front is turned all the way to right.  Turn the screw a quarter turn at a time, in or out depending on how the toaster is functioning at the time.

Note, the original cord on this toaster was in excellent condition and I decided to continue using it.  I do not leave it plugged in; it is unplugged after every use.  If the cord showed any signs of wear or discoloration I would replace it.

With the internals operating correctly I reassembled the housing.  I use “Mothers” chrome polish to clean the chrome and stainless steel exterior.  I have also found the same polish works very well to clean and polish the Bakelite handles as well.  From start to finish I spent about six-hours cleaning and restoring this toaster.

Now completely assembled it was time to make toast.  The toaster has two slots for bread on top.  The slot closest to the front has the switch in it, so if you are toasting two pieces of bread put the first piece in the rear slot and the second piece in the front slot.  A moment after you place bread in the front slot you will hear a click from inside the toaster and the bread will slowly go down on its own.

How long it stays down depends on how dark you want your bread.  When it’s finished toasting you will once again hear a click and the bread will slowly rise back up.

It’s a wonderful little machine and it is simply too neat to sell.  We got rid of our modern, plastic clad, Kitchen-Aide toaster (the plastic housing had cracked anyway) and have been using the Sunbeam for two-years now without any problems.

After a thorough cleaning and careful tuning my wife and I have been using the wonderful ’50’s era toaster for the past two-years.

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