For my upcycle project, I attempted to create a purely decorative toaster structure in the aesthetic of steampunk. Steampunk combines rustic metal elements with 19th century industrial technology elements. This aesthetic is usually for decorative purposes only with little to no functional value to them.

When creating my initial designs, I knew that I wanted to make a decorative toaster that would be within this style. The idea behind the toaster came from the fact that a lot of steampunk designs are everyday items, thus the toaster would be a great idea. This is also an item most people know of and would be able to easily tell that it is in a specific style. I wanted to include lots of the steampunk elements such as gears, bolts, and the rustic metal texture everything has.

My original drawings included lots of gears, old clocks for the dials, and other stylistic elements. From the beginning, I wanted to included a window into the toaster that made it look like it was being run by internal gears, like a clock. Once I had a design and aesthetic, I chose my material. I figured that cardboard would be a great material for this project. I knew of many places on campus that had cardboard recycling and it is a great material that can be easily laser cut to get the intricate designs like the gears. Because this would not be functional, I wanted to add as many steampunk elements as decoration as I could.

For my first CAD design, I wanted to get my initial idea down, including the details of the gears in the side. I made this one a little more intricate than what I had planned to actually create because I wanted to get a clear vision of my project.

In my second CAD iteration, I designed it with the intention of being able to take apart each piece and lay them out flat so they could be laser cut. Because laser cutting works on a 2D surface, I did not want to complicate my design too much by adding curves. I then laid out all of the pieces of this design as well as save the gear sketch from the previous design as DXF files to laser cut.

Next, I went to the BTU in Atlas to find cardboard and cut them to the sizes of all of my drawings. Once these were all cut, I was able to laser cut the pieces.

After laser cutting each piece, I glued all of the pieces together with hot glue and painted them to give them the rustic steampunk feel.


My project was not intended to work as a functional toaster. Given the fact that it is made out of cardboard, I wanted to make something that would be for decorative purposes only.


I think my design achieved the artistic vision that I had for myself. Because it is made out of cardboard, there is definitely visible cardboard on parts of the project, especially the corrugated parts. This was not something I was worried about because I think it gives into the upcycled materials unique properties and look to it. After I painted the project, it really started to come together. I am very happy with how the black, bronze, and gold paint made it look like it was made out of metal. I tried to use the gold on some of the edges to give it that “shine” of metal as well. In addition, I also painted a little Victorian style clock on the side to really capture the style of the aesthetic.

What’s Next?

Because this design has not function and is made of cardboard, I will most likely get rid of it at the end of the project. Even though I am happy with how it turned out, it unfortunately does not match the aesthetic I keep in my room and home. I would love to try to make more laser cut steampunk style items again and try out new materials too. This was a super fun project because of how detailed steampunk can be and it is an aesthetic I really enjoy to look at.


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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Nice work Sophia! I think you did a fantastic job with attention to detail. I think it is interesting how even the corrugated inside of the cardboard still plays into the aesthetic, and in my opinion I think it adds to it. I like how some of the gold and bronze surfaces almost appear to have a patina as well. I wonder if there is some way you could add the appearance of there being a heating element inside the toaster?

    • Hi Peter! That is an interesting thought, adding an appearance of a heating element. It would be cool if I can some more time to possible add some LEDs to do this.

  • Alexis Cisneros
    February 26, 2024 10:41 am

    Hi Sophia,

    I really like how your project came out! I know its difficult to replicate an aesthetic with cardboard, but your paint job was pretty solid. You can definitely tell its aesthetic from looking at it. I enjoyed seeing your process with all the picture you included. I really liked your post, Great job!


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