Soft Electronics - Household Appliances from 60's, 70's and 80's

After I picked up the book Soft Electronics by Jaro Gielens, I decided to select a few of the book to rebuild in Rhino. Some were quite challenging and it makes it all the more impressive how these designs were build back in the days. Brands like Braun , Moulinex, Krups and Philips were among the first companies that started mass producing household appliances in plastics like ABS, after WW2.
Apart from the book there is also this website Soft Electronics - A museum of electronic plastic for the kitchen, bathroom and home. Examples of innovative design for consumer electronics from the 1960s to 1990s. with a great collection of old appliances. Also worth watching is Virtuelles Museum | Deutsches Kunststoff Museum and last but not least, Braun’s overview of their design history 100 Years Timeline | Braun NL


your modeling and graphic presentation is so awesome… I love your stuff! thanks for sharing it and your links- fun reads!

Love the hair dryer! Did you work from visual references only?

Looks like you’ve spent time getting the surfaces to flow well - no tangent breaks visible.
Back when this was made, the tool maker would have been responsible for the blending between surfaces, vs now where the digital sculptor/modeller is responsible. I’d love to find more info on the designer>tool pipeline back in the 60’s and 70’s.

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@theoutside thanks for your kind words!

@andrew9 yes indeed, if you happen to come across that info I’d be interested to know too. All the models were made from photo references only. I looked up the dimensions to get the scale right, for most models apart from the Krups mixer I could find these.


It’d be difficult to get your hands on the physical products now! I wish I had asked more questions of my design lecturers in the 90’s… they’d have had experience in CAD’less tooling!

toolmakers back in the day were as much artists as they were craftsmen. (and woman). My father was the director of advanced engineering for gm in the 80’s and 90’s and worked in the metal forming group when he was coming up. He said the tool and die folks could sculpt with a grinder as well as any clay artist.


All are excellent modelings! :slight_smile:

Of course, it was better if the handy mixer had appropriate materials too.

Absolutely LOVE all of this! Impeccable subject choice, wonderfully executed.


I only can say something about that for plastic objects, and from the time resins came into play, I mean copying resins.
That is when model makers came into play, I don’t know how things worked before. :neutral_face:

Obviously the object had to be designed first, on paper, and when the final drawings were ready they were sent to the model maker.
The model maker, reading the drawings, built the model, usually in wood ( later in soft resin ).
After that a copying resin had to be poured over the model to replicate the mold’s shape.
The copying resin, once hardened, was sent to the mold maker, who, using a copying mill (maybe called a pantograph) had to carve the mold (made in steel) by moving a probe on the resin’s surface.
The probe was mechanically linked to the mill. Kind of a hand-made scanning+milling.
Later a hydraulid servo mechanism was added to keep the probe touching the resin without having to pull hard by hand.
Obviously the mold had then to be smoothed, but the shape was already there.

Then NC machines arrived, you konw … :wink:

(I hope my words make some sense, I don’t know the right English words, sorry … :blush:)


Yes this makes sense and in fact I had been searching for that because I suspected that that was a technique used. Maybe I don’t have the right search terms, but I couldn’t find any of such machines on photo, can you?

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Ah yeah makes perfect sense! One consultancy i worked at had a pantograph in the model shop. The model makers used it all the time and quite often for scaling models.

I wonder if they also shaped carbon electrodes for spark erosion using a pantograph.

There are some videos on line. Smaller machines but the concept is the same.


Yeah, I remember the “Deckel” brand. :grinning:

Maybe a bit too much back in time for the internet … :wink:
And unfortunately now the word “pantograph” refers to something different, at least in Italian …
I only have found these ones:


Hmmm … actually I dont’ remember, sorry. :blush:
We were model makers then, but unfortunately I cannot remember whether the resins were also used for electrodes.

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very nice. When looking for pantograph and Deckel machines, there is still quite a lot to find. When searching I found that a pantograph was (and still is) used by artists to copy sculptures but also in relation to photo-sculpture, as a predecessor of photogrammetry:


Beautiful work! Thanks for posting. It gave me great inspiration.

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Hi, I could kindly know how you made SUBD or NURBS housewives. thank you

Hi @Anghelos I assume your question is whether I made it in Nurbs or in SubD, in that case: all is Nurbs modeling, otherwise repost your question / use a better translator like Deepl.

OK thank you the answer is right you understood my question well
good things

I was a tool and die maker in the 80’s for The Eureka Co, a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, and then manager of a tool and die shop for Mitsubishi Motors in the 1990’s. Their forms of tool and die work were very different.
The progression of design to tooling to manufacturing is very interesting. In the 80’s we did have CAD and the designs were transferred to die/mold shop’s machine tools via paper tape. Holes punched in long rolls of paper tape were read by the machine tools to give cutter paths. I remember the older guys being very averse to the new equipment. They impressed on me the skill required to use a hand file! Which I never leaned. Being the young guy then I had free access to the only digital machine tools in the shop and taught myself how to use them. That included an Anilam add on controller for a Bridgeport milling machine and a Toshiba wire EDM.

When I worked at Mitsubishi, a tech advisor from Ford told me his father was the inventor of CAM Computer Aided Manufacturing. (I wish I could remember his name). It was originally used to produce shapes for the construction of airplane wings and propellers. The controllers were massive and took up a full room of electronics. The cost of the equipment was massive too. Fortunately for me, by the time I retired in 2015 the cost of CNC routers and CAD/CAM software was low enough that I could afford to put a set up in my basement shop. A real asset for keeping active.

The auto industry used tooling that was very large to produce auto stamping parts parts and molds for front and rear facias. Yes those tooling people could use hand grinders and files to fine tune surface shapes and repair dies and molds to visual perfection (and perfection was required) but we also used gantry milling machines to produce a series of 20 ton dies that stamped out hoods, roofs, side bodies. Smaller dies for smaller parts of course. I remember one die maker telling me that you have to be able to precision hand grind surfaces beyond what your eyes could actually see.

I think around the 1990’s or so tool and die moved very much more to digital tooling build. It was more important then to have people that knew CNC machine tool operation than it was to have skilled hand work people. Although both were still important especially for fine tuning repairs.
My 2 cents.


@dheis very interesting thanks for posting! You started your story telling about being a die maker for a vacuum cleaner company. How were these tools made? Did you use any of the tools that were discussed here?

The dies we made in the 80s (we didn’t make molds at our facility) were made from tool steel using manual milling machines, lathes, a jig bore machine (high precision), table grinders, cylindrical grinders, drill presses, etc. We did have a pantograph mill that I saw used only once in the 4 years I spent as an apprentice. I believe the pattern used was hand made in our model shop out of wood. Our molds were made off shore in Spain.