Making Of 'A Toaster'

I'm Guy BlueSummers, and this is my tutorial. The reason I made this was not just because I was bored at work one day (though that's how it started). I actually remember when I was starting out with 3DSMax and I realized there aren't enough tutorials out there that really walk you through every click, movement, and heartbeat of production. That's why I decided to model a toaster and document every process along the way.  With any luck, if you follow this tutorial, you should end up with something that looks like my toaster here.  Note that you should have some background with the interface to start off. You should know how to make a box, how to use your Gizmos, and basically be able to click a mouse. I show you where almost everything is and what your settings should be.

Let's get started!

Building Basics

The key to subdivision modeling for inorganic objects is to remember what kind of shape you're going for.  By modeling a toaster, we'll be using simple boxy shapes and we'll work on getting familiar with the mechanics of how Subdivision works through practice.  A lot of the time, the inorganic subdivision method is lost on people because they don't understand the kind of influence one vertex or edge has on it's adjacent ones.  Hopefully by the end of this tutorial you'll have a real feel for how inorganic modeling works and you'll enjoy the process because it finishes with a toaster.  And almost everyone likes toast. 

To get started, create a box with the settings I've indicated on the right.  We'll be starting with a box because, of course, toasters are kind of rectangular and so it makes logical sense to start here.  There isn't much to say except that you'll always want to start with whatever the basic shape you're working with.  For instance; working on a piston on a robot?  Start with a cylinder!

For this frame, convert the box into an Editable polygon object by right clicking on it and selecting "Convert to Editable Poly".  This puts it in a mode that will let you edit it with a very nice toolset.  3DSMax is famous for its Edit Poly tools.

Next, click on the "edge" sub-object mode which will allow you select all the edges along the length of the toaster.  These are the longest edges parallel to the way toast would go into the toaster.  We'll be grabbing all four edges.  Be sure "Ignore Backfacing" is unchecked or you may not get the edge on the corner away from you!

Here I've connected the edges we selected together.  I did this by clicking the button that says "Connect".  You can find it under the "Edit Edges" rollout just below Target Weld.  It's also outlined in the image to the right.  It gives us some extra edges to work with in the box.  The "connect" tool will be one of the most valuable tools we use in this inorganic sub-d modeling tutorial.

In this frame we're using the "chamfer" tool (pronounced Cham-fur).  This can be found to the left of "Connect" which we used above.  If you click the word "chamfer" you can use the tool in the viewport with your mouse.  If you click the small box next to it you can open the dialog window that allows you to enter a value.  I've done the latter to show the more exacting readers what values I used.

We're repeating the process I stated above using the other axis of the toaster.  Here, you can see I've already gone ahead and connected the edges and am chamfering them out.  We do this such that we create a little square in the corners.  See that?  It tells us that when this is sub-divided, the effect of subdivision will be constrained to just the edges and corners- the whole box won't be all bubble-like.  The reason we're going for squares in the corners is because it makes sure our smoothed edges are uniform around the toaster.  A rectangle would yield different results.  Feel free to experiment!

Finally, I've connected and chamfered the edges along the third and final axis.  You'll notice that we now have every edge of the box supported with two more edges that keep it from being overly smoothed.

Here I've applied a turbo-smooth to the model to give us an idea of what it's going to look like as a finished product.  We can see the fruits of our labor thus far in that the box has constrained smoothing and is looking like a mighty fine box so far.  I've given the 'T-smooth' modifier one iteration in the viewports to keep the viewport speed up, and two iterations at render-time to make it look smoother when we want extra quality.  Render it if you like by hitting F9.

Refining Our Initial Model

So we've gotten a lot of the basics down, but the project isn't quite complete yet.  We don't have the bread slots and the pull-handle.  It needs characteristics of a toaster.  Let's bring this model to life!

To start refining the model, let's break this toaster into two halves- right down the middle!  We use the same technique as I listed above of selecting the center vertices and connecting them.  You can also use 3DSMax's own "ring" tool by selecting one of the edges in the set and clicking "ring" under the "selection" rollout.  To find out more, hit F1 and type into the search bar "edit poly ring".  As you get more and more edges, it would be wise to understand the "ring" and "loop" concepts.

Here, we need to set the center of our toaster to the center of the toaster model.  When we created the box, 3DSMax expects its pivot point to be the base of the model.  That is not the case here, so we need to reset the pivot to the center.  Under the "Hierarchy" tab on your command panel, click "Affect Pivot Only" and then click "Center to Object". 

One of the qualities of many inorganic objects is that they're perfectly symmetrical; so let's take advantage of that fact and only work on half the model.

Apply a "symmetry" modifier to your object, from the modifier rollout and adjust the settings so that it mirrors the side you are working on to the side you're not working on.  As a word of caution, be sure to pick which side will be your focused side, and stick with it. 

Within the side of choice (mine is the right side), go ahead and make another connection and chamfering.  This will dictate where the toast slot will be located on the toaster.  We extend the edges all the way around the toaster because if we did not, there is a possibility that the veritable 'end' of the area of detail will create an artifact with T-smooth.

Here you can see that I've selected the polygon inside the toast slot and I've used the "extrude" function on it.  You can find Extrude just above "bevel" under the "Edit Polygons" rollout.  I'm extruding it inward a small distance first because mesh-smooth would give strange artifacts if it were deeper at this point.  We do this for the same reason we gave our box edges during the "Building Basics" section.

As mentioned in the last image, we're going to extrude the polygon some indeterminate distance inward.  It really doesn't matter how far, since it won't be affected by the corner above it.  I suggest putting it as far as you want (which is why I didn't include numbers here).

Delete the face that would be blocking the toast slot.  Ta da!  You now have a toast slot that is almost perfect for smoothing.

But wait!  Before you go to the next image, do you see what's wrong?  It's the same issue we resolved by adding edges along the perimeters of our box.  Where would you put the extra edges?

If you guessed "at either end of the toast slot, you're right!  If we didn't do this, the edges of the toast slot would be far too rounded, and kind of ugly.  Take a look higher up the modifier stack at your "Turbo Smooth" modifier to see what I mean.  It's really unsightly, but we can fix that by selecting the affected area, connecting, and chamfering the selection. 

Have a look at your whole toaster by clicking the "display end result" icon.  It's just below the modifier stack and is shaped like a little cup.  It shows you what the toaster will look like after all the modifiers are in place, while still allowing you to work within the modifier stack.

If you can't find it, do an F1 search; or just deselect your toaster entirely, and 3DSMax will show you the whole object.

Further Refinement

Great!  We've gotten a box with two toast slots in it, but that's still not quite done.  We still need a lever that will insert the toast-to-be!  It also needs a knob to tell the toaster what darkness of toast we want, and risers to keep it from burning the countertop!  These details shouldn't be a problem, and we can add them in using many of the same techniques we've discussed so far.  Maybe even some new ones; read on!

I've selected all the faces on one side of my toaster to make it the front.  I used my "move" gizmo (hotkey w) and moved them out a ways.  We do this because you have to remember that the mechanisms that make the toaster run have to go somewhere.  This addition of mass makes it look like they're right behind that panel.  Always keep these physical ideas in mind while you're modeling.  It'll add a subtle level of realism.

In your top viewport (hotkey t if you're using one viewport like I am), round out the profile of your toaster a bit.  You'll have to drag-select the vertices when you do this because you want to select the vertices behind the top ones.  If you don't, you'll only select the top verts.  You can see that I have "show end result" enabled on my modifier stack because I can see the t-smooth in action.  I like this for operations like making a rounded

face-plate because it lets me see how it will look at the finished stage.

Here you can see I've done our (now hopefully memorized) procedure of connecting and chamfering an edge.  I like relatively sharp corners around my toaster slot, so I've added this step to give us that quality.

Next, I added an extra edge along the depth of the toaster to ensure that smoothing from the length of the toaster really doesn't affect the face-plate.  While this is a little redundant, it's nice to be totally sure.

Note; this connection isn't chamfered!!

Similarly, I've added in two edges along the height of the toaster for good measure.  In the long run, this will help us constrain the smoothing around the toaster pull-down mechanism that we'll work on next.

The toaster object is symmetrical, and we've used our symmetry modifier to make that clear, so select the edges shown in the image and inset them.  The selection shown is a little strange, I understand, but because it's symmetrical we needn't worry because the end result will look fine.  This action completely limits any smoothing around the mechanism to stay in this area.

Insetting the faces also affords us the luxury of simply deleting the faces.  This will lead us into a new method of modeling where you copy faces and weld vertices together.

Let's double-check our toaster model, shall we?  It's looking pretty nice considering all the pain we've put it through.  We're going to attempt a rather tricky procedure; over the next few steps we're going to collapse, and re-instate our symmetry modifier.

Right click the symmetry modifier in the stack and remember its settings.  Right click on the modifier and select "Collapse To".  Then, place another symmetry modifier in its place with the identical settings.  Make sure the modifier is between TurboSmooth and Editable Poly, or it won't look quite right.  Also, make doubly certain you don't click "Collapse All" or you'll include the T-Smooth in there too!  Yipes!

Select the four edges along the bottom of the toaster slot area. 

In your top viewport, hold down shift and use your move gizmo to drag the edges so that they overlap and 'close up' the blank space.  This tells you that the edges you copied are directly below the top of the mechanism slot.
If you're confused read on and come back to this step.  You'll see what I mean.

Here you can see what we ended up doing.  We copied the edges at the bottom of the toaster slot so that it can make up the bottom.  Without these polygons, we would have a tough time making this shape.

Use the same "Shift + Drag" technique to copy those edges directly upward so that they are close (but not touching) the top of the mechanism slot.

Don't put it too close since you will have a hard time selecting them for this next step!

In this frame you can see that the two lengths of edges are not connected. That's alright; we've got a trick up our sleeve to put these two together.  Select "Target Weld" which is highlighted in the image at right. For each disconnected vertex, click on the vertex we just copied, and then click on the stationary vertex already attached to the rest of the toaster.

Here you can see the end result. By connecting each pair, we have created new polygons! This area is probably the hardest part of this entire toaster. 

For our next trick, we have to close up the holes we've created in the sides of the mechanism slot.  To do this, use your "Boarder Select" mode, and click on an edge surrounding the hole.  Max will automatically detect the hole and select the entire boarder.
Neat huh?  Click "Cap", which is highlighted in the image, and it will seal up the hole with a single polygon.

Next, we need to connect all the edges that are around the circumference of the toaster through the mechanism slot.  We'll do this by selecting the ring of edges inside the mechanism slot that resulted from our vertical Shift-Drag operation (remember?). 

In your front or side viewport (depending on how you created your toaster) you'll need to carry out some delicate operations.  Use the "Connect" tool to create 3 connections across the edges you selected in the earlier image. 

Take each of these sets of edges you made and adjust them so they're pretty much where they belong across the mechanism slot.  They should be close to what the edges along the side of the toaster look like.

You can see that it's just a matter of moving them around.  No need to be perfectly precise; subdivision modeling is surprisingly forgiving on co-planar faces like these.

Now use your "Cut" tool, which can be found by hitting alt + c.  This will let you cut the giant polygon made earlier.  Click between the two isolated vertices along the capped polygon to connect the edges.  Right click to begin on the next pair of vertices or you'll end up creating a zig-zag pattern.  Do this for all three segments.

And here we have the edges connected.  Lucky for us we're using a symmetry modifier which mirrors all these changes to the other side of the toaster.

*whew!* We're making some amazing progress!

Take a look at your remarkable work!  The turbo-smooth is properly confined to where it should be, and our toaster has some nice curves to it.  Curved objects look really great with metal materials, so I encourage you to play around with metal shaders after we're done modeling!

Back at the bottom level of your modifier stack, click on the polygon-select mode.  Select some polygons from the middle of the mechanism slot.  You can use Shift + Drag just like on the edges, and drag out these polygons.  Click "ok" on the dialogue that follows asking if you want to copy this to an element.  The answer is yes, we want it as an element.

Resize this by moving the edges vertically so that it's a bit shorter.  We don't particularly need any height on this lever just yet.  This is going to make the handle of the pull-down mechanism that inserts bread for toast.

With the polygons you've just resized selected, extrude both faces out as shown in this screen capture.  There is actually an open hole left at the back end of the polygons, but this will actually not be a problem.  We don't have to worry about it, though you can cap it if you like.

Create a connection around the length of the handle.  This will help constrain the mesh-smoothing.

Select the top two polygons and extrude them upwards to create some interesting feature on the handle. This is just an extra detail on the handle that gives it a little realism.  Pull down handles are usually flat, but this is kind of a nice toaster; we might as well go the extra mile! 

Select the side polygons on the object and adjust the width so that it's almost touching the side of the mechanism slot.  This will make sure there isn't a significant gap there when we smooth later!

Create one more connection for good measure.  We don't want wanton smoothing, now do we! 

Select the edges in the very center down the mechanism slot, and go down to where it corners at the bottom.  Chamfer the selection according to the image shown, such that we get a new groove inside the middle of the toaster.  Notice that we've created an area of local detail which we'll have to work around!

Delete the polygons located inside the groove.  This will form the slot that the toaster pull-down handle mechanism will go through.  While we won't be modeling the actual bar that goes into the toaster, we do need this to at least have the appearance of there being one.

Here, we need to restrict the effect of the 5-sided-polygons we created as a result of chamfering interior edges.  We do this by creating new edges via "Connect" and scooting it downward so it makes almost no difference to the curvature of the smoothed edges.

Select the edges as shown and connect them.  Our goal is to localize the problem of "over-smoothing" just like in the previews step; but here it's more difficult because we're dealing with an odd shaped space.
We'll have to devise a different kind of solution for this problem!

Scoot the somewhat 'U-Shaped' edges close to the area of the problem.  Then, select the edges in that same ring as shown, and connect them where the edges are in red.  This spreads the effect of the edges we just added out such that they are not a problem; but a solution!

Simply use the "Cut" tool (remember alt + c) and connect the corner edge to the floating vertex you see in the edges we just created a moment ago.  This creates more four sided polygons and limits any artifacts caused by the mechanism slot hole during smoothing! While we're left with a five sided poly, it's damage is now quite limited. 


Select all the polygons on the side of the pull-down handle.  We're going to inset those polygons to make sure we prevent any over-smoothing of that sub-object later on.  Otherwise it would be too smooth and rather unbelievable. 

Create a cylinder with the settings given in the image.  This will become the knob you turn to determine what level of darkness you want your toast.  It's a keen little feature we should include for the sake of realism.  It'll only take a minute or two.

At this point, collapse the symmetry of your toaster.  We'll be adding asymmetrical details from this point on, and it would be silly to have two toaster-setting-knobs anyway.  ;)

A lot of things happened since the last image, so allow me to explain.  Select your toaster and choose "Attach" which is located in the Edit Geometry rollout.  Use the attach tool to attach the cylinder to the toaster.  Then, select all the polygons along the circumference of the knob and extrude them a small ways to simulate little grippies on the knob.  Finally, select the edges about the circumference and connect and chamfer the edges as shown in this image to constrain the mesh-smoothing.

Once your satisfied with your knob, position it on the toaster where you'd usually expect to find it.  Use your Move, Rotate, and Scale gizmos to get it right where you want it!

Most toasters have a small light on them that indicates when they're in use or still hot.  Let's include one now just for looks.  Choose a suitable edge somewhere on the housing where you would expect a light to go.  Chamfer the edge as shown in the image at right.

Fig. 60

Fig. 60

Select the polygons inside the chamfering, and extrude them in by some set amount.  The value is almost irrelevant, but it shouldn't be too deep.

Remember this amount!

Now, by that same amount, re-extrude those faces.  This will give you a keen little dimple in the housing that you can assign a different sub-material to in the material editor (after this tutorial).

The final detail we should add before going to render is the risers that keep the toaster off the countertop.  If the toaster were to just sit on the table, it would singe the finish and could even cause a fire!  So go ahead and select a suitably curvy length of edge from the top of your toaster.  I chose the ones in the picture.

Click on the button that says "Create Shape from Selection" which will detach a spline object from your toaster as a copy (nothing will change in the process).  We want a "linear" spline so select linear and click ok.  A spline is a spatial-line that will help us define the kind of geometry we want for the footing.

Use your move gizmo to bring the spline to the bottom of the toaster.  This will position it so that it will properly fit.  For safety, scale your spline by 90%, so that it will fit inside the toaster completely.

Apply an "Extrude" modifier to the spline so that it will extend downwards by some respectable amount.  Use your judgment here; how far from the table should a toaster be?

Convert the object to Editable Polygon like we did for the toaster at the beginning of this tutorial.  Select the vertical edges along its length and connect them.  Use the move gizmo to bring these new edges close to the bottom of the footing. 

Select the bottom edge of the entire piece and use the scale gizmo to scale them up.  This will cause the edges to fly out radially from their average center.  This is really good because it will help the toaster stand properly.

Neat huh?

Next, apply a shell modifier to the flanged footing.  This will give it some thickness for realism, and you don't even have to mess with the default settings (unless you really want to).  Use your trusty symmetry modifier on the footing (since it's a separate object from the toaster) and alter the settings so that the footing is on the front and back of the toaster.

I used the "align" tool (alt + a) to make my alteration precise, but this action is up to you. 

Here I threw in one more detail for kicks.  You can select an edge along the breadth of your toaster to create a seam.  A seam is the gap in the two major pieces that were assembled at the factory to build the toaster.  This gap can easily be simulated in 3d and can really add to the object's credibility. 

Use the "Extrude" tool on these edges, which will blast the selection inward and create a pretty realistic looking seam.  Adjust the settings so that the seam isn't too deep nor is the gap very wide.  Seams aren't too noticeable, but just enough to be believable.
Note that seams don't interact well with mesh-smoothing so there's one more thing we have to do...

Think of it as a ravine that's been carved into your geometry.  Select the two sides of the ravine (one edge for each side) and use the "loop" button in your sub-object selection rollout; or hit alt + L.  This will select both sides of the ravine which makes life much easier.

Then, set the "Crease" to 1.0, which will instruct 3DSMax to create a hard edge here.  This is important since if 3DSM smoothes this edge it will wreck the whole effect.  Luckily, we're keen on our subdivision modeling and know just what to do in this situation. 

Create a ground plane to serve as your toaster's backdrop.  This shouldn't be too hard to do; just be sure to make it big enough!

Switch your renderer to mental ray.  I like mental ray's ability to make quick clay renders which I'll also show you how to do in this tutorial.  Please post feats of modeling imagination in clay renders since it helps people evaluate your work!

To switch renderers, hit F10 and follow the tabs and dialogues shown in the image at right.

Create a new material using Ambient occlusion as your diffuse map.  Click the diffuse map slot of a blank material, and choose "Ambient Occlusion (base)" map.

Give the map the settings I've described here, or experiment with your own.  One of the benefits of Ambient Occlusion is that it goes so fast you can afford to play with it!  =)

Apply the material to all the objects in the scene.  This shouldn't be too tough; just hit Ctrl + A and then apply the material by clicking the "apply material to selection" button in the editor.

Add a skylight via the lights menu.  Default values are fine here.

Hit F10 and go to the "indirect Illumination" tab.  In order to use the skylight with mental ray you have to enable "final gather".  Do this, and for test renders also check the "preview" box.  This will take much faster samples but you'll notice lower quality. 

Disable the preview for a final render.

And go ahead and render your toaster.  Here's mine!

For further modeling after you've gotten this far, add some other modifier like Bend, Twist, Stretch, Melt, or whatever after your Turbo-Smooth modifier!  Have fun with it!!

And there you have it.  We've modeled a toaster using many of the techniques available to us for inorganic modeling in 3dsMax.  We used a lot of connecting and chamfering, plus cutting, planar modeling, and even mental ray rendering options.

Thanks for reading, and happy modeling!

Your friend,

--Guy BlueSummers

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