Sunbeam Mixmaster Mixers
Words: Adam Richardson and Dave Hoffer Pictures: Adam Richardson
Here we have two Mixmaster mixers from Sunbeam, one a stand mixer and the other handheld. Both belong to Dave Hoffer, who kindly lent them to be photographed. The stand-mixer belonged to his mother, and was her working mixer for home baking (we'll get to what this means for this product's soul in a bit). The handheld mixer Dave picked up somewhere along the line. Both show similar styling cues influenced by the streamlining aesthetic of the period.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
Dave says about the stand mixer:
Model 12 Stand Mixer
Date introduced: 1957 Design by: Unknown
This model of mixer was produced by Sunbeam between 1957 and 1967, and according to Deco Dan was the last of this line of mixers. In addition to the classy chrome seen here, it was available in white, yellow, pink and turquoise.
The front cap of the Model 12 is probably my favorite part: I imagine docking my spaceship into it as the cylinder slowly spins 2001-style around the brass hub emblazoned with an "S"... It has certainly seen its share of knocks and scrapes - this has been a well-used appliance. But the old adage of "they don't make 'em like they used to" is very applicable here: the casing is heavy cast metal, and while it's scratched it is still in solid shape, and the mixer still works just fine, some 60 years later.
The mixer has an unusual pivoting design to accommodate the larger or smaller bowl sizes. A lever on the back side of the base moves the cantilevered body of the mixer left and right so that it stays close to the side of whichever size bowl is used (presumably so the whipping action can generate friction against the side of the bowl rather than just spinning in the center).
Sunbeam Mixmaster HM-1 Handheld Mixer
Date introduced: 1957 Design by: Unknown
This is the baby cousin of the Model 12, the handheld HM-1, seen here in turquoise (it also appears to have been available in at least chrome and white). Compared to the almost industrial build of Model 12, the HM-1 is a much more budget affair. The upper body is made of shiny plastic, while the underbelly is gold-painted metal. It weighs more than a contemporary handmixer, which does give it a feeling of solidity, however the weight distribution is a bit awkward as the mixer wants to pitch forward, straining your wrist.
A range of accessories were available for the HM-1, which you can see at Sunbeam Mixmaster Love, including a mounting stand and various beating and whipping variations.
The switches on the HM-1 are of poor quality compared to the Model 12. Today we are spoiled by precision, intricate small-scale switches, but in the 1950's mechanical switches were not always so good. The slider speed control jerks from one position to the next, and the beater ejector button has floppy travel. Like the Model 12 the speed markings have terrible typography. However the Sunbeam logo and "Mixmaster" are nicely etched into the surface.
The two mixers have some clear family resemblances: the angled overhang at the front, the "tails" at the back, and the forms of the handles. The HM-1's tail together with the flat end of the handle make up a tripod for standing the mixer upright when the beaters are attached, useful if you need to pause mixing to add something to the bowl.
What gives them soul?
The soul of a product can come from several sources. At Mass Made Soul we primarily focus on the soul imbued in a mass-produced product by its creator - designer, engineer, etc. Another source is more personal (and therefore not "mass"), but at least as important to the individual: the memories and emotions that accrue to the object over time. We all own products like this - not necessarily beautiful or even that interesting in isolation, but having great sentimental importance.
In the case of these mixers, especially the Model 12 stand mixer, they embody the soul of their age: futuristic, optimistic, more technologically innocent, distinctly and definitively American. There is no pretense about them, no over-wrought user research or design strategy; they represent a time when design was both simpler but also less appreciated as a profession.
The mixers' owner, Dave, is himself a designer, and he says about them:
From the collection of: Dave Hoffer
Special thanks to Jennifer, Laura and the team at Sweet Adeline Bakeshop for letting me take some of these photos on location!