Walter Günther’s workplace is a small windowless room in the Nordend district of Frankfurt. The space is stacked floor to ceiling with scrap metal and tools. This is where the 51 year-old qualified locksmith invents machines he says others have simply “forgotten to make.”
Like the saucepan which whistles like a kettle once the potatoes it’s cooking are done. It has a spoon attached to the bottom, in which one puts a potato. When it is soft, it sinks onto a spike on the spoon and sea-saws the pot lid closed, forcing the steam through a whistle.
Despite widespread interest in his ideas, Günther has not been tempted by mass-production. Not one of his inventions has been patented. “It’s more like art,” Günther says. Rather than trying to outrun technology, he prefers to “go back and discover what’s been forgotten.”
One of his most popular is the motor-driven sausage turner, which guarantees perfectly brown sausages without any monitoring.
He has had many inquiries about his inventions, particularly the sausage turner. But he has no interest in making copies to sell – he’s gripped by the invention and matching aesthetics with function.
“Whoever wants one can make themselves a copy. But there are no plans,” he says.
Photographer Matthias Wenger, whose images of Günther’s inventions feature in a book titled “Die mechanische Bratwurst” (the mechanical Bratwurst) says the quirky inventions are “fantastic.”
Professor Johannes Kirschenmann of the Munich Academy of Fine Arts wrote the forward, describing Günther as “at once a realist and a dreamer.”
While he may not be interested in the latest technological innovations, Günther insists his work be taken seriously. He hates being called a hobbyist. “Hobbies are for children,” he grunts.
Those lucky enough to be friends with the inventor have been treated with personalized inventions designed for daily use.
One of his friends, an owner of a Frankfurt jazz-bar, received a “Jug-watcher” device which warns waiters before the cider they’re pouring overflows. In another bar, Günther has installed a 40-kilo cork-screw which turns the opening of any bottle into a “mechanical opera.”
So far the Frankfurter has invented 15 machines, each one more bizarre than the next. Many are wondering what the talented traditionalist might come up with next.