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  #1  
Old 01-30-2012, 12:42 AM
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Tim R. Tim R. is offline
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Old wiring devices

A small hobby of mine is antique light switches and outlets. Itís been a lifelong interest of mine, going back to my first encounter with vintage electronics. A neighbor of mine had an old cathedral radio in his living room, and he noticed it had caught my eye. He said that it still worked, and told me to plug it in so we could listen to it. Being that it was an old house (you could see where it had gas light fixtures at one point), it had an older, unusual outlet near the radio and my 5 year old mind could not figure out how to plug the radio in. I remember it looking like this:



That day launched two of my hobbies. I remember the push button switches on the walls of my house, and an old round one by the basement stairs that sparked and made a snap when you rotated it.

Since then Iíve amassed a collection of vintage wiring devices Ė especially the early ones that predated the standard 3 prong outlets and flip light switches. Itís amazing the sheer variety that was out there in the early days Ė many different and incompatible types of plugs and outlets, and various unique ways of turning lights on and off. Itís something most of us would ignore, but I canít help noticing those small details when I am in an older building.
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Old 01-30-2012, 01:15 AM
bob91343 bob91343 is offline
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I see that Hoosick Falls has a population of 3400 or so, and less than 20 radio amateurs.

I could find no mention of Hoosick Falls Radio and Electrical Parts Mfg. Co, Inc. Maybe they were bought out by Leviton (which I like to pronounce as leave-it-on).
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Old 01-30-2012, 03:25 AM
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check out www.electrical-contractor.net
forums there cover this sort of thing, got lots of interesting material
I have similar odds and ends of old electrical stuff
I am partial to antique round surface mount light switches... use them all over for lots of stuff.
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Old 01-30-2012, 02:57 PM
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I have a copy of the 1934 Westinghouse Electric Parts Catalog that is wonderful reading. They list all of the different Mazda lamps, street lighting equipment, push-button light switches, etc, etc, etc. It's such fun to look through...

One of the latest advances in lighting at the time of printing was the new Mercury Vapor lighting fixture for use in factories.

I found the catalog in an abandoned building less than one week before it burned in a huge spectacular fire that took out some major riverfront businesses here.

I'm another one that likes old lighting equipment.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:06 PM
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I've got some older switches some are push button some are toggle. One of my toggle switches came from the basement of the house I grew up in, and that is either a very early one or a very high current one as it's made of ceramic and has these HUGE contacts that make a LOUD click and a big spark if the plate is removed for one to see it. At some point the plate was removed for a few days for some reason, and with all those exposed voltages and the sparking it made I was afraid to touch it.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Electronic M View Post
I've got some older switches some are push button some are toggle. One of my toggle switches came from the basement of the house I grew up in, and that is either a very early one or a very high current one as it's made of ceramic and has these HUGE contacts that make a LOUD click and a big spark if the plate is removed for one to see it. At some point the plate was removed for a few days for some reason, and with all those exposed voltages and the sparking it made I was afraid to touch it.
There are 2 push button switches beside my front door that are original to the house. When I rewired the 1924 house, I pulled new wires and reinstalled these switches. One is for the porch light, and the other operates a ceiling fan.

While I had the switches out, I took them apart, and cleaned them up like new.

The switch on my furnace is an old ceramic shell toggle switch like what you describe. Also rebuilt.

I'm looking for more pushbutton switches and wallplates. I'd like to replace some others in the house, too.
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Old 01-30-2012, 11:09 PM
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Here is one I've been trying to figure out for years:

Our shop, which was built around 1950, used nothing but these. My father would just bend one prong of everything he bought, but when I started working for him I replaced them all with standard grounded sockets. Why would they make them like that? I could understand if it were DC, but why for 120vac?
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Old 01-31-2012, 07:52 AM
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I have a bunch of old preheat fluorescent light fixtures out of a factory that have plugs like these in your picture. Maybe this was an industrial standard?
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Old 01-31-2012, 06:43 PM
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I'm interested in old devices also. I have an ancient rotary wall snap switch and some ceramic body toggles and some knob-and-tube stuff. I've been in some basements in old houses where the first wiring devices persist, two-wire knob-and-tube and ceramic fixtures with exposed terminals.
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Old 01-31-2012, 08:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgadow View Post
Here is one I've been trying to figure out for years:

Our shop, which was built around 1950, used nothing but these. My father would just bend one prong of everything he bought, but when I started working for him I replaced them all with standard grounded sockets. Why would they make them like that? I could understand if it were DC, but why for 120vac?
Back in the house I grew up in there was one newer (the house was built in the 30's-40's, but this outlet and a couple of other things were from the 70's-80's) outlet in the dining room that was a hybrid between what you have there and a normal outlet being that it could accept both kinds of plugs. The only thing I saw with the odd plug was a sander or some such that the folks who refinished our floors used. I believe that that outlet may have had it's own fuse. The refinishers also had some thing that I believe ran on 240V as they also had to open the fuse box an patch in with clip leads.

I've seen knob and tube wiring before....The most memorable occasion was in the second floor of an antique shop in Kentucky where the wiring fed some of the oldest bulbs I've seen in person. New wiring and lighting had been added, but they left the old stuff in there.......Was that ever cool to see.
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Old 02-01-2012, 11:36 AM
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Brian, that right-angled outlet is so odd! I've seen 240 service with the right angled blades, but those are all grounded. Looking through my NEMA books, even the older ones, show nothing like it.
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Old 02-01-2012, 10:42 PM
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The blades are oriented like a modern 20 amp, 240 volt outlet--less ground, of course. Whereas a 120 volt, 20 amp outlet (the kind many of us have in our kitchens) can accept either a common 15 amp plug with its vertical blades or a 20 amp plug that has its left blade in horizontal plane, the 240 volt version is mirror image, preventing any 120 volt plug from being inserted. It's odd then that anybody would bother with them on a 120 volt circuit. I recall the locking-style outlets being fairly common in old industrial installations around here, but there's an obvious practicality to that. I don't get installing an odd outlet just to be odd.
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Old 02-02-2012, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leadlike View Post
Brian, that right-angled outlet is so odd! I've seen 240 service with the right angled blades, but those are all grounded. Looking through my NEMA books, even the older ones, show nothing like it.
The Hubbell website shows a device like that, but not in a duplex. They still make a lot of non-NEMA devices, both plugs and recepticals.
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Old 02-02-2012, 10:21 AM
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I have an old Bryant catalog from the 80s. There were indeed 20A 120V non-grounded outlets made in the past. In the 80s Bryant (Westinghouse's wiring device division) made them as "replacement only". I should find it and scan some pages.
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  #15  
Old 02-03-2012, 11:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgadow View Post
Here is one I've been trying to figure out for years:

Our shop, which was built around 1950, used nothing but these. My father would just bend one prong of everything he bought, but when I started working for him I replaced them all with standard grounded sockets. Why would they make them like that? I could understand if it were DC, but why for 120vac?
Found it! It's a NEMA 2-20 outlet, 20A at 230V non grounded
Will post catalog pages and NEMA chart tonight.
Some shops would use strange plugs as a lame attempt
To reduce tool theft, maybe that was the logic at
Your father's shop. Or maybe it was 230V originally.
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