A Finger-Saving Light Switch.





Introduction: A Finger-Saving Light Switch.

About: Old inventor, reverted back to my 10 year-old self. A shop full of tools, a boat, race car, 3D printer and a beautiful wife who wants me to invent things for around the house... Now how cool is that?

Our house was built long before refrigerators grew to become the size of a small garage.  Ours is the maximum width for the space carved out for it at the end of the kitchen counter.  It comes almost to the door leading to my workshop.

There's a double switch plate with 2 horizontally operating flip switches that control the shop lights as well as the kitchen light.  It's mounted next to the door in the usual place, but the oversized refrigerator covers all traces of it.  

Since I'm in the shop several times a day, I have to poke my finger behind the refrigerator to flip the switch.  I have to be extremely careful how I pull my finger back out.  Being in a hurry, I often lever my finger between the switch and the refrigerator... And let me tell you, it hurts!

No wonder I become paranoid whenever I head to the shop.

Now, I've solved the problem with my new 3D printer.

Step 1: Print & Assemble

You'll need a 3D printer or a print service to make the parts.  I didn't spend much time engineering this, preferring to wing it (like a 10 year old), but the fit and tolerances are very acceptable.  If I were to make this again, I'd probably forego the additional .050  I added to the ends of the slots, but in this case, it's better to err on the long side.  The switch works well for me and that's all I was looking for.

The faceplate isn't rafted to keep the exposed surface as shiny as possible and because of that, the shallow countersink for the attachment screw is unsupported and will be a little rough.  A quick twist with a drill cleans it up nicely.

The handle is designed to be attached with a #4 screw.  3D printers normally print holes smaller than designed, so I decided to open the receiving boss in the handle with a drill as well.  If you're using a low durameter plastic, you may not need to do this.

The handle and slide have an alignment tab that keeps everything centered and squared.

Once you have the parts, slip the handle ends of the slides through the slots in the plate and rotate them into position, snapping the guides into the rails underneath.  They should move smoothly with no wobble.  If not, file the parts so they slide freely.

Next, screw the handles onto the outside faces of the slides.  If needed, use a shim to raise the handle up enough to slide over the surface of the mounting plate.

You'll notice a couple of rectangular tabs underneath the plate.  Our wall is painted blue and I like the fact that I can easily see if the light is on. If I see blue, it's off.  If you don't like the color of your walls, or just want a white or fire red slot, cut a thin (.020" or so) piece of plastic or stiff paper to fit the area defined by the tabs and paste it to the plate before screwing it to the electrical box. 

Remove the old plate and replace it with the new one.

Wa-La... No more bruised or broken fingers.  :)

Step 2: Working the Lights

Operation is simple.  Instead of "flipping" switches, I now "slide" them.  The switches, once hidden behind the refrigerator, are now completely exposed.  The new plate screws onto the existing electrical box with no modifications and the switch works immediately.  I even used the existing screw to put the new plate on.

Step 3: Extras...

Here's a little more information about the build in images taken from Sketchup.  If there are unanswered questions, I'll add more images or alter the little comment thingies to make this project as clear as possible.


If you like this Instructable and would like to carry around easy access to more of my "stuff", you can download my mobile phone app at: http://app.cat/bfksinstructables

Ain't technology great? :-)



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    I need help with wiring a night light to a lamp that has switch

    I have to say this is rather ingenious great job!

    In order to add to the boredom of my post I must include I work in Savannah, Ga. location of thousands of pre-1950s era homes. Old homes, new appliances, and your problem occur on a regular basis! There's nothing cooler than a plaster & lathe, knob & tubing wired home where the neutral wire is commonly switched and many Victorian homes were wired 3 phase delta with the advent of A.C. which utilized the Delta wired pole XFMR's outputting one power leg at approx. 190 volts. Hook that phase to some lights for an unforgettable experience watching your apprentice make you look the fool, with yours truly taking the blame and the pleasure of flushing hoped for profit right down the drain. I'm sure there's hundreds of other electricians experiencing this on a daily basis.
    Thanks for the entertainment,
    Off for Thanksgiving with little else to do,


    5 replies

    Hey Zapp:

    Yah, I live about an hour from you up the coast. Ole' Sherman never made it to Savannah, so Antebellum housing is rampant (but pretty) around here.

    I don't think all the problems ended in the 1950s... Our house was built in the 80s and both the plumbing (slab) and wiring (attic rat's nest) are a mess. I don't know if I'd trade for plaster & lathe issues, but I might be persuaded:)

    Referring to your previous post, I'm a big fan of X-10 stuff and use it to control the things I can't easily access, like shed lights.

    Also, if you amortize the cost of a 3D printer for everything that can be made, it's a decent way to make items that either don't exist or cost a fortune. For example, my classic British race car was made with 1960s "hi tech" components. For weight, several interior parts were vacuum formed. They lasted for about 10 years before the plastic outgassed and disintegrated. I could easily buy a new, vacuum formed instrument binicle for $35, plus shipping from England, but I could also design my own and print it for less than $5 (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:33034). I chose to print. Not only did I have the chance to design it "my way", but it cost less, is made from ABS, and I could get it "now". Add that up with all the other items I've been making and the cost of the printer will be covered in no time.

    The printer has become a valuable tool in my shop. I think of it as the perfect employee... I tell it what to do and it does it. I only have to check up on it once in a while to make sure its not goofing off (power outages seem to make it unhappy). Now, instead of me making parts the old way, the machine makes them while I do other things... It doesn't ask for a break, it doesn't try to make conversation and I don't have to ask how it's weekend was. :)

    Can't live without it now... Its become one of those things like electric toothbrushes and GPSs. Once you use them, you can't go back.

    What materials aside of various plastics, metal's(?), are available to print with? I'm fascinated with the future of 3d printers but size limits, materials, and programming requirements have relegated my curiosity to a wait and see attitude. Do you print positives for molding purposes? The "in 50 years" everyone will require one if only to purchase the CAD files for a new toothbrush I can believe, it's the size limitations I can't understand. The online photo's of the Eiffel Tower, which appear amazing, ain't much when the reveal is 3" tall. I could greatly simplify my Christmas list if my Kid's, Wife, etc. would accept very small gifts which appears to be the limit with consumer model printers as I surely can't afford the Mega-bucks for the industrial version. Heck, I'm having serious problems attempting to learn Arduino programming, much less CAD. Main subject of wordy reply is How do you make stuff bigger than 4"X4" on a consumer model 3D printer? Yes, that S.O.B. who's name shall not be spoken spared my hometown and most of the period homes avoided demolition in the 50s only after the idiots tore down City Market, gazed upon an empty Ellis Square and experiencing emotions they were unaware they possessed realized "We fuXked up". I am semi-retired, as far as the City of Savannah knows, but retain my State Master Electrician certification allowing me to continue servicing my older, preferred customers most of whom are NOGS (North of Gaston Street) a label referring to Historic, Gen. Oglethorpe designed Savannah. I've made a living almost entirely in Historic homes which at most were piped for gas and undoubtedly largely built by slaves, by hand, with the most intricate details you can imagine. The ability to reproduce plaster crown moldings, mantle details, etc., etc. would be fantastic. In the past the labor required to e.g. file a profile knife for plaster crown molding reproduction places the cost in the realm of the true Southerner's and the Carpetbaggers who can afford the grand old houses. I understand your enthusiasm for the printers. If I could replicate one of a kind details I've been required to cut, maim, deface, in order to electrify the Antebellum homes I've made a specialty of and avoid hours of making said sacrileges disappear I'd purchase immediately. Please explain 3D printers ability to duplicate a 20' section of base molding while reducing the cost from astronomical to a cost which would allow me an heretofore profit based on guilt to a mark-up satisfying to the customer as well as MySelf. Also if you would prefer avoiding long winded reply's from a person who greatly misses the old fashioned mailed "Letter", Run,Run, as fast as you can for you've replied to just such a nut.

    Thanks for any enlightenment,


    Wow! You have more time than I do. I'm verbose as well, but take too much time to put everything down. I think I'll attempt to answer your questions with points rather than an essay:

    • Overview: 3D isn't quite ready for casual home use. The concept is old and the technology to transmit has probably been around since the 1960s or 70s using fax machines to send shapes that were cut out, stacked and glued together to form an object. A number of other methods are competing to become the standard, but so far, thermally extruded plastic is leading the race to home appliance status.

    Materials: The most popular are made to use ABS or PLA. Virtually any thermally softening material that can be sent through the extruders at around 300ºF or less, including wax and chocolate can be used. Other industries have been experimenting with other types of materials including "printing" houses in concrete. Metal can also be extruded, but the higher the heat requirement, the larger and more expensive the equipment needs to be.

    Another tool that may be better for you is a laser cutter. The bad news is, at the moment, cutting steel heavy enough to make blades for a shaper (for your molding) would cost you $300,000.

    A CNC (computer controlled) milling machine is another choice. Milling isn't an "additive" process like printing is, but it's precise and would allow you to make nearly anything a 3D printer can without the small size limitation. A mill can also make tools that would allow you to create those architectural features you mentioned. Harbor Freight sells a decent mill for $2K, what I paid for my printer, but you could probably find a used one for less. Low cost mills aren't CNC, but they can be made into one (as I said, 3D isn't ready for home use). In order to convert the machine, you'll have to be creative, but if you're already messing around with Arduino, you're halfway there.

    • Christmas gifts? Check out my puzzle https://www.instructables.com/id/A-Diabolical-Puzzle/ I think you might get rolling eyes if the kids saw gifts made on your printer though.

    • 50 years? More like 20. I'm fully retired. I was an engineer, inventor and futurist. 3D printing today is probably akin to what the automotive industry was before the model A. It's a disruptive technology that's slowly growing in popularity as it is becoming better and cheaper. Right now, the materials it uses are pretty much limited to those I've listed. But we know that every material is made up of the same stuff... Atoms. And we're beginning to learn how to control materials at the atomic level, so eventually, we'll be able to "create" materials at will. And once we can do that, we can do this:

    Imagine sitting in front of your computer surfing through Amazon looking for a gift for your wife. You come across a bottle of Channel #8 (future, remember) and decide that's what you'll give her. The price is $258 (I may have miscalculated for inflation, but feel free to add another zero:)

    You go to PayPal and send the money. Then, to your download folder, where you un-stuff the file that was just delivered to you. You send the new file over to your 3D "maker", which is about the size of a microwave oven, and, in about 15 minutes you open the door and pull out the bottle of perfume.

    Now, you say you want a bumper for your car. No way will it fit into that microwave sized thing. So, like the perfume, you order it online, only you have the file sent to the UPS (U Print Stuff) store. Get into your car, head over to the Oglethorpe Mall, where you pick it up for a small fee of $21,347.

    • Making things bigger: My printer's table is 6" x 9" and most of the things I print fit on it. If I need something larger, I'll make multiple pieces and chemically weld them together (ABS welds extremely well using a slurry made from ABS and acetone). Some people like to make snap-fit shapes, but that's a lot of work to get right.

    • CAD: Download SketchUp. It's simple. I teach the 4th and 5th graders I mentor how to use it in about an hour... Or go to a site like http://www.thingiverse.com/ and download what you need from there.

    It isn't perfect and it requires multiple steps to transfer the proper stl files, but AutoDesk 123D >http://www.123dapp.com/< will let you print anything you can take pictures of.

    All of these things, including the printers, are experimental. The software is free and the printers' build sizes are going up while their price is coming down. Eventually, they'll be like inkjet printers, where they sell them at cost and make their profit on selling the plastic.

    • 20' of molding?... A 3 head shaper machine can't be beat.

    • What did I miss? I'm tired. I'm going to bed:)
    Nice to hear from you (seriously).

    You paint a future I wish to live to experience. Perhaps absent the inflation but can't have everything can we? I happened upon thingiverse yesterday and realized just how large the crowd source input for 3D printing is. The social aspects are horrifying though as the gulf between have's & have not's will grow exponentially. Thanks for all your advice and leads on what and where to find the info I need. If I live to graduate one son & see the other become self supporting I may, hopefully, once again have income to dispose of on MySelf. Until then I'm blundering around deciphering Sketch-up with the help of my youngest (employed since he was 14 at Stage Front Lighting) and thanking person's such as yourself for invaluable information available on Instructables, one of my favorite go to sites when ignorance prevails and patience grows thin. The day will come when my custom LED landscape lighting will be produced assembly line style and priced competitively with the Junk Depot and Lowes push. Perhaps then I'll have the time, money, and skills to sell CAD's for use at the UPS store. My fascination with LED lighting appears to be taking me places I never imagined 3 years ago.

    Thanks bfk,

    Back again LeftAngle,
    Very impressive! How'd you do it?


    Saturday morning, obviously suffering from sensory overload, please disregard all previous post. Have Keyboard, will type!


    1 reply

    Before you head off to recoup from your sensory overload and back to the thread you wanted; what were you referring to when you asked how I did it? Get my wife to agree to me buying a printer? My Lotus? or print the instrument binacle? The last one's easy. I design things on Sketchup and/or Solidworks. convert the drawings to stl files and download it to the printer.

    The first two require the involvement of a beutiful person.:)

    Duplex switches as well as Receptacles are common. When upgrading to an additional switched circuit emanating from an existing S.Gang box the duplex switch allows 2 switch devices in a single gang box. The duplex switches have horizontal throws as well. They can be had with a variety of configs. also, 2 single pole switches, 1- 3-way switch & 1 S.P., even 1 S.P. or 1- 3 way and a pilot light for on or off indication of an out of sight device (e.g. attic light). There's always the easier, though more expensive, remote option. (basic X-10 junk comes to mind, which would be cost effective compared to a 3-D printer!) Just some thoughts from someone who lusts for a 3-D printer & whose Wife has ideas of her own as per household priorities. I have added many convieniences with basic X-10 stuff to the point of controlling needed functions from my physical desktop with other remotes used by family members which after a 30 minute learning curve have resulted in the rare use of actual physical wall switches. Just a one of a million ways to solve your problem short of remodeling your kitchen, relocating existing device box, or installing duplex switch and attaching extensions to snap switch handles. I hope this confused you as much as it did me.
    You could also extend garage light switch leg to new device box in garage and install motion switch negating physical access to existing switch and turning garage light on upon entry to Garage. I'm retired with 30 years of electrical problem solving and can confuse any problem to the extent that most customers allowed me tremendous leeway, trust, and confidence that in the end, my solution would be safe, conveniently usable, and require no "Call Backs". Many "solutions" meet code, few meet the unwritten convenience factor!

    Wow.... not bad!!! If i am ever faced with this problem, you will be the first person i will thank.

    1 reply

    Thanks... The odds that you'll ever be faced with this problem have got to be astronomical. I've only seen this type of switch one other place... But on the off-chance you're ever confronted with a similar situation; "You're welcome" :)

    I' am guessing it's like an extension. Instead if flicking the switch, you now slide it. Although If I am not wrong, you do need to rotate the entire plate 90 degrees correct?

    2 replies

    This is an odd switch, in which the flips are mounted horizontally. It was with the house when we bought it 20 years ago. The switches are designed to fit a standard outlet cover plate as opposed to the slotted switch plates. We have another switch with the same mounting, but flips vertically as normal light switches do. I think the original builder was using whatever parts he had when the house was built. All the rest of our switches are normal.

    I doubt that there are many switches of this type out there, with the problem we have of being hidden behind something. :-/

    If you look carefully you can see that these switches were originally horizontal.


    Thanks. I wonder how common a problem this is. We have another switch (vertical operating) hidden behind an armoire leading to my wife's closet, but she insists she's OK with it. I'd still like to design something up to work, just for the fun of it.

    I don't get it. Any chance you could show a photo of the finished product and how it works?

    1 reply

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I'll work this up properly as soon as my hospital visits and stays are over. I have another switch that works vertically with the same issue. I'll do that as well. Gotta run. Again, I apologize.