Introduction: Frankenstein Light Switch

Picture of Frankenstein Light Switch

I saw one of these Frankenstein throw switches online but I could only see ones available in the U.S. - and these didn't seem suitable for the Gang 1 light switches that I have in my house. Then I thought I could easily design and make one to fit, and for little material cost.

What's good about this is that it just fits over the light switch, so no tampering with the electrics.

Disclaimer: I'm no electrician and am not sure about regulations regarding household fittings - I've done this just for fun based on what I've seen commercially available, and to see if I could. As far as I can see it's just a cover over a cover - the mechanism just replicates what your finger does when you turn on a switch. If you attempt this you do so at your own risk.

Here's what I used.

  • 12mm MDF
  • 10mm Diameter dowel
  • Old chisel handle
  • Photo frame pendants (for the on/off)
  • Black spray paint
  • Silver Rub 'n Buff

Additionally, access to a computer with printer and laminator.

Step 1:

Picture of

I cut a piece of MDF to dimensions 19.5cm x 12cm, this will form the base plate. Additionally, as I had access to a circular saw, I cut a long strip with a width of 2cm - this would later form the switch mechanism.

I then marked a section in the middle of the base plate (area: 9cm x 9cm approx.) for the light switch to fit through. Using a spade-type drill bit (or a forstner bit) I drilled through roughly 3/4 of the 12mm MDF thickness (making sure not to go all the way through). This is just to take some of the hard work out of the chiselling. Then I proceeded to chisel what remained checking against the light switch regularly so as not to overdo it.

Step 2:

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From the strip of MDF I had cut in Step 1, I cut this further into 10.5cm (x2 for the arms of the switch); 7cm (x1 for the head); and 2 semi-circles with a base measuring 4cm. I cut this slowly with a hacksaw (a coping saw would have been better but I didn't have one to hand).

I measured the centre-point on the base plate and cut out the slot for the actual light switch to fit through. I also used the centre-point to mark where to glue the semi-circles. I fixed everything together roughly to test it all lined up. Again, measuring centre-points in the semi-circles and in the ends of the arms to mark where to drill in preparation for the dowel piece.

Step 3:

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I cut a 10mm diameter hole through all the necessary pieces then gently tapped in the dowel and sanded as required for a smoother action. I then offered the whole lot to the light switch and, using a piece of Blu-Tack, molded how the rocker mechanism would need to be cut. I then proceeded to cut this out from a piece of wood then fixed it in place in the centre of the dowel.

Step 4:

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I sourced these photo pendants from ebay because I thought they would make excellent vintage-looking on/off labels. I made up some on/off graphics using Illustrator and printed them on photo paper then laminated and stuck them in to the pendants. I then marked on the switch where they should be fixed, then chiselled it out so they would fit flush.

Then I spray painted the whole thing matt black, sanded, sprayed again, then sanded again. Then, using silver Rub 'n Buff, I scarcely applied a thin layer over the entire surface, using wire-wool to add a brushed steel-type effect.

Step 5:

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KarenW50 (author)2016-09-15

What is MDF?

Ghloo (author)KarenW502017-10-19

Dřevovláknitá deska. Similar to dřevotříska. :D

YLBright (author)KarenW502016-09-17

(Thanks! Thought I was the only one with that question!)

_donna_ (author)YLBright2016-09-17


jbartczak (author)KarenW502016-09-15

MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. It is a panelboard made out of
small particles ( think of a waste wood material from different
processes) glued and pressed into a panel. Usually in the 4'x8' format.
It is often used in cabinet making or for shelving units (I build
shelves in my closet from MDF as well as I used it for small projects
around the house). It is very prone to bulging and deformation when it
gets wet, so unless very well protected it is for the interior use only.

MDF is available in most of the Box Stores (Home Depot or Lowe's)

KarenW50 (author)jbartczak2016-09-15

I know the stuff now that you described it. I call it particleboard.

johms (author)KarenW502016-09-15

Actually particleboard and MDF refer to two similar but very different product. They typically do not substitute well for each other.

The particles in particle board are typically no smaller than the sawdust that you might find on a construction site. The particles are large, coarse and held together with a binding agent under pressure. Particle board is almost always made from softwoods and is therefore lighter. Particleboard when cut will will typically flake at the corners and the edges will usually have a rough surface.

MDF is a fiberboard, it is made from cellulose wood fibers tightly compacted and again held together with a binder. The wood fibers used in mdf are very small. Because of this MDF is stronger, denser and smoother than particle board. MDF is made with a mix of both hardwood and softwood fibers. This and the higher density makes fiberboard much more difficult to cut with a saw and it will often dull a blade. However when cut the edges are typically smooth.

You can also sometimes find LDF or HDF (low density fiberboard / high density fiberboard) These are much like MDF but use different mixtures of hardwood and softwood fibers, with LDF using more softwood fiber and HDF using more hardwood fiber. Mostly these attributes affect the cut characteristic, strength and price.

oldboffin (author)KarenW502016-09-15

Also known as Superwood

bookerwj (author)2016-09-17

How does it attach to the wall?

In the video I just attached it using 2 small strips of double-sided tape (the foam type - not sure whether it has a proper name?), attached just to the top and bottom parts of the plastic cover underneath - it stuck very well, so well that I struggled to pull it off.

Ghloo (author)MrJonesEducation2017-10-19

Wouldn`t decent magnets iblaid in both the handle and the frame be more suitable?

wouldn't it be possible to take the cover of the light switch and using a marker, mark on the back of the MDF where the screw holes are to make it more secure that way?

lollyBroon (author)2017-04-06

Hi, I'm looking to hire one of these for a TV commercial we're shooting in Newcastle. Do you have one we could hire or would you sell one?


TheCoffeeDude (author)2016-10-08

Clever and cool!

rxima (author)2016-09-21

lol this is awesome

SherylinRM (author)2016-09-21

Colour me impressed :)

Simple, elegant, functional.

What more can one ask for :)

Voted for you.

Thanks for this :)

primosanch (author)2016-09-20

Really cool. Thanks for sharing.

juliadee (author)2016-09-18

Sean Cruse (author)2016-09-15

Awesome project but I have one question. Isn't it upside down? Normally up is on and down is off...or is that not necessarily correct with Frankenstein switches. To correct that could you flip the light switch upside down before installing the Frankenstein switch so that it would turn the light on when you push up the handle and off when you push the handle down? Either way, really cool effect!!

pipw (author)Sean Cruse2016-09-15

Sean I think American switches "switch" in the opposite direction to UK (and elsewhere) switches. This switch is definitely the right way round for Australia and New Zealand.

MrJonesEducation (author)pipw2016-09-17

Yes, here in the U.K. up = off and down = on.

hm... I live in UK and changed all my swiches to up-on, down-off. i thought who could do that wrong. It seems I was wrong... LOL

rxj69 (author)Sean Cruse2016-09-16

From what I was taught about the original knife switches, up was on and down was off. The switch mechanism was heavy compared to switches today. If the switch was bumped, it would fall to the off position. This was much safer than the switch accidentally energizing the circuit. I'm not en electrician or an electrical history buff so I could be wrong.

This is a cool project no matter which way faces up. I wish I had a man cave so I could make one of my own.

ccassidy5 (author)2016-09-15

brilliant! I am an electrician and see nothing wrong with your installation. These type of switches are still in use today to switch extremely high current loads but they are heavily insulated and turning one on and off is not for the feint hearted. The vintage style you've replicated if found must never be connected to mains electricity but there's no question you've nailed it.

Thanks for sharing your expertise.

mlaiuppa. (author)2016-09-15

Instead of drilling and chiseling out the MDF you could use several layers of "luan", very thin plywood. The top would just have the cut out for the switch and the other two or three layers underneath could have a larger cut out to accommodate the switchplate. Then you just use wood glue to glue them together and weight it until dry. Sand and finish off around the edges and there you go.

I'd use regular wood molding strips for the handle part rather than the MDF. I don't consider MDF very strong. It's like glued together sawdust. Water or even humidity wreaks havoc. Plus if you're using it daily, that's a lot of wear and tear.

Yes, I did think of something similar, but I had MDF to hand and, because it's made of small fibres, it's easy to chisel (comes away just like thick cardboard).

Your solution would be great for a varnished wood finish.

bpark1000 (author)2016-09-15

You could add 2 fake knife-contacts for additional realism. These could be made of thin spring-brass, fastened to the wood face under where the bars come, and bent into a "U" to just lightly touch the bars when the switch is thrown.

To answer to those who have "standard" US switches, the center bar could have a crank that actuates the switch (the axle would be broken in the center with the crank in the center over the switch handle), with lost motion as the switch handle only swings through about 90 degrees, versus the 180 degree swing of the Frankenstein switch.

Nice idea. Great thinking regarding adapting it for U.S switches.

Kazimierz (author)2016-09-15

Wonderful. How about some mock boltheads?

Yes, that would be a nice touch.

Yes! Bolt on Frankenstein's neck.

I could see some Steampunk masters making some very elaborate switches, starting here, from found materials...steel bolts...Tesla balls with arcs of electricity that arc of a second when you turn it the dark. Brass fittings, goggles hanging off a special clip on the base. The possibilities...

Great project; you've got my vote!

paulval (author)ShawnS602016-09-17

Okay, another idea for a more authenticated look: Run two dowels, painted to look like industrial cables, up the wall from the switch to the ceiling. Attach the dowels to the wall using U-shaped cable securing bridges. Since they're wood, there's no fire risk, and you can even claim that they go up to the lightning bolt on the roof!

MrJonesEducation (author)paulval2016-09-17

It's been interesting to hear everyone's suggestions for improvements, I think the idea of this build has gotten people's creative juices flowing, which has been great to hear.

I'd love to see other incarnations of this idea.

paulval (author)Kazimierz2016-09-17

The only appropriate room in my house for this project is my own, and there's not enough space for it! I just wrote to congratulate you, and to suggest going to upholstery department and getting some nice big brass tacks to put one in each the corners of the plate (And glue tight) to make them look like rivets.

paulval (author)paulval2016-09-17

Okay, another idea for a more authenticated look: Run two dowels, painted to look like industrial cables, up the wall from the switch to the ceiling. Attach the dowels to the wall using U-shaped cable securing bridges. Since they're wood, there's no fire risk, and you can even claim that they go up to the lightning bolt on the roof!

_donna_ (author)2016-09-17


CarnyNeray (author)2016-09-15

So will this work for light switches in the US? Or just the toggle type in the UK? I absolutely love this but because I'm a newbie DIY and before I tackle this project need to clarify if it will work here or not. Thx

Jrb2003 (author)CarnyNeray2016-09-15

In the U.S. you need a Deco type switch instead of a standard toggle. It will work the same with a little change in dimensions. I will be building one of these next week. Great build!!

YLBright (author)Jrb20032016-09-17

Please publish! My man cave is begging you!

YLBright (author)YLBright2016-09-17

Besides my home is over 200 years old...

puftoa (author)Jrb20032016-09-16

Thingiverse has files for the various types of US light switches.

I think you can buy them for the US switches ( - these aren't the same as mine, hence why I made one.

Yeah, but that's no fun ;)

That's just a guy 3D printing someone else's design that he found on Thingiverse. I printed one too. Yours looks much better.

stringstretcher (author)2016-09-17

Let's go all the way and pimp this with some clips and wires! The scarier the better! I need to make one of these... or two or three...

tcoe (author)2016-09-15

This type of switch is called a 'Knife Switch'. The way you have designed this, would be a double pole knife switch. A real knife switch is very dangerous, because the 'legs' of the switch would be hot with electricity when the switch closes, hence the wooden handle.
This type switch was common in industrial settings until the enclosed switches were invented. These switches were very dangerous.
I must compliment you on your quality of workmanship.

jkendall1 (author)tcoe2016-09-16

You beat me to it. Good on ya!

3366carlos (author)2016-09-16

very nice.

PaoloB25 (author)2016-09-16

Awesome. Didn't look other projects in this contest but you have my vote.

I really like how you took care of the details and made perfect vintage look.

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