Sourcing giant 40's electrical throw switch..
August 5, 2012 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Where can I get a giant electrical throw switch? I've been tasked with finding & buying a gigantic ( ideally 1-2 foot long ) lever. It will go up on the wall of our web development office and it will be labeled "Interwebs: on/off". Where can I find some kind of switch that is worthy of turning the internet on or off? That's the immediate problem, but let me give you the background - I'd love other ideas too:

While walking around the new office space after work, we decided that rather than try to hide the awkward fuse box right in the middle of this new space, we're going to essentially make it look like a realistic console. We'll expose the fuse switches, put a nice panel around them with fun labels, maybe some status lights tied to our client's sites, yada, yada, yada. And a giant switch to reset the interwebs.

The overall style is likely to be.. um authentic retro perhaps? Think old filliment lightbulbs, 80 lb oscilliscopes with 2" screens, the cockpit contols in very early planes...

We're a handy bunch - if we can get the elements for a cheap/reasonable price we can build out something that will look pretty respectable. The problem is I have no idea where to start shopping for this kind of stuff. Little help?
posted by doub1ejack to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you want something truly huge and Frankensteinian, I'd say either scour ebay for old knife switches, or build it yourself. You're not actually going to be running amps of power through this, so safety is not really a concern - just go to Home Depot, get some metal bars, and solder or even crazy-glue it all together.

Another fun thing to have is a big honkin' scram switch; you can find those at McMaster.
posted by dmd at 7:35 AM on August 5, 2012

Knife switches with enormous comic potential are still made. Not sure you'd actually want to use this to interrupt your network in RL, though.
posted by scruss at 7:40 AM on August 5, 2012

Try electronic or industrial surplus or salvage companies.

For example, in my area there's HGR and Electronic Surplus.

However . . . . while I get that the "Intarwebs OFF !!" switch is a not-actually-functional joke, I'm not too sure about the rest of your plan. If you're talking about an actual, functional breaker box, I don't think you can legally or safely do too much mucking about with it. Exposing the switches, intentionally mislabeling, building a "control panel" around it that restricts access, connecting filament bulbs and oscilloscope screens and analog meters directly to the breakers all sound like big no-nos in the eyes of any electrical or building inspector, and I've dealt with a bunch of them. I hate to think of you guys putting a bunch of work into a really cool project, and then someone from your local building authority or the building owner (if you're renting/leasing) shows up and makes you rip it out.

And they would have a point, you know - the fuse box isn't just a method of electrical distribution, but also an important safety measure.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding your plan or the situation. If the fuse box is just an old hunk of unused junk, go for it. If you're talking about building a huge "NASA Mission Control" panel near the fuse box, go for it.

But if you're talking about "modding" a working fuse box just for fun, I would seriously think twice.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:11 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is item # FP-1818-B. (Scroll down.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:10 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel like this is something you need to contact a prop house for.
posted by vignettist at 9:23 AM on August 5, 2012

Antique knife switch.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:29 AM on August 5, 2012

Take a browse around American Science and Surplus.
posted by bleep at 9:36 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Instructions for building a Big Damn Knife Switch.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:38 AM on August 5, 2012

Gotta second soundguy99 here: there are valid safety concerns as to why you should never hide, disguise or block a working fuse/breaker box. You can certainly paint the exterior of the box to match the walls or whatever, but pretty much everyplace has a legal requirement that the box is easily accessible and correctly labeled, sorry.

On the other hand, the general idea sounds like fun (as long as you leave that fuse box alone!); perhaps you could find some extra goodies among Halloween decorations at places like Oriental Trading's online site.
posted by easily confused at 9:53 AM on August 5, 2012

agree with safety concerns - however, if your plan is to "beautify things" a bit - I have seen many, many instances where the fugly utility panels are enclosed in a box/shell/cabinet, with a door/panel that can open. Decorate the shell, leave the electrical crap alone and all should be fine...
posted by jkaczor at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2012

Response by poster: For the record, my thoughts were running along the lines of jkaczor's comment. I'm not interested in mucking about with the actual fuse box.
posted by doub1ejack at 6:10 AM on August 6, 2012

Response by poster: What about those levers that a carnival worker might use to speed up the carousel? A long lever with handle, a ball on the end, and a little triangular tab that points to a point on a semi-circular drum? Does anyone know what you would call this?
posted by doub1ejack at 6:51 AM on August 6, 2012

Perhaps a lever control? A hand lever?
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:41 AM on August 6, 2012

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