Where Imagined History  meets High Voltage .

Nikola Tesla was a late 19th early 20th century inventor. He was the one who championed the AC power distribution system we use today. He was a genius with numerous practical  patents to his credit. He also had some pretty wild ideas and did a lot of playing around with very high voltages. Most people have seen pictures of Tesla coils that will generate many thousands of volts of electricity. Most people have also seen the artificial lightning Tesla would create in his lab using them.

Teslapunk is where machines based on this kind of technology are imagined. The photo above is a sculpture I created from a large vintage vacuum tube. While ithis creation serves no purpose beyond aesthetic, I have created some Teslapunk inspired devices that serve practical purposes.

In this blog I will chronicle some of these. At least the ones I kept a photographic record of making.

Teslapunk Light Switch

About two years ago I had the idea of using a vintage knife type switch like the one below to make a safe light switch for the Steampunk room I was working on.10 Vintage Knife Switsh

Obviously with the open copper conductors using a switch like this as it was designed to be used would potentially electrocute anyone who touched it.

Instead I decided to use a 125VAC 15 Amp Micro-Switch to do the actual electrical switching and fabricated a light switch based on these components. Micro-Switches have a small spring loaded button on the surface that takes very little force to actuate.

11 125VAC 15A microswitch

The Micro-Switch above is the type I used.

12 steel plate holes drilled

I used a piece of quarter inch steel plate as the base for the unit.


The Micro-Switch was mounted to the plate with a piece of aluminum. A brass strip was used to  make an actuator for the Micro-Switch button,

A plunger was fabricated that would slide through two holes in the ceramic base of the knife switch. If the switch were used as designed, these holes would have accommodated  wires leading to the knife switch screw connections.  When the knife switch is closed it pushes this plunger into the brass strip that is against the Micro-Switch button and activates it.

19 Teslapunk switch mounted

This is how the completed switch will mount to the electrical box in the wall. The blue box underneath is a standard size in wall electrical box used for outlets and switches.

The completed switches. I actually ended up making four of these. I added faux mounting screws in each corner of these steel base by drilling and tapping the holes to accept 6-32 screws. The steel plate was sanded then treated with rust activator. After the rust formed the plate was coated with a clear flat finish that halts the rusting process as well.

21 Teslapunk Switch on wall closed

The switch mounted to the wall.

22 Teslapunk switch on wll open

Same switch in the open/off position.

Matching outlet covers were made from the same quarter in steel plate used for the light switches.

The back of each cover was milled to shape so that it would fit over and around the outlet plugs. The fronts had the faux screws added and then the surface was rusted as with the switches.


A completed outlet cover.

Dimmer Knobs


I also had to make some dimmer switches. One set was made from brass gears. For the knobs that normally slide onto the dimmer controls brass gears were used.  Small brass gears were mounted to brass rod and bored out to the correct diameter. The centers of the plastic knobs that came with the dimmers were cut out and shaped to insert into the brass gears.

13 Dimmer back

Copper plate was used as the back of the dimmer cover. It was framed with quarter inch square brass rod that was soldered to the copper. This frame allowed it to stand out from the wall leaving space for the workings underneath.

12 Dimmer 1 front

Larger gears were mounted to the plate at a distance that would impinge on the smaller gears silde onto the controls. By rotating the larger gears the dimmers could be turned up and down. I used dimmers that rotated to the off position.

Dimmer 1 wall

Finished copper clad gear dimmer plate.

Teslapunk Wall Plate

A made another plate that had both a switch and dimmer knobs. This switch also required knobs for two dimmers. I used some knurled brass pieces here instead of gears. They were drilled out and the inner part of the plastic knob inserted as with the gears above.  The copper behind the knobs was added to make a more finished look.

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