Become A Mad Scientist, Build A Power Distribution Panel

One practical use of large switches and indicator lamps is to make a power distribution panel which can be useful when you want to control and monitor the power consumption of numerous devices such as your electronics work bench or amateur radio station. Old-school in appearance and using military surplus electronics, this power distribution panel allows for control of outlet on back. Did I mention I built it when I was 16?

Building it was easy, 120 VAC line enters through a main breaker. It is fed through an AC amp meter (with built-in shunt) then to a line filter. From the line filter it goes to a line voltage meter and filament transformer to power the indicator lamps. This AC line is then bussed out to the circuit breakers. Each breaker controls one outlet on the rear panel. As devices are switched on or off the current draw can be measured. This is well demonstrated in the video overview found after the break.

Be creative. Use military surplus switches, indicators, and other unique looking hardware. Customize to give your preferred mad scientist look while also providing valuable functionality.

Multiply the measured current by voltage to compute wattage. Keep an eye on the line voltage.

I’ve found this distribution panel to be very useful when you are living out of rental apartments or houses and your laboratory setup must be moved on occasion.

21 thoughts on “Become A Mad Scientist, Build A Power Distribution Panel

  1. From the Gregory Charvat wikipedia page:

    The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia’s general notability guideline. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted.

    1. I think that was done in Myst. If my memory serves, there were generators on the island run by control panel with a bunch of switches. I don’t want to give away too much away, but if you set the voltage correctly by using the right combination of switches…

  2. Because this is super useful….. Or a “celeb hacker” has one so now everyone needs one? I see a run on mil surplus…

    I love the radar articles do to the closeness to my heart, but filler much?

  3. But it has no enormous knife switches. You simply must have a bank of huge knife switches with a large round analog dial over each switch and wear black gauntlet style rubber gloves whilst operating said switches!

  4. Gotta dig the style. I’ve built a couple of not-so-stylish similar ones (plus a 3-phase 50 kVA one…). But if you value the space it takes up (and your time!) you can get most of the way there, sans meters and with conventional pilots, for $28:
    (I just bought one of those.)

    If you’re even more budget constrained the ghetto version is:
    (and Tripp-Lite makes a better version of that, for much more $)

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