If you work on old equipment, you know that there’s always that tense moment when you first plug it in and turn it on. No matter how careful you have been, there’s some chance your garage sale find is going to go up in smoke. [BasinStreetDesign] built a little box that can help. On one side is a variac and the device you want to test goes into the other side.
In the middle? A lightbulb, a few switches, and a meter to monitor the current. The magic happens because the lightbulb will stay relatively cool and only light dimly if the device under test is drawing an appropriate amount of current. You match the bulb wattage with the approximate watts you expect the load to draw. If the device’s power is shorted to ground, though, the bulb will light brightly and this causes the lightbulb’s resistance to increase, thus helping to protect the device.