Turning Old Toggle Switches Into Retro-Tech Showpieces

While those of us in the hacking community usually focus on making new things, there’s plenty to be said for restoring old stuff. Finding a piece of hardware and making it look and work like new can be immensely satisfying, and dozens of YouTube channels and blogs exist merely to feed the need for more restoration content.

The aptly named [Switch and Lever] has been riding the retro wave for a while, and his video on restoring and repairing vintage toggle switches shows that he has picked up a trick or two worth sharing. The switches are all flea market finds, chunky beasts that have all seen better days. But old parts were built to last, and they proved sturdy enough to withstand the first step in any restoration: disassembly. Most of the switches were easily pried open, but a couple needed rivets drilled out first. The ensuing cleaning and polishing steps were pretty basic, although we liked the tips about the micromesh abrasives and the polishing compound. Another great tip was using phenolic resin PCBs as repair material for broken Bakelite bodies; they’re chemically similar, and while they may not match the original exactly, they make for a great repair when teamed up with CA glue and baking soda as a filler.

3D-printed repairs would work too, but there’s something satisfying about keeping things historically consistent. Celebrating engineering history is really what restorations like these are all about, after all. And even if you’re building something new, you can make it look retro cool with these acid-etched brass plaques that [Switch and Lever] also makes.

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Ditch The Switch: A Soft Latching Circuit Roundup

For some of us, there are few sounds more satisfying than the deep resonant “thunk” of a high quality toggle switch slamming into position. There isn’t an overabundance of visceral experiences when working with electronics, so we like to savor them when we get the chance. But of course there’s no accounting for taste, and we suppose there are even situations where a heavy physical switch might not be the best solution. So what do you do?

Enter the latching power circuit, often referred to as a “soft” switch. [Chris Chimienti] has recently put together a fascinating video which walks the viewer through five different circuits which can be used to add one of these so-called soft power switches to your project. Each circuit is explained, diagramed, annotated, and eventually even demonstrated on a physical breadboard. The only thing you’ve got to do is pick which one you like the most.

There’s actually a number of very good reasons to abandon the classic toggle switch for one of these circuits. But the biggest one, somewhat counterintuitively, is cost. Even “cheap” toggle switches are likely to be one of the most expensive components in your bill of materials, especially at low volume. By comparison, the couple of transistors and a handful of passive components it will take to build out one of these latching circuits will only cost you a couple of cents.

Even if you aren’t in the market for a new way to turn off your projects, this roundup of circuits is a fantastic reminder of how powerful discrete components can be. In an age where most projects seem assembled from pre-fabbed modules, it’s occasionally refreshing to get back to basics.

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