Two out of three light switches in our basement have stopped working. They’re a weird kind of rotary on/off switch that snaps into either position when rotated far enough.

I’d like to get them working again, but it’s quite hard when I can’t seem to find them online. Could someone help me indentify them and give me a name/type to search for?

I can provide a gif if needed

Image: light switch

  • What about replacing them with a modern switch ? Have you searched for Antique or vintage rotary light switch ? Have you done any diagnostics on them to see if there is broken parts inside. Do they spin free or what do they do ? Tell us What have you done ?
    – Alaska Man
    Apr 11 '20 at 21:26
  • Has power been confirmed going to the switch ?
    – hello moto
    Apr 11 '20 at 22:38
  • Very clean in your basement, well done!
    – Jasen
    Apr 12 '20 at 4:16
  • @Alaska Man Replacing them with a modern switch would be up to my parents to decide. Continued my search yesterday and found one (the only one in Sweden) online store that seems to sell these bakelite switches. Was hoping to find out what type of switch it was to get an understanding of how they work and how to troubleshoot them. One spins almost free, the other one behaves like normal (springy twist). I’ve done nothing so far.
    – Krille002
    Apr 12 '20 at 22:48
  • @hello moto No concrete testing, but they broke slowly (started losing contact). Some twists wouldn’t turn the light on while some would. I’m guessing based on that, that there’s still power to them.
    – Krille002
    Apr 12 '20 at 22:51

Looks like a surface-mount bakelite switch:


These look kind of wonky to me. I'd replace with a metal junction box and a normal light switch. It looks like it would be possible to remove the rotary switch and feed the existing wiring into the top of a junction box (with a properly sized clamp installed).

This type of box: box

with this type of clamp: clamp1

unless the cable is a rigid type (it's hard to tell from the picture) in which case, you would want a clamp more like this: clamp2

Then just install a switch and a plate, and you should be set. (How to wire a light , switch and receptacle).

  • @AlaskaMan recently edited, so it seems. Apr 11 '20 at 22:44
  • looks like solid cable (lead jacketed?), or possibly conduit, possibly old gas pipe used as conduit, I've not seen conduit terminated using a hollow bolt before,
    – Jasen
    Apr 12 '20 at 4:17
  • Thank you for the elaborate answer. I’ll try to see what happened to the two switches that broke by opening them. They’ve most likely been part of the house since it was built (50s) which makes me wonder how two of them broke in such rapid succession...
    – Krille002
    Apr 12 '20 at 23:08

They stopped making that type of switch some time in the 1940s I believe. I personally would not replace it with something found on auction sites or antique sellers unless there was some good reason to maintain period authenticity, i.e. a museum display. Otherwise, anything you can buy is going to be just as old and prone to failure. Just replace it with a modern switch and modern wiring methods done to current safety codes.

  • Pretty sure the house was built in the 1950s, so you’re probably right about the EOL of the bakelite switches. Later after asking here I found an online store here in Sweden that still sells new switches like these.
    – Krille002
    Apr 12 '20 at 22:55

If you are looking for the exact switch to match the other two. I found one on eBay. It is in the UK thought.


  • Hi and welcome to Home Improvement. This is more of a comment than an answer and will probably get removed because of it. It's good info and I know that you can't post comments yet so doing what you can to help. So please stick around and keep contributing
    – Ack
    Apr 11 '20 at 23:29

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