The Basic Switch
In building a base and control system for my lathe, one feature I wanted
was a big red push-to-stop switch where I could bash it if anything went
awry. There are plenty of these switches on the market, but most of them
are too big to fit into the base of such a small machine tool, so I hit on
the design shown in the photo. This has the following elements:
- A regular toggle switch, mounted to the side of a piece of 1"-wide by
2"-high aluminum channel. The mechanism of the push-button switch slides
in this channel, and the switch toggle is completely protected from impact,
no matter how hard someone yanks on or bashes the push button.
- A push button made of 3/4 inch round aluminum bar, with a groove around
its front edge that you can grab to pull on the knob. The button attaches
to the operating bracket with a pivot screw. You can spin the knob all you
want and it will not apply enough torque to unscrew the mounting screw.
- The knob links to the toggle switch via an angle bracket
that slides freely in the channel supporting the switch. The bat handle of
the switch engages a round hole in the larger side of the bracket that's
parallel to the wall of the channel, while the short side bolts to the end of
- The hole that engages the bat handle is about twice the diameter of the
- There are positive stops at both the on and off side of the sliding
bracket, a screw in the side of the channel at the back and two screws in the
front face of the bracket, one above and one below the knob. These are
adjusted so that banging on the knob turns off the toggle switch but does not
apply any force to the bat handle of the toggle switch once it toggles into
the off position, and so that yanking on the knob similarly turns on the
toggle switch without stressing the handle.
- There is a moderately stiff spring on the bracket that pushes the bat
handle of the toggle switch toward the off direction. This causes the button
to pop out, making it easier to grab and pull when turning on the machine.
- The groove is just flush with the faceplate of the machine when the
button is pushed in all the way to the stop. I did this in order to allow
a reset-interlock mechanism to be added to the face of the machine.
The knob itself has a red face. It took me a while to figure out how to do
this. What I hit on was using
polymer clay, which
is actually PVC. Sculpey and Fimo are two common brands. I turned a hole in
the front of the knob with concentric rings to grab the pvc, then pressed a gob
of red polymer clay in place. To get a nice smooth surface, I pressed the
result against sheet of plastic wrap on a smooth clean countertop and then
peeled off the wrap, leaving a mirror-smooth face. The final step was to heat
the knob with the polymer clay in place in my toaster oven, following the time
and temperature instructions for the brand of clay used. Here's a
scale drawing of the knob I made:
Interlock locked off
The official rules for emergency stop buttons say that pressing an
emergency stop button should latch the system in the stopped state, so that
there are two distinct actions required to restart the system, one to unlatch
the stop button, and one to start. This is why many of the commercial emergency
stop buttons have spinning arrows on them. You push the button to stop the
system, and then you must twist it to unlatch it before you can push the
start button. I wanted this kind of two-step restart, and furthermore, I
wanted an interlock with the forward-reverse switch.
I built an interlock between the push-to-stop button and the
forward-reverse switch. The interlock is based on a slider. When
you push the on-off switch to turn off the lathe, a spring pulls the
slider to the right, latching the on-off switch in the off (pressed in)
position and freeing the forward-reverse switch. Setting the forward-reverse
switch to its intermediate off position locks the slider to the right,
preventing the lathe from being turned on.
The slider and the track in which it slides are both made of brass, with a
tungsten carbide pin (the shank of a broken micro-drill) sticking out of the
left end of the slider to interfere with the forward-reverse switch. The
screws that attach the interlock to the front panel are all worked from the
back of the front panel, as is the set screw that holds the pin in place.
Interlock locked forward
To run the lathe, you first select either forward or reverse, and then
slide the slider left. When you do this, the pin blocks any change to the
forward-reverse switch, and the on-off button pops out, locking the slider
to the left. At this point, you can pull the on-off button to turn on the
lathe, or you can push the button back in to return the lathe from ready-to-run
(but still stopped) to latched-off.
On a different subject, when I was turning hard steel before finishing this
project, I noticed that bits of swarf would sometimes land on the push-to-stop
knob, and then wedge between the knob and the faceplate when I turned off the
lathe. I solved this problem by putting a "porch roof" over the switches.
The roof is made of 22 gauge (0.0299" or 0.76mm) steel, bent down to
approximately the same angle as the chamfer on the lathe foot, and held on with
the two front mounting bolts that hold the lathe to the pedestal. The porch
roof is about the same thickness as the washers that had been there, and the
22 gauge steel is thick enough that I could round the corners and edges so it
doesn't threaten to injure anyone who accidently touches the edge.