We’ve already had some great reader suggestions for Natural Materials month. The first that caught my eye this morning is from MAKE pal and Flickr-pool-roundup regular John Honniball, aka anachrocomputer, who directs our attention to the use of natural slate panels as insulators in vintage electrical equipment. Above, a beautiful example from the Canada Science and Technology Museum: The switchboard control panel from the Sault Ste. Marie canal power house, manufactured in 1895 by Canadian General Electric.

And this is a set of wonderfully “mad science” knife switches on natural slate baseplates. I’m not sure if these are antiques or reproductions, but John photographed them at Maker Faire Newcastle 2010. If anyone has more info about their provenance, please do let us know, below.

Artifact Spotlight – Switchboard Panel from the Sault Ste. Marie canal power house
Maker Faire 2010: Knife Switches

[Thanks, John!]

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

  • http://twitter.com/robcruickshank Rob Cruickshank (@robcruickshank)

    Blackboards and pool tables considered at risk from steampunks in 3…2…1…
    (I kid. This is awesome)

    • http://www.gifford.co.uk/~coredump John Honniball

      No blackboards or pool/billiards tables were harmed in the making of my slate base-plates! In fact, I used offcuts of slate floor tiles, which I cut to size using a special abrasive blade in a jig-saw. A good tool shop should be able to supply slate-working blades for hacksaws and jig-saws.

      • http://twitter.com/robcruickshank Rob Cruickshank (@robcruickshank)

        Cool! I may have to get one of those blades. Also this reminds me that mica was also used as an electrical insulator- I’ve also seen old wood stoves with mica windows. (the popular plastic laminate Formica, was originally sold as a substitute “for mica”

  • Ken

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplesimon/491891255/ still in place in a power station which operated up to the 2000’s