Make: Projects – Light switch time capsule

I get nostalgic when I move out of a home, especially if it’s one I’ve lived in awhile. Leaving a secret treasure or two, stashed here and there, seems to help me get closure. Unlike, say, dropping a note down inside the wall, a note on the back of a switch plate is likely to be found sooner or later, but not right away. I’ve included a PDF template with a tiny font that makes it easy to fit a 500-word message on the back of a standard 1-gang light switch plate.

Update: Thanks to reader Cornflower who created an OpenOffice version of the template for those of you who prefer it. Also, his version automatically wraps text across the openings!


22 thoughts on “Make: Projects – Light switch time capsule

    1. I’ve updated the post and the project with links to your template (which I uploaded to our own server, hope that’s OK). Appreciate it!

  1. I have the same feelings Sean. That’s why there are messages written behind the crown molding I installed in my house and on the bottom of built in shelves.

  2. I grew up in northern Vermont, USA, (Google Smugglers’ Notch) and helped to salvage a few houses and barns built from 1780’s to the late 1800’s. The hand hewn beams, and rough cut lumber were raw material for faux antiques and decorator building accents. Lumber like 16″x16″x40′ hand hewn beams, slate roof underlayment boards that were 38″w x 1″t x 18’l is hard to find today.

    It was always a treat to see messages, notes and initials scribed into materials as the structures were disassembled. I rent, and will start to plant some history. Surprised it never occured to me before.

    Thanks Sean!!

  3. I love this idea. I might try this out myself. You could essentially hide a small novel in the house. Just put at the bottom “Next, see bathroom switch. New? Check the light switch in the kitchen”.

  4. We did the same thing when we replaced the old medicine cabinet in the bathroom with a big flat mirror. In the hole we filled a big baggie with a newspaper, the house closing documents so the finder could see what we paid for the place and an SC card with photos of us.
    I wish I could see the finders face as they wonder how they will see what is on the card 25 years from now, if indeed a reader actually exists.

  5. I did almost the exact same thing when moving out of my place at 29th and San Gabriel a couple years ago (which, judging by your note, is only a couple blocks from yours). Our rowdiness had led to more than a few holes in the walls over the years. Before we patched a particularly large one, my three roommates and I composed a letter nearly identical to the one on your light switch cover, pasted it to the backside of the opposing piece of sheetrock, and repaired the hole. It most likely won’t be found until the entire house is demoed, or at least until someone tests the structural integrity of the walls as much as we did, but it’s nice to think that some part of me is still left in Austin.

  6. …I think I lived in your house. Is this your yellow-and-green glass bong I found stuffed into the insulation behind the air conditioner?

    I’m just kidding. Thanks for commenting! ¡Que coincidencia!

  7. I’ve replaced many of my light switches with X-10 and SwitchLinc smart switches. I had to rewire the two-way circuits so that slaves always have power and neutral. I’ve drawn up diagrams so that future owners of the house don’t have to bring in an electrician if they want to make changes (or to enlighten an electrician:-)).

    My only concern is that these switches can get hot and I wonder about keeping paper so close to a heat source…

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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 My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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