Really simple light switch cover

Warning, there’s a fair amount of text here for very little payoff. You may want to cut your losses and turn back now.

Glowforge saved my otherwise unrelated weekend “project”. Maybe something other people wouldn’t consider a project, but often doing much of anything can quickly turn into project territory in my book! I was replacing some plain old switches with smart dimmer switches. I managed to get out with just a few shocks, none of them deadly. But the two days were filled with challenges. The wiring was not as simple as I was hoping it would be, nor were the wires properly labeled. I won’t get into any details about the madness of how they chose to wire up some of the lights in my house, but suffice it to say, for something that should’ve been relatively simple, at the end of day 1, I was preparing myself to have to pay an electrician to come in a fix up my mess.

After finding a tangled mess of wires behind what should’ve been a simple basic switch for my kitchen lights, I decided to open up the patio light switch assuming it would be simpler. Success! It was! With this more understandable set of wires, I was able to identify all of the wires using a voltmeter.

Now let me preface this next bit by saying that I am not a smart person. I make really dumb decisions all the time and I make them knowing that they are dumb decisions at the time. Often times, as in this case, the cause is that I’m too lazy to do the right thing. Please don’t judge me too harshly from behind your screen.

Feeling pretty cocky and sure of how things needed to be hooked up now. I decided to forego the part where I flip the breaker off to hook up the switch. See my circuit breaker is also not labeled and so finding the right breaker to flip is an annoying trial and error process that involves running back and forth from the garage half a dozen times and accidentally resetting all the clocks in the house. I know I could remedy this myself, but you know…lazy. I do update the one or two labels that I’m working with with I find them. Anyways, didn’t feel like doing that. Thought I could hook it up fine hot. Spoiler, I was both right and wrong. But first I was wrong.

I don’t really know what I did wrong honestly. Probably the order in which I hooked things up. But when I plugged in the final wire (I decided it was best to hook up the 120V wire last) there was a loud pop and smoke smell. I’m pretty sure I fried the switch. I haven’t bothered checking and probably won’t. They weren’t too expensive. Scared me a bit though. It was about this time I was preparing myself to have to call in the pro’s. I should also mention…or at least feel like I should…that I got the complicated kitchen wiring one working, but I was confident it wasn’t wired properly. Neutral and ground were connected which you’re not supposed to do, but when I had tried plugging the true neutral in it hadn’t worked.

I had started with 3 smart switches and was now down to 2. I had been unable to get the wires out of the old switches so I had just cut them off. Of course meaning now that I couldn’t hook them back up. I decided to give up and call an electrician on Monday.

But sleep is a wonderful thing. And the fool that awoke the next morning was back to confident enough to try tackling things again. I went at the patio lights first. But oh man, I still didn’t know which circuit breaker to flip. It’s funny how things can change after you get a little scare, but some things are just ingrained into us. I was pretty sure I could do it hot. And I decided that if I followed the order of wiring that was given in the instructions (which had the 120V being hooked up first) I’d probably be ok. Gah I’m stupid. But I was right this time. I got it hooked up and working without any problems without cutting the power. And now I’m going to keep doing incredibly stupid things in my life cause…well, they seem to turn out ok for me.

After affirming what I thought about how a normal one would be hooked up, I went back to the kitchen switch. I cut the power on this one - I had taken the time when first starting to find the right breaker for this one. Hooked it up properly and it was working. Whoop! Almost done. Just to screw them all in. Patio one was fine, but the mess of wires in the kitchen switch box meant that the larger smart switch wouldn’t fit flush with the wall. Uhggg, if only I had a custom fabrication device like they do in scien…wait, its the future and I do. Didn’t do anything fancy. Couldn’t think of anything clever to engrave and just wanted to get the project done.

In my rush to finish the project and since it was such a simple design, I thought I might just cut it out of proofgrade walnut first. Skipping the draftboard step is one of my reoccurring mistakes that I make. Thinking that I just need a small tweak and things will be good and I can just print the final version now. Or in this case that the overall design is so simple that it will be fine. But no, I had already made my quota for dumb decisions. I cut it out of draftboard first. It went together fine and fit the switch well but stood out from the wall more than I needed it to. So I shortened it up some and then made the bad decision to skip the “final version draftboard” step. It worked out though. Only had to cut one out of walnut.

Overall it looks a little clunky with the large bezels. I could shrink it down some more and do some fancy engraving to make it look cooler. Some day when I’m not feeling lazy maybe. It got approval from the wife, so I’ll probably just live with it.

Clearly I was in a rambling mood this morning. Thanks for reading to the end.


You know, I take that as a challenge. :slight_smile:

Thank you for taking the time to detail your pain for our entertainment (and nice results)


On the up side, once you trip the breaker you know which one it was, so you can work smarter NEXT time. :wink:


:smile: Great amusing read to start the morning. Congrats on your (eventual) success!


Wonderful tale of life on Earth for people like you and me. We are brethren. After all the practice across the years, dancing with hot circuits is the norm, usually because the circuits are not identified in the breaker box.

You open a switch or junction box expecting simplicity but discover a crammed tangled mess because apparently every other switch in the structure is daisy-chained through it. After pulling out, extending the connections and separating the pairs, I take a picture of the bag of worms.

The eventual success usually involves getting hit once :grimacing: which is nothing but a startling sting that pisses me off at the speed of light.
Ah, the (misadventures) of home renovation. :roll_eyes:


Spoken like someone with true experience. Yes, I skipped over the multiple shocks I received while playing with hot wires. But there were expletives released.

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Involuntary reflex!

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Well that was a fun read. I too have had trouble finding the right breaker since the electricians who wired my house labelled nearly every breaker as “outlets”. Well then I purchased one of these and believe me they are handy.


Nice! I didn’t know something like this existed.

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