Retro military control panel for exhaust fan


Retro military control panel for exhaust fan

I am using an inline bilge blower fan in my window mounted exhaust vent to help with the fumes.
These fans are 12 volt DC since they are meant to run on batteries in a boat, so I needed to wire up an AC to DC converter to run off the house power and I wanted to have speed control so I could balance the flow. I could have made a simple low profile box to hold the components… but I have a laser now so I figured I’d have some fun and test out some finishing techniques.

The control board is Proof Grade med draft board painted matte black then re-masked and painted off white before removing the masking tape. I aged and slivered some edges to make it look more like metal, the rest of the box is the same draft board painted military green with a little distressing.

I designed it to feel like old military tech that would have been cnc cut into metal panels.
The font is MilSpec33558 which is used in military panels for readability and machinability.

Hope you guys like it, I love this laser!

Valentine's Hearts

That’s amazing! Until you look at the sides of the box, you can’t tell it isn’t an old piece of military hardware. :grinning:


As a person that sees these every day, this is very good. The only thing that would give it away at a casual glance is that where you have button headed Alan heads there should be straight edged camlocks.

If you wanted to double down on this you could make the front from clear acrylic, paint it black and a very thin layer of white where you have the white engraves and backlight it.
Sorry, what I meant to say was , very nice


Thanks, I haven’t put in the threaded blocks for the screws yet, so I will swap out the button heads with something more authentic:) It also has cheep plastic digital speed control parts, but I’m saving my real cockpit salvage parts and lights for something more important than a window fan switch. The backlight panel will have its day!


Looks good. Wish I could remember my brother’s work number. He works at a Naval Air test facility and have seen panels he made on both a CNC and a laser for flight test operations. New panels are used all the time for instrumentation control or prototyping. Uses some sort of plastic or phenolic two layer material. The panels are backlit for the letters and symbols. Haven’t spent any time examining the laser versions but at first glance I didn’t notice any physical difference between the new panels and the ones that they made with a CNC… If he ever gets back to me with a good answer, will post.


Great work! Looks old to me and very original in visual clues.


This is FANTASTIC! Reminds me of a Heathkit depth sounder I built with my Dad, circa 1970. Love it.


You really had me wondering why you had this old piece of equipment on this page.


That is absolutely OUTSTANDING!

Would you mind providing a few more details on how you got the lettering and lines so crisp, please? -Order of lasering, painting, masking, re-masking, etc? Is the off-white hand-painted?

I was in the Air Force for 12 years, and this is easily the best ‘fake’ panel I’ve ever seen (or at least knew it was :slight_smile: ) We got the golden email last Thursday, so haven’t seen any of the PG materials or hardware firsthand yet. Looking forward to attempting something like this in the near future.


Nah, I don’t like it…I LOVE it! Nice job!


Outstanding job on the finish, the distressing makes it! :sunglasses::+1:


Thanks, this made me want to build a big modular control panel with backlighting and glowing dials… something I have no use or space for :thinking:
I’ll detail the process of this one and provide links to the parts when I get it wired up and mounted, In case anyone else wants to make an exhaust helper for a short run duct. It might get moved to beyond the manual since I’m modifying the PG before cutting.


That’s rad. Great vision and execution!


Perfect! Thanks!


Excellent job! If I might ask - what font is that?

Oops, I see you included it above - so I retract my question. I’ll plead that I was distracted by the picture. :slight_smile:



This is my kind of thing. Fantastic.

What kind of paint?


MilSpec33558 I downloaded it for free from the web after doing resarch on what was really used in old control panels, but the font had major errors and didn’t work. It did show up in the finder as an image so I took a big screen shot and outlined it in Illustrator… If I get a chance I will re-make the font in Fontographer from the original docs and post it.

Took the royalty free downloaded font into Fontographer and fixed the errors, this should be cross platform, enjoy.
I have re-loaded the font with a new fix. The letter “D” had an error that the glow forge did not like and caused a bad engrave in that letter, if you downloaded the font be careful of the “D” when outlineing and importing into GF. Use this new version instead. (7.4 KB)


Rattle cans of:
Rust-Oleum painters touch matte black sanded with 600 grit
and Rust-Oleum painters touch satin Ivory silk, which is a horendous beige color but makes a a great aged white.
The green is testors for model tanks and planes… cant remember the exact color.

Oh and
Rub and Buff Metallic Silver Leaf for edge highlights


This makes me want to create fake control panels just for the fun of it. Very nicely done.


Thank you kindly for the details!