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HomeEmpowerLocalNotes from the Museums: Knob and Tube

Notes from the Museums: Knob and Tube

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Tours at the May-Stringer Museum include a look at the attic on the third level of the building built in about 1856. One of the highlighted features is that the original cedar shingles are evident. The shingles remained when the metal roof was added many years ago.

However, a closer look reveals another relic of the past. The remnants of the original electrical wiring in the house remain. It is known as knob and tube wiring. Before going any further, I must say that the old wiring is not connected or in use today! The knobs and tubes refer to the insulators used to keep the cloth-coated copper wire from touching the wood frame of the house. The knobs held and sent the wires in the desired direction and path while the tubes provided a tunnel through the rafters and studs. Like the insulators seen on the electrical poles outside, the ceramic knobs and tubes provided a safety feature inside the building. Although knob and tube was largely phased out during the 1930s, it is still legal today with special permits.

Knob and tube wiring. [Photo courtesy of Mary Sheldon]

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