How to Use Obsolete Wiring Techniques for Niche Applications


In certain niche cases, utilizing obsolete or antiquated wiring techniques can actually be advantageous. While most modern electrical work relies on improved materials and methods, some applications call for tried-and-true approaches from decades past. With proper precautions, I've found creative ways to implement outdated wiring in specific applications as outlined below.

Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob and tube wiring was commonly installed in homes and buildings from about 1880 through the 1930s. It uses ceramic knobs and tubes to route electrical wires through open air, rather than through protected conduits. While no longer used in standard construction, knob and tube can have niche applications:

When using knob and tube, be sure to consult electrical codes and use insulated modern wiring. Avoid high-power applications.

Cloth-Insulated Wiring

Early electrical wiring often used cloth insulation rather than rubber or plastic. This was phased out due to fire hazards, but may work in certain applications:

Follow codes and use fire-resistant materials if using cloth-insulated wiring. Avoid moisture and high-power loads.

Two-Wire Systems

Modern homes use three-wire electrical systems with hot, neutral, and ground wires for safety. However, two-wire systems (just hot and neutral) can have niche perks:

If utilizing two-wire systems, install proper safety devices like GFCI outlets. Avoid using for major appliances or lighting circuits.

Tube-and-Knife Switches

The tube-and-knife switch was an early crude method of opening and closing circuits. A metal tube houses a spring-loaded knife blade that makes and breaks contact with wiring. Though antiquated, niche uses include:

Use tube-and-knife switches cautiously due to the live exposed wiring. Install appropriate enclosures and post safety notices.

Parallel-Series Receptacle Wiring

An obsolete way to wire multiple receptacles (outlets) is to wire them in parallel-series. While dangerous, this can offer benefits:

Only attempt parallel-series wiring if you thoroughly understand the risks and limitations. Use GFCI protection and avoid connecting large loads.


With careful analysis and planning, utilizing obsolete wiring techniques can solve certain niche problems. But always prioritize safety. Consult local codes, use modern wires, and install overcurrent protection. While learning from the past can be fruitful, obsolete methods should not replace modern electrical best practices in most applications. With prudence and creativity, antiquated techniques can find renewed purpose.