3D-Printable Shabbat Lightswitch Cover

Shabbat Candles on a black backgrund, lit. image source

In the Jewish tradition, Shabbat serves as a time of total rest. Millenia of legal development have shaped a Shabbat-specific paradigm of engaging with our material environment, centered around refraining from melacha, or “creative labor”, as defined by Jewish tradition. 

Light is an integral part of Shabbat– lighting two candles is the first action done to start Shabbat, and a new day in the Jewish calendar begins at sundown. Additionally, part of traditional Shabbat observance is not modifying electric circuits (i.e. flipping switches, using a smartphone).

A popular “Shabbat Lamp” design, where a shade blocks or shows an LED bulb, altering the level of light without adjusting the circuit. image source

Before Shabbat, observant Jews prepare so they can avoid unnecessary melacha, including making sure that any lights or other electronics they might need are plugged in, turned on, or set on timers. There’s no shortage of commercially available devices to aid in one’s shabbat observance. To those who haven’t experienced this, these preparations may seem inane, but ultimately these many small changes create the experience where on Shabbat, everything you need is already taken care of, and one can indulge in a more complete form of rest. I like to think of it as my past self waiting on my future self; I cooked and cleaned and adjusted all my lights before Shabbat so that on Shabbat, I can just enjoy in comfort, without a care in the world!

In observant Jewish households lightswitches are sometimes taped or covered before Shabbat as a measure to prevent accidentally flipping the switch. If one accidentally changes a switch, you’re stuck with the switch like that until the end of Shabbat, so it can be pretty uncomfortable if, for example, your dinner guest turns off the bathroom light. It’s fine to set lights on timers, but deliberately setting off a sensor is considered equivalent to flipping a switch in Jewish law, making many technological solutions non-starters.

There are some commercially available switch covers, but despite the DIY nature of Shabbat observance, as this long standing set of traditions is brought to life in a different way by every household, I’ve scowered the Internet and haven’t found any DIY Shabbat lighting projects! I decided I had to change this, and designed my own DIY switch cover.

Simplicity was my utmost priority in designing this switch cover. In covering a switch, I’m effectively removing an affordance that was designed to be touched and noticed. I want the switch cover to blend in and not be distracting, and be adaptable to many different styles of decor.

Another key priority in designing this switch cover is making it easy to attach and remove. I’ve seen other lightswitch mounts that use the screws above and below the lightswitch to hold them, but I didn’t want to make it so permanent when 6 days/week the cover would be off. I discovered by accident that the screws on my lightswitch are magnetic, and that in fact some of the area of the switch unit is as well! This seemed like a perfect solution for both attaching and storing the switch cover.

I took the dimensions of the screws and the extruding part of the switch, bought some small magnets, and made a simple first design.

It turned out that the magnets I purchased were actually larger than their listed dimensions, so they wouldn’t fit into the holes I made for them in my print, even with the allowance I left. Nevertheless, I was determined to test this design so I used poster tac to temporarily adhere it.

What I found in my testing was that in my small room, the sharp corners and protrusion actually drew my attention to the switch. The bright color certainly didn’t help either. I wanted to make the design more subtle.

I decided to make the cover larger and and after a handful of test prints, I found a design that printed quickly and worked consistently. In a darker color and a less dramaticaly protruding design, this cover worked to conceal the switch without drawing too much extra attention to itself. Additionally, it stows nicely on weekdays.