Jim's Fish Tail
Vortex 3sp. Knob and Switch
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Historic Fan Photo
Vintagefans.com Introduces Direct Replacement 3 Speed Knob and Switch for G.E. Vortex Desk Fans
In the field of American Restoration, no matter whether that be automobiles, airplanes, motorcycles, antique fans, or other machines there is always a necessary element of the restoration that could use or needs to use reproduction parts. In the antique and vintage ceiling and desk fan world, reproduction parts are somewhat scarce. Unlike other venues of early American made machinery, antique and vintage ceiling and desk fans have not had the tremendous interest to cultivate a following that allows for the widespread reproduction of parts. Even though that is the present case, one thing that is certain is that there is a growing constituency of old fans “fans”.
At VintageFans.com we here stories everyday of how someone cherishes their old fan like a mechanical family member. We speculate that the love and respect of early American made electric fans will continue to grow as more folks are exposed to their existence.
Our speculation on the growth of the interest in using antique and vintage electric fans today has led us to reproduce a much needed part for 1939-53 circa General Electric 12” and 16” desk and table fans. About 60 to 70% of the time one of these fans came into our shop in Fort Worth, Texas for servicing, the switch knob is broken or the entire switch was replaced or missing. The original switch knob on these fans were made of phenolic, or as commonly referred to in the antique world by the trade name “Bakelite”. The phenolic knobs on these fans had to extended prongs made of the same material that engaged the original rotary switch to change the speed selection. This “Bakelite” knob’s prongs were made of phenolic as well and this design led to the failure of the switch after a few decades use. Sometimes the switch has corrosion or dirt build up that leads to the failure of the knob as the user continues to “force” the switch to change speed selections.
The General Electric Vortalex fans were the most expensive models GE made during their reign as the supreme machine of the G.E. consumer desk fan line. They even made a Vortalex bladed model for the ceiling circulator business and large floor pedestal fans. As with most designs of the period, we doubt that GE intended for the original switch to fail, but as history has proven the design of the knob prong arrangement in the original design, led to a multitude of knob and or switch failures that would sometimes render the fan useless until a suitable switch replacement was found.
In the old days, one needed only to contact their local GE fan dealer to secure another replacement switch. However instead of doing this, we suppose most folks took their failed fan to a local appliance repair who installed a generic 3 speed switch of different design on the incapacitated fan. This is a satisfactory repair in most cases except that the replacement switch does not replicate the look of the original model, which had a very attractive knob. In some cases brass 3 speed lamp switches were installed which is akin to placing wire wheel hubcaps on a four wheel drive truck. Knowing that their was a need for a suitable replacement switch for these fans that looked and felt the part of the original led to our search for a simple yet effective answer to the problem. Keeping it simple meant that we would create our knob to fit our existing replacement 3 speed switch.
Our goal from the start was to provide a replacement knob that was affordable, but one made of exceptional high quality standards. This meant that we spend the additional funds needed to create a mold and tooling that would allow the new knob to be created out of the same phenolic material that the originals were made of. One of the other criteria was that the knob be made in the U.S.A., something we feel more strongly about as each year passes and we see the continuous support of communist or socialist led countries by American manufacturers who support their growth.
The new Vintage Fan’s Vortalex phenolic knob is made to look the same without the screw hole that the original knob requires to attach the knob to the original switch. The originals also had a white plastic “dot” that filled the hole to cover the screw. This feature has been eliminated on our knob, which simply presses on for a snug and clean fit. For the purist out there our Vortalex knob could be machined to capture the exact look of the original, but we will leave that option up to the buyer (remember simple and affordable). Everyone we have spoken to about the knobs agree that our knobs look much cleaner than the originals and will be a definite benefit to anyone trying to repair this popular vintage General Electric fan.
The knobs and switch combo is available at VintageFans.com for $39.95 plus s/h. Both the earlier black and later mahogany brown knobs as original are available.