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Picture of Billy Pedal Foot Switch

A while back we mentioned the Billy Pedal Foot Switch sold by MCLS. I was going to post a Dealmonger about it , but I got to thinking — is this thing really safe? While the hands-free convenience of switching your router or other tool on and off is Hot, we can see situations where you forget that the tool is still powered because when your foot is off the switch, the tool seems off. Leaving a tool in that condition could be frightening should you accidentally actuate the switch as it lays on the floor. The only way to safe the tool is to either unplug the switch from the wall or the tool from the switch. This seems to be a definite Not.  

So what do you think? Let us know in comments.

Deadman Style Pedal Foot Switch [MLCS]


17 Responses to Hot or Not: Deadman Switch

  1. Pezdad says:

    I would never use one for a router or similar tool – though it would be helpful for a scroll saw (which wouldn’t really hurt you if it turned on accidentally). Maybe the theory is you can put it in a place where you would not accidently step on it – but I can’t think of any such place near my router table (if I could step on it and operater the router, I could step on it by accident).

    Now their Router Table Power Switch (on the same link page) is very useful, and I use one that is similar (or identical) and it makes turing the router on/off much safer and easier.

  2. DW says:

    Yeah, I would think it’s a little dicey with a router… But maybe as an alternative to an item like the Craftsman Auto Switch, connecting your Vac to the deadman and having independent hands free control.

  3. John Laur says:

    Hot if used properly.

    You really shouldn’t ever use this thing as a primary switch for a dangerous tool. It should be used to cut or supply power to the tool, then you should rely on the tool’s normal trigger or switch to operate the tool. This actually can increase the safety of the tool.

    If you really have to have safe hands free switching of a tool such as a router on a table. you could probably employ two of these in tandem along with a safety toggle switch.

  4. MikeT says:

    My uncle had one on his router, although it was a rheostat, not just on and off. I hated it, as it felt like I was standing on one foot the whole time. When I’m using a dangerous tool, I like having both feet on solid ground.

  5. fred says:

    There are plenty of machinery foot switches available that have guard over them as a safety feature.

    We have one that goes a step further on our mandrel bender:


  6. Big Dave says:

    I have been using one of these every day for about ten years hooked to the router table in my cabinet shop. You can use it for a router if you are disciplined. The easily distracted and the sloppy worker need not apply.

    I ran it through an on/off switch mounted to the front of the table, so no accidental stepping on it and shearing off a hand or something.

    Each time I finish a session, I flip off the switch. When I change bits, I completely unplug the little bugger. When I leave the shop for the day, I unplug the little bugger. All this is to keep me trained to respect the device.

    I think it is safer to lift my foot off the switch and let the bit coast to a stop while I still have both hands on the workpiece, rather than let go with one hand and reach for an an/off switch … but that’s just me. YMMV

  7. cb says:

    I’m going with HOT. If you read the description on the website it says it’s spring loaded. With your foot on the switch your router (or what have you) will run, once your foot is lifted off the pedal the equipment stops, hence the name “Deadman Switch”

  8. Matt K says:

    I tihnk it would be grerat for a bench grinder.

  9. Shopmonger says:

    YEah i can think of a few tools that it would be HOT for:

    As for not”
    Table saw ect…..


  10. John Seiffer says:

    I love mine. It controls my router. I had to look hard for one that would turn off when I lift my foot – most you press once for one and once again for off. But I like the ability to leave my hands in place and turn off the machine by lifting my foot.

    Yes I do unplug it as soon as I am done. I’d never leave something like that live.

  11. browndog77 says:

    When I did a lot of trim carpentry, with a miter saw set up in the house, I used a similar switch to energize the saw and to start my shop vac ( with the hose attached to the dust tube on the saw, obviously). Nobody could make a cut without the vacuum running. That prevented a lot of mess! Now there is a product that accomplishes the same goal automatically. I have one, but have yet to use it.

  12. Pete J says:

    I use mine all the time at the router table and the dovetail jigs. Love it.Just have to be careful.

  13. Adam R says:

    I have them hooked up to paper joggers in the mail shop. The switches on the joggers kept burning out after about a year. These foot pedals work great. It also keeps my operators from leaving the joggers on during breaks…and over the weekend.

    BTW – These are usually on sale at HF for around 10 bucks.

  14. Kieran says:

    Back when I was in school we used to have these on the scroll saws. I found them incredibly useful, being able to stop and start cutting when needed instead of having the machine running constantly or having to reach around to fiddle with switches. As this was in a school it was common practice to always turn machines off after using them, just like you should at home. A quick press of the pedal would show if someone had left the machine on, if so you’d turn it off until you’re ready to use it, rather simple and almost impossible to injure yourself. I think our pedal may have also control the speed like a sewing machine, not sure though.

  15. Scott says:

    These are used a lot by electricians when we pull in large wire and cable with mechanical means ( a tool called a chugger or cable tugger) the tool uses a rope that is wound arround a metal wedge like rim that requires the opperator to use some minimal pulling force to allow the machine to “bite” the rope. Check out Greenlee’s website for more info.

  16. kyle says:

    this would work well on a bench grinder

  17. David says:

    I use one of these with my angle grinder, primarily with my King Arthur’s Tools Lancelot (silly name for this angle grinder blade that has effectively a circular chainsaw blade…but I’m sure most of you knew that).

    My grinder just has an on/off toggle in an inconvenient place, so my deadman switch is a necessary safety feature. Mine also allows me speed adjustments, which was also a requirement when I purchased it.

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