Museum of Plugs and Sockets logo, small Fitall
5 in 1 plug
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BS 546
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BS 1363
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phased
out

 

This gallery is devoted to just one special plug, the Fitall 5 in 1 plug, made by R.W. Rumble Ltd, Larne, Northern Ireland. The plug is designed after the introduction of BS 1363, meant to replace BS 546 in Britain. For the convenience of people who were confronted with a mix of two fully different plug standards, the Fitall plug offers the choice of both standards in one plug: BS 546 15A and 5A (both 3 and 2-pin versions) and BS 1363 13A.
The mid 1960s plug has been donated John Goodwin.

There was another company
, named Loblite, based in Gateshead, that made an almost identical 5 in 1 plug. According to information given by the donor of the Fitall plug, it isn't clear whether both companies sold the product at the same time - who held the patent isn't stated - or whether 'Fitall' went bust and Loblite took over. Loblite still exists, but now makes other products. The production of Fitall plugs has ended in the 1990s.

 

Fitall 5 in 1 plug Fitall 5 in 1 plug (BS 546, 15A) Fitall 5 in 1 plug (BS 546, 5A) Fitall 5 in 1 plug (BS 1363)

Fitall 5 in 1 plug Fitall 5 in 1 plug Fitall 5 in 1 plug

1 Fitall 5 in 1 plug with all pins retracted. The position of the lever (see inset) determines which set of 3 pins can be used; see image nos. 2, 3 and 4.
2 The lever in left position allows to drop the three BS 546, 15A pins. Next the pins have to be locked. The procedure to lock pins is shown in image no. 8. A pin selector plate (see image nos. 6 and 7) controls which set of three pins can drop by blocking the other sets of pins.
3 BS 546, 5A pins are released when the lever is in right position. The Fitall plug can also be used with a non-earthed BS 372 Part I socket. Then only line and neutral pins are needed. There is however, a 4 mm difference in L-N spacing between 5A BS 546 and 5A BS 372 Part 1. The required reduction in pin spacing is effectuated by firmly pressing the sides of the plug closer together (indicated by triple green arrows). The housing is made of sturdy, but somewhat flexible material.
Essentially the same procedure can be followed when a 15A BS 546 2-pin configuration is required.
4 BS 1363 pins drop if the lever is set in middle position. Image nos. 5 - 7 show that retracted rectangular pins are not positioned in a proper BS 1363 orientation. As figure no. 8 shows the correct orientation is achieved when locking the pins. As a consequence of the locking procedure, a non-standard Walsall pin configuration is not possible with Fitall plugs (thus no 6 in 1).
5 - 7 Views of the underside of a Fitall plug; (5) in working order, (6) cover plate removed, (7) cover and pin selector plates removed. Image no. 6 shows that both sets of round (BS 546)  L and N pins are blocked when the lever is in middle position. The lever in left or right position blocks respectively BS 1363 / BS 546-5A or BS 1363 / BS 546-15A pins (except round earth pins). Image no. 7 shows an extensive slot in the cover plate to allow compression of the housing, which is needed for a 2-pin BS 546 configuration.
8
Overview of the various components of a Fitall plug after removing cover and selector plate.
The inset top left shows the two BS 546 round earth pins. The smaller 5A pin is located inside the hollow 15A pin.
A 13A BS 1362 fuse is connected to the brass L plate (bottom left).
Round pins (including earth pin) and corresponding round holes of brass plates have screw threads to lock the pins. Rectangular pins have spring ends. The images at right show the locking mechanism for these pins (refers also to BS 1363 earth pin).
Line and neutral pins are not sleeved; partial pin insulation became compulsary in 1994.

Fitall 5 in 1 plug (components)

 

Another plug that fit a lot *

Electrokinetica, the Electro-mechanical museum, shows a Crater adaptable plug  with an interchangeable pin configurator that includes all British Standard round pin gauges: 2A, 5A and 15A in both 2 and 3-pin spacing. In contrast to the Fitall plug shown above it has BS 546 2A pins, but no BS 1363 pins.

Crater adaptable plug

This is one of six different configurations of a Crater plug.
Click on the plug to see how other configurations can be made.





* Note that the 'fit-all' claim is only partially true. The Fitall plug is useless for Wylex or Dorman & Smith sockets. Although less frequently used than BS 546 and BS 1363 some homes in the 1950s-1980s were equipped with non-standard sockets.

 
 

While looking on internet for fit all electrical plugs, the following article has drawn my attention. It appeared in the Friday 13 December 1940 edition of the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW).

"Electrical Plug To Fit All Sockets

   An English inventor has got round the difficulty of the housewife who finds that an electrical plug will not fit its socket. He has produced a universal socket-outlet which takes the three unstandardised types of pin now on the world market.
   The British manufacturer of electrical equipment, an industry which exported 7,383,000 worth of goods and apparatus in the first six months of the war, has been making a round pin to his own gauge. The European manufacturer also made a round pin, but of another gauge. The American maker turned out only the flat type pin.
   This absence of international standard operated against mutual trade, and the Standard Institutions of England, the Dominions, and the Argentine have been working for some time to overcome the difficulty.
    The new British invention will now bridge the gap between the present lack of standardisation and the ultimate aim of these three institutions."

The article raises several questions:
- Is it a plug to fit all sockets or a universal socket-outlet ?
- In case of a plug, was it a genuine male plug, or an adapter ?
- If not an adapter, why was the plug not a long lasting success ?
- was it a 'Friday 13 message', or does anybody knows more
  about plug or inventor ? (if so, see home page for address).

 


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