Museum of Plugs and Sockets logo, small BS 546
Old British Standard
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BS 546, also known as the Old British standard is still used in countries that where electrified by the British, notably India, Pakistan and East African countries and South Africa. It is  used in the UK for special purposes.
Types D/M profile Related galleries:
classic types
non-earthed plugs (BS372)
bayonet cap (BS52) adapters
Crater plug

 

BS 546 socket 15A

BS 546 socket 5A

BS 546 socket 2A

 

 

BS546 15A plug

BS546 5A plug

BS546 2A plug
detail of BS546 plug

1, 4 BS 546 15A socket and plug. The socket has a switch, a quite common, but non-compulsary feature.
The socket was bought in Malaysia. Inset: compulsory label that specifies certification according to Malaysian Standard, provided by SIRIM Berhad (Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia).
2, 5 BS 546 5A socket and plug, bought in Ireland. This specimen has shutters to protect the live and neutral slots. They are opened by insertion of the longer earth pin. Safety shutters are compulsary for BS 546 sockets sold in the UK and Ireland.
3, 6 BS 546 2A socket and plug. Nowadays 2A sockets are rare.   {ASw}
7 Characteristic detail of any BS 546 plug: an inspection hole in the plug housing. A compulsory feature to facilitate verification whether the earth pin is wired*. In the 1930-40s it was not yet generally accepted that earthing significantly enhances electrical safety. At least in those years it made sense to check whether a 3-pin plug was adequately wired.
Inspection holes can also be found on older BS 1363 plugs and Dorman & Smith plugs.
* Information given by 'Socketman' has been found at the UK radio repair and restoration discussion forum.
note The triangular orientation of pins results in polarized plugs and sockets, i.e. line and neutral cannot be reversed. Each type of BS 546 plug fits only in a socket with a corresponding rating. Pin dimensions of the three variants are summarized in the table below. For safety reasons the proximal half of both the line and neutral pin is insulated. Usually, BS 546 plugs are not fused.

 

About BS 546

Until the late 1950s residences in the UK, Ireland and many parts of the Commonwealth were provided with plugs and sockets defined by the British Standard No. 546. Because of a change in wiring of domestic electrical systems - from radial to ring circuits - BS 546 (round pins) was replaced by BS 1363 (fused plugs with rectangular pins).
See the domestic wiring techniques page for details about radial and ring circuits.

The history of BS 546 can be traced back to BS 317, published in 1928. Its official title was "Hand-Shield and Side Entry Pattern Three-Pin Wall Plugs and Sockets". BS 317 was in 1930 replaced - with only minor alteration - by BS 372 Part II, which specified 2A, 5A, 15A and 30A plugs and sockets. BS 372 was superseded in April 1934 by BS 546 which included the same four plug/socket sizes with the same dimensions. Appendix A of BS 546-1934 allows for the optional inclusion of fuses up to 5A in any version, except the 2A plug, limited to 2A. The current version is BS 546-1950 (with various more recent amendments). Information provided by David Peacock IEng FIET.


The BS 546 15A variant is still applied in the UK in situations where sockets and plugs are build-in and/or a part of complex circuits (for example in theater wiring), in which it is difficult to trace a blown plug-fuse (BS 1363 plugs always have a fuse). Occasionally 5A devices are still used in the UK for centrally switched domestic lighting circuits, in order to distinguish them from normal power circuits. 

The 30A variant
was used for (semi-) industrial equipment. It is now replaced by high current and multiphase sockets and plugs defined by the IEC 60309 standard.

Note on non-official classification: both type D and M correspond to BS 546; D refers to 5A, M to 15A.

 

Plugs and sockets that are essentially identical to BS 546

Image nos. 8 - 13 show sockets and plugs, made in India according to IS 1293 standard. The devices are bought in Bhutan that, like Nepal, has adopted the Indian standard. Images 14 and 15 show South African SANS 164 plugs, also based on BS 546.

IS 1293 16A and 6A socket

IS 1293 16A and 6A socket

IS 1293 socket for 2 and 3 pin 6A plugs

 

       

IS 1293 16A plug

IS 1293 6A, 3-pin plug

IS 1293 6A, 2-pin plug
IS 1292 6A adapter for earthed and non-earthed plugs

8, 9 Two types of Indian sockets that can be used for either 16A or 6A plugs (see image nos. 10 an 11) . Although fully comparable to BS 546, Indian IS 1293 plugs and sockets are rated at 240V - 16A or 6A, rather than 15A and 5A. Both types of sockets have safety shutters. Socket no. 9 has also a fuse and control light. The fuse is not hard wired; it is up to the electrician when installing the socket to wire the fuse (or not). Switch and fuse are not compulsary.
10 Indian 6A - 240V socket that can be used for earthed 6A plugs (3-pin, see no. 12) or non-earthed 6A plugs (2-pin, see no. 13). Brand name: Anchor. The spacing between L and N pins of earthed and non-earthed plugs differ. This is intrinsic to all BS 546 based plugs (see South African gallery for data).
11, 12 IS 1293 16A plug (no. 11), and 6A (no. 12) plugs. The green arrows indicate the spacing between line (left) and neutral (right) pin. Also 3-pin IS 1293 plugs have an inspection hole to check earth pin wiring (see insets; compare with no.7).
13 Non-earthed 6A plug. This 2-pin plug is similar to the BS 4573 shaver plug, but lacks the partial insulation of the pins.
14 IS 1293 6A adapter plug for one earthed plug (as no. 12) and two not earthed plugs (as no. 13).   {MSt}

Manufacturers: Anchor Electricals PVT.LTD , India (nos. 8, 10-14) and CPL Pigmy, India (no. 9).

South African 16A SANS 164-1 plug South African 6A SANS 164-3 plug Tanzanian 16A BS 546 plug Spezialelectric, Germany

We are supplying electric material and accessories as per German and all foreign standards.

www.Spezialelectric.com

D-71634 Ludwigsburg
Germany

15, 16 South African plugs according to SANS* 164 specifications. No. 15 is an example of SANS 164-1, rated at 16A-250V, while no.16 shows a 6A SANS 164-3 plug. Two aspects differ from BS 546 plugs used in the U.K.: (i) partial insulation of power pins is not compulsory and (ii) plug housing do not have an inspection hole for earth pin wiring. Manufacturers: no. 14: Litemaster (part of Crabtree, South Africa) and no. 16: Procast Manufacturing, South Africa.    {FSE}
More material is displayed in the South Africa gallery.  * SANS stands for South African National Standard. 
17 SANS 164-1, 16A-250V plug with a partly transparant housing. Manufacturer: Lumex (Lumex Clipsal Pty, now Schneider Electric). {PO}

 

More BS 546 plugs, adapters and multi-plugs

BS 546 plug 15A non-earthed

BS546 to BS1363 converter multi-plug

BS546 2A 3-way multi-plug

18 Plug of a power cord meant for double insulated appliances. The plug has a non-conductive 'earth' pin, which is needed to open the safety shutters and to enforce the correct orientation of line and neutral pin. The official name of a non-conductive pin is an Insulated Shutter Opening Device (ISOD).
19 15A, 2-way converter plug (the second, top side set of slots is not visible), which allows the use of BS 1363 plugs in a house equipped with BS 546 sockets. According to BS 1363 standards converter plugs are provided with 13A fuse. Manufacturer: Voltex, South Africa.
20 BS 546 2A, 3-way multi-plug. Manufacturer: Clang.   {JM}

 

Fused BS 546 plugs

In contrast to BS 1363 (see above comments) by far the most BS 546 plugs do not have a fuse. However, fused BS 546 plugs are offered as an extra means of protection.   {DF}

BS546 5A plug, fused, top view BS546 5A plug, fused, inside view BS546 5A + 15A multi-plug BS546 5A + 15A multi-plug, inside view

21, 22 5A BS 546 plug with a 5A fuse. Note that fused BS 546 plugs have a rectangular shape, in contrast to the triangular, non-fused counterparts (see nos. 4 and 5). Brand name: MK Electric, England.
23, 24 Fused 15A BS 546 safety adapter meant for a 15A and 5A BS 546 plug. Both outlets have safety shutters. It is indicated that the total loading must not exceed 15 Amps. The fitted 5A fuse only protects the 5A outlet. Brand name: MK Electric.
note Both plugs have a small type of cartridge fuse (BS 646), rather than the larger BS 1362 fuses that are used in BS 1363 plugs.

 

Characteristics of BS 546 plugs 15 Amp
5 Amp
2 Amp
shaver plug
BS 4573
Diameter of L and N pins 6.9 mm 5.1 mm 3.7 mm 5.1 mm
Diameter of earth pin 8.4 mm 7.1 mm 5.2 mm n.a.
Spacing of L and N pins 24.0 mm 18.5 mm  14.7 mm 16.6 mm
Offset of earth pin
25.6 mm 20.4 mm 12.5 mm n.a.

 

Crater plug, small
Classic BS 546 plug
BS 372 Part I plug, small
BS52 bayonet plug, small
Crater plug
Obsolete adaptable 2A, 5A, 15A two and three round pin plug.

Classic BS 546
Old plugs and outlets made in Britain and China.

BS 372 : 1930 Part 1
Non-earthed plugs and sockets, and historical notes.
Click here for examples.

BS 52 : 1963
Bayonet cap (B22d-2) lamp holders with BS 52 plug adapter.

 

Request for help

The museum is still looking for a BS 546 30A
plug and socket. If anybody can help me, see about the collection for the address to contact me.

 



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