Electronic – Where to get/How to make a potentiometer with “clicking” steps


Maybe you remember that very old (and sturdy!!!) electrical panels/machines had those big knobs that you could turn to fixed positions (steps) with a very unique clicking sound. I need to make one or get something similar so the potentiometer in my design stays on one of the 10 predefined positions.

Could you point me in the right direction? Maybe those kind of knobs have a specific name? Maybe even the pots themselves are special…

Best Answer

To search for the described part, use the keywords potentiometer with detents.

The specifics mentioned would suggest a potentiometer with 10 detents, such as this one on Amazon, or another on Jameco.

Pot with detents

The detents can be low torque (a gentle click at each transition) or high torque (a firm click). The common / inexpensive ones are low-torque, but they seem to survive longer than a few high-torque pots with detents I have used.

More expensive such potentiometers allow individual mechanically adjustable detent torque, even to the extent of mixing high and low torque detents within a single pot (example).

Adjustable detent potentiometer

At the high end of the spectrum, some manufacturers offer programmable detent torque: Internally these are essentially like stepper motors integrated with the potentiometer shaft, with the externally controlled coil current determining the holding torque at each detent position. I haven't seen this type available in retail, only through OEM sales by quotation.