I bought this switch from Smallbear about ten years ago, probably around 2000. It cost $13! Before that time this was a high tech item that was only available in Fulltone products from what I understand. Legend has it that he had them designed and specially manufactured for his boxes. I guess wiring a true bypass box with an LED easily was worth it to him to invest the time and money to get these things made. Not sure how they ended up at Smallbear. Steve probably figured he could sell a few, I bought 1, and Mike Fuller had enough stock on hand to pass some on to Steve.
Now days you can get these everywhere and the prices seem to get as low as $3.50 each, though the price seems to have settled around $5 on average.
When I began doing this DIY stuff I made a few boxes with the Carling DPDT switch. To get an LED to work with one of these was a difficult proposition. A few people, mostly R.G. Keen, came up with a handful of ingenious circuits that would allow an LED to work with the DPDT. The most famous of which is the Millennium Bypass. At the time I felt this was a little beyond my skills so I never attempted to use one of these in a box. Mostly my boxes went without an LED.
Then I found the 3PDT switch and all of a sudden even I could have an LED. Provided of course I was willing to invest $13 into a box. Now days it’s not even a question of how to get the LED to light, this is the standard switch used by everyone professional and amateur. Heck this is the standard switch even when you don’t need an LED. I think Zvex still uses the Carling DPDT in the Fuzz Factory, I think the Fuzz Factory still doesn’t have an LED. Is the Fuzz Factory the new old school?
As long as we’re talking switches here’s a few pictures of switches. The first is the Fulltone 3PDT. Next is the Carling DPDT, I like to think of these as the vacuum cleaner switch. Third is the current ubiquitous 3PDT. Not sure where I got this one. Fourth and fifth is the X-Wing type DPDT. The sixth is a miniature 3PDT switch from Mammoth Electronics. I had high hopes for this switch when I first saw them. After ordering a few I was less enthusiastic. The switches are not very tall often shorter than the knobs on a box. The holes in the solder leads are too small to fit most wire through. The body is a bit smaller than the standard blue 3PDT so they do save some space (I wrote more about this here). The last image shows a size comparison of all of the switches. Mammoth Electronics makes a 4PDT switch which I haven’t tried but might be good for something.