I was going over an old circuit of mixed knob & tube and early NM,
replacing old receptacles and switches (ancient P&S) and upgrading
some wall-mounted fixtures (early 30s Markel Electric). The splices
are well-soldered and taped; the K&T has intact insulation, and for
once there was a reasonable amount of slack left to pull into new
plastic boxes -- and capped-off gas pipes from the original lighting
With all the loads removed from the circuit, and the fuse removed,
I measured no continuity from hot to system ground (good), and
excellent continuity from neutral to system ground (also good). (I
had a 3-wire extension cord plugged into a newer circuit in the same
house). Nice to see the neutrals were still properly color coded.
Now, one of the Markel lights was fed by a run of K&T, which was
soldered to the fixture feeders and a run of 1950s NM, said splice
being buried in some kind of AWFUL white plastery substance as
hard and unmerciful as death and taxes (my best guess is it was white
lead putty). Into a plastic box this all went, ready to join the brand
spanking new fixture leads.
For good measure, I took my DMM and measured AC volts between
another circuit's hot side (from the extension cord) to the K&T
neutral. 120 V, fine. Then I measured between the cord's hot to the
K&T hot. 120V? Wha? I rechecked with a neon lamp. The lamp
lit. The NM conductors, which ran through two 3-way switches
to another light fixture, which was off, read 79v each. Wha?
I don't get it. The circuit is definitely dead. I have accounted for
other branches, some of which are multiwire, but this one is not.
Everything is turned off, and indeed there seems to be no DC path to
ground through the K&T hot, and certainly not through the disconnected
run to the 3-way switched fixture!
What does everyone think? Inductive coupling? Would that light the
neon bulb? Should I go back to my old analog meter?