How to Wire a Rotary Telephone

Chris Deziel

Although rotary telephones are outdated today, they were an improvement over older phones when they were introduced. The rotary dial transmits a series of clicks that can be electronically interpreted as a phone number. Previously, the caller had to contact a switchboard operator, who then made a manual connection. Rotary phones have an inlet for a telephone cable, just like touch-tone phones, which have largely replaced them. To get one working, you simply have to connect a phone jack to the power company lines and plug in the cable.

Rotary telephones are increasingly rare.

Step 1

Remove the cover from a telephone jack and screw the jack to a wall or baseboard. It will be least obtrusive if you install it as close to the floor as possible. Use an RJ-11 modular jack, which has an outlet for one phone line.

Step 2

Drill a 3/8-inch hole in the floor under the jack and feed a length of telephone cable through that will reach the phone box, also called the Network Interface Device (NID), on the side of your house. If you can't find the NID, look for the overhead phone lines and follow them until they drop down. It will be nearby.

Step 3

Run the cable through the basement to the NID and staple it to floor joists to keep it secure and out of the way. Open the customer half of the NID with a Phillips screwdriver and feed the cable through the bottom. Strip the end of the cable with a utility knife and separate the cables. Select the red and green wires, or if the cable has wires with stripes, the blue/white pair, and expose the ends with the knife.

Step 4

Open the cover of the module containing the phone connections. It will be labeled with the phone number. Loosen the red and green screws, then attach the green wire to the green screw and the red wire to the red screw. For striped wires, connect the white wire with blue stripes to the green terminal and the blue wire with white stripes to the red one. Twist all the unused wires together and push them into the NID, then screw the cover closed.

Step 5

Feed the other end of the wire into the bottom of the phone jack. Connect the same pair that you connected at the NID to the center two terminals. Connect the green wire, or the white one with blue stripes, to the terminal marked T1. Connect the red wire, or the blue one with white stripes, to the terminal marked R1.

Step 6

Screw the cover onto the jack and plug in the phone. Listen for a dial tone. If you don't hear one, or it is scratchy, check your connections.