I am working on a stock feeder / power feeder (used with woodworking equipment). It has an 8-position drum switch to control both fwd/reverse direction as well as vary the speed. The ON positions of this switch are:

  • Fast - forward
  • Fast - reverse
  • Slow - forward
  • Slow - reverse

as well as 4 OFF positions.

The motor itself has 6 leads (as shown in the diagram) which are all switched. My understanding is that the speed control function of the switch works by changing the topology of the motor coils with respect to each other and to the 3 phase inputs.

I would like to replace this switch with a VFD, both to run the machine on single phase power and also to provide more granular speed control.

The essence of my question is: what's the best way to wire the motor-side of the VFD? Is the "slow" or "fast" wiring topology more appropriate? (Or, would either work?) Assuming that is determined, what is the correct wiring combination of motor leads that would achieve said topology? Just from studying the diagram below its not clear to me what that is.

I could perform resistance tests or other inspection of the motor or existing switch, if that information would be useful.

Here's the control switch:

enter image description here

Each of the non-animal positions are OFF.

The motor is integral to the machine... its not a separable standard mount motor. It has no nameplate. However the plastic switch housing (also integral to the machine) has this:

enter image description here

Manufacturer's wiring diagram:

enter image description here

I've compared the diagram to the actual machine and its pretty accurate. Annoyingly the leads on the motor are all labelled with the same number (all red leads are "4" and all yellows are "2"!) but I can distinguish them with the help of the diagram.

FYI I originally had it on a static phase converter but it ran quite hot, that's one reason for the VFD idea.

It may help someone else trying to do the same thing to know that this was a Powermatic model PH-3 (aka PF-34). Maybe it will turn up in web searches.

  • \$\begingroup\$ We will need motor data to say for sure, but it looks like you have a Y D switch. \$\endgroup\$
    – winny
    Oct 1, 2021 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @winny I added a bit more info about the nonexistent motor labelling. There's no nameplate. Its not missing... just there isn't one. Can I examine or test the motor in some way to determine what we need to know? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 1, 2021 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Theodore I obviously don't know for certain, but since it could start from full stop in either slow or fast modes in the factory configuration, I figured it would also do so on the VFD. Granted, the VFD might have to be set to close to full speed. Though it would never start under load in normal usage. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 1, 2021 at 22:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ probably the best and easiest way is to hide the switch and connect the vfd on rst. you do switch only when vfd is off. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2, 2021 at 6:56

3 Answers 3


The motor in question appears to be a two-speed, one winding, variable torque motor. When operating at the low speed, the two sections of the winding are essentially connected in series and form 4 poles. When operating at the high speed, the two sections of the winding are connected in parallel and form 2 poles. The parallel connection results in a higher voltage per winding section. As a consequence, the motor can provide more torque when operating at the high speed.

If the high speed connection is used for VFD operation, the motor will have the same capability as it has now for full-speed operation. At reduced speed, the motor will be capable of providing the rated full-speed torque at reduced speeds. Because the self-cooling capability of the motor is reduced at reduced speed. Continuous use of the full torque capability at reduced speed is likely to overheat the motor.

If the low-speed connection is used with a VFD, operating above the low speed will not be possible without operating above rated voltage. That would probably not be a feasible mode of opreation.

It would probably be possible to leave the switch in service for VFD operation, but it could only be operated when the VFD is shut off. There is probably not a good reason to use it.

enter image description here Image from Smeaton, Motor Application and Maintenance Handbook McGraw Hill, 1960


The answer by Charles Cowie was absolutely correct. Having finished the project I thought I should separately add some details specific to the machine I was working on.

The 6 motor leads were divided into yellow & red triplets, marked 2 and 4 respectively (corresponding to the 2– & 4– pole configurations, I believe). I first labelled them individually based off the wiring diagram in the manual. e.g., yellow #s 9, 11, 24 and red #s 13, 15, 18.

I also marked the drum switch terminals for easy reference.

3-phase inputs were colored brown, blue and black.

I then disconnected all wires from the drum switch and successively tested each switch position to see exactly what wiring combination it produced. These positions are labelled based on the following diagram:

enter image description here

Switch Setting Red 13 Red 15 Red 18 Yel 9 Yel 11 Yel 24
Turtle-Left Brown Blue Black Open Open Open
Turtle-Right Blue Brown Black Open Open Open
Rabbit-Left Conn Conn Conn Brown Blue Black
Rabbit-Right Conn Conn Conn Blue Brown Black

('Conn' meaning connected to all the other reds).

This examination of the switch confirmed the other answer. It also confirmed that the forward/reverse direction change is just a matter of swapping 2 of the input leads, as expected.

I completed the wiring of the motor using one of the "rabbit" configurations having entirely removed the drum switch. (So that "forward" direction on the VFD matched the sense of how the machine is supposed to operate normally).


The Powermatic PH-3 feeder is driven by a 2-speed, 1 HP motor.

enter image description here

The wiring chart on the switch housing shows that it's a constant-torque

Dahlander-connected motor.

enter image description here

Here's the schematic / wiring diagram.

enter image description here

Use of a VFD, to control the motor, should pose no problems.

The motor is to be configured for 2 poles and the VFD for constant V/f.


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