Making of: the Three Nixie Projects

The idea was born almost at the same time with the keyboard’s, but it embodied very slowly. It became clear to me pretty soon, I want to create something that no one has created before; and I think I succeed: Steampunk Nixie Timepieces integrated into Lebanese cedar boxes (and a digital Hygro / Thermometer)!

three nixies project

The first things I got were of course from the good old American eBay, and it was no other than a bunch of wooden boxes, 6 of them, to be exact. From these were chosen the three I would to create something from (on the picture there are only 4).

The Nixie tubes were chillin’ in my drawer for a long time, until the time they became an idea. As a tribute to numerology, in the three Nixie projects I used three kinds of Russian faceplate tubes, which can be found on my webpage under the nixie menu.

The electronics of the two clocks are the courtesy of Konstantin’s work, which were originally made for IN-17 mini nixie tubes. If I’m right, these are the world’s smallest nixie-timepiece panels. The panels were made provisionally first, and they were ran in like that, in test mode. Fortunately there was no mentionable heating, that’s why I decided in favour of the little boxes without a second thought.

Naturally, both of the electronics demanded a converting for specific needs. One of them had to be compressed so that it would fit in the smallest box, while the other needed to be expanded with a new, wider "driver" panel that would fit right in the IN-14 Nixies...

The electronics of the thermometer was created based on my friend’s Matano Tomohiro’s layout; for which I’d like to say thanks to here as well. It was not a few hours’ work to make those originally Japanese parts - that are practically irreplaceable with other ones – compatible with the electronics used in Europe. Bringing the panel to life caused a lot of headaches, but at last I’ve solved every problem! The SHT11 hygro- and thermometer sensor I used is an exceptionally punctual digital device.

While the timepieces use PIC, the thermometer’s soul is an ATMega microcontroller, to which I got an eeprom burner and a bootloader, too. Furthermore, there is an AVR chip in one of my future steampunk project as well, but the CRT tube clock remains to be seen in the future...

The buttons on the clocks needed some modifications too. Originally these are made for guitar amps and operated via feet. Pressing them required a big amount of strength, so I modified them that these could be flicked easily even with a finger. Beside them the power supply connectors and the female connectors can be seen.

This is the first time that Bakelite appears in my works as a material. Fortunately I have taken hold of IN-2 Nixie sockets, which I modified also, so that they would be compatible for IN-8s. Again, the galvanizing mill made a great job with coating the old, oxidized stamps and other parts with two layers of brass.

Lebanese Cedar (Cedrus lebani) is a really soft material, it’s especially easy to polish, but for the same reason it is really hard to work with, as it shaves off unusually quickly. It had a great aroma while etching and polishing.

It was followed by the application of different kinds of lacquer coats in several layers. The last layer is a special furniture lacquer that gives a mixture between the silky and the glossy finish. There is neither marinating nor stain on the boxes, the point lies in the texture of the cedar. That’s why I chose this material.

I modified three 500 mA adapters for the power supplies. The cable was coated with the same kind of braided steel that is on the keyboard’s cable.

Some polishing followed, then finally the assembly began. Our cat, Jenny is not part of the Nixie projects, however she is mad about Victorian stuff. :)

All three boxes are almost done...

More HQ images in the gallery.