Introduction: Giger Counter

Picture of Giger Counter

No, that's not a typo. It's a Geiger counter built in the style of H. R. Giger. It started off as a joke a friend posted on Twitter:

If I ever go to an alien planet, I'm bringing a Giger counter. #ThingsILearnedFomSciFIMovies

...and ended up as a really creepy-looking Geiger counter.

This is the third version I've made of this. The first was auctioned off at a charity event. The second went to Phil. This one, I'm keeping.

And, yes, I know that's not how it's pronounced. Just go with it.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
  • a 1/2 scale skeleton
  • a Mightyohm Geiger counter kit
  • 1/2" (12cm) flexible conduit / wire loom
  • four 1/2" 4-40 (12mm M3) standoffs and screws (ideally black)
  • black duct tape (optional)
  • low-temperature plastic (e.g. Instamorph, Friendly Plastic)
  • black cable ties
  • epoxy
  • flexible wire (a couple lines salvaged from some ribbon cable works well)
  • dark metallic spray paint (e.g. Rustoleum Carbon Mist)
  • black spray paint


  • soldering iron & solder
  • drill
  • rotary tool with cutoff wheel
  • pliers
  • cutters
  • compressed air / canned air

Step 2: Assemble the Geiger Counter Kit

Picture of Assemble the Geiger Counter Kit

Build the Geiger counter according to the instructions, with the following exceptions:

  • connect the LED using about 8" (20 cm) of wire
  • pull the middle pins from J5 and use it as a strain relief for the LED cable.

Once you're sure the Geiger counter is working, paint the underside black and (optionally) cover the top with black duct tape, leaving VR1, the Geiger tube, the batteries and the mounting holes exposed.

You can also touch it up a bit with a black marker if you like.

Step 3: Disassemble the Skeleton

Picture of Disassemble the Skeleton

Unscrew everything and pull it apart. You'll only need the ribs, skull and 4 lumbar vertebrae.

Step 4: Cut the Skull

Picture of Cut the Skull

Cut the face off the skull. Don't worry too much about accuracy. You'll be filling in the gaps with plastic later. The intent is to get the remainder of the skull to fit down on the ribs.

Note: Don't glue it in place yet.

Step 5: Assemble the Vertebrae

Picture of Assemble the Vertebrae

Glue the vertebrae together.

Fashion a tail out of low-temperature plastic and glue that onto the narrow end.

While you're at it, you might want to glue together any loose connections between vertebrae on the rib-cage and fill in the screw holes.

Step 6: Cut and Paint the Conduit

Picture of Cut and Paint the Conduit

Cut 6 pieces of conduit: 4 x 10" (25cm), 2 x 16" (40cm).

Spray paint dark metallic.

Step 7: Fit the Vertebrae to the Ribs

Picture of Fit the Vertebrae to the Ribs

Cut off the bumps on the end of the ribs and drill holes to fit the bumps on the wide end of the vertebrae. If you want something a bit more durable, you can drill a couple holes and insert pins to strengthen the connection.

Note: Don't glue it yet.

Step 8: Drill Out the LED Hole

Picture of Drill Out the LED Hole

Drill a 3/16" (5mm) hole in in back of the skull.

Use a rotary tool to hollow out the inside of the skull a bit.

The LED should fit snugly in the hole, with the dome sticking out slightly. Once you've got it to look right, remove the LED again.

Step 9: Mount the Geiger Counter Board

Picture of Mount the Geiger Counter Board

Screw the standoffs onto the top of the Geiger counter board.

Put a blob of low temperature plastic onto the end of each standoff.

Put the Geiger counter board into the rib cage face-down and press firmly.

Once it's cooled, glue the blobs and standoffs in place.

Step 10: Attach the Skull to the Ribs

Picture of Attach the Skull to the Ribs

Thread the two longer pieces of conduit through the gap between the clavicle and the first rib on each side.

Mount the skull on the ribs.

Fill in the gaps around the skull with low temperature plastic, blending it in with the contours of the skull.

Once it's cooled, take it apart and glue the plastic into place.

Note: make sure the top of the skull is still removable. You'll need to access the inside of the skull to install the LED.

Make a post out of low-temperature plastic and mount it inside the skull. You'll need this later to hold the conduit in place.

You can sand down the plastic a bit to even out the bumps but, if you do, take a heat gun to the surface to polish it up.

Step 11: Painting

Picture of Painting

Remove the Geiger counter board and screw the screws back into the standoffs.

Glue the vertebrae onto the rib cage. You can use a couple cable ties to hold it together while the epoxy sets. From this point on, the Geiger counter board is going to be difficult to manoeuvre in and out of the assembly.

Use compressed air to clean any dust off the assembly.

Spray paint the assembly dark metallic. A couple coats should do. Hanging it on a wire hanger for painting and drying seems to work well.

Step 12: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly

Re-mount the Geiger counter on the standoffs.

Remove the top of the skull. Install the LED.

Slip the ends of the conduit into the rib cage and secure with cable ties.

Replace the top of the skull.

Slip the 4 smaller pieces of conduit into the gaps around the Geiger counter board. The exact arrangement isn't important. Whatever looks good.

Step 13: Using the Giger Counter

The power switch is hidden behind the conduit. Switch it on, hold it by the spine / handle, and go hunting for radioactive sources. Background radiation will cause it to beep occasionally.

Things containing a lot of potassium are mildly radioactive. I used a bag of potassium bicarbonate to test mine.

You can also get check sources from United Nuclear. A 5uCi Cs-137 disk will cause the Geiger counter to tick over nicely.


Ginko Balboa (author)2015-06-16

Sir, you are a genius! By the way, it reminds me on the guns from the movie "eXistenZ".

Voidtime (author)2015-06-15

But does it scream? I feel like if there only a little radiation it should just emit a low moan, but higher levels should definitely be accompanied by a tortured scream. Might throw in some red LEDs inside it that glow brighter or dimmer based on the rads. Great project btw!

degroof (author)Voidtime2015-06-15

The Mighty Ohm Geiger counter board uses an ATtiny2313 and they publish the source code. I suppose it might be possible to reprogram it to emit a more interesting sound but I haven't tried it. And, yeah, some LED strips that show through the ribs might be cool. Maybe blue ones?

becomingthebeast (author)2015-06-15

Totally blown away by this!! Super awesome!!

mikefromspace (author)2015-06-15

OMFG it was just a matter of time....I better get one of these if I am to eat any fish out of the Pacific ocean.

toxonix (author)2015-06-15

Excellent. The color and finish look great.

billgeo (author)2015-06-15

What a great idea!!! A pun that makes sense and a practical piece of 'art' that also makes sence! GREAT!

baelza.bubba (author)2015-06-04

As a long time fan of the artist Geiger (I have a couple of his books) and as a tinkerer this appeals very strongly. I love the overall appearance and execution of the design. Now my wife is going to complain about be ordering plastic skeletons ... I think that I'd like to cast the body of your Geiger counter in aluminium and give it an extra Geigeresque twist. Thanks!

ardrhi (author)baelza.bubba2015-06-14

Just an FYI, "Geiger" is the radiation detector. "Giger" is the artist. It's a pun.

baelza.bubba (author)ardrhi2015-06-14

Thanks for correcting my spelling, though, now I feel a bit of a goose ;) I should have looked at my bookshelf first (lol!)

That would make the Giger books that I have very dull indeed, were they about the measurement of radiation ;) I also quite enjoy the intersection of Giger with Lovecraft ... on of the books that I have, by Giger, is The Necromonicon ... a made up book often mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft books.

degroof (author)baelza.bubba2015-06-04

I'd love to see that. Not sure how casting works with internal voids. Would you cut it in half and cast top and bottom separately?

Use the lost wax/sand casting method.

baelza.bubba (author)degroof2015-06-05

I figure that the skeleton model parts are cast rather than injection molded (from the look, but I could be totally wrong). There are lots of different approaches to making the green-sand mold. All of that aside, coolness oozes from this project.

boocat (author)2015-06-14

It is beautiful. The color is dead-perfect. Do you mind if I ask you what paint you selected? (I'd never get this right.)

degroof (author)boocat2015-06-14

It's Rustoleum Carbon Mist. I picked it up at Home Depot.

TimS6 (author)2015-06-14

How about a Giger Counter as an abacus? With the ribs as the bean beams ;-)

jsolterbeck (author)2015-06-14

It's genius like this that makes me grateful to be on the planet right now. Art and global thermonuclear war, together at last. God bless you, friend.

MikeB16 (author)2015-06-14

Just an FYI, that's split loom tubing, not conduit.

ardrhi (author)2015-06-14

Imaginative! But...NO. Just NO. That pun is just too painful...

But seriously, that was a good one. You got me with my mouth open on that one.

LeslieGeee (author)2015-06-14

H.R. Giger would be proud of you. The fact that you used only part of the skull was an excellent design decision. It is an absolutely gorgeous piece!!! :)

billbillt (author)2015-06-14

Very Cool and creepy!.....

GiffDroid (author)2015-06-04

You know.... If you made 100 or so of these.... Took them to a ComiCon.... And sold them..... YOU WOULD BE A RICH RICH RICH MAN! I'd be willing to bet you could sell out in minutes and take orders for the next Con!
An excellent extraordinary friggin AWESOME Instructible!! Thank you for brightening our day!!

degroof (author)GiffDroid2015-06-04

What I'd really like to do is get a high resolution scan of it and make it 3D printable.

Possibly do some mods to the model to make it easier to install the board...

Maybe mount the power switch as a trigger on the handle...

DeadlyDad (author)degroof2015-06-08

Actually, all you need to do is grab a skeleton model and play with the parts in Meshmixer until you have what you want.

DeadlyDad (author)DeadlyDad2015-06-08

Lady Microfleegie II (author)2015-06-05

I knew of H.R Giger before I knew what a Giger counter was so it was obvious what I thought I was at first xD thanks for mashing the two, it's about time x''D

FriendOfHumanity (author)2015-06-05

You are wonderful.

deluges (author)2015-06-05

I am both impressed and creeped out

matterlabz (author)2015-06-04

*Geiger* Counter - that's just hilariously cool! Great job.

Just4Fun Media (author)2015-06-04

Interesting case! I had no idea that you could buy Geiger Counter build kits.

Where did you buy it? and for how much?

degroof (author)Just4Fun Media2015-06-04

I got it from Adafruit. There should be a link to the site in the materials list. It's $100 and the skeleton's about $60. Those are the 2 most expensive pieces of the build.

BrettHacks (author)2015-06-04

Wow! Very cool.

ossum (author)2015-06-04

This is great, I love how much work you put into something for the excuse of a geeky word play.

Edbed (author)2015-06-04

This looks so amazing!

xanlexian (author)2015-06-04

Absolutely amazing!

Kiteman (author)2015-06-04

O M G !

How uber geekaliciously cool!!

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