Introduction: High Voltage Power Supply for Nixies, CFL, Neon-Glow-Bulbs Etc. for My Steampunk Objects

Picture of High Voltage Power Supply for Nixies, CFL, Neon-Glow-Bulbs Etc. for My Steampunk Objects

Hi everybody

This instructable is also a summary of my own experiances in constructing funky light objects using the electronic from a disposal camera, as the knowledge of other projects and constructive ideas from the internet.
So it was my aim to write an clear DIY :-)))))) tutorial which can be followed by everyone who tries to do it for him- (her)self.

Before I started my instructable career, I was looking severeal times in the internet and found a lot of similiar projects which worked with this electronic. There was only one problem to me because nearly all of them had one common mistake: You never saw where to solder exactly the last wire to finish the project successfull!

That´s why I sat down and tried to find out my own best solution. I have to say that I´m not really good in working with electronics and I also can not draw the circuit of the used electronic from the disposal camera but I can show you now exactly where you have to solder your wires to light a flickering candle bulb, a cfl-tube , NIXIE-tube or a Neon Glow Bulb with only using a 1.5 Volts battery. I tested a lot of different disposal camera types (Agfa, Kodak, Fujii) and came to the conclusion that the ones from Fujii work best. Since then I always use only the electronics from Fujii-disposal cameras.

And now here comes my solution in which way I use to work with and I hope that will answer most of your questions about it.
If you follow carefully myt really detailed step by step instructabble, you should get an impressive result.
Before you start please notice two things:

First: There exist two different types of disposal camera s from Fujii which I used: One is driven by an AAA-battery and the other one uses an AA-battery. I call them the "AA-Type" and the "AAA-Type".

Second: Don´t wreck your health and please obay the follwing advices:

***Disclaimers***This instructable works with voltages in excess of 250V. This is more than enough to give you a potentially fatal electric shock if handled incorrectly. If you are unfamiliar with how to work with high voltage, please refrain from performing this instructable. Exercise caution throughout the following steps to avoid electrical dangers and also use insulated tools like pliers and screwdrivers and so on.
If you choose to undertake this instructable, you do so at your own risk.

Please obey that most of the gasfilled CFL-Tubes also contain some Quicksilver (Hg). Dont break them!!!

This instructable involves soldering. A soldering iron becomes very hot during its use, to the point where it can cause instant second-degree burns. Exercise caution throughout the following steps to avoid burns. If you choose to undertake this instructable, you do so at your own risk.

Step 1: How to Get the Electronic From the Disposal Camera (AA-Type)

Picture of How to Get the Electronic From the Disposal Camera (AA-Type)

I start the description with the AA-Type which I prefer because to me it seems to have more possibilities.
First you have to cut of the paper. Then you open the plastic part of the camera´s bottom to take the AA-battery out and then open the camera carefully.Then you can take out the electronic easily.

Step 2: Running Down the Capacitor

Picture of Running Down the Capacitor

In this step, and this is the most dangerous one, you have to run down the big capacitor to avoid any electric danger. I took an High performance resistor with 500 Ohms, twisted two wires on its ends and covered it in a steampunk tube. Then I insulated the ends of the wires too!
(-You can also do this step by taking an big screwdriver with an very good insulated holder but then you risk an loud spark when you get in contact with both pins of the capacitor.)

I prefer the 500 Ohms way;-))))
After running down the capacitor which lasts only some seconds, take an side cutting plier and cut both pins of he capacitor an put it away.

Now your electronic is safe until you start to switch on the electricity again.

Step 3: How to Get the Electronic From the Disposal Camera (AAA-Type)

Picture of How to Get the Electronic From the Disposal Camera (AAA-Type)

As you have seen before I´ll show you now hwo t get the electronic from the other type of the Fujii disposal camera (AAA-Type). Some parts are different to the AA-Type and that is why I show it here once again step by step.
The main difference is the "copper blade switch" which is soldered on the electronic. You will desolder it later, see next step.

Step 4: Put Out the Other Electronic Parts You Do Not Need Anymore

Picture of Put Out the Other Electronic Parts You Do Not Need Anymore

This following step is independend from the Type you take, because the parts you have to put out by cutting with a pliers or using a soldering stick are the same.
From both types the big capaicitor is already cut off.
Then you take away the flash module, the switches left on the electronic and if you yu do not want to use them the former red diode light. At the AA-type this light (showed that the flash was ready to shot) sometimes had been a neon glow bulb and somtimes a low voltage diode. At the AAA-type this light is always a low voltage diode!

Step 5: Desolder the Following Parts

Picture of Desolder the Following Parts

Some parts have to be soldered out as the better way. First yo desolder the copper blade switch on the electronic of an AAA type because at this contacts you can solder the wires of the new switch or fix a wire bridge there if you like to place the switch in the wire of the low voltage side (to battery).
I will show this varieties later on ;-)))
I experienced that it is much better to desolder the battery holder parts from the electronic and use a new batteryholder bevause the following reasons:
First:- You can put the changed electronic in an insulating can.
Second:- You can run the AA-Type electronic for example with two AA batteries (3,0 Volts instead of 1,5 Volts) and therefore you need a new holder.
Third:- If you want to changfe battery you can do it without getting in contact with the high voltage parts of the electronic (its already insulated in a PE-can). This avoids electric shocks!!

Step 6: New Power Supply

Picture of New Power Supply

Now there are some possibilities for a new power supply:
The AAA-type runs best with 1,5 Volts (using 3,0 Volts will kill the transistor soon!!!). The AA-type can either get 1,5 or 3,0 Volts becuase the central transformer is modified in anohter (better) way as at the AAA-type electronic.

Which way of supply (1,5Volts or 3,0 Volts) is the best ,depends on what sort of light do you choose. I will explain thie´s fact later more detailed;-))))

Step 7: The New On/Off Switch-possibilities

Picture of The New On/Off Switch-possibilities

Ok.Now it´s the time to start with your mdifications:

First you should test wether your work before was successful and that the electronic still works. The easiest wayt o check it is to clip a wire as a bridge and put inthe battery. If the diode/light glows everything is good. These two contacts where you placed the clip are also the right points to solder the wires of the new switch. I measured that these two contacts are running with the same low voltage as the battery gives, so you can use a mini switch.

Now put out the battery again and start your soldering
The follwing pictures show:
First the test with an clip wire
then integrataing the new switch directly at the electronic.
and then another possibilitiy for switching by soldering a short piece of wire as a bridge and placing the switch in the low voltage circuit of the power supply.

Step 8: AAA-Type Driven Lights

Picture of AAA-Type Driven Lights

With the new electronic of the AAA-Type with only 1,5 Volts.

you can drive a classic flickering candle bulb (filled with neon gas) in an High Voltage AC-Circuit (one contact before the diode)

or an NIXIE-tube in an High Voltage DC-Circuit (one contact after the diode)

The follwing pictures show the complete circuts. I chose the bridge solution for demonstrating.
To protect your circuit against a sudden short cut which directly kills your electronic you should take an resistor (about 68 kΩ to 100kΩ) when you drive a NIXIE-Tube.
The flickering candle bulb already carries such an resistor in its socket!!!

The last picture in this step shows all the explained details for the AAA-TYPE very clear so you can print it out and work with;-))))

Step 9: AA-Type Driven Lights

Picture of AA-Type Driven Lights

With the new electronic of the AA-Type

you can drive a classic flickering candle bulb (filled with neon gas) in an High Voltage AC-Circuit (one contact before the diode) with 1,5 Volts as well as a CFL-ligtht-tube.
This cfl-light-tube often tube shines much more brighter when you use 3,0 Volts and the flickering light effect is only sometimes a little bit better. But driving with 3,0 Volts is an exception. You can drive the CFL-light-tube without an additional resistor because its "inner resistor" is big enaugh.

If you do so with a flickering candle bulb or a NIXIE-Tube, there is no advantage to see. On the other side I´ve reading a scientific book that the "life" of the electronic and these bulbs is rapidly sinking if you drive it with 3,0 Volts "over" instead of the 1,5, Volts for which the electronic originally was layed out.

The NIXIE-tube runs best with an High Voltage DC-Circuit (one contact after the diode) and as supply 1,5 Volts.

The follwing pictures show the complete circuts. I chose the bridge solution for demonstrating.
To protect your circuit against a sudden short cut which directly kills your electronic you should take an resistor (about 68 kΩ to 100kΩ) when you drive a NIXIE-Tube.
The flickering candle bulb already carries such an resistor in its socket!!!

The last picture in this step shows all the explained details for the AA-TYPE very clear so you can print it out and work with;-))))

Step 10: Insulating in a PE Can

Picture of Insulating in a PE Can

The last step of this instructable is to place the new electronic in a small PE can. In their first life these cans carried the metal film can. Now you only have to melt some holes in the top and bottom (Don´t inhale the smoke! Take care for fresh air!) and put the wires through. Close the can and it´s done.

I hope that this instructable will help to create lot of new and awsome projects!

Have fun with it!
and let´s start!!!

Yours Aeon Junophor


LabRatMatt (author)2017-04-06

Wow, I pulled that exact circuit board out of an old camera and used it as a power supply for my coil gun project. I have an extra one. I'll have to try this!

ArtemC (author)2017-03-04

What transistor did they used in the circuit?
Thanks, if you answer

Junophor (author)ArtemC2017-03-28

Hi Artem C
Her you will find all the answers of your questions to this pcb.
Youtube-Member The Signal Path analysed it in these three videos very well;-)))

TSP #3 - Camera Flash Circuit and Nixie Tube Tutorial (Part 1/3)

TSP #3 - Camera Flash Circuit and Nixie Tube Tutorial (Part 2/3)

TSP #3 - Camera Flash Circuit and Nixie Tube Tutorial (Part 3/3)
Hope this will help you much
Aeon Junophor

ArtemC (author)ArtemC2017-03-04

And have you measured current construction?

Junophor (author)ArtemC2017-03-28

Hi ArtemC

This pcb runs with nearly 220 Volts when working with a cfl tube or a nixie tube
Greetings Aeon junophor

TRIGG3R (author)2017-02-27

detailed to the last drop... awesome instructbl.... ?

cmaurer4 (author)2016-04-01

cool I need that

Electroslayer (author)2015-06-27

That steampunk 500 ohm resistor thing is really cool could you please make instruction on how to make it I would love to have one for myself and also is it a 500 ohm resister or a 500,000 ohm resistor.

Junophor (author)Electroslayer 2015-06-28

Hi electroslayer

Just solder well insulated wires at the contacts ( each side) of the resistor. It doesn´t matter wether it is an 500 ohms one or a 500 K-Ohms one (than it lasts only a small second longer to run down th might possible capacity). I put my resistor in a steampunk stylish tube ( acrylic "glass" also for insulation reasons) and covered both sides with E 14 brass sockets combined with a fittin´copper tube 15 mm as I showed it in this instructables-project:

Hope this will help you and If you like show us your result;-)))

Greetings from Germany

Aeon Junophor

bmiller91 (author)2015-06-28

It's a common practice in tube amps to put bleeder resistor in parallel to cap for safety reasons. Possible to do the same here?

Junophor (author)bmiller912015-06-28

Hi bmiller91

That´s right!

Do it in that way.

LoneGinger (author)2014-12-09

I found a 2.5v 500 ma dc output adapter at a local second hand store and have been using it now for 8-9 days straight with out failure. I have it in open air currently but will be putting it in smaller and smaller enclosures trying to force failure from elevated temperatures. The power supply I found has three outputs allowing me to power three circuits and three individual bulbs with in one lamp. Very excited for the possibilities, plasma cadelabra being one. Pics to come as soon as I work out some of the finer details.

LoneGinger (author)LoneGinger2014-12-10

also the adapter is 2.5v but is reading 3.9+v at the circuirt board. So I this circuit has been running with almost 4v for 10 or so days now.

Radioguy33 (author)2014-11-13

Help! Even with a 100ohm resistor I am getting over 600v. My wires are exactly where they should be for DC too.

Junophor (author)Radioguy332014-11-13

This is quite normal with 100 Ohms resistor. But you will find only some milli amperes. So if you use a cfl light or nixietube or another neonlight bulb etc. it will run without a problem(too less power(milliamps)). The lamp regulates the voltage down to110 to 200 volts you will see!

Hope this answer your question

Aeon Junophor

Radioguy33 (author)2014-11-13

I'm getting 606v on the DC line without a 100ohm resister. Is that normal? That seems really high!

MadMuz (author)2014-09-08

Haha my friends and used to run around shocking each other with these disposable cameras. 1 time my mates zapped this dude silver necklace in the shoppibg center, he bloody screamed amd chased my mate wanting to turn his face into mush. Hahahah nostalgia orgasm!

harbourkevin (author)2014-08-06

Just for interest sake. The CFL lamps in South Africa have a 12volt transformer in them. Is it the same in your country and if so did you remove it.

Junophor (author)harbourkevin2014-08-07


I really don´t know wether the transformers of cfl in germany runs with 12 Volts because in my projects I onlyuse the glasstube and fire them with the pcb from the disposal cameras.


Aeon Junophor

• The Inventor • (author)2014-06-05

I have a kodak disposable camera circuit and it's so different than the one used here, in general what you did there is that you placed the capacitor with a ( light bulb or anything ) and you made the circuit to continuously charging and the bridge always closed?

You are right with it! And you can use the HV either as DC or AC as youcan see;-))

Greets Aeon Junophor

dudes (author)2014-05-09

is it possible to make a schematic of the camera circuit and the modifications?

badideasrus (author)2013-05-30

i'm no electrical type person, but i believe the warning about dangers of this devise are highly over rated. the first part is that it is warned that the devise creates 250 volts. however it is not voltage that kills or hurts, it is current. and it is powered by at most, two AA batteries. the curent provided by both is not enough to even feel.... and since you removed the capacitor, there is no store of energy that can be released. also, because the bateries have 1.5, or 3 volts depending on configuration, and you crank that up to 250 volts, you are actualy making the devise less dangerous, because voltage and amps are inversely dependant.

correct me if i'm wrong.....
(also, i've used these circuits as tasers to mess with friends and the worst it's ever done (with the capacitor intact....) was burn alittle. (.... it hurt too. >>. but removing the capacitor makes this circuit almost harmless as far as i can tell)

dudes (author)badideasrus2014-05-09

while the current IS what kills, we must remember ohm's law, at high voltages the body has less resistance and therefore more current is able to pass through it.

aihegbu (author)badideasrus2014-04-27

Finally, apply voltage to certain parts of the body and it will still be fatal even well below pain levels. Your electrical signals from the brain are modulated voltages not amps so a shock that feels harmless can (in rare instances) disrupt the electrical pulses from your brain or simulate a 'fake pulse' causing your heart to beat early, seize, or fail if the shock is close enough. Lets not talk about a shock to the brain too.

Tasers rely on a complete system overload, they are much more powerful than your own bodies signalling neurons so easy for your organs and brain to discern from neuronal signals. Small shocks not so much. Stay safe man. :)

aihegbu (author)badideasrus2014-04-27

You are wrong. The input voltage is fine and below danger levels, but the capacitor is still very much able to give you quite a shock especially if it is disconnected before the charge is released in the camera flash. It's not going to seriously hurt as the amperage is low, but it's plenty enough to mess with, or even short out a pacemaker and thus the warning is still very necessary.

Even though we remove it from the circuit, for the short term (a few days) a capacitor acts like a battery and stores charge without a circuit so it is still a hazard.

rexxxdavid (author)2013-12-07

can i step up the ac out witha step up transformer?

astral_mage (author)2013-10-17

i've rubn the double aa unit with a stanrd nin volt battery w/o problems

nerd7473 (author)2013-07-03

I took apart a camera once

NinjaMidget (author)2013-01-17

Ok, love the instructable. I did this on several flash units that I had from old disposables. I took an AC reading and it was 570v ac..that's a lot of voltage. I was wondering if I would need to put a resistor in place to hook it up to one of the cfl bulbs since they are normally running on 120v (at least here in the U.S. I know enough about electricity to have a healthy fear of such voltages...any and all feedback would be appreciated.

NinjaMidget (author)2013-01-16

Awesome instructible! FYI for anyone trying this..those large capacitors can hold a charge for years. I was taking the flash electronics out of several of these cameras from my wedding 3 years ago and a couple of the capacitors gave a pretty loud snap when I discharged them with a screwdriver. Even if you're working with old electronics, be careful around those large capacitors!

GrissleFist (author)2012-12-10

Pretty amazing! Going to try it out tonight. If you see a bright flash in the sky, it's just me. I am pretty new to electronics and your work is inspiring. Thank you.

ZaneEricB (author)2012-11-09

wHY ARE YOU SO AWESOME. Thanks...and now to the drawing board!

Effluxmind (author)2012-10-04

Enjoyed your instructable, found it very clear and informative. You need not be able to draw a schematic of the circuit to clearly convey your information. I am not an engineer, have worked in electrical/electronic areas for years and can both draw and read schematics. You succeeded at a very high level where reliance on schematics was made unnecessary. You also hit a very sensitive point on others not showing clearly or at all exactly where to make connections to the circuit for outputs for a particular project. I also found that a very frustrating point in researching this subject. Yes, I can power up a board and investigate with test equipment and trial and error until success is achieved. But man does not advance by continually reinventing or rediscovering what has already been accomplished. It is much more productive to research a topic and work from a good resource. I have found many resources for this topic and many have a very high level of technical expertise on the topic, some with schematics, but you have beat them all. Thanks for the knowledge.

Junophor (author)Effluxmind2012-10-04

Hi Effluxmind

Thanks for your kind words. Yes you hit the point why I left the schematic. I could have shown a drawing too (I am able to do so), but what for? Such a schematic might be very helpful to only a small group of electronic engineers, technicans, home constructors or electronic freaks but I thought that it was much better to show the circuit directly so that nearly everyone could follow....

I experienced that a lot of people worked with this instructable successfully (and of course told it to me) and that was my aim!!

Cheers Aeon Junophor

Roryfkl (author)2012-05-27

Hi I'm building a bike powered cfl headlight and I could only achieve full brightness on a (AAA-Type circuit) when I bridged the HA(+) ac/dc and the adjacent resistor (directly below HV+ in your picture). Although full brightness was achieved a slight buzzing resulted as well. Any thoughts why this works and will it cause problems in the future for the circuitry? By the way fantastic Instructable! Very thorough and great pictures!

Junophor (author)Roryfkl2012-05-28

Hi Roryfkl

Very nice idea.

I will try to test your new grip of HV bridged in the described way.

I think there will be no further problem for the circuit to do it in this way but you may test it with one AAA-batterie and let it run down to see what happens. Then you can tell us your result

ebend12 (author)2012-05-03

Well your tutorial tells how to do it, but how does it work? What is actually taking a Low V high Amp DC to a High V low Amp AC?

the_don125 (author)2012-04-18

You totally stole the disclaimers from my similar instructable. :P Its cool though, and great job on expanding upon some of the more unclear aspects of crafting a camera into a HV power supply!

the_don125 (author)the_don1252012-04-18

Just for future reference though, it is generally considered courteous to cite your sources, especially if you copy-paste. :) I don't mind much, but there are people out there who will.

Junophor (author)the_don1252012-04-18

Hi the _don125
I beg your pardon you are absolutely right. I took the disclaimer from your site but only for that reason that I have not known the right words for explaining the danger at that time. Let me say that I am very sad not to mention you as the source that´s my fault.

But let me also say that your instructable was the one which brought me to the job working with nixie tubes and disposal camera flash units besides the other neon gas filled lamps or cfl-bulbs. That waslong before I presented my first instructable here.

So once again sorry for my mistaking and please accept my apology. I will try to do it better in future

the_don125 (author)Junophor2012-04-18

No need to apologize. :) I don't mind, and am honestly glad that my instructable was put to good use by someone. That's the whole point of instructables, to share ideas so that others may build upon them!

I was just giving you a caution, there are some people out there that become annoyed if somebody copies their work without referencing it.

longwinters (author)2012-03-18

Greetings from the Island of Maui:

I tried to send you some pictures of my latest project and my E-Mail would not cooperate, so here is one or two, I would also like to thank you for this instructable because I was able to modify a different HV unit from another camera to work as you say.
The unit did produce a nice glow on one of the bulbs I have sent you when connected to the AC side of the diode.

Oh and there will be a clock on the top of my project to finish it out, plus a pendulam and some weights that are illuminated.

Junophor (author)longwinters2012-03-28

Hi longwinters

Sorry that I have not answered yet. (I explained you why).

Oh this looks very good!!! FIVE points worth!!!!

The wood you used will shine very good after finishing indeed . Very tricky the ankles in the mirror front .There will be surely an interesting play with reflections of the moving pendulum and also the glowing oft the neon lamps .
The lamp on the right photo looks very stylish I love it !!! This fits perfectlly in!!

I am longing for your presentation.

Thanks again for the bulbs my brain is already working........;-)))

Cheers Aeon Junophor

ricks (author)2012-03-11

My 13YO child is trying to build a home-made Geiger Counter. We have the GM tube created (we think) and are at the voltage stage where we need something in the 350-550 dc volts to allow the GM tube filled with helium gas to sense a ray passing through the tube.

It appears that if you take your feed from the DC side, the power is steady as shown by the tube staying lit. Is the DC voltage high enough or could you envision any changes to this Instructable to meet this need?

We are not electrically that knowledgeable, but want to get there if we can.


mrayw (author)2012-02-24

Looks cool. Any idea about the voltage or how much current it can put out?

makermike (author)2012-01-06

Great instructable! I have a question about the lifetime of the electronic circuit when driving a bulb. Since the electronics were designed only to operate the flash for, let's say, 24 exposures, operating a bulb continuously is really running it outside of its design specs.

Any experience in how long to expect the circuit to work before something blows?


Junophor (author)makermike2012-01-07

Hi makermike
If you don´t raise up the voltage for more than 3,0 Volts, you can use this electronic circuit as long as other electronic circuits too. The only "weak" part is the transistor which might get too hot (and then melts/blows) if you take too much voltage.
Yours Aeon Junophor

techno guy (author)2011-12-23

If you use the ac part from before the diode, then can you use it to power a transformer?, because I heard that transformers work best with ac voltage.

tutdude98 (author)2011-12-23

can this kill you??

About This Instructable




Bio: I love to invent and create new things in a "steampunk styled way" working with brass, copper, vulcanized-fibre, brass gears and (ply)- wood. On one ... More »
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