Introduction: Lamina Nixie Clock

Picture of Lamina Nixie Clock
This is my first instructable and I hope you will like it. I have been reading this website for a while now and I decided to publish my project. I am non-native English speaker please excuse my language mistakes.

This project is inspired by a previous instructable from Hellboy and his Lantern Clock. In the meanwhile he came out with the Cyclops which has a kind of similar concept as mine, but God see my heart, I just took the Lantern clock as my starting point. Anyway I would like to thank him for that inspiration.

When I first saw Hellboy's clock, I said I want something like that. So I sat to my desk switched on my computer and started to design. After a while I came up with the final plan.

The rendered 3d image looked quite OK for me.

For the wooden parts I wanted to use wenge wood but I could not get wenge in that size for a reasonable price. So I decided to use the old proven walnut and maple combination.

I realized soon enough that finding a similar brass disks and gears what matching my design is quite impossible so I decided to make them, but I did not know how yet. The turning would kill my little Unimat machine, which set is meant  to make small parts not these big ones, so I just put them on hold for a while until I find a solution and start the rest. And lately, the solution came to me by itself.

List of Materials, tools:

-walnut timber
-maple timber
-acrylic tubes
-circular saw, scroll saw
-drill and router machines
-brass rods, pipes
-threaded rods
-brass sheets
-screws, bolts
-lots of sandpaper
-lacquer
-nixie clock kit
-12v power adaptor
-wires
-soldering iron
-multimeter
-safety gloves, eye protection

Video:



Step 1: The Woodwork

Picture of The Woodwork

 First I made the mass model from cheap MDF to have a notion how it is going to look like, than I made a more accurate plywood model where all the openings and holes were correct.
I ordered some 5mm thick walnut sheets and cut all of them by laser to have the accurate curves. The cutting shapes are from the 3d design, just had to convert them to vector format.

That was the first time when I have ever used laser cutter, I can tell it is amazing how much work you can save just to use the laser... Of course I don't have a laser cutter at home, but there is one just 2 minutes away from my house in a public Fablab workshop. For a few Euro you can use it.

For the base I bought walnut and maple timber. After planing I glued the print outs of the base shapes and drilled all the necessary holes. My experience to make the holes first, then cut the shape. Where the bigger holes are close to the edge the drill bit or router bit could break off little chips from the wood if you cut the shape first and that is definitely not a good thing. So after having the holes I cut the ovals with my scroll saw. For the PCB panel I made the opening on all 3 base components.

After assembling all the parts the next step was to sanding all of them with a fine grit paper. I applied some dark stain for the walnut parts, the maple remained natural and sprayed them with a metal lacquer. I found it more hard and resistant than the one for wood.

Step 2: The Tanks:

Picture of The Tanks:

The Nixie holder tanks are made similar way as on the Lantern Clock. I bought 50 mm diameter acrylic tube from ebay and cut them to the desired size. The edges are painted with a ordinary white paint, except on that little part where the LED is on the rim (bottom/back side of the tanks).

The disks and gears on the tanks are made from walnut and brass. I cut the wooden disks by laser. For the brass I bought 1,6 mm, 3 mm and 5 mm thick sheets. The thinner ones are from ebay, from England. The 5 mm sheet was harder to find (for good price), but finally I had them  from Germany. After making the proper drawing for them, I took all the sheets to a local waterjet cutting company.

We had some difficulties to find out how to cut these small part without losing or damaging them.
Two things happened, after the cutting head just finished on one of them, the little parts are popped up and fallen to the deep mud under the machine, so I could say goodbye to them, or the bigger disk slightly moved after cutting head just finished the cutting cycle and the loose disk slipped into the water beam and this made some irreversible damage on them. The solution was to leave a little holder beam/rod on each pieces connect them to the sheet and later I could just break them off, like on the plastic model kits what you can buy anywhere.

As soon I have received the ready disks and gears I had to get into polishing. This is always a nice part, you sand and polish everything for days and days, and everything is just a mess, but at the end you have the shiny discs just waiting to be on the final place.

The acrylic holder rims are made from two parts, one outer disk and one inside disk for the acrylic tube. Between them I placed a bolt to screw in the tank holder threaded rods. These main rods on the bottom are holding the base by attaching them to the clock base, the rods on the top are connected to the arms to hold them tight.
The bottom rims are also keeping the Nixie tubes in place.

The top and bottom rims are connected with a 2 mm brass rod with tightening bolts on the two ends. This is strong enough  to secure everything in place.

All the bottom disks/gears have two more bigger openings for the Nixie tube wires. 

Step 3: The Electronics:

Picture of The Electronics:

The electronic parts including the tubes are from England, from a very-very helpful guy, Pete. I have to say a very big thank for all his help.

After I have finished the PCB I had to wait a while to see if it’s really working, because the tubes are not soldered to the panel, first need to make the place for them, than connect all the legs by wire. So first thing first...

I extended the nixie legs with some wire to reach the PCB. I used black for the anodes and for all the rest I used white wires. I know I should have used some rainbow coloring, but the wires what I could get in different colors were too hard to bend into that small place what I had between the panel and clock base so I had to use some softer ones. Anyway it was not difficult to work with them. I used 4 colors to mark each wire, by colormarks I, II, III. Than I had 4 x 3 color code =12  + 1 anode, so 13 connection point per Nixie tube.

For the hour/minute/second separator neon lights I used the ones what were come with the electronics package, and I placed the to the front of the clock base, inside two 10 mm outside diameter acrylic tubes.

The power connector fixed to the base sandwich along with operating buttons, what I just bought in the local electronic shop. I made some brass tubes around them to match the design.

From the PCB you can optionally run 6 LEDs to the tubes to give some blue or any other colors of extra light. I used only 3 blue LEDs for the 3 tanks.

For the alarm LED, I found one SMD LED, probably from an old CD writer, in my spare parts box in a very nice matching orange color. I decided to place it inside the acrylic holder rim behind one of those design holes around them.

Step 4: The Rest:

Picture of The Rest:

The clock has some more little brass details what I had to cut and polish. Such as the plugs above the separator neons. I have them cut by the waterjet guy using the 5 mm sheet, but I could have cut them from a 8mm diameter rod as well.
The spacers (84 pieces) for the laminas and for the base made from 4 mm brass pipe. I polished those along with the visible screws and bolts.

Remember: To protect your eyes is a MUST!

For the bottom of the clock I chose an ABS plastic plate, laser cut it and engraved informations over the buttons and the power requirements. The little holes under the PCB give some ventilation for the electronics.

Step 5: Assembling:

Picture of Assembling:

First I had to place all the Nixies into the tanks, and run a wires through the holes. During the assembling the top parts of the tanks were removed, and the 'laminas' and arms were also not attached to the structure.

Than I screwed the 3 tank bases to the base and soldered all the wires to the PCB. I left little extra length of wire to have some space to flip to the side the PCB panel.

After connecting and testing the clock the next step was to place the remaining base parts and the preassembled 'laminas'. The next step was to solder the neon, power and button wires and closed the bottom.
For the legs I was thinking a lot what to use, and finally I have found these brass legs in one of the local hardware shop.
The final step to place the tank tops and the arms and plug the power cable to enjoy the clock.

Step 6: The Final Clock:

Picture of The Final Clock:

Here is than, my Lamina Nixie Clock. Shiny and beautiful. Everybody to who I have showed the clock were hypnotized, just sat and stared the running numbers for minutes :)
That is a good reward for me.

Step 7: Update: Packaging

Picture of Update: Packaging

To complete the project I have made a nice box for the clock using a simple 4 mm plywood, cut by laser. After a few experiment with cardboard I have cut the inside part as well to secure the clock. Now I have a product, ready to find a way to make more and reduce the cost :)

Comments

themadcat (author)2012-11-23

Hello! Your project is really grate!
Can i ask you to describe tools and machines you had used during this project please?
Thank you!

zorwick (author)themadcat2012-11-30

Thank you themadcat! :)

I mainly used the Unimat hobby set to complete the clock. You can find all the informations from the set here: http://www.thecooltool.com/index_e.php

I have the Classic set and a lot of extra accessories plus a circular saw set to cut almost everything up to a certain (not too much) thickness. They have the Metal Line set which is much better for any work. I have some parts from that set since I broke some plastic tool from the Classic set.

The machine set has pros and cons of course. I got the Classic set as a gift a few years back so I upgraded that slowly. If I would start from scratch, knowing what I am going to do with machines like those I would go for dedicated machines. Circular saw like what I have or Proxxon circular saw for half price. For turning I would buy an old small engineer turning machine. Even Unimat had it in the past. They are last forever. Also a small and precise bench drill could be handy. All those dedicated machines are strong reliable, just what you need!

The Unimat sometimes is not enough or not that strong as a dedicated machine but there is always a solution to fix problems.
I always need a table router or 3D router or just something special for one little thing. Than the Unimat comes handy and I can build any machine what I want.

I dont promote any brand and I dont really have favorites. I prefer sturdy and precise tools. I really like my Unimat, but I am ok with my "SKILL" super cheap off brand sanding machine, which is strong and noisy and when it breaks I will throw away and buy another one :)

I hope this answers your question :)

Z.

GokhanG made it! (author)2017-02-10

yes, now i have one digital clock :)

andrew.larson.14289 (author)2015-05-30

Nice job my man. Pure genius I must say. Where did you by that Nixie Clock pcb?

http://www.pvelectronics.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=59

Pdwight (author)2016-07-15

Incredible , looks like a museam display

victorvector (author)2015-05-19

Fantastic project , and your english language skills are just fine zorwick.

Well done indeed !

easilydistracted (author)2015-03-18

So beautiful!!!

diy_bloke (author)2015-01-22

Thanks for pointing out the FabLab. I noticed we have one where i live too. might be an option if i need some cutting or printing

diy_bloke (author)2015-01-22

great

niels.vanhooij (author)2014-09-15

where did you get the wooden panels with the 5mm thickness.

zorwick (author)niels.vanhooij2014-09-16

Well, for the first clock I have bought them from a model shop through internet, for the next clocks I make them myself, I buy the wood and slice them. See on the pictures!

Cheers

Zoltan

niels.vanhooij (author)zorwick2014-09-16

Thanks for your fast reply :). havent thought about model shops yet. Doh.

bazsa (author)2014-07-23

Gratulálok, nagyon szép munka :) El tudnék viselni egy ilyet otthon :)

pepy (author)2014-04-09

awesome......

DGraff701 (author)2014-03-05

This clock is wonderful! I would love to make one of these as a gift for a friend. Do you have the wood templates on a PDF perhaps?

zorwick (author)DGraff7012014-03-06

Hi, I am making these clocks for sale, therefore unfortunately I could not provide more detailed informations.
Of course if you decide to make your own nixie clock and you have technical questions I am happy to help.

Thank you for understanding!

Best

Zoltan

Darosberg (author)2014-02-03

Very nice indeed.

What 3D program did you use for the initial design?

zorwick (author)Darosberg2014-02-03

Thank you Darosberg,

Initially I used pencil and paper, then 3dMax. :)

afoxx (author)2014-01-09

I love it! Very nice sir. :)

Advar (author)2014-01-06

If you sell these, please sign me up! Awsome job! :)

zorwick (author)Advar2014-01-06

Thank you!

I am making and selling these clocks on woodize.com
At the moment I don't have this type on stock only others, but soon will be.

cheers

Z.

agent_k82 (author)2013-04-09

Really great Work, amazing. Can you put one for sale?

zorwick (author)agent_k822013-04-09

I sent you a PM regarding your question.

gknauss (author)2013-03-17

Just happened across this post. All I can say is "...wow...". Very nice execution, clean and well-formed design that balances out the beauty of those little Nixie tubes. You have quite an artful eye to pull this design off, I wouldn't change a thing. In reading your pdf instructions, you sound like the type of individual that plans things out quite a bit, and checking to make sure that "all-is-well" before moving on to the next step, it shows in your work. You have provided me with plenty of inspiration in using those little Nixie tubes, they almost beg to be used in a project. Thanks for sharing.

zorwick (author)gknauss2013-03-17

Thank you for your very nice compliments! Yes indeed I dont like something to just glue together and it will be ok kind of way to make things :) As a person who first open every machine, toy, tool to see what is inside, I planed all the parts to be manufacturable, openable, replaceable, maybe not always choose the easy way, but there is a way always :) This clock took a while to complete I have modified a lot before I cut the final parts. Since than, I have already made 3 of them for some request and I am making 2 more. I did change a little, not the outside but just a way of how to assemble and fabricate. Thanks again!

cparsley (author)2013-02-16

This clock is amazing artwork. I would never attempt to make it myself. How much would it cost to purchase?

asawyer5 (author)2013-01-23

This is awesome - if you ever go into production I'd be willing to pay quite a lot for one of these

Warp Racer (author)2013-01-22

Nice craftsmanship Zoltan. If you go ahead with a planned production run, please let me know. :)

longpcb (author)2013-01-01

Hi! Your Project is very nice!
I want to make for myself the nixie clock the same you! If you can send to me the pdf document please! Thank you very much! My Email: longpcb@gmail.com

nwitte (author)2012-11-27

This if fabulous. I would buy one if I could. Absolutely beautiful in every detail. The tubes of most Nixie clocks are fascinating but usually are set in the most dreary containers. Very well done!

zorwick (author)nwitte2012-11-30

Thank you!
I will keep you updated when it comes to production.

All the best!

Zoltan

diegofenner (author)2012-10-28

That's a piece of art! Amazing.

zorwick (author)diegofenner2012-11-30

Thank you!

mamajr96 (author)2012-09-20

Approximately how much did the whole project cost.

jakekusters (author)2012-09-17

Is it possible to get the templates for the woodwork?

IronWill (author)2012-07-04

This is amazing, well done.

perhaps i've missed it but what is the circuit diagram for this clock? i see the parts but not the way to arrange them.
thanks!

anim8er (author)2012-06-20

A work of art!

zorwick (author)anim8er2012-06-21

Thank you!

Fukkel (author)2012-06-02

very very cool !!!

zorwick (author)2012-05-11

I have added a packaging update.

gentry (author)2012-05-09

This is great. How long did it take you to make it?

zorwick (author)gentry2012-05-09

It took a lot of time to finish the design, play around with materials and different solutions and so... To finish this first clock, it took around 3 month time, of course I had no time to work on it every day:). To replicate, it would take a 2 weeks, I guess, if I have all the necessary components.

kingbin (author)2012-04-23

Very nice design, I love it!

docgates (author)2012-04-21

Very beautiful clock, thanks for sharing this project. I'm inspired to see if I can build something similar. It's hard to judge the scale; what size nixie tubes did you use for it?

zorwick (author)docgates2012-04-21

The tubes are around 5,5 cm tall, the diameter 18 mm. I used 50 mm diameter acrylic tubes for the tanks. The clock itself around 32 cm wide, diagonally fit onto an A4 size paper, and 2,5 kilo :)

YAR!N (author)2012-04-19

This is really great! Do you have some pattern or something you would share? It would be very useful :)

tgirard (author)2012-04-18

Wow.... amazing build. any chance of getting dxfs for cutting out the parts. I'd be on this tomorrow if I had those :)

mochimaster (author)2012-04-18

Very, very impressive.

Would look really cool in a living room.

Dynamic Nerd (author)2012-04-17

I cannot express how impressed I am. Good work, and one of the better of instructibles I've read. Incredible for the first tutorial in that you've made

About This Instructable

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Bio: Hungarian guy in The Netherlands. Check my website for nixie clocks!
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