Introduction: Plasma Display Steampunk
This was a week-end project I created from a 6" black and white TV and a large neon bulb a friend sent me from overseas,
the smaller bulbs I found at a second hand store, I wish I didn't have to say this, but this project uses VERY HIGH VOLTAGES,
it uses the out put voltage of the TV's flyback I'm not sure the exact voltage but I'm guessing around 20,000 volts, it can burn, cause a heart attack and is just plain miserable.
The total cost to me for this project was about 20.00 dollars, the TV was 5.00 and the wood and doo dads the remaing cost.
These little TV's are in all the junk shops they no longer work without a digital converter, and B+W is too boring for most people now.
Step 1: Find the Parts and Test, Safety.
Because it's been 30 years since I studied electronics I took the easy way out, I just used the whole circut board from the TV chassis.
I cut off the leads to the vertical and horz magnet drivers, and the heater in the tube, this left me with a single board which had the coveted flyback, I also cut off the tuner section of the board because it stuck out another 3'
To be simple I cut every wire to the tube, the large single wire to the side of the tube is what you want to use, if you didn't know that, then don't start this project.
Pay attention! TV Tubes store their voltages for quite a while, days, weeks, months, so when you disconnect the flyback wire from the side of the tube treat it as if it is on running at full voltage, I grounded mine with a pair of gloves and a screw driver connected to the TV ground,
then I put tape over the hole on the side of the tube so as to not acidently discharge it into me.
If you are going to get shocked this just might be the time, get help if you need it please!
Step 2: Modify the Bulb
I used copper foil from stained glass work to make a grid on my large neon bulb, the design you use is up to you, keeping the spacing within 1/2 and inch will make it glow best, don't put any foil strips near the base, an arc can very easily form.
I enjoyed this project because it held lots of mystries, for example when voltage was applied to the base of the bulb it glowed very softly, when applied to the threaded part it was quite brightly, I exploited this by making a high low switch to change the bulbs out put.
The two pictures here show the base and side connections, the second picture is much brighter but the camera adjusted it back, but trust me it is bright. Can we all say overvolt!
Step 3: The Box.
I made a box of 9 ply Baltic birch and covered it with oak vanieer.
The face plate is copper sheet over 1/4" scrap plywood.
Spray contact cement was used to stick the copper and vanieer to the box.
I had pre-drilled the holes in the wood face and did a pre-fit to make sure it would work and look good
the copper is to expensive to waste by mis-drilled holes, just ask Miss Betsy.
To make the switches I used a scrap piece and fitted the switches to it to make sure it would all fit and work
I made my own switches because of the high voltages, that will be covered in the next step.
Step 4: Switches, Arc Generator.
You need arc points to get the full voltage from the flyback, I thought it would be fun to make them adjustable, I also made a high low switch for the large bulb out put.
With the points seperated the voltage flickers and has a very desirable effect, (it's freakin cool man)
The pictures show how I did it, it's crude but it works and does not short out, I did make it so when the control for the points is fully
relaxed the points are still slightly apart, you don't want a dead short. (that is the job of the small block of wood above the brass wire
where the string attaches, pretty high tech, yuk yuk.
You will notice the points are pulled apart by a long thread of NON-conductive material.
The high low switch uses an inch of plastic to prevent shocks and shorts.
Carpet tape holds the copper contacts to the board.
Step 5: Battery Final Pics, Fun Stuff About It.
I used 4 X 3.5 volt rechargable battries, in series I wanted to fit them in the case but alas it was too small so I made a holder on the back
the battries are held in two 3/4 copper tubes with contacts on the ends, a nice system that is easy to do is to use velcro to hold the battries in the tube then shoved a copper wire through the velcro in the center to make contact, when they need it undo the velcro to change the batts.
I used a 2 prong plug so I can easily recharge them,
the legs are made from candle holder parts,
The box is really fun to play with because you can "tune" it by moving the points apart, this makes it spark and causes the light to jump around in the large bulb, the smaller bulbs have a small removable copper wire ring that causes them to light up quite brilliantly,
or with them removed you can use your fingers to make the light chase to them.
If you look at the bulb behind the one I'm touching it has a ring while the one my fingers are on does not.
The center brass ring has a magnifying glass that shows the arc in action, it was made from a candle holder drilled out and a binocular lens.
I really need to give credit Junopor for all his wonderful projects using neon bulbs, without his influence and many projects I would never have been inspired to make this one.