Introduction: 1970s Neon Infinity Television

About: I love the design and ambition of vintage technology, and the usability and potential of new - my passion is bringing the two together.

This is an early 1970s Ferguson Courier television that I've converted into an infinity mirror, with a modern neon "Open" sign glowing inside. The On / Off / Flash function is controlled by turning the TV's tuning dial - that's what we used to change channels with in olden times kids!

As well as the photos there's also a short video showing the neon TV and its rotary control in action.

Step 1: Original Units

I picked up this sweet little TV in late 2014, it was sitting there on Gumtree for a fiver and I just couldn't let it go - despite having made myself a promise of "not doing any more TVs" after finishing the previous one. I gutted it almost straightaway, but couldn't decide what to do with the shell, it was only a 12" screen so pretty small for a straightforward LCD conversion.

I hit upon the idea of making it into an infinity mirror - I'd seen some great examples of these on Instructables so I thought I'd give it a go. My idea was to theme it around the original Star Wars arcade game, the one with the iconic line graphics (stay on target!). I wanted to recreate the game screen using EL wire between the mirrors, so that the "lines" would disappear off into the distance - with appropriate x-wing colours and an R2-D2 tuning knob for the case of course!

Anyway that blatantly didn't happen, then we moved house and I've spent 6 months converting the garage into a bar/workshop instead. Recently when I picked up some secondhand neon signs for the bar (2 for £10) I had the idea to make an infinite "Open" sign with one of them. The bar is small but I call it the Progress Bar, as it's like a junkyard of technology through the ages. At some point I intend to make a giant Arduino powered LED Progress Bar for it, to fit the name. Still enough of that, on with the instructable!

Step 2: TV Teardown

Like most vintage electronics this old british-made TV came apart very nicely, all of the parts being screwed or bolted together and not a drop of hot glue in sight.

I discarded the old high-voltage components but kept the case and rotary knobs - it's always one of my "rules" to re-use the original controls if possible.

With everything removed the remaining two parts of the case fitted together firmly with just three screws and a couple of clips, which was ideal as these things nearly always need multiple attempts to put together!

Step 3: Open Up

The neon light was surprisingly pleasant to dismantle - seeing the big base and modern label I had assumed all the components would be fixed directly to the circuit board and hard to break into, but in fact the toggle switch, transformer and power socket all had their own flying leads, which made things nice and easy.

The neon bulb came out first, this was only held in with a spring-loaded clip so was obviously intended to be replaceable. Nonetheless it was really fragile so I moved it to a safe place!

Removing the base revealed the bulb holder, switch and other components - these must have been soldered together after being put in the case so I had to carefully cut it open to remove them all intact.

Step 4: Neon Switching

It was obvious looking at the original neon base that it wouldn't fit between the two mirrors, so once the innards were free I looked for a new box to house them - a standard project box from Maplin turned out to be just the right size. I cut a slot in the top of the box for the original bulb holder, and drilled holes in the bottom so it could be bolted to the TV case.

The original neon control was just a normal On-Off-On toggle switch and I was pretty sure of the wiring, still to be sure I labelled the cables, snipped them and then tested my assumptions with some breadboard and an LED. I needed to replace the rocker switch with a rotary one for the tuning knob, so after doing the same breadboard checks I soldered it to the cables I'd labelled earlier.

Amazingly the new switch worked first time! I then used part of the discarded lamp base plastic to make a bracket, so that the switch could be easily mounted to the TV case.

Step 5: Mirror Case

This was my first infinity mirror project - it works by using a "standard" mirror glass at the back, with a "one-way" mirror at the front, so you can still see though it but whatever light is between the mirrors is bounced infinitely back & forth.

To make the one-way mirror I needed to find a suitable piece of glass then apply mirror film to it. I found a horrible old picture in a charity shop that would fit and ordered up some mirror film from eBay. Applying the film was probably the hardest thing about this build, I followed the enclosed instructions using a spray bottle with a baby shampoo solution and got a good result, but it's definitely something to take your time with, especially when it comes to using a squeegee to remove the air bubbles as I still found a few small ones afterwards. I'm sure there are dozens of tips for doing this better than me in the many other infinity mirror instructables!

For the standard mirror at the rear I cheated slightly and got a local shop to cut me one to the right size - but as it was such a small order they threw in a second one for free!

I hot-glued some plastic brackets to the TV case to hold the front (one-way) mirror and used some old mirror clips and shelf holders to secure the back one in place, snugly between the TV's vents and base. I'd made a total plasticky mess drilling and chopping out the case to fit, so once everything was ready I gave it a good scrub in the sink before assembly.

Step 6: Assembly

At this point each of the case pieces was clean and had its mirror securely fixed. Next I nervously bolted the neon assembly onto the case, trying not to damage the bulb or one-way mirror in the process.

The rotary switch tightened nicely into its home-made bracket and then I hot-glued the power socket inside the case, feeding the cable through a convenient hole.

The final job was to fit the tuning knob onto the rotary switch spindle, and glue the other non-functional small knobs in their places.

The two halves of the case clipped together after a bit of jiggling with a satisfying "snick!" and I quickly fitted the two retaining screws before it came apart again. That just left the last screw underneath and this one just turned and turned for some reason, so I gave it a bit more pressure and heard a nasty "grindy-grind" noise - after assembly the screwhole had ended up directly under the rear mirror. I left it well alone!

Step 7: Infinitely Open

All in all I'm really pleased with how this build turned out - in retrospect I should have spraypainted the inside of the case black, as some parts of the original cream can be seen when the bulb is on. I just covered the most obvious bits with black duct tape and a sharpie.

I also wish the final product had been a bit easier to photograph! The neon is a lovely red colour but in the pics it varies from almost white to dull orange, and the reflective front also made getting good photos difficult.

Still it's done, the bar is now officially and obviously "Open" and best of all the fragile/suicidal bits of mirror are finally off my workbench!

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