Introduction: CYCLOPS

About: Born in Zimbabwe, raised in South Africa, have worked in the movie industry for the last 28 years , in the following fields, Senior production designer, engineer, concept artist and so on... Designer engineer…

Here is Cyclops... all metal, shiny, very industrial. I can picture it sitting on baron Harkonens mantel....
I have been wanting to build a single digit Nixie clock for a while now,  I looked around the workshop and found a bunch of bits and pieces that I would start the design with, little is sketched its more of putting pieces together and seeing what they look like. after I started I saw the Shop Bot Challenge and worked hard late nights to complete this in time....
Just A starting note, I tend to communicate better through an image so please read the tags, they will sometimes hold a lot more info then the body of text...
here are my parts list, remember not finding the identical pieces is not a problem , just explore what you get your hands on and something is bound to climb out of that mass of parts....

here we go.....

  • Found 13 pieces of an aluminum bottom plate, 1/8”thick and looks like it has a 4” hole cut for a speaker.
  • Had some misc brass parts from a previous project.
  • will need access to the following tools
  • A milling machine (preferably with X Y Z readouts)
  • Band saw,  need a pretty robust one for this project
  • Lathe
  • soldering skills
  • Buffing wheel with compounds.
  • sand blasting booth (not necessary can substitute sandpaper for a similar effect)
  • Basic electronics and machining skills
  • All kinds of hardware
  • loc-tite retaining compond (green).
  • loc-tite 430 metal cyano-acrylate.
  • 20AWG wire, red /black, and some 28AWG ribbon wire 12 conductor.
  • an assortment of clear acrylic tubing
  • Blink M programmable RGB LED. here is the info... and this is where i got mine
  • you will need to buy the BlinkM interface too, Looks like a USB flash drive with a 4 pin input..
  • Single digit Nixie kit.... I got mine here....

Pete has to my knowledge the only Nixie prototype board out there that gives the experimenter options of screw terminals, solder pads and designated Nixie patterned mounts for leads,this isn't the kit I used in this instructable but will aid you on any 6 digit clock you wish to build.....

Pete always answers and is there to help you out.

If this kit is not on the site right now, be patient .

  • 9vdc- 15vdc power supply

  • 3 momentary buttons + caps (got mine off an old record player)

  • delrin and nylon washers and stand offs

  • soft rubber tubing

  • a multimeter with a continuity function (prefer an audible function).

  • 24 blue 3mm LED's

  • (1) aqua 5mm LED, (1)orange 5mm LED, (1)amber 3mm LED

  • led sequencer kit (Ebay)

  • 4 tactile momentary buttons
  • an old black and decker smoke detector
  • keep track of the wires, number everything
  • imagination and keeping track of plate sequences and directions
  • An understanding spouse because this takes time....

Step 1: Gathering the Pieces

I had a total of 14 plates to work with, the original concept was to keep the plates intact except for the front where the Nixie would show,covered by a vac u-formed piece of clear PETG plastic was this sarcophagus. I was going to sculpt an animated cosmonaut that was in deep sleep but at set intervals would wake and thrash in terror, articulated eyes, brow and jaw would display the terror then he would fall back to sleep, I have built automata pieces in the past and this was going to be a time and terror piece.....but as you all know ideas change and flow in all directions and that was soon put aside......

Step 2: The Cut

Important to not your offset from plate to plate has to be set before the cut.
I decided to go with a radius instead of a straight line, used a spindle sander to sand and even out the edges, be cautious aluminum is a great heat conductor and these parts when sanded or cut get very HOT, DO NOT USE gloves to protect you from the heat, its very dangerous when a saw blade is being used. just be patient, quench in water, dry then continue....
Remember that the stack had the top and bottom plates reversed, so in the picture bellow the 4"speaker holes in the plates are on the right (opening), the left is solid... i decided to go with a vertical standing clock so i needed more plates with the 4"  hole, so using the holes in the reversed top/bottom plates as a guide, I proceeded to cut the hole out.
My plan.....
using the new cut holes to frame the "window" for the tube, then splitting the other set cap the top and bottom of the chamber....

Step 3: Stacking

In this step you will see the variations, stacking the sets in different configurations to find a good direction.....
I combined the cut pieces, front and rear after cutting out NIxie window in the previous step.
the design is still fluid, plates can be pushed so the offset is in the back,  parts can be flipped and if not numbered correctly can be placed out of order,  this can be a problem if the registration holes are not mounted and drilled precisely in a mill, I used a drill press and when plates were flipped there was a slight mis-alignment of the registration holes...

Step 4: The Guts

before making the first cut, you should have some plan in mind as to where you are going to hide the electronics that will be running the clock, how the power and control wire's route to and from the circuit board, this is an all metal construction so when planning include space for insulating the component and wiring side of the circuit board, the insulation should be strong or thick enough to not allow the solder points to make contact with any other conductive surface, a short will destroy the board not to mention you have 170-300 volts present that could potentially conduct through the plates giving you a nasty shock.

Step 5: The Reactor Core

I wanted to include a focal point that had a separate activation button.
the user could turn on this light show that would make the clock come to life but wanted it to be controlled, my clocks light up rooms and they are tame compared to how this one ended up. the first few pictures will show the original way I was planning to mount the Nixie, which was to have rods bent out of the reactor, formed to let the Nixie "hover in its pocket within the clock.
after spending a few hours I scrapped the idea, didn't look as nice as i was hoping,  the Nixie was not fixed and at some point might work its way loose, I did not want to risk this so I changed up to a more solid mount...

Step 6: The Brass

failing at mounting the Nixie using only the conductor rods, I dug around and found some brass scrap from another project.
I also decided that the clock had to stand taller and that with spacers light can travel through the clock.
I decided to go with an 1/8" space between the plates, I first tried a few plates using delrin standoffs that I found and then proceeded to make and polish brass spacer's . I changed out the all-threads for longer ones to allow me to expand and test the brass between different levels of the plates.
little brass holders were made and modified to hold the Nixie from 3 points, rubber bumpers are the only thing in contact with the glass tube, there is another not seen here on the top of the tube. The Nixie is seated very tight

Step 7: Mounting the Reactor and More Brass

Slots were machined into the back of the acrylic reactor piece which nest between the plates, like steps, later the raised central "step" was drilled and tapped for washers and hardware to be applied from the electronics compartment. another set of wires with one side female and the other side male will wire from the nixie to the reactor...

Step 8: Button and Power Input Assemblies

In the beginning of the project the Nixie window was cut from the solid side of the stacked plates, the leftover cutout will be split into two and serve as the power feed input (bottom)  and the users buttons (top). The components used are designated "panel mount".
basically the components have a threaded neck with a smaller diameter than the body,  components usually come with a lock washer and  nut.
on the button assembly.... the top plate has to have clearance holes drilled to accommodate the button caps, the plate bellow has to allow for the threaded neck, this is where the buttons are mounted, the remaining plates have to have the largest openings  where the body of the buttons and wires will be housed...
same process for the barrel power jack.
both assemblies wires feed to the electronics bay where they will eventually connect to the main board.

Step 9: Polishing - Assembly - Wiring

so now you get to take the WHOLE thing apart....scribe the numbers inside the plates so they cannot be polished off.
scribe in a place not visible when assembled, I had 3 polishing compounds, I stuck with the soft rouge compound, there are lots of sharp corners on all the plates and it doesn't take much for the spinning buffing wheel to catch one and fling the piece from your hands, so slow and steady is the way to go.  its not my first time on the wheel and i had a few piece shoot across the room
After polishing the stack was flipped, plates are removed cleaned polished and re-stacked,here is where your number and the side you scribed it on becomes your reference....plates vary slightly and its easy to flip or screw up the order, around picture 4 bellow I started sliding the brass between the aluminum, having the stack split allowed me easy access to the shaft collars that hold the Nixie in place, it also allowed me to connect the wires without great difficulty.
 So the order of components are.... bottom set of alum, insert brass with the nixie holders and lock down the holders shaft collars, while structure is still open wire the nixie tube leaving the other end accessible, continue the assembly until you reach the center of the machined ellipse behind the reactor, install reactor trapping it between plates.
continue the assembly stacking.

Step 10: More LED's

wanted to create a second marker, Idea was to have a series of LED's that swept left and right or cycled every second, so thought of two lit disks one on the bottom large and one on the top thin. found a sequencer kit on eBay and ordered it, 12 channels and something like 32 sequences gave me plenty to play with....I did not want the LED's to be too spotty so the plan was to have a ring within a ring. 
2" and 4" acrylic tubes were cut into 3/8" and 1/2" thick slices on the band saw with a set fence, I cut more than i needed because it is a delicate material and I knew some would be broken during the process.
using a 24 position index plate I drilled both sized rings skipping a step in the index to finish with 12 holes per ring. wired up 24 x 3mm blue LED's, wired into the sequencer ciruit board with the positive being common wire from the LED's , again number the wires coming from the leds so you can put them in order when connecting to the circuit board.
 bottom and top alluminium plates were removed and the LED discs were placed in their positions, top and bottom plates are re-mounted and tightened against the led discs, the neoprene protectors evenly apply the pressure sandwiching the LED discs tightly.

Step 11: Legs for the Beast

The clock looked incomplete without a base or feet to sit on so I started by getting out some of the left over wood from the last clock, sat the clock on it and decided on another direction.
found some nice curved pieces from another project and I had left and right pieces

Step 12: Installing the Heart

the Driver board is the component that gives the piece its purpose of being a timepiece, It can pack a wallop and hit you 300 volts if not handled or positioned correctly everything wired in the piece when it was in pieces had extra wire attatched gives you more options if you can wire something one way or another instead of cramming it in a space due to the length of wires.....that said careful cutting and most importantly marking and keeping track of all your conductors and there are lots of them.
the whole thing is conductive so you will have to have insulation planned, the insulation was already decided on when I milled the electronics bay. insulation size had to be added to the boards dimensions for the final size of the bay.

Step 13: Sound and Lights

The board came with LED's to indicate the seconds and another to indicate PM it also had output for a piezoelectric buzzer, you will notice that in some of the images might show parts that are not in this step, the reason is when I get stuck sometimes I move to tackle another part of the project until the pieces come together or an idea pops up and then I just pick up where I left off and continue.... In order to keep focused on the step at hand, I might show Images taken at a time further along in the build.....
 with that all said as you will see in the images bellow I started with pulled parts from an old smoke detector and finished with a cool industrial looking sound and lighting feedback device thingy ,  read the captions in the images.....

Step 14: Almost There, the Top Plate

The clock is almost complete even though there were lots of options for this and that flying through my brain, but step by step gets you there and there have been many turn around and re think this moments.....
From  the beginning i wanted this clock to look advanced, alien in nature.... at one point I was planning on making an area 51 type crate and illustrate a burned piece of parchment with and alien being handing the piece to a humanoid figure, who then would live out the time left on the piece and end it with the built in blade when time ran out, the worn parchment was to be covered with alien diagrams and text ....
The instructable competition put a deadline into the picture and I barely finished.....

In this step I needed to create some finishing pieces to complete the look of the top of the piece, the most visible part.
I started with a card board template to test out the look and how the shape would work with the rest of the clock, the templates also allow me to plan the cuts with out wasting the metal plates and I went through about 3 variations before i came up with a good configuration..

Step 15: Wrapping It All Up

In this step the final components get mounted to the clock assembly, using parts found in an old aircraft gyro I gave this some finishing touches and wired the remaining sound and light components into the main board.
the clock lights and pulses the time like a beating heart.....

the last 4 photos of this step show the other Ideas I attempted prior to coming up with the sounder and LED markers, the process is anything but straight forward, you just have to keep trying and it will all work out....I recorded lots of time lapse during the assembly but had trouble uploading all but one video.
Hope you enjoyed this Instructable, The clock and the write up were both challenging, I tend to get into my zone and just work through so it took some discipline to stop and take pictures, I sometimes would have to dismantle something because I forgot to take pictures for the instructable, i hope this inspires you to collect, drill, machine wire and be proud of something you created...
And Please vote for me if you think it worthy....
Jack Edjourian

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    Roddy Scott
    Roddy Scott

    4 years ago

    This is a masterpiece of engineering!

    It was your lantern clock that was one of the things that got me started in making Nixie clocks but nowhere near the complexity of your bulds.

    Excellent work and write up!


    Reply 3 years ago

    I know my appreciation is late, but thank you... and it makes me happy to know iv inspired another artist.

    Roddy Scott
    Roddy Scott

    Reply 3 years ago


    better late than never!

    I have a project clock in build that is mechanised with Z5660M tubes and is proving to be a real PIA! But persevering with it as it will be one of a kind when completed.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Those are some nice tubes, how long have you been at it? i have a mind that's constantly spinning up new things , the bad thing is I move on if things don't resolve quick enough, so I have a workshop full of projects that dragged on so I plan now at the quickest way to complete without sacrificing what was imagined. keep at it and please let me know when you're done, I would love to check it out.
    Best of luck

    Roddy Scott
    Roddy Scott

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hi Jack,

    the first clock I made was an addition to a Steam Punk lamp I made for my daughter. After that I got the bug for Nixies and have made quite a few since. Like you I have a mind that will not stay still and I have about 4 clocks in various stages of build. Some I have featured in Instructables and others I have not bothered to write up yet. I keep a photo log of the builds for future use and will probably write up as an Instructable. I just like the glow!
    I feature some of my stuff here -
    and participate at the Nixie Clocks Fan Page - here -

    I get weird ideas that are sometimes hard to make reality but love the challenge in trying to do it. The hardest thing is parting company with them! The SARA clock I am loathe to part with even though I have had a few offers for her. Others such as the Hands of Time and the Tesla Meets Edison I have repeated and parted with only to spend it on the next design!


    Reply 3 years ago

    wow those are great, love the LIchtenberg finish and the balls up clock, have something remotely similar, the nixies are housed at different lengths and resemble reeds....started following you and joined the page.

    I agree with you I don't like parting with them either, I got an offer to go into limited production with my lantern nixe but that was all done with no plans, just on the fly, I do believe that I can do anything and will try and fail sometimes but try again.

    you seem to have the same passion.


    5 years ago



    8 years ago on Step 15

    A nixie clock covered in awesome sauce! Absolutely wicked! the alien parchment would have been a great gag, but the work on the clock is spectacular. Painstaking and detailed are understatements. As I saw in a comment on another instructable of yours, a clean desk is, indeed, a sign of a sick mind. Besides, where would you put the stuff you need, if not on your desk? Keep up the ... superlative ... (yeah, that's a good word) work!

    Gravity Boy
    Gravity Boy

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very good work, nice craft, and attention to detail; and I love the design.

    10, 11, 12?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome job!!!
    just don't try to take this thru airport security. if this doesn't say "thermonuclear device" i don't what does. next thing you know, you'll spend the weekend with homeland security being searched in places you don't want searched, while your really cool Cyclops which you worked so hard on gets hauled away by bomb robot and blown up in a disposal range.......


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Ha ha yes a few of my creations have drawn attention from authorities...some good and some curious


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    So if you suddenly wld never publish here anymore we can send cards to Gitmo?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I would be happy to forward you my new address, but it would be hard to read with a burlap sack over my head


    9 years ago on Introduction

    You are a artist !!! stunning craftsmanship!!!