Introduction: F-104 Starfighter Steampunk Lamp and Outlet

About: I am a maker, DIY'er, Dad, Engineer, and all around life Long Learner. My mission is to try new things, attempt to do more by learning from others and share my experiences with others for enjoyable experience…

A buddy of mine found a F-104 starfighter bomb control panel at a Motorcycle swap in Germany. Look at the cockpit picture at the far bottom center... and you will see it in the plane. Knowing I made weird lamps, he bought it and gave it to me for my next project. Purchases of some aircraft wing tip light fixtures and a NOS B-17 Oxygen flow meter later, I was on my way to build this fancy extension cord with lamp. Here is how I did it...


One 50 cal ammo box (~$8 Army surplus store)

Two aircraft wing tip light fixtures (eBay ~$28)

Edison Bulb Reproduction ($7)

A 1946 New Old Stock (NOS) B17 Blinker Airflow meter (eBay $15)

F-104 Starfighter control panel ($Unknown)

A gasoline primer bulb ($2 eBay)

A 120 VAC Dimmer switch ($3), 120 vac duplex Outlet ($3), "SO" rubber covered extension cord $3

RGB Large 10 mm LEDs ($5 for 25), a 9 vdc flasher for flashing red LEDs ($4)

28 vdc wall Transformer ($8 eBay) for the panel lamps (28 vdc - $0.89 each eBay)

One Nixie tube 170vdc 0-9 digits

One 1.5 vdc batter wall charger

One High voltage DC circuit board from a disposable camera

One light bulb lamp socket

Assorted hardware

Hickory plank

Step 1: Rebuild the Bomb Panel

The bomb panel was full of a lot of dirt probably from sitting in the rain since 1961 in some junkyard. After i opened the panel, I cut all the wires off from the switches. The toggle switches were packed full of mud so I took them apart, cleaned them and reassembled to working just fine. Luckily the 6 position, 6 pole selector switch worked great. I also had to take the panel apart because the backlit panel lamps (28 vdc) even though were good would not light.

The panel was a very delicate foil trace glued to the back of a piece of plexiglass so I had to be very careful cleaning it, but it did come clean with patience.

I also thought the lamp needed some sort of a meter... so what better than a brand new oxygen flow meter from a B-17? I carefully peeled the label from the box and glued it to the side of the ammo box. The meter has two metal vanes that open and close "blinks" when air flow is applied to the rear fitting on the gage. As long as it was blinking on the plane, you had oxygen to your mask!

Step 2:

After layout and tracing the wing tip fixtures on the ammo box, I used a cut-off tool to chop into the box. I then filed to the line for a perfect fit. I also cut the bottom off the box as this would be the front of the lamp leaving a margin for screws to pull the hickory panel to the face of the box. I then added a few vents made from a PVC conduit fitting and emt conduit fittings and some wire screening.

Step 3: Panel Build

I knew the wiring would be a bit complex so I drew myself a scheme to get it right. I didn't want to trouble shoot this after the build or worse fry something out due to cross voltages, etc. I also took my time soldering wires with plenty of leader for ease of installation.

The lower left has an emergency jettison pushbutton so I decided to use a flasher and plash the LEDs red. So I bought a flasher that would operate on 9 vdc and wired that to the Pushbutton.

I used a Russian IN-12A Nixie tube. To drive the high voltage I used a disposable camera DC voltage converter that ups the 1.5VDC battery to 170 VDC. There are plenty of instructables on how to do this so I won't go into that here. HOWEVER, the nixie tube is a fast draw down of a single AA battery so I installed a battery charger inside the ammo box to keep the nixie powered. The charger has a NiCad battery in it to act as a capacitor /voltage buffer to hold the charger at voltage when powered.

Note the bomb panel has a "high toss" and a "low toss" fuse switch. So I decided I would use a pole on the 6 pole switch to control the Nixie digits... When in low toss, the Green LED leads are energized for Grass... then a flip to the high toss position then... Blue (for the sky) LEDs light up. When you rotate the central knob in low toss you get digits 0 - 4 last position is nixie is off. In high toss, left to right on the knob gets you 5 - 9.

Step 4: Finish the Wiring

The rest of the project was just finish the wiring scheme and test your work as you go. To get the wing tip lights to be colored, I carefully ground off the contact to the incandescent and pulled the filament out, then set an LED inside it and epoxied it into place. I also added a neon pilot light that was inserted into a conduit fitting with a plexiglass window to it. I put a piece of copper tubing in that assembly and cut in slots to give it a coal burner appearance. Remember to use a resistor in the line for the 120 VAC neon bulbs.

Step 5: