Introduction: Plasma Gum

About: Stuff. Stuff. Stuff.

Here for your enjoyment is a hack/make/assemblage item. I've always loved plasma globes ever since first spotting one as a wee lad (a million years ago) in Radioshack. Now that they're no longer $100 in eighties money, and are a mere $20 on sale, they're much easier to attain. Being more practically priced has diminished some of the mystique, and while still fascinating, the base is very boring. Here we will review a process of adding a cool vintage vibe.

Step 1:

Being careful to not drop the globe, yank it straight up from its borrring base. It's not attached, it's merely a compression fit. As there is no actual filament, the charge is translated thru the glass.


If you don't understand electrical safety precautionary tactic, DON'T DO THIS PROJECT

If you are on par with electrical engineers, you MIGHT be familiar with safe electrical handling.

If you get electrocuted, and die, I am not reponsible. I warned you.

Step 3:

Unscrew the bottom from the base, save it, you'll need it later. Unscrew the circuit board, and set it aside. If you don't know how to handle curcuit boards without frying them with static thats inherently present, don't do this project.

Step 4:

Now you're ready to start retrofitting whatever you've found that seems plasma-worthy! In my case, I chose an old gumball machine from a junkyard, which cost a hefty two bucks. I took some 3/8" MDF board, and traced the bottom of the gumball machine onto it, then cut out the shape on a scroll saw, and hand sanded. Now I had a bottom plate to mount the circuit board onto. When disassembling the original plasma base, I noticed the bottom had perforations for heat dissipation, and the circuit board had at least one heatsink on a rectifier. I also noticed the circuit board had standoffs to allow for good airflow thru the ventilator holes. Heat is a factor, don't ignore these caveats.

Step 5: Circuit Board Placement

After a couple minutes of fumbling with the new gumball base, baseplate, and circuit board, I was able to determine a spot on the baseplate where the circuit board would have clearance, not arc/short circuit, and still have the power switch accessible. I traced the footprint of the circuit board (and screwholes) onto the baseplate. I then placed the original baseplate on top of the trace, and used the present ventilation holes as a template for the new ventilation holes to be. Now, to be clear, I had a rectangle and a series of dots, in pen, drawn onto the new baseplate. I drilled all the ventilation holes with a 5/64 drill bit. Then drilled pilot holes for the mounting screws, being careful to not drill all the way thru. I rummaged up longer screws because the short screws weren't long enough for the new standoffs. I took acrylic popsicle sticks (tubes), and cut them down in 1/4" lengths. You can find the acrylic tubes in the crafting dept, mine were saved from actual popsicles from before they were readily available to the consumer. I hot glued the 1/4" tubes to the bottom of the circuit board, where the mounting screwholes were.

Step 6: Baseplate Mounting Holes

I then aligned the MDF baseplate with the gumball machine, and held it in place while plotting 3 evenly spaced marks along the perimter, in from the edge deep enough to penetrate the gumball base, but not too deep, as to miss the thin wall. I drilled thru these marks in the MDF, then held it to the gumball base again to transcribe the hole position in pen. I then drilled shallow holes into the gumball base where the pen marks were. You may want to centerpunch these marks first, as the drill bit may walk without a dimple. A drill press may be in order for this step, but I had great success with a hand drill. You'll probably want to tap the holes with a proper thread pitch for your mounting screws. At this point I also cut a hole for the power switch, and filed a slot for the power cord

Step 7: Almost Done!

The broadcasting wire coming up from the circuit board is now too short! I had some leftover solid copper wire from a fluorescent light fixture. Solid, untwisted wire is necessary as it needs to be stiff enough, and light enough to support itself. With needle nose pliers, I twisted a loop in the end of the lead from the circuit board, and the end of the new splice-in wire, so they could interlock. Then i soldered, heatshrinked, then REheatshrinked with a slightly higher diameter heatshrink. The secondary heatshrink was applied to lend to a stiffer joint. The gumball machine has a hole in the middle which would normally house a thru-bolt which would bolt into a top piece, atop the glass. I exploited that hole. I exploited it so good. I took a rubber vacuum plug from an auto parts house, shoved it in the hole, then drilled a hole thru the rubber. I then took a caulking tube of 100% silicone, and slathered it onto any tight clearances on the inside of the gumball base. The rubber plug, and silicone will lend to greater insulation, we don't want a short!

Step 8: Yay!

Mount your circuit board, (with standoffs) to the baseplate. With longnose pliers, thread your broadcast wire thru the hole. Flip your base over, and pull the wire out the top until theres no slack, don't tug too hard, you don't want to break your wire. Flip the whole mess upside down, plug in your power wire, and screw the baseplate on, being careful to keep the power cord in its slot. Plasma globes come with an ugly corrugated black plastic tube the broadcast wires strung thru, I opted to discard it, as the plasma display is more interesting without it. I cut a thin spacer out of 2" ABS pipe, set it in the bottom where the globe will sit, then globbed a bunch of silicone down (neatly) where the globe will rest. Viola! Finito!

This is my first instructable, but second to be published, (multitasking). Please keep this in mind when commenting. I'll probably paint the baseplate, don't worry. When attempting to publish this 'ible, I was prompted to "enter a contest" I don't know if the party contest is the right one for this instructable, but whatever. It will look good at a party. You should vote for this, because I don't know what I'm doing. Amen.

P.S. If you like this item, you can find it, and a few other things on my shop named NiftyNates

Check out my newest instructable!