Introduction: Steam Punk Ammo Tin Nixie Clock

I was inspired by other home made nixie clocks I had seen online and thought I'd have a go myself. I used an old ammo tin, vintage moving coil gauges from the 1940s and a switch from a 1960s airliner to give this clock a military feel. These parts were all sourced cheap from eBay, there is a wealth of interesting kit out there!

This project requires a lot of soldering to complete. There are also dangerously high voltages involved so some previous electronic experience would be advantageous. I used the Dink board from PV electronics to power the lights, a great all in one kit that I'd recommend. This instructable is more of a rough guide and wont go into minute details as a lot will have to be figured out by the builder :)

The basic components used for this build are:

  • 30 cal ammo tin
  • Dink PV Electronics Board
  • 6 nixie bulbs (i used IN-12A tubes)
  • 6 nixie bulb holders
  • neon lights
  • wire mesh
  • push to make buttons
  • M3 bolts nuts and washers
  • M3 Nylon Standoffs
  • 12V DC power supply
  • Tesa Tape
  • shrink tube
  • wire

Tools Required:

  • dremel with plenty of cutting disks or Jigsaw
  • grinding disks
  • soldering Iron
  • drill
  • ccrewdriver
  • Tin Snips/Metal cutters
  • Multimeter

Step 1: Design

Sketch your design ideas for your clock. If you know the dimensions of your components you can make a 3D model to check the fit and look of your final clock. I used Sketchup to mock up my designs.

Step 2: Electronics

  1. Follow the dink board instructions and solder the board together.
  2. Once this is complete begin on the lights.
  3. First solder one row together, joining the same pins in a line like this. I used shrink tube to prevent short circuits.
  4. Leave a longer lead (about 20cm) on one end. This will be connected to the dink board. The PV instruction manual details this process nicely.
  5. Once the harness is complete insert the tubes into the holders and connect to the board to test.
  6. I used tesa tape to tidy up the wiring and give the lights a more vintage look.
  7. I made a holder for the lights by bending the wire mesh into a U shape and using 3mm nuts and bolts to hold the lights in place.

Gauges and Switches

  • I used the 5V supply from my arduino and a breadboard to test the vintage electronics.
  • A resistor is required for the moving coil gauges to read a value. It needs to be mounted in series. I found by trial and error that a 150 ohm resistor worked for my Voltmeter gauge.

  • Once tested the moving coil gauges measuring current and amps were connected to the 5v supply point on the dink board.
  • Push to make switches were wired up and connected to the switch points on the dink board.
  • The large power switch is used to turn the clock on and off. It is mounted on the 12V power cord line.

Step 3: Cut Out Windows in the Ammo Tin

  • I used a dremel to cut out the windows in the ammo tin. Make sure you have plenty of disks as they quickly disintegrate. A jigsaw would probably work better.
  • Sand the edges to get rid of burrs.
  • I used a drill and counter sink to create the holes for the red switches.
  • Cut the wire face plate mesh to size using tin snips or a dremel.
  • Test fit everything and check for sharp edges before moving on.

Step 4: Final Assembly

The final assembly is fiddly but fun.

  • I used 3mm nuts and bolts to hold the light assembly in place.
  • 3mm Nylon standoffs are a neat solution to hold the dink board away from the metal case.