Lantern Clock




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 engine...

Hello All
here is my first Instructable, It’s a beautiful Nixie Lantern clock, A little steam punk and a bit Victorian, made up of mostly of found components
I tend to communicate better when there is something to show so please look at the images and tags, they sometimes will hold more info than the body of text.
Here is a parts list....
-large slab of walnut 2" thick by 36" long and 12" wide
-large slab of maple 1.5" thick by 30" long and 12" wide, both found on eBay
-2" diameter clear acrylic tubing .125" wall about 12" long, any plastic store and eBay.
-an assortment of gears and gauge faces / bezels, knobs and metal bits,
- A nixie kit, I highly recommend a seller on ebay who goes under the name...petes_kits,  here is a link...  petes_kits, 
he has to my knowledge the only nixie prototypers board out there that gives the experimenter options of screw terminals, solder pads and designated nixie patterned mounts for leads, not to mention he always answers and is there to help you out.
-you will need some basic electronic skills
-a multimeter with a continuity function (prefer an audible function).
-3 Blue leds
-A mill and lathe for custom parts, machining skills are very helpful
-lots of brass and aluminum
-all sorts of hardware and locktite
-12 conductor 28AWG ribbon cable
-9VAC transformer, wall wart
-assortment of gears, shafts and collars
and finally... lots of imagination.....

Step 1: Finding the Way

first step was to gather all your resources and mix and match, try to figure what works and which direction you are willing to head in.
my original concept was to have each Nixie in it own chamber. but through trial Realized I did not want the clock to be lengthy.
after finding the diameter i was going to work in, i made sure the 2 Nixie tubes would fit side by side within the acrylic tube, this required a custom circuit board to be made to not only physically hold the nixies in place but to allow all the terminals to be easily soldered to, this also allowed me to place where I wanted the wires to terminate into the circuit board, out of site.
for the circuit board you will need....
-copper clad single sided circuit board material
-etching solution
-circuit board transfer
all materials were purchased here
etch cut drill mount.....

Step 2: Direction Found

figured out all the components.
the hub of the thinner gear was cross drilled and a steel shaft  was inserted as the swing pivot (pic 2), same thing was done in the above attachment using an assortment of gears and spacers, a woven wire protective sheath was used to hide the 24 conductor ribbon wire harness.
Idea was to have the fixtures swing, have a friend who owns a yacht and the clock rocks perfectly with the motion of the ocean

Step 3: The Wood

found some great slabs of wood on ebay, bought some maple and walnut.
I planned on sandwiching the two contrasting colors of wood.
rough cut the shapes I needed, using a disc sander and a spindle sander I shaped the outside and inside curves.
I registered and drilled some through holes common to all the slabs, Inserting  all thread rods, with washers and bolts allowed me to mechanically tighten and physically lock the slabs together so they can be mounted together into the mill and machined as one piece later to have the ability to disassemble and wire,
components are temporarily mounted on pegs and posts and the clear coat process begins.
make sure you are in a well ventilated space
I brushed on 1-2 coats of clear catalyzed lacquer (cardinal), letting it all soak in. after it hardens start the exhausting sanding process
be cautious not to use a heavy grit, the rule is not to sand through your clear coat layers, if you get to wood you have gone too far.also be carefull not to let clear drops harden, dont spray too heavy, to spray I used a cheap ($14) harbor freight HVLP spray gun and it worked as good as one of my Binks guns.
I used 400 -1500grit through the sanding process.later used automotive polishes of varying grits, hand and machine buffed parts
2 coats brushed- sand- spray -sand -spray -sand -spray -sand -spray -sand -spray- polish buff.
very time consuming took me days to complete but the more work you put into this step the better it looks in the end.....keep it up

Step 4: Electronics, Buttons and Stuff

using a 3mm led, each acrylic tube is edge lit, the fact the tube ends above the bottom of the bezel allows me to hide an led here (see pic).
painting edges white allows for a uniform bounce for the light.
make sure to insulate the led conductors due to the brass gear that sits above it
getting things together, here you start sorting and testing all the leads coming to the electronics compartment, using spacers for the circuit board, mounting the switches

Step 5: Closing Her Up

The components are now together,  using a multimeter check continuity from tube circuit board to wire end.
circuit boards (seen in step 1 pic 4) have a lot of traces in a small are, each tube has 12 terminals, the old board i had from pete required all 12 wires to connect to the board, his new prototype board has GREATLY simplified this, cathodes all tie in to the corresponding number cathode across the set of nixies for example cathode 1 tube 1 connects to cathode1 on tube 2 and so on, only the anodes (6 one per nixie) have to be connected one by one, not that hard at all

in picture 3 you will see the three pairs of wires to power the blue leds used for tube illumination, since the clocks board has a power in range of 9VAC to 15VAC. I chose a 9VAC transformer, allowing me 3VAC per led, so I wired the leds in series and connected the two wires directly to the AC input jack. since with AC polarity isn't an issue at 60 cycles they illuminate the tubes perfectly....
try and find an adapter with a 90 degree plug so you can drill and mount the power input plug facing down on the bottom cover plate.
the cover plated can be any thing from plywood to fiberglass circuit board material, i chose the later.bear in mind the recess you milled this depth will be your material thickness for the cover plate.

Step 6: Here It Is...

this first picture is the correct color, in my other pictures tubes look a little more violet, this is due to the lit digits of the nixie and their  contrasting orange color.
Pete has included about 28 user settings, you can cycle through them using the adjust buttons, my favorites are the fading digits setting where all digits fade to the next instead of switching, the other is the slot machine function where user can set all digits to cycle every minute, hour or 12 hours..
If you have gotten this far I thank you very much.
and appreciate all your input.

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189 Discussions


Question 5 months ago

Love the project you made!! Wondering if you had a pdf or Gerber file for the Nixie tube pcb. Wanting to do something similar with remote nixies.


Question 1 year ago


I would love to make this project, it looks so great! But some parts are not totally clear to me, so I hope you could answer me them. I am stuck at what nixie size you used. I did found the bord control for the nixies but not the nixies itself and sad enough the link won't work anymore. And the other question is about the blue led inside the tube. I can't seem to find the cables leading up to it or power it.

Hope you could help me out!

Thanks in advance

1 answer

Reply 5 months ago

Sorry for the delayed response, all the wiring enters the chambers from behind the hinges above said chambers, I believe the tubes were IN-18’s, I buy all my tubes and electronics from Pete....


Question 5 months ago on Introduction

Good day,

You made an awesome piece of art! Can you give me a clue as where you got your gauge faces / bezels or from what you took them from?

Thank you in advance.

1 answer

Reply 5 months ago

I designed them in Solidworks and had them amachined and plated, so no real source. The brass parts were designed by me for another commissioned project and were extras left over.


2 years ago

You, are EXTREMELY gifted! Fantastic job, great Instructable (especially for a first).

Well done mate!

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

Thank you very much, have a happy Holliday and a great new year.


3 years ago

wen will the pcb get back in stock


3 years ago

sir where to find all materials?

i want to create it


3 years ago

I made something similar by cutting, bending, silver soldering, brass sheet, then polishing it and coating it with clear lacquer. Looks absolutely super.


3 years ago

Beautiful work but it seems incredibly involved. I'd love to make one of these if it was ever so slightly less complicated :)


3 years ago on Introduction

Very cool 'ible. I'm going to have to work up to this one, but what a great project and it's clear that you've had plenty of practice with woodwork and had a clear end goal starting this project. Bravo.


4 years ago on Introduction

Though I first wanted to make this one, it didnt seem fun to make an exact copy, but it did give me great inspiration. As the perspex tubes were prohibitively expensive where I live, I ended up using glass tubes.
As the nixie's were a bit complicated with their high voltage, I ended up using numitrons. The blue illumination was a great idea


4 years ago

you are a total brainy ACH !!! in a good way! so very awesome I could never do something of this magnitude! Great job its an awesome piece!


4 years ago on Introduction

Awesome Build I turely love your craftsmanship. Hopefully i'm not the 1000th person to ask but where would I be able to find "an assortment of gears and gauge faces / bezels, knobs and metal bits". When I search online I keep getting results for car dash clusters?


7 years ago on Step 6

This is just absolutly amazing. Your skills and craftmanship show true dedication. Let them get dizzy looking at your work space - "An unclutered desk is a sure sign of a sick mind"... :-)

2 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Step 6

I usually call this "fractal organisation"; it usually ends every discussion about cluttered desks ;-)


Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

Thanks Moto, just slightly sick, I mean neat......who am I kidding........did you check out my other clock?