Steampunked Nixie-tube Cryptographer




About: I love to invent and create new things in a "steampunk styled way" working with brass, copper, vulcanized-fibre, brass gears and (ply)- wood. On one side I am fascinated in neon lights and small electronic ...

Hi everybody

I think this is the right time to present you my latest steampunk project from the "Dampfkraftlabor" called the:


It combines the well known HV-technology of mine by using a flash module of a disposal camera, see: High-voltage-power-supply-for-Nixies, with my most beloved materials brass, copper parts and  plywood and vulcanized red fiber and the nixie-tubes! If you take a look to my other instructables e.g the magic-eye-winker you will find a lot of similarities in creating. 

Notice: Don´t wreck your health and please obay the following advices:

***Disclaimers***This instructable works with voltages in excess of 250V. This is more than enough to give you a potentially fatal electric shock if handled incorrectly. If you are unfamiliar with how to work with high voltage, please refrain from performing this instructable. Exercise caution throughout the following steps to avoid electrical dangers and also use insulated tools like pliers and screwdrivers and so on.

If you choose to undertake this instructable, you do so at your own risk.

So this is just a funky steampunked gadget for playing or using in RP but it also can be used for simple encoding and decoding messages if your partner build himself the same apparatus. Another modification is to connect both parts with some wires togther so you can "translate" numbers into letters and the other way round......

So have lots of fun with it  and with this summer-instructable ;-))))

 Cheers Aeon Junophor

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Step 1: The "letter-lantern" I

The construction of the "letter-lantern" follows my other instructable,  the steampunked magic-eye-winker.
The essential steps  for this instructable can be seen here:

 step 3 , step 4, step 5, step 6

and in summary at the following pictures

Step 2: The "letter-lantern" II

I used a nixie-tube "IN-19-B" for the "letter-lantern". To protect this tube use an 100 kOhm resistor at the anode, see High-voltage-power-supply-for-Nixies 

Step 3: Electrical Equipment I

The electrical equipment is very simple and follows the instructable High-voltage-power-supply-for-Nixies

I used a step switch with 12 positions to light the 8 different signs. Some steps are soldered together as an "intern decoding" to make it individual. The nixie tubes are running with only one AA-battery best.

Step 4: The "number-box"

For this box I took a nixie-tube IN-4. The box itself follows the construtive design of the "letter-lantern".

Step 5: Electrical Equipment II

The electrical equipment is nearly similiar to the "letter-lantern" with only one aditional switch and follows the instructable High-voltage-power-supply-for-Nixies.

I used a step switch with 12 positions to light the 10 different numbers. Some steps are soldered together as an "intern decoding" to make it individual. The nixie tubes are running with only one AA-battery best.
The IN-4 nixie has got a special "screen". So if you switch to this pin the whole nixie glows as one big light. You can do it so tricky that this "screen" can be used either as a background light or a full flash-light.  If you change the polarity this "screen" works as an additional anode. I chose a separat switch to let the nixie glow full bright (to keep the secret which number was shown if someone wants to find this out ( a spy game).

To connect the nixie IN-4 with the wires do it best with selfmade pin holders, as you can see
in this instructable "steampunked nixie-tube switch" of mine.

Step 6: Some Signs

At the end you can see some of these letters and signs for creating your own and individual code.

Hope you enjoy my summe instructable

Cheers Aeon Junophor

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    13 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    When I saw your plasma bulb, I got inspired and have made one with a few more to be finished as gifts. When I saw this instructable your idea started a monster. I have a few sets worth of tubes on the way from Russia and Molodova, a few pcbs on the way from the UK, some sockets coming from Germany and a whole bunch of new ideas and challenges ahead of me. Thank you so much


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Although nixie tubes are undeniably splendid, they date from long after the age of steam ended. Pitty really, I just love nixie tubes. Anyway, I hope you've comprehended.

    7 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi 786b6364

    You are right that the period of Nixie-tubes started long after the steam era has gone. But that is not the point. Steampunk means to me to transfer the ancient ideas of a beautiful and lovely desing of a techncial instrument or machine as it was created and built under such artistic aspects too in the victorian age from engineers and iventors who felt just in this way, into our modern world and combine it to a fantastic new apparatus.
    Steampunk doesn´t mean to copy the ancient style exactly. Steampunk is a sort of feeling inside, a way of life, an artistic style. So If you love the soft glowing of a nixie tube in combination with brass and copper parts well arranged with wodden parts to a fantastic looking new machine with a real function which looks as it work with steam in a certain way, than you understand the real meaning of steampunk and creativity!!!
    I hope this will help you a bit more to understand "steampunk -style" in future times better.

    Cheers Aeon junophor

    Winged FistJunophor

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Junophor- this is a great looking device, and a very poetic defense of the steampunk-style... You have my 5 star rating!

    JunophorWinged Fist

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Winged Fist

    You understand what I mean. That´s great!!

    I. m still thinking about your idea of the steampunked real! beetle;-))) Very good idea. Do it!

    Cheers AeonJunophor


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Apologies, it was a reference to this:

    And while I realize that could imply I don't think highly of this, it's quite the opposite: I think this looks fantastic and have no problem attaching the steampunk label to it. I just also like that song.


    Apologies, but SteamPunk is not reenactment!

    Yes, Nixies are not from the 1900th but they could be. because the technology was invented this days!

    Whats about computer, usb sticks, bulbs, batteries, radios mhmmmmm

    Apologies, but SteamPunk is not reenactment!

    H. Steam
    PS everything is possible ;-)

    Pete Kirkham786b6364

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    According to wikipedia, they were invented in 1955. At least in the UK, we were designing new steam trains up until the early 1960s and running them to 1968, so they date from not-long before the age of steam ended.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Greetings my friend, I have been away yet again and did not check this site, you have once again produced a project which would be a delight to have on ones mantle, On my trip I was able to purchase quite a few valuable for such projects.

    Possibly as the boxes arrive we may need to do another exchange.

    Best wishes my friend sorry I was so long in offering my support.

    Beautiful and useful creation - well done! Alas it's winter down here, yes it gets cold in Australia!

    I have to admit though at first I thought you had them linked together, so that when one character was displayed on one of the tubes the second tube would display the cipher character....

    Other than that I really love these!...
    I do have one question though, I recently dismantled a bunch of 35mm Cameras that had flash (that I picked up for cheap at the local Goodwill), of the three flash units I salvaged, one is from a Kodak camera that has some odd wiring for sensing type of film, that I can't make heads or tails of... and I've only managed to get one of the other two to work... I think the main problem is that these modules came from non-disposable 35mm cameras that have more circuitry... Do you have any ideas, or would it be best to just invest in some disposables?


    1 reply

    Hi electfire
    Your first impression was not bad because I do plan to connect them exactly in that way you described;-))))))

    To answer your question: Take these flash modules from Fujii because they are the best. I give you a tip:
    Look for a great photolab which develops these films out of te disposal cameras. If you ask them you might get them for free, So do I here in Germany: I asked one of the biggest Pohotlabs in Europe for these special AA-typed Fujii ones and they send me as much as I want for free to any shop where they also send the developed pictures...;-)))))

    Good luck for your chasing
    Aeon Junophor