Projects Various

My Nixie Addiction

Projects Various

January 26, 2019 Uncategorized 0

What’s the point of having a blog if it isn’t updated – probably none at all.

So here is an update on various projects that I have floating around in my head, everything from almost finished items to mere notions!

In absolutely no particular order:

B-7971 Single Tube Clock: Following inspiration from Roddy Scott, I set about producing a casing for a single tube clock. The electronics is from Paul Andrews and the tube from Burroughs.

The housing consists of a number of circular disks cut from very thin wood. The wood is  ‘slats’ from a re-purposed wooden blind. Several were glued together side by side and then the desired shapes cut out on my CNC Router. So far so good. I then stain the wood and set about varnishing it. What a nightmare, it took many coats and a lot of sanding to get anywhere near where I wanted them to be.

Finally, the disks are held together on 4mm brass studding and are separated by some 4mm thick, 18mm diameter custom made spacers. The clock is mounted on the bottom disk and the top is finished off with a brass plate from Engraving Studios. Phew, glad that’s over. Pictures to go on to the main site (soon!).

Two Tube Clock: Following a suggestion I decided to take it upon myself to produce a two tube clock of my own design, oh yes, get me! it was a great opportunity to re-visit some basic electronics. I decided to go down the route of using 74141 BCD drivers for the tubes, one for each tube – DIRECT DRIVE!. Both drivers were driven via a shift-register from a WeMos D1 Mini pro micro (this kept the I/O pin count down). I also utilised some OptoCouplers to allow dimming of the tubes and for good measure I added a BMP-180 sensor so I could display temperature and pressure information. The electronics turned out to be mostly OK and the basic coding was fine though I found out that the micro was resetting regularly and all was not entirely well. I find out that running my code is (apparently) the last thing that the Wemos wants to do, it’s more concerned with controlling the WiFi and maintaining IP connections and more stuff like that. I discover and learn many things, the State Machine model, the yield() statement and other associated tricks.

Finally, I have a 2 tube clock, connected to the WiFi for NTP Date and Time, displaying HH, MM, SS, Date, Temperature and Pressure, all on 2 tubes. Coloured LEDs give half a clue as to what is going on, I like it! The next trick is to move the design on to a small PCB, Hmm, more learning to be done.

Thermometer: This is only a notion at this stage, the general idea being to build upon the two tube clock electronics to drive 4 tubes to primarily display the temperature and air pressure. But then I want it to switch off at night so I guess it will need to know what the time is, so another WeMos based project featuring my dodgy code. Given that it knows the time, wouldn’t it be a good idea to display it? Hang on, that makes it a clock, I want a thermometer! OK, perhaps we can display the time every once in a while but it’s really not that crucial, Just the temperature, then the pressure, perhaps some indication of the rising / falling/ steady state of the air pressure and finally, the time. It’s just a notion!

Mantlepiece Clock Case: I recently acquired a wooden case for a mantlepiece clock, still not much more than a notion but I need to fit HH, MM, SS into a circular display and I have pretty much settled on using IN-12 tubes. Probably 4 across the middle, 2 underneath for seconds and then perhaps 2 on top for temperature and pressure (you can see I have a thing for air pressure!), A couple of Dekatrons will be added for effect and the whole thing will be driven from a new design of 6 tube clock plus some Dekatron control, my own pressure / temperature electronics and finally, some tasteful display of seconds incrementing around the clock face using 60 leds. Sunglasses may be supplied for viewing this one!

Laminated Case for Elite: Another foray into the development of my non-existent woodworking skills (skills?) – more soon but I am actually rather please about how this is going (which makes a change)

Audio Spectrum Display: Disappointingly little has happened with this one. I have tested the electronics, I have written code for the ‘Teensy’ micro controller and I have the idea for mounting 20 x IN-13 Nixie tubes. I even have all the brass tube mounting components made. Just need to find the time.

Six Letter Work Clock: I already own a MOD-6 which is a fine piece of engineering utilising B-7971 tubes from Burroughs. A recent opportunity to obtain more tubes presented itself which I could not resist so I now have some tubes and I have investigated the use of ‘Smart Sockets’ which are a complete mounting and driving mechanism for a single tube which includes a micro processor, commands are issued via a serial interface and much cleverness can be achieved.

I have a basic test rig assembled which I need to enhance to include the various power supplies for the Smart Sockets (5V and 170V) as well as the controlling device (probably another WeMos D1 Mini Pro). Then it’s down to coding which will be a mostly state-machine driven device which will display various things including:

Time, Date, Temperature, Pressure (including an indication of rising/falling etc) and various random words or word sequences yet to be defined.

OK, enough already, time for some coffee!