High voltage plasma lamp is also tasteful steampunk

Instructables user [Admiral Aaron Ravensdale] just finished a high voltage plasma bulb build that makes creative use of off-the-shelf parts. As a self-described steampunk, [Adm. Ravensdale] also earned some cred by included working gears in his build.

The heart of the build is a “flicker flame” candle light bulb. These light bulbs have two flame-shaped plates inside the bulb to act as electrodes. Instead of the Argon that normally fills an incandescent light bulb, the candle bulb is filled with Neon. When excited, Argon gives off a rather unnatural purple glow – not very convincing for a simulated candle and certainly not steampunk. The Neon in the flickering candle bulb gives off a brilliant orange, perfect for simulating a flame and will surely impress the duchess during afternoon tea.

After the right plasma bulb was found, [The Admiral] scavenged the rest of the high voltage electronics from disposable cameras. Attaching three electrodes to a brass gear, the entire mechanism was made to spin using parts from an old clock and a CD drive motor. We’re always impressed with the scavenging abilities of steampunkers – we’d still be waiting for our gears to arrive if we attempted this. Check out the video of this really cool and very inexpensive plasma bulb after the break.


  1. Bigdeal says:

    Does it remind anyone else of that big machine that blows up in the beginning of Half Life?


  2. RFRatty says:

    They’re waiting for you Gordon, in the test chamburrrrrr

  3. kisar says:

    oh that looks like some of Doc Browns early work before he added high speed spin servos and gyro controls. ;)

  4. blue carbuncle says:

    “we’d still be waiting for our gears to arrive if we attempted this” NO
    Because you guys constantly tout your repraps and laser cutters that we are all supposed to have.–Get creative. I made my last gear set out of clay and epoxy.

    Insanely good build and wonderful to look at and I always appreciate scavenged parts!
    /also reminded me of HL :)

  5. fartface says:

    MY favorite part of steam-punkers.. they have more money than sense.. I built a GPS with a friend who is a jeweler. It adorns the top of a cane. when you are at your waypoint, you strike the ground with the cane and from now on the rosette of jewels will glow in the direction of that waypoint. I have 4 CR123 batteries doing down the shaft to power it for a long time and it works quite well.

    IT sold for $690.00 almost instantly and she has been overrun with requests to build them one at any price…

    • Slacking says:

      Is there a link to this cane? That is an amazing idea.. now if it had a sword in it. I would pay anything… but I don’t have any money so it’s a great sentiment :)

  6. Will says:

    That is awesome!

  7. ejonesss says:


    whats not to be tastefull about it?

  8. Elias says:

    Very cool! I think it would be better if it revolved a bit slower, that would also reduce the gear noise a bit.

  9. I have one or two of those bulbs around here.

    Shame neon is so expensive as this would be a neat hack, make a DIY “gas plasma” display but using a spinning metal item mounted on an induction driven motor inside the tube.

    Once made one of those cheap mini plasma globes into a message display using tinfoil, this also works.

  10. Clifdweller says:

    Its nice to see a piece of steampunk work where the gears aren’t just glued on for ornamentation. He should put a 555/556 in there to slow the motor down .Right now the video looks like it is sped up

  11. gossiphog says:

    Umm. Remind me why purple “certainly isn’t steampunk?”. Is there some kind of rulebook? Why limit yourself?

    The gps cane sounds pretty amazing, I’d love to see it demonstrated. But don’t bother with putting on the coattails and monacle before demonstrating. ;)

  12. Great post

  13. michael says:

    Would you be willing to make one and sell it?

    If so please reply.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,422 other followers