Nixie Clock Without a PCB

Looking for an artistic way to build circuits? Don’t want to design a PCB? The Lethal Nixie Tube Clock is a free form circuit that gives you the time one digit at a time. It uses a IN-1 Nixie tube to display the digits. This is driven by ten MPSA42 high voltage transistors. A IRF520 N-FET, inductor, and a diode are used as a switching power supply that generates the high voltage needed to drive the Nixie tube. It’s probably not lethal, but there are exposed high voltages in the cube. You’d definitely regret touching it.

An ATMega8 is used to control the clock. It drives the various digits of the Nixie tube, and generates a PWM output to switch the high voltage supply. Unfortunately, the schematic has been lost. If you’re interested in the switching supply, it’s likely similar to the one explained here.

Check out a video of the clock after the break.

Via Dangerous Prototypes


  1. Mike bradley says:

    I love it, all of it!

  2. ginsublade says:

    really cool, takes art to a new level…..kinda makes me want to wet my finger and blindly poke at it…don’t know why..

  3. I’ve never seen a nixie project I didn’t like.

  4. Cmholm says:

    Such a work of art. The live wires are nothing a transparent cube enclosure couldn’t solve.

  5. robotnik says:


  6. HackerK says:

    One of the best circuit p0rn I have seen lately…

  7. matseng says:

    Hey! I really didn’t expect this to end up at both the Makeblog as well as Hackaday and having so many people saying that it is gorgeous art. It was just a fun project to solder up during two evenings 6-7 years ago.

    But thanks anyways :-)

    If you enjoyed this you might also like my recent tiny SMD freeform clone of the Little Wire project…

  8. MattE says:

    Fantastic, really nicely put together! I’m currently sketching out an airwired VFD-based clock, being a wuss, but glad to see someone went the whole hog & did a nixie version. :-)

  9. CRJEEA says:

    I wonder if this still counts as a sceleton clock?
    I thibk it is a thing of beauty either way (:

  10. Dra says:

    It really is a gorgeous little project. It almost looks like it’s half way to being a stained glass box, too. That would be a very pretty combination, AND reduce the risk of electro shock therapy for the curious.

  11. Robot says:

    I love free from electronics. Nice job.

  12. bunedoggle says:

    High voltage, bare wire, nixie tubes…


    Doesn't get better

  13. Galane says:

    It’s not dead bug style, it’s spiderweb style with the nixie as the spider.

  14. herrkami says:

    Really fantastic!! But I don’t like the 5 or 6 seconds you have to wait to see the time. That is also making me sick, when I’m sitting in the bus starring at the damn LED display to get the time while it’s showing me for 10 seconds a 5 letter word before it switches back to time. Should be faster, I think, but nevertheless a beautiful piece of art and electronics!

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