How To Make A Vacuum Tube

[marco] sent in this video (scroll down) showing how to make a vacuum tube by hand. The page and captions are in french, but it’s pretty interesting to watch. A small spot welder, some fairly basic glass working tools and a vacuum generator are required, but the technology is definitely within reach for the dedicated hardware hacker.

48 thoughts on “How To Make A Vacuum Tube

  1. Couldn’t he find a longer version of the song, or a different one?

    Very cool though, wish I had this kind of equipment. Would love to make my own tubes.

    Also, what kind of setup is required for cutting glass with a wire like that?

  2. I wish the writeup was in english.

    it may have just been the editing of the video, but did it look to anyone else like that old man was just making up the measurements as he went?

  3. That is really a great video, thanks for sharing.

    I would like to say, however, that I would sooner have his workshop and tools than the vacuum tube. Anyone know what kind/where to get a spot welder like that? I’m impressed…

    1. If you want to wish for something like his workshop, set your goals a little higher and wish for the knowledge this guy has. If you had his workshop, it would be a total waste.

      This video an awesome display of talent, knowledge and patience.


  4. harbor freight has some really cheep spot welders. just search for spot welder.

    the guys work shop is amazing. Most all his tools he created himself. Its a nice touch at the end where he graphs the tubes specs.

  5. That’s really amazing! I think i have all the equipment requiered, so if i got some extra time i will try to do it. But i also have to learn some french i think :P


    All you need is a nichrome wire and a transformer with high current and low voltage (i think 5v will be suitable and the current depends of the wire diameter and lenght). Make a pseudo-cut in the glass, place the wire in the “pseudo-cut” and turn it on!

  6. This guy is a real hero. I can’t believe the work and skill he put into this project. From what I got out of the french, it looks like these tubes actually went into a transmitter that he used to make a transmission across the atlantic!

    It’s neat that vacuum tubes are actually within the reach of the “common man” – I’d like to see someone build a homemade transistor that can handle any significant power.

    If all our high-tech manufacturing is ever lost for some reason, guys like him will keep us talking on the radio. Just awesome.

  7. the vacuum tubes

    detailed history of vacuum tubes
    construction of an transceiver using old tubes
    making of a triode and all the necessary equipment for its realization
    quick production review with the manufactured triodes
    the author

    claude paillard as many starts during 50s, with RC model remote. mechanics is one of his favorite hobby (“violon d’ingres”, ingres’s violin), he makes a point of honnor making the engine that will power the boat.

    in 1959 he became F2F0 and pass the exam on a 5-band AM transceiver of his manufacture. the DXCC was quickly done although contacts is not his hobby (“tasse de thé”, cup of tea) and would only serve most of the time to validate a personal realization. he has a great time with the BLU which comes slowly on the amateur bands. then comes a RTTY period, on refurbished machines.


    1. “Not my cup of tea” means the same thing in English (English English from England I mean) as it does in French (the “tasse de thé” saying, “ce n’est pas mon tasse de thé”, oui?).

      More translation revelations coming in 2026, language fans! But wasn’t that interesting?

  8. This is some seriously beautiful work.

    I second the notion to create Nixie tubes using this!

    As someone who was actually PLANNING to build a giant
    Nixie by hand myself, I wonder if he used any mercury in these (didn’t see any). In Nixies, a very small amount of mercury was often used along with argon/neon inside, and varying the noble gas along with the amount of mercury changed the intensity of the orange. Look up Penning mixtures on wikipedia.

    What metals did he use? I’ve been planning my Uber Nixie to use tantalum wire for ultimate cathode & annode life, but that is a bit overkill…

    Lastly, I’d be curious to see the working life for his tubes. The hardest thing to control making a vacuum tube is the metal to glass seal- depending on the type of glass and ESPECIALLY your choice of metal, a good seal can be hard to achieve. Many Nixies have gone bad due to their seal. He’s annealing the glass, I think, in that cannister between steps to reduce strain in the glass (tempering it), and to alieviate compression stress from the heated metal shrinking at a different rate than the glass. Understand, if you just melt glass around a metal wire, it will not make a perfect seal unless you anneal the glass (otherwise it will crack)

    This guy makes it look EASY- there is a LOT of small bits you have to know about both glassblowing, metalurgy, and glass-to-metal contraction properties to do something like this properly (researched forever for my Nixie). He has the right equipment and serious skills.

    FOR OTHERS wanting to try this- if you get good with glassblowing, you can try this yourself, provided you have a vacuum pump and, for Nixies, a glass cylinder of a noble gas (less than 100$)- just do some research here:

    This guy has a lot of books on tubes- many are quite good, and they are all FREE. I learned everything I have from reading all of these, some of which are original company manuals for production!

    Hope this helps. REMEMBER- most of the basic fab is not too difficult with a lot of glassblowing experience, it’s the GLASS TO METAL SEALS you need to worry about.

  9. “also, what kind of setup is required for cutting glass with a wire like that?” – atrain

    I’ve seen something like that done. Basically, you just get a power supply capable of putting out some amps, and hook up a thick enough wire to it (you could probably pilfer it from a toaster — I think we used piano wire). Wrap the wire around the glass (making sure not to have the two ends touch, which would short circuit your short circuit!) and hit the power. The glass cracks due to thermal expansion. If needed, you can squirt some liquid (like alcohol) around the joint, which will cool off the glass quickly, causing it to break.

  10. Awesome! I sometimes find it hard to believe what one skilled & determined man and a shop full of powertools can do. He is a real master at work!

    Very nice find, thank you hack a day…

  11. Yeah, that was cool, but if I hear the first 60 seconds of “The Man I Love” on piano more than 20 times, I go insane and kill the closest bystander. Good thing the video ended at 17 minutes. That was a close one!

  12. @25: And high-current, low voltage power supplies aren’t actually all that exotic. A soldering gun is one, for example — it’s actually a step-down transformer. The U-shaped piece of metal tubing the tip fits into forms a very thick one-turn secondary winding.

  13. (…)

    his first article for radio-ref (in 1959) is a bfo for the bc453 “command set” that attract attention for their remarkable selectivity.

    he became the editor of “analyses de revues” (analysis of reviews), a column he held several years. he will be also a member of the board of the ref for 3 years.

    he publishes, among other things: a linear amplifier equipped with 811, a oscillographic device allowing continuous monitoring of the modulation quality and also of the emitted signal purity, a tv camera equipped with integrated circuits and several ssb (“blu”) equipments including a transistorized transceiver which will be widely used in mobile.


  14. in one word – genius.

    In a few short days Hackaday has shown us everything from modding new hardware, someone pushing the edge of car aerodynamics and now this master!

    2008 is going to be a great year if you can keep this up!

  15. Wow! He made a light bulb? Man life was hard for on indicator lights before LED’s. All that just so he could see that his radio was on? In my opinion the sounds is enough :/

    Hahahaha sorry couldn’t help it.

  16. Actualy I think he did use mercury, advance the movie to
    15:24 I think thats what he is vaporizing, if im correct that is mercury dripping, I think he is attempting to make Mercury vapor with that machine, probably through decompression, but dont quote me on that one. Im assuming thats how he made the tube following. and why it glows like that. if any one else has specifics please correct me, Im merely commenting on observations.

  17. Glad I’m not the only one who felt a deep respect for this guy once I saw his workshop and skills

    Now my dream is to be like him in the future… but with transistors :-D

    I wonder how hard would be to make an almost-hand-made transistor..

  18. atrain; my guess the wire used in cutting the larger class tube was nichrome as used in heating elements. Once apon a time there was a kit sold to cut wine and or other bottles to make craft projects. Basically you score the glass, the application of heat creates stress in the glass where it’s scored and it breaks.

    M4CGYV3R; here stateside the old “Lejay maual” had instructions on building a spot welder, a reprint of the manual can bu purchasesd from Lindsay books, by chance the illustration at the top left is the spot welder. Most of the projects in the lejay manual are quite dated, but can be upgraded to modern times.

    The man must be France’s Dave Gingery.

  19. Instructables website ( has a home brew Arc welder made with two microwave oven transformers – he home brewed the secondary transformer windings with wire laying around.

    Seems things may be more simple than we think.

    I mention this because of the Idea of creating the necessary tools to cut glass and spotweld. High amps low volts – :-)

    I would also love to try to make a Homebrew spotwelder

  20. then, this is the realization of a 2300 mhz station and after of a 10 ghz equipment whose descriptions appear in radio-ref. these both realizations are crowned (with success) in the field by “france-england premieres” in 1968 and 1969. a superb “cross-band” 2.3-10 ghz qso over a distance of 40 km (24.85 miles) is still in memory of the sacred good times of the signatories!

    lover and respectful of the old and venerable components, he revives reception tubes of 20s in making emitting it 3 watts on the band 80 m in telegraphy. qso across europe will be realized … see chapter qrp transmitter.

    his reverence for the sir arthur collins’s equipment, lead him to restore a number of collins radios, and especially the 618-t.

    and then, is it to participate in its own way to the centennial of the invention of the triode by lee de forest in 1906, he launch on the manufacture of the mythical tm developed by the general ferrié in 1915. making a lamp, it’s not so easy, but to getting things complicated with difficulty, f2fo will make everything he needs for this project, and especially various pumps, and a molecular one, to get vacuum allowing employment in emission of the made tubes.

    a dozen lamps will thus see the light of day …

    to check the measurements, a qso will be realized on january 1, 2005 on 80m in cw between montrouge, 92 and camaret, 29. the tubes are robust and will comme on contacts …

    the original purpose, which was to cross the atlantic, was reched by f6bwo who has realize numerous qso on 4 continents.

    the work

    the work — amply illustrated — is composed of the following chapters:

    tubes: history of vacuum tubes, from their emergence in 1906 until the advent of the transistor in 1960
    qrp transmitter: realization of a transmitter using lamps from before 1925
    triodes: making of a tm triode and necessary tools (pumps, oven …).
    photos: some photos of making steps
    mr mignet (pdf: 58 pages – 2 mb): original document describing the making of the “3-electrode vacuum tubes” by a pioneer in the twenties
    additions of 6 october 2005 (not reproduced in pdf format)
    review after one year of made triodes use (published in megahertz magazine #281 – august 2006)

    the printable versions of the first four chapters in pdf format are available below:

    the tubes (part 1) 72 pages – 68 mb
    the tubes (part 2) 49 pages – 61 mb
    qrp transmitter 41 pages – 5 mb
    triodes (part 1) 36 pages – 31 mb
    triodes (part 2) 25 pages – 15 mb
    triodes (photos) 6 pages – 24 mb

    if you want to know more, continue to scroll these pages. the text, photos and video are of the author f2fo.

    the video

    the mp4 video file is available below:

    making of a triode tube 17 minutes – 125 mb

    presentation: f9oe
    transcript: f9hs

    paillard dot claude at free dot fr
    december 31, 2007

  21. The video shows what’s it’s now the technology so thanks for the chance to us to enjoy life and technology…
    No matter what long’s take to discover all this things you have to create magic =transform in life to every ona in this world…

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.