Fake Nixie Clock

[Barry] didn’t want to deal with the voltages involved in using a Nixie display so he built this clock to look like it has Nixie tubes. He’s made 7-segment LED displays using some channel material, and mounted them so they look like they’re hovering above the clock base. Once everything was hooked up he added small glass jars over the top of each digit, completing the look.

16 thoughts on “Fake Nixie Clock

  1. I wouldn’t call them nixies, even with the mockup vacuum tube enclosures. Nixies have individually formed digits (although sometimes they use a flipped ‘2’ for a ‘5’, but that’s a different matter). These are more like Numitrons. And, oh wonder, numitrons don’t require high voltages; they’re filaments arranged in the shape of a 7-segment display, and usually encased in a vacuum tube although you can also find them in a flat package like LED displays have. Working voltage is about 6V, and the common 7-segment decoders can about handle the segment current (some 10mA, iirc).

  2. This is clever, but not so much fake Nixie as fake Numatron. Numatrons were 7-segment displays with each segment being an incandescent filament that glowed dull red. Being incandescent they didn’t use the high voltages Nixies used, but they did use a lot of power.

    For a better retro look, you could do an edge-illuminated slide display. For this each digit has ten acrylic panels each with a number etched into it, just as inside a Nixie you have ten anodes in the shape of numbers. To display a number you turn on a light bulb (nowadays you’d use an LED of course) directed at the edge of the proper acrylic panel; this would cause that number but not the other 9 to be illuminated from within. Back when I was a kid my father had a rackmount precision voltmeter that worked like that — and used mechanical relays and voltage dividers to seek the correct display point.

  3. @sneakypoo: I think you can get low voltage el wire now. I saw a place that was selling 3ft lengths of the stuff with a power unit that just took 2 AA batteries

  4. @HaD
    “didn’t want to deal with the voltages involved in using a Nixie display”

    Oh fer cryin’ out loud, MAN UP! 150 volts from a totally pissant 5mA supply?!? Pretty soon we’ll have ‘alt.pyrotechnics’ where the only allowable energetic material is soggy cardboard. Talk about the “3 volt” generation. {rolleyes} Let’s hear it for home building seriously *brutal*, truly *lethal*, power supplies e.g. 500mA @350V, 350mA @475V, 250mA @750V out of junk;


    “For a better retro look, you could do an edge-illuminated slide display.”

    It’s a brash fake, and I think it carries it off with the Numatron redux, albeit accidental. Sure it doesn’t have that key Nixie element – formed characters – along with so way cool edge displays and similar back-projection displays (and should be easily re-creatable).

    Whatever the format, I particularly like the way he has got the display “see-through” and the numerals to “float in space”. +1

  5. OK, it doesn’t look that much like a Nixie clock, but it’s undeniably cool looking. It would be interesting to try smoking the inside of the jars to give a little more contrast.

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