Decorate Your House In Vacuum Tubes


[Autuin] wrote in to share a few things he’s put together using spare vacuum tubes he had sitting around. With no other practical use for the tubes in mind, he fiddled around and came up with a couple of items that could be neat to have around the house, depending on your style of decor.

The first item is a vacuum tube night light. While the tubes were not originally built with the express purpose of putting out light in mind, they do happen to throw out a nice warm glow when plugged into a suitable power supply. [Autuin] mounted one in a wall wart, driving it at double the rated voltage, which provides a decent amount of light.

His second creation is similar to the first, but meant for your tabletop rather than your wall. He stuffed a vacuum tube into a candle holder, added a power source, and called it a day. The vacuum tube candle actually looks pretty nice, and with a bit of tweaking could easily be made to behave like a candle as well.

The final item he shows off is a vacuum tube flash drive. Little more than a carefully hollowed out tube with flash drive guts inside, it is more suited as a permanent fixture than as a portable storage device. Even so, we think it looks pretty cool.

Have you done anything neat with old vacuum tubes? Let us know in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Decorate Your House In Vacuum Tubes

  1. This is very cool. I wonder what the life expectancy of those tubes are, since he’s operating them on double voltage. I sure hope the steampunk guys don’t see this, lest we see the price of good NOS tubes skyrocket even further.

    1. Life expectancy probably greatly varies based on on-off cycles, duration, voltage, etc. etc. It looks like he didn’t add any light-sensitive circuitry to the night light, which is good, because having it flicker on-off would greatly reduce the life.

  2. Boy, did this trigger some memories. We used to look in Grandma’s radio to see which tube wasn’t glowing or warm, then run down to town to pick up a replacement.

    I’m typing this on an iPad. Technology sure has changed, but after going missing a while it’s good to see the hack it/fix it mentality return. We just use different parts.

  3. Hey, glad you like it. I did experiment with LED-lit vacuum tubes, with a thought to trying the flickering sort — but then it’s just another cute LED light and loses too much of the tube aesthetic. I’m not sure if that’s what the ed meant by tweaking it to look like a candle; you couldn’t do that with a tube filament, it’s just too heavy and slow to react.

    “Little more than a hollowed out tube” does belie the treachery of cutting 5-year-old glass bulb with a Dremel… :)

    FYI, you can get heaps of tubes for the price of asking at any guitar shop. The filament is usually the last thing to go, unless of course someone’s smashed the glass.

  4. No X rays unless there is anode voltage applied, and then it has to be above ~~15KV~~ to get any amount of the rays.
    Most of those octal and peanut based tubes cannot withstand that much anode voltage anyhow without a cathode to anode arc!

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