Homemade Nixie Tubes

Do you love Nixie Tubes? Upset that they aren’t really manufactured anymore, and the cost of old ones is rising? Why not make your own? That’s exactly what [Dalibor] of the Czech Republic is up to, including blowing the glass tubes himself!

He’s chosen the Z568 nixie tubes to copy, as they are his favorite style of nixie. To create the display he has etched the digits and housing out of 0.3mm stainless steel sheet — which potentially means if he gets the hang of making the tubes, he could actually produce them to sell! To perform the glass blowing, he scored a Heathway glassblowing lathe off eBay — but unfortunately he hasn’t documented much of anything on making the glass tubes, which is too bad because we think that would be equally fascinating as the nixie displays themselves. On his first attempt with a properly sealed tube, the nixie worked and he even recorded striking voltage values very similar to industry tubes — not bad for something made in a backyard shed!

He has since then continued refining this art and is entering a glass-art contest called “When Prague Meets Shanghai” with a beautiful entry dubbed the ShanghaiTime Nixie Clock.

If this post seems vaguely familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time we’ve posted an article about homemade nixie tubes, but we think [Dalibor’s] is by far the most elegant! Stick around after the break to see one of his first test videos — You might even think he’s cheating, the tubes look so professional!

23 thoughts on “Homemade Nixie Tubes

    1. I’m just now thinking about gloppy spinning glass – scary stuff (if done wrong). Anyone know what the normal RPM is for a glass lathe like this ? Just curious more than anything else.

    1. Tubes are still being made in Russia but the demand for nixies is just for it’s novelty. Not something cheap to make. I wonder how much a nixie would cost new in today’s dollars…

  1. Hi, everyone need some serious help with case building out of stainless steel , for a nixie watch casing that I want to manufacture, its for a 5900M series tube, or if anyone knows of or is making anything smaller, any suggestions or contacts ware useful and appreciated.
    Kind Regards

    1. Old post, but why not? Stainless steel is notoriously difficult to machine. But it’s doable. The techniques are the same as for ordinary steel, except you want to prevent the stainless from heating up too much. Heat treat before, use plenty of lubrication, and use low tool speeds. If your tool blade wears out before you’ve finished machining the steel, you know you let it get too hot.

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