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Soldered up a nixie tube clock

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Tonimus

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I purchased a standard remote nixie tube clock board from https://www.open-rate.com/Store.html

It will drive standard sized tubes or smaller without issue. It has provisions for driving 6 tubes, 10 digits each, and running 4 ticking LEDs and 6 backlight RGB LEDs. The kit has an RTC module with battery backup that maintains the set time. It also comes with a photoresistor which automatically dims or brightens the tubes and LEDs to match the ambient light level.

This is my first attempt at a significant soldering project, and with it being all through-hole components, that made it a nice place to start.

I've been meaning to build one of these for a while. I ordered 18 tubes with sockets about a year ago and Christmas motivated me to build one for my best friend.


Contents of the bag of bits:




Low voltage (12v) circuit and soldered side:





Testing the LED because I've never used the diode check on my meter:




High voltage (150v-200v) circuit and soldered side:





Pre-assembled clock board and main board crystal installed:





Last of the components on the board. Anode and cathode control circuits installed and header pins soldered on:





Test driving a single digit and confirming pinout of Soviet-era IN-12 nixie tubes.




Soldered on the remaining five tube sockets:




Initial test run (click for video):




Bundles soldered, wires tied and running (click for video):




At that point, I thought I was done. I wasn't going to bother with the pulsing separator LEDs or backlighting. But after letting the clock run for a while, I decided it did need the tick LEDs...




Running, with the tick LEDs (click for video):




My buddy loved it. Here it is mounted on the wall of his shop:


 
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Tonimus

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I got the tubes on eBay. If you do a search for the specific kind of tube you want, that's the best way. IN-12 nixie tubes were used in all sorts of scientific, industrial and military stuff in the Soviet Union. As such, there's a lot of tubes coming out of there. I think I paid about $40 for 18 tubes and sockets.
 

Tonimus

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OverTheTop, thanks! Usually people put them in a case of some sort, but I thought the wiring and board looked cool just hanging out. I was glad he agreed.
 

Lowpuller

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Very cool, do you have a picture showing the power supply?

And can you share your source and more details on the tubes?
 

Tonimus

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Very cool, do you have a picture showing the power supply?

And can you share your source and more details on the tubes?
I do not have a picture of the power supply. Input voltage for the board is 7.5-12v. I happened to have a 12v 1.7A wall wart laying around and that's what I used. Nothing special. If I hadn't been able to locate that, I'd have used one of the universal wall warts from Wally World or similar.

I bought my tubes from this eBay seller: https://stores.ebay.com/businkaolya/

I looked it up and it was 2.5 years ago. Jeez, how time flies.

As far as details, the IN-12 tubes run very well off of this board at the default 180v. They are an 11 character tube with 0-9 and a decimal point. By energizing the correct cathode and using the anode to ground, you light up the corresponding digit. I chose to use Soviet tubes because they were available with the sockets. If I had a tube wear out, I wanted to be able to replace it, and the bakelite Soviet sockets are VERY robust.

For a nixie clock, the best size/cost ratio is the IN-12 in my opinion. You can get them for around $2 each, shipped, without the sockets. Per the datasheet, the tube is 21mm wide, 31mm tall, and 28mm deep. The numbers are 18mm tall. I don't read Russian, but it appears the tubes are rated up to 200v at 0.3 to 2.5 mA.

If you need to know anything else, feel free to ask. I think I'm going to get another kit and build one for myself.
 
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