Home-made Nixie tube clock: Making things spin - Embedded.com

Home-made Nixie tube clock: Making things spin

Ever since I penned my previous column on this topic (see Creating a Steampunk Nixie Tube Clock ), my mind has been churning with ideas, some of which will make you squeal with delight, but I don’t want to make you overexcited so we'll save those for another day.

I've already been in touch with Pete Virica at PV Electronics and ordered his Spectrum Kit, which is fine-tuned to drive the uber-large Z568M, Z5680M, and R|Z568M Nixie tubes. I've also been chatting with Andy and Mandy at Engraving Studios with regard to creating my brass plates. Plus, I've been on the phone with Dalibor Farny in the Czech Republic with regard to purchasing some of his gorgeous R|Z568M tubes.

Now, in addition to the digits transitioning on the Nixie tubes themselves, having something physically moving on the clock can add to the visual feast. In the case of Paul Parry's Gemini Nixie Tube Clock, for example, we see a small brass steam engine beavering away on top (click here to see a video of this little scallywag running — the clock, not Paul).

In fact, Paul is currently in the process of creating a new clock that boasts a similar engine. The image below shows this engine sitting on Paul's worktable.


The Turing Clock (Source: Bad Dog Designs)

I tell you, Paul is one of the most networked people I know — It turns out these motors are created by his friend Jin, who is based in China. I've also discovered that Jin offers a wide variety of these motors — I'm hoping to write a column on them with photographs — but he's currently celebrating the Chinese New Year, so that will have to wait.

The thing is that I don’t want to simply copy what Paul has done; instead, I want to blow him away with my own creation (shhh, don’t say anything to him). Thus, I've been pondering the idea of having an electric motor spinning around on top of my creation.

I just re-read my previous sentence. I fear you may be thinking of a cheesy, tinny, rinky-dinky modern electric motor. Well, shame on you! How could you? Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, I'm thinking of something like an antique battery-powered electric motor from yesteryear that will augment, complement, and enhance the theme of my Nixie tube chronograph.

For example, I just took a stroll around the Patented Antiques website, which is run by Larry and Carole Meeker. Here we find a treasure-trove of antique tools, sewing machines, surveying equipment, office & technology items, and Americana. In particular, I honed in on their Motor Archive. One of these little beauties that immediately caught my eye was an Ajax Electric Motor.


Ajax Electric Motor (Source: Patented Antiques)

According to the Patented Antiques website, this type of motor was sold out of the back of magazines and they were used as toys and demonstrators. I was happily imagining one of these little rascals basking on top of my clock, when I came across a Small Horizontal Open Frame Electric Motor.


Small Horizontal Open Frame Electric Motor (Source: Patented Antiques)

OMG! I've never seen anything quite like this before. I think this little scamp would be perfect sitting on top of my Nixie tube chronograph, quietly spinning away while — at the same time — screaming “Look at me!” (metaphorically speaking, of course).

The main problem is where I said I was looking at the “Motor Archive” on the Patented Antiques website. That's right — these are the motors they've already sold (sad face). So, now I'm on a quest to find a Small Horizontal Open Frame Electric Motor — or something equivalent — of my very own. Any suggestions would be very gratefully received.

6 thoughts on “Home-made Nixie tube clock: Making things spin

  1. “Old Electric Motor KitsnnThe Old Model Company has replica kits for building versions of early electric motors.nnhttp://www.oldmodels.co.uk/nnThere are some videos of them on YouTube and some on their website. They look really nice but some are a

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  2. “I really like these — but they seem too “new & shiny” for this particular application — I must admit that the “Small Horizontal Open Frame Electric Motor” shown above has captured my heart — if only I could find one like this…”

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  3. “@Jgrubbs: This models are really beautiful! I wish they weren't so expensive- I'd really like to own some of these.nI just did an eBay search on “Antique electric motor” and there are a few really old “toy” electric motors that just might fit the bil

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  4. “@Rcurl and @Max: I did several google and google image searches and did not find anything like the “horizontal motor”. I did find an interesting website, “Spark Museum of Electrical Invention” in Bellingham, Washington. Here is a link to pictures of

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