Production of Model 11 Nixie Clock, serial number 2

Some photos of the construction of the four Bud Box series clocks. Basically, I scrounge up nice cabinets from somewhere (these were packratted by a ham, they were new sealed in boxes from 1962) and design around them. These were really nice steel squat cabinets.

Basically, the electronics is a no-brainer and other than the obvious need to assemble and test, the chassis work dominates making these clocks. My electronics are pretty straightforward and conservative, and are assembled in a day. Cabinetry takes sometimes weeks.

The most time-consuming part is the design, which is pretty much impossible to document; basically I fiddle with layout on one of the chassis, and when I have a decent first approximation, and have more or less chosen the interface (pushbuttons only? rotary encoder? four or six nixies? alarm? what kind of switches? do I need to make any controls? etc) I start laying out in Illustrator, which I use to make the artwork for silkscreen or etching.

The Bud Box clocks are of simple design, four tubes and two switches on front (time/date, press for seconds/year). I farmed out the silkscreening, so basically it's metalwork and painting for me.

Basically I hacked out four big holes and drill for the controls; easy! The Nixies sit on a sub-assembly mounted behind the front panel; these are a little more work but pretty straightforward. An aluminum panel mounts the tube sockets and little neons (am/pm, colon) at the right distance from the front panel and contains most of the wiring in the clock.

Basically for a batch like this I make one as a "prototype" then duplicate it. It's not exactly mass production, and they get enough planning that the "prototype" is essentially identical to the batch. Here's the prototype minus silkscreening, plus another shot of it with it's siblings parts and pieces ready for assembly.

After much procrastination, delays, disasters, missing and lost parts, the damned things get assembled. The next step is burn-in; most electronic components fail in the first few hours, so it always pays to burn 'em in for a week or so, which is what's going on here. I'm probably waiting for the silkscreening to be complete too.