Nixie Dream story

One of my very earliest childhood memories is that I had my mother lift me up everytime we were at the local grocery stores so I could get a good look at the orange glow numbers. At that time I had no clue what were they but they attracted my attention already. In the 80-90th in the Soviet Union such nixie based weight scales were used all over the USSR countries. Of course such scales have disappeared many years ago since they are quite bulky and heavy. After almost 30 years, in 2014  I decided to revive nixies by combining this retro technology and modern electronics and make it available for the whole world.
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nixie-clock-casing-nixie-dream-site
So the next question was where to get the nixie tubes in 2014. It was not possible to find such weight scales any longer. I shared my idea with my family and my dad advised me to search for old soviet calculators - Iskra where IN-14 nixie tubes were used as well. That was a brilliant idea as I was able to find such calculators on local flea markets. So that problem was solved and I could get quite many nixie tubes.
So the work has started and together with my friend who is also a technical nerd we built our first nixie clock prototype. At that time we had many issues with stable HV power, we had no transition effects, some tubes were flickering - but we were so happy as we could get them to work. The tubes from the Soviet era were revived and we had more and more enthusiasm to continue.
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When we have completed the electronic schematics design and fixed all issues with our nixie clock prototype we have ordered a few normal PCBs to continue. As anyway we could not move further without having normal PCBs. We ordered the PCBs from a local producer and after 10 days we got our first shiny green masked nixie clocks PCB. Hurray!
If you ever tried building your our electronic products you know that having a good casing for your product is a pain. You can have everything perfect inside but without a good enclosure you are out. So from the very beginning our aim was to start with the enclosure first and then design a schematic diagram for the nixie clock. So this one is our first nixie casing we built! It was still 2014 and we were just starting up and trying different wood timbers. This one is russian olive tree burl wood. You can also notice that at that time we had a hole in the front of the casing. That was used for automatic clock's brightness control sensor. In the nixie clocks we sell today we have redesigned PCB and make it possible to put the ambient sensor underneeth the PCB so we don't need to have this hole anylonger which never looked good.

We still keep the same dimensions for all of our nixie clocks: 170 x 90 x 60 mm (6.7" x 3.5" x 2.3")
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This is how does a maple burl wood timber look like when we get it. We use CNC milling to cut it to 4,5mm slices and then use them to make the enclosures. One piece of burl wood never looks similar to another. That's why all of our nixie clock's casings made out of burl wood are naturally unique.
That was our second experiment with the casings for the nixie clocks - with maple burl wood. At that time we have removed the hole on the front side already. We also used different coatings while experimenting. For this casing we used Danish oil transparent dye to emphasise its wood natural patterns.
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Our another attempt in designing the nixie clock's enclosures. We decided to try varnishing the casings to make it fit to classical interiors. We still were using burl wood and we found it was looking really cool! Do you like it?
The same varnished casing but with a different colour used in wood dye. Despite such casings were looking cool the process of varnishing required a dust free environment, like a special room with ventilation and filters. So for us it was not possible to achieve a repeatable high quality from casing to casing and we decided to try out some other natural wood materials.
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While visiting our wood timber supplier we found out about thermowood, a special wood which is produced by heat treating to temperatures exceeding of 200C degrees. During the heat treatment process, structural changes occur within the timber which improves its characteristics.
Of course we bought some of the thermowood timber and made our next nixie clock out of this material. One of the improvements the timber gets after the high temperature treating process is a special chocolate light smell. We sold many of such nixie clock's and this casing design was one of the most popular design until now.
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personalized-nixie-clock-punk
This nixie clock was a special one and just one piece was made. That was a personalized order. One of our customer requested to have a customized nixie clock with a steampunk casing. It took us in overall about one month as all these brass elements were made to order and manually polished. Despite all the challenges we have while making this nixie clock we made our customer happy - that was the most importnat for us. In addition for this clock we tried out laser cut personalized engraving.
After selling clocks we noticed that approximately 5% of the clocks were returned due to degraded nixie tubes. As we had covered all clocks with 1 year warranty we had to fix all of them and cut out a broken nixie tube and solder a new one. That was a hassle. That is why we improved our PCB design and made a separate PCB for each nixie tube. As you can see we do not solder the tubes any longer but using special connectors to make the tubes easy replaceable. When in unlikely event overtime a nixie tube degrades we will send a spare tube or our customers can purchase a spare tube when warranty is over and replace on their own.
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nixie-tubes-replaceable
This is our IN-14 nixie clock PCB with all inserted tubes into the sockets. Besides a possibility to easily replace the nixie tubes it secures that during shipping the tubes are not demaged as they can slightly move in the sockets.
This is the same PCB but with dismantled nixie tubes.
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Overtime we have imrpoved a lot, and not only when it comes to electronical part of the nixie clock, but also outer design of the clocks. We have designed an enclosure with black high gloss acrylic cover. It looks very attractive especially in a dark room or during night as orange glow from nixie tubes reflects in the cover.
This is our best seller now, the nixie clock in the ash wood enclosure. We carefully finish the casing with four coats of Danish oil and sand in between to give the final enclosure a natural smooth feel. After all the case is polished with Carnauba wax to produce a smooth high gloss surface.
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Nixie Dream was founded in 2014 as a small family owned business of three engineers being passioned about retro nixie technology. We have combined retro nixie technology with pure wood nature and built the nixie clock which is truly unique. Our aim is to provide not only quality nixie clocks, but ones that will make a lasting impression. Our business is located in the heart of Ukraine - in Kiev. Feel free to contact us at any time.