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Blunt Instrument

Steampunk CRT Nixie Clocks

Custom Cathode Ray Tube Clocks

All of our Steam Punk CRT clocks are hand made to the highest standards and apart from the electronics can be considered unique as each one will differ from previous ones in small degrees. Because they are hand made each mechanical part is matched to the next to achieve a perfect result.

Unique Hand Built CRT Clocks

GPS CRT Clock with vacuum tubes

All of our Steam Punk CRT clocks (often referred to as Nixie clocks) are hand made to the highest standards and apart from the electronics can be considered unique as each one will differ from previous ones in small degrees. Because they are hand made each mechanical part is matched to the next to achieve a perfect result.

The chassis is made from 3mm (1/8”) aluminium sheet and extrusions to form a robust and thermally stable base for the electronics, whilst also providing a strong foundation for the entire clock. The aluminium is finished with a brushed surface.

The case is made out of the highest quality aviation grade plywood and then veneered in 2.5mm real wood to the customers choice to give it a solid feel and appearance. The finish can either be varnished for a maintenance free solution or can be oiled for real quality.

Top of the range Nixie steampunk clocks, small and large

The brass-work is done in various thicknesses of solid brass and features real copper rivets individually riveted to the brass-work to give it that authentic steam look. I refuse to varnish the brass, as I have yet to find a product that will achieve the lasting end result found with polished brass.

The 'barrel' of the boiler is made from 3mm extruded ultra clear plastic and the CRT screen is protected by a 5mm smoked plastic disk, enhancing the contrast of the display. This protection is done to ensure the safety of the owner and the CRT in the event of a heavy object dropped on the clock.

Steampunk clock electronics

Internally, state of the art electronics are used to be able to provide the functionality we've become accustomed to these days but over-generous selection of all critical components has been done to ensure a long life expectancy.

Every single clock is made with a new old stock CRT to ensure a long life and reliability.

My clocks are supplied with an external low voltage power supply unit to comply with standards in all regions around the world and to ensure the safety of the owner. There are no line transformers or large capacitors storing huge amounts of energy and all CRT high voltage supplies are generated internally to enhance the overall safety features of the clock.

Clock Custom Build Options

Cathode Ray Tube Clock with GPS

Several different CRT options are available and a glance at the price list below will help prospective buyers in making a choice.

The clocks can be purchased optioned for GPS timing, which means that the clock will know the time anywhere in the world where it is located and will indeed update itself if it were moved through a time zone. Automatic winter/summertime is also included as one of the GPS functions along with the clocks location being displayable in longitude and latitude.

The GPS module is detachable from the clock on a 'flying' lead, so that in the event of a very poor GPS signal a 'sweet spot' can be found experimentally by placing it away from the clock at various angles until GPS lock is achieved. A small peg is fitted to the base of the GPS module to allow it to be stuck in place with Blutak for this purpose. In good GPS signal areas the GPS module is placed on top of the clock. See photos.

Room temperature is also an option and can be set to display either Celsius or Fahrenheit. Either an integral temperature sensor which is accurate to +/- 2.5 degrees or an external temperature sensor, accurate to +/- 0.5 degrees can be ordered. Both are displayed on the CRT by alternating between the date display and temperature display, once every 5 seconds.

CRT Steam Punk Clock with GPS

As with the GPS module, the external temperature sensor is also on a 'flying lead' so that it can be situated away from heat sources to achieve a very high degree of accuracy.

A clock ON and OFF facility is included in the menu so that it is possible to set the ON and OFF time to firstly, increase the life of the CRT and secondly, turn off the clock when it is not required. For instance, by setting the ON time to 18:00hrs and the OFF time to 24:00hrs then effectively the life of the CRT is increased fourfold. This facility can be over-ridden at any time should it be desired for special occasions. The facility can also be linked to the temperature sensor so that the clock detects when the room heating is either turned off or reduced at night-time.

Clock Display Options

A comprehensive, yet simple to operate on-screen menu is available to set up the clock for a large selection of options and can be set by 3 small buttons located on the front panel along with 4 other controls which are Brightness, Focus, X shift and Y shift. See the list of menu options below.

CRT Steampunk Clock basic model

The Brightness and focus controls are self ex-planetary but the X and Y shift controls move the clock display across the screen left and right and up and down respectively. These 2 controls are necessary because the clocks location can effect the centring of the display due to varying magnetic fields found across the world. Once set, generally the X and Y shift controls need no further adjustment.

In addition to the X and Y shift controls, there is an automatic shifting of the display in small increments, randomly about the screen once every minute to reduce the tendency to burn the phosphor of the CRT. This is especially important in CRT clocks as a large portion of the clock's display is more or less static, which would result in serious phosphor burn if left for long periods without this facility.

Clock Menus

The menu's are arranged as 5 pages each with 4 options. To enter the menu press the 'M' button. If you are in the menu on any page and leave it unattended for over a minute, the clock will then revert to normal operation.

  • Page 1
  • Page 2
  • Page 3
  • Page 4
  • Page 5
  • Operational Notes

Page1:

  1. The first entry is 'SET TIME'. By pressing 'M' at this point it will enter the time setting sub-menu. Use the '^' and 'v' buttons to alter each date and time field. When the first field is updated, use the 'M' button to shift to the next field and so on until all fields have been updated.
    The bottom line of the time setting sub-menu will read, 'CANCEL' or 'RESET' or 'SET'. If you are satisfied with your settings then select 'SET' by using the '^' and 'v' buttons and then press 'M' to set the clock, which will revert to the normal display.
    To continue setting the clock, press 'M' again to enter page 1. Using the 'v' button to move to each field in turn. If you have the GPS option then this should be set to 'ON'.
    Note that if you have the GPS option you can skip the 'SET TIME' option as the clock will usually lock onto GPS within a few minutes and then set the correct time.
  2. 'GPS MODE' – Press 'M' and the cursor will move to the right hand column (which in all menu fields is the user adjustable field). Use the '^' or 'v' buttons to set this to 'ON' or 'OFF'. Pressing 'M' again will accept your changes and move the cursor back to the left hand column to allow you to continue down to the next item. All subsequent menu items are set in the same way.
  3. 'TIME ZONE' – Allows you to set any time zone in the world. If you have the GPS option then set 'TIME ZONE' to 'AUTO'.
  4. 'DST' Allows the clock to correct for summertime shifts. If you have the GPS option set this to 'Auto' as it will then correct itself.

Page 2:

  1. 'DATE FORMAT' – This is fairly self explanatory and is altered in the same manner as any other field.
  2. 'TEMP' – Allows either Celsius or Fahrenheit to be displayed every 5 seconds alternately with the date display. Please note that if you do not have the temperature option then this will be displayed as an arbitrary value.
  3. 'DATE/TEMP' – This allows placement of the date and temperature line to be displayed in the top or bottom half of the display. It also allows the 'Date/Temp' display line to be switched off.
  4. 'DIAL' – This turns on or off the ring around the clock face.

Page 3:

  1. 'STYLE' – Switches between the classic analogue clock face with hands etc. or a digital display.
  2. 'TICKS' – When set to 'LARGE', all minute positions are displayed around the clock face.  When set to 'SMALL' only the 5 minute increments are displayed and when set to 'OFF', no minute ticks are shown.
  3. 'ANNOTATE' – 'FULL' displays all numbers 1-12 or their Roman equivalents all facing vertically. 'ROTATED' will make all of the characters rotate around the clock face, whilst 'SPARSE' will only display the numbers 12, 3, 6 and 9 or their Roman equivalents. 'OFF' turns all numbers off.
  4. 'NUMERALS' – Allows selection of either the classic Roman numerals or the more usual decimal numbers.

Page 4:

  1. 'HANDS' – Selecting 'SLIM' makes the hands appear like skeleton arrows and 'FAT' makes the hands wedge shaped rather like slices of cheese.
  2. 'MOTION' – Selecting 'JUMP' will make the second hand jump 1 second every second like a mechanical clock, whilst 'SMOOTH' makes the second hand glide round in a continuous movement.
  3. 'TIME MODE' – Allows either a 12 or 24 hour display when in the digital clock mode.
  4. 'SHOW GPS' – Pressing 'M' when on this line will show the GPS sub-menu. 3 lines of data are shown (there is no user intervention on this menu). The first line is the clocks northerly position. The second line is the clocks westerly position and finally the third line displays the time zone. If any of these lines reads 'Error' then it is wise to re-site the GPS module to get all 3 entries to read correctly. Please note, that some buildings, notably those made of concrete and steel will drastically reduce GPS reception sometimes to zero. If so, try locating the clock next to a window with the GPS module in the window and the clock facing into the room.

    Note: If the GPS function has been enabled then a small double ellipse symbol will be displayed, rotating in the top half of the display. If this symbol is flashing on and off then the GPS module has not acquired all of the data it requires. Normally, the correct time and date can be found by the GPS module within 1-5 minutes but the positional data may take in excess of 30 minutes. The ellipses will stop flashing and just continuously rotate when the GPS module has acquired all of the relevant data. The clock uses the same GPS technology as Smart phones, so it is a good idea to check your proposed clock location for GPS reception prior to ordering one of these clocks with a GPS module.

Page 5:

  1. 'DISPLAY' – This option sets whether the clock will switch on or off to the following set times or be set to ignore the set times. It can also be set to turn on at a specific temperature, such as when the room heating comes on. 'TIMED' will set the clock to turn on and off to the set times. 'TEMP' will set the clock to turn on when a specific set temperature is reached. It will only turn off again once the temperature falls 1 degree Fahrenheit below the set temperature. 'ALWAYS' sets the clock to be on continuously.
  2. 'TIME ON' – If 'TIMED' has been previously set, then the clock will turn on at this time but allow 1-2 minutes for the CRT to warm up.
  3. 'TIME OFF' – If 'TIMED' has been previously set then the clock will switch off at this time. Use the '^' and 'v' buttons to set both 'TIME ON' and 'TIME OFF' in 15 minute steps.
  4. 'TEMP ON' – If 'DISPLAY' is set to 'TEMP' then the clock will turn on at the set temp. See above.

Operational Notes

If you are setting up the clock in the menu mode and have set the 'CLOCK OFF' period to coincide with the actual time, then the clock will remain switched on for 1 minute after you exit the menu mode before switching off. Please note that leaving the clock unattended in the menu mode for more than 1 minute will set the clock back to normal display unless it is during a set 'CLOCK OFF' period where it will switch off.

At any time during a 'CLOCK OFF' period pressing either '^' or 'v' will switch the clock back on with a normal display. Pressing 'M' during a 'CLOCK OFF' period will switch the clock back on but now in the menu mode. Any of these overriding actions will ignore the set 'CLOCK ON' time and leave the clock switched on for one minute unless you enter the menu mode and reset the 'DISPLAY' to 'ALWAYS'. This enables you to switch the clock on for special occasions but please remember to reset the 'DISPLAY' function to 'TIMED' after your guests leave.

Important

I cannot stress enough how important it is to limit the amount of ON time for these CRT clocks. At the moment (2014) there are reasonable stocks of CRT's worldwide but this situation will only last a few more years.

Turning your clock ON and OFF between, say, 18:00 and 23:30 will increase the life of the CRT to perhaps 25-30 years or probably longer, whilst leaving it permanently ON will see the CRT fail in as little as 3-5 years.

CRT's are the same as old fashioned vacuum tubes (valves) and for those of us old enough to remember these will certainly recall the need for periodic replacement of tubes especially if the radio or TV was used for extended periods every day.

Do not run the clock in sunlit or bright areas as turning up the BRIGHTNESS control too high just deteriorates the display and reduces the life of the CRT dramatically.

The display technique is called fast random vector scanning. Random because some elements of the display are dynamic whilst other elements are static and require different priorities as time goes by and are randomly scanned as the hands move around the clock face.

Turning up the BRIGHTNESS too high will show the scan 'skipping' from display element to element in a very random fashion. This is normal and not a fault and in some respects enhances the 'retro' aura of the clock.


Cathode Ray Tube Variants

At present, the clocks on offer can be made with the following 4 types of CRT. I have selected these on a number of criteria, mostly to do with the quality of display but including likely availability in the next 5 years or so. I do, however, occasionally make clocks with different size CRT's than those shown but these would have to be to specific requests from customers. Regardless of CRT size, I will only use new old stock CRT's, those stored from new but never used, so this limits what is available.

DG7-6

A 2.75” CRT, circa 1950. Most available today were manufactured in France around 1960-1970. The least expensive option but lower cost comes with a small amount of non-linearity (roundness) in the display, usually visible when the 'DIAL' option, the ring around the clock face, is enabled. However, a good little CRT with good brightness and focus. Becoming very rare but I believe there are still some military stocks available as it was used in radar systems extensively. This is built into a small clock.

DG7-32

A 2.75” CRT, circa 1956. Most available today were manufactured by various high quality manufacturers across Europe up until the late 70's, early 80's. Really the best of all of the 2.75” CRT's with stunning focus and high brightness. The most expensive option of the smaller CRT clocks as it commands high prices as a spare for a well known Hi-Fi tuner/amplifier along with many other uses.

Well worth the extra expense if a fully optioned smaller clock is desired. Becoming exceedingly rare which adds to the cost. This is built into a small clock.

8LO29i

A 3” CRT, circa 1950. Of Soviet origin made by numerous manufacturers, some highly dubious, so the quality varies and very careful selection is necessary. Good bright display but sometimes focus is a bit variable across the display width. Nevertheless a good strong CRT so it finds itself a place as the least expensive option of the larger CRT clock options.

Still widely available but a noticeable lowering of quantities on offer is apparent. As this CRT is very power 'hungry' the clocks power supply needs to be 'beefed' up to be able to drive these. This is built into a large clock.

8SJ31J

A 3” flat faced CRT, believed to be still in production for educational use. Of Chinese manufacture probably copied from the American 3” CRT's, of which were made in numerous variants in vast quantities for many decades.

A truly superb CRT, with high brightness and pin sharp focus. A must-have option for the top of the range CRT clock. Becoming rare in Europe so importing from China is the only option, hence the extra cost.

Like the 8LO29i, this CRT is power 'hungry' so upgrading the clocks power supply is necessary. This is built into a large clock.

Clock Price list

CRT type Base model Temp GPS Both Extra brass
DG7-6 £199 +£21 +£36 +£52 +£45
DG7-32 £269 +£21 +£36 +£52 +£45
8LO29i £369 +£21 +£36 +£52 +£55
8SJ31J £469 +£21 +£36 +£52 +£55

To arrive at a price, simply take the 'Base model' price for the particular CRT you would like and then add the options you require. For instance, if you would like the base model DG7-6 but with both temperature and GPS, then add £199 + £52. The total therefore becomes £251.00.

Extra brass-work is actually negotiable but requires contact between the customer and myself prior to starting the build, otherwise I will exercise artistic license.

Guarantee

I guarantee these clocks against electronic component failure for 1 year, however if you have a failure after this period please contact me at the address below. You will generally find me sympathetic.

Postage

For the UK a flat rate of £14 must be added to the order for postage and packing as these clocks are relatively large and heavy but if you live outside the UK, then please contact me; info@bluntinstrument.co.uk so that I can advise you on the cost of postage to your location.

Please note, that non-EU destinations may incur customs/import levies which will be at the customers cost.

Delivery

Delivery from receipt of payment will generally be 2-3 weeks but depending on the number of orders could possibly exceed that. I will however inform customers of any delivery delays

Looking After Your Steampunk Clock

Cathode Ray Tube Nixie Clock with GPS

Your clock will require very little maintenance, other than occasional dusting and polishing. As said earlier, the brass-work is left natural and will require polishing from time to time, which should be done with 'Brasso' or an equivalent agent. Do not worry about getting 'Brasso' onto the plastic 'boiler' tube as it will not harm this but please do not use anything that is solvent based as this will destroy the plastic 'boiler' tube, turning it cloudy or worst case cracking it.

The grade of brass used in these clocks will hold a bright shine for over a year in most atmospheres but will lose this in days if touched by children's sticky fingers.

Where the brass-work adjoins the wood-work it is a good idea to use a thin piece of card to protect the wood-work during polishing. The use of excessive force during polishing should be avoided in all cases.

In the more intricate brass-work variants some components are removable to make polishing easier, however extreme care should be taken with items like funnels as they are designed to break free should excessive force be applied in order to protect the thin brass-work they are attached to.

If the case is supplied varnished then normal furniture polish is fine to use but when the case is supplied oiled then either boiled linseed oil or 'Teak oil' should be used, allowed to partially dry and then rubbed to a sheen.

If not specifically requested, all clocks will be supplied with a walnut veneer which is oiled.