All posts for the month August, 2012

EDIT: I’ve emailed the first 10 waiting for a kit, apologies for the formal cut&paste email but it makes sure I’ve asked for all the information needed in one place.


Finally the first batch of 10 is ready to be packed, other than that I just need to finish off the instructions which can be done over the next few days. It’s taken a while, about 6 weeks longer than I would have liked, but once the first 10 have gone the rest will be ready much faster. Many of the parts have already been made, for example there are 55 sets of piece PCBs, 40 case tops engraved and 20 sets of board PCBs in black and plain so the next batch of 10 will only need a few parts such as piece cases and coil spacers cut.

I’ll start sending out emails later today, if you’re still interested in buying one please reply to it as soon as possible and also please read and understand the following reposted and amended conditions as I’ll expect you to have accepted them by placing an order.

All case parts, baseboard, piece bases, coil formers etc will be cut and engraved ready to use but will need sanding to remove loose material and tidy up visible edges – in the case of the piece bases they will need further sanding to remove machining marks. I actually didn’t bother too much with this, which produced the ‘woodgrain’ effect on some pieces. You’ll need to finish the board top and piece bases with engravers wax, filler or paint for whatever effect and colours you want.

All electronic components, enamelled wire and solder will be included and one square on the main board and one piece base PCB will be ready assembled and tested, giving you a chance to see one piece working before you start and provide something which can be used to test/compare against the other parts you assemble.

All the Brass nuts, bolts and thumb nuts are included. I’ll include enough parts in total to build about 34 piece bases and 66 squares (including the assembled ones), just in case of mistakes. The board doesn’t include feet so you’ll have to make/find/design your own or just stick felt on the underside.

The thicker case components will be made fron NOS Tufnol estimated to be from the 1960-70s and is limited in supply. The thinner laminate and PCB material will be supplied by local companies. The electronic components will be purchased from RS, Farnell or Rapid and the brass thumbnuts have to be ordered from the USA. The displays have been bought from the usual Ukrainian suppliers and the actual machining of parts will be done by myself and has been made to order so I’m not left with too much unwanted stock.

This is not a project for beginners – it makes use of surface mount components for the displays though I have redesigned the chessboard base to use only through hole parts. The circuits are not complicated and are laid out with plenty of space between parts where possible but you will still need to be confident soldering small parts. The main PCB is almost 15×15″ complete and as I’ll be machining them myself they won’t have any solder resist or component legend though the assembled square should be easy to copy and photographic instructions will be supplied for all stages of construction. Expect to spend from 2 days to a week of your spare time on it depending on experience and patience

Care must be taken when cleaning up or sanding the machined parts to avoid inhaling resin dust. Sand them wet or use a respirator/work outside. The working display modules can supply over 200V offload at a couple of milliamps so be careful handling these. The chessboard coils develop peak voltages of up to 60V across them so again be careful when it’s operating. The nixie tubes, in common with almost all of these displays, contain a small amount of mercury vapour to reduce striking voltage and protect the cathodes. The solder supplied is lead-free and the components are RoHS compliant so there should be no lead in the contents. The IN-7 displays are surplus Soviet components which have spent 20-30 years in a warehouse, junk pile and/or cellar. Many are dusty and some will have pins which need straightening.


Full Neon Jacket – A complete kit of all parts required to build the board and pieces shown in the photographs posted here, including all the case parts and 25x IN-7 + 9x IN-7A Nixie tubes (32 plus 2 spares). I only have enough tubes for 7 of these. £172 plus postage.

Hardware only – A complete kit of all parts required to build the board and pieces shown in the photographs posted here, including all the case parts but WITHOUT nixies. There are plenty of sellers on ebay or you may have some already, or you could experiment with a different tube. This (and the cheaper options below) are the versions I’d prefer to sell. £140 plus postage.

Budget Hardware only – A complete kit of all parts required to build the board and pieces shown in the photographs posted here, including all the case parts but WITHOUT nixies and supplied with standard brass hex nuts in place of the dome nuts and thmbnuts. They’re quite cheap to buy in the USA so it seems a bit silly for me to import them then send them back again if you don’t need them. £130 plus postage.

Skeleton Crew – A kit of all the electronic components and printed circuit boards needed to build a working chessboard PCB and 32 piece PCBs but WITHOUT piece base cases, case parts, board top or Nixie tubes. Ideal if you want to design your own board and pieces to build them into and choose alternative Nixies. £69 plus postage.

Black PCB option – if you’d prefer to show the working of the board with a glass or acrylic top a set of black laminate PCBs with brass nuts/bolts in place of the usual olive boards and steel bolts, £13 extra, available for any of the above kits.

The postage prices quoted are for a 42 x 42 x 14cm package 4kg (2kg and 20x20x10 for the PCB only kit) in weight, for an exact price go to and select your destination country. If you know of a cheaper option please let me know and I’ll use it if practical. I’ll also combine postage at cost if you buy more than one of any type such as for a group purchase.

You will receive all the parts required to build a working Nixie chessboard similar to the one pictured in the first post made at the end of June, there have been a couple of changes such as the engraved text is now all English, the board is thinner as all the parts are on one side of the PCB and the chessboard base no longer uses SMDs. The finished results and level of functionality will depend on your own abilities and patience, I’ve set up a support forum for discussion between kit builders (should be open in the next few days) and I will provide as much help and support as possible if you are stuck.

Semi-final contents list for the full kit:

IN-7 Display pieces: Surface mounted components

34x    Display PCBs
34x    Coil spacers
34x    33mm Dia. coil bases
34x    Piece base cases
25x    IN-7
9x    IN-7A
102x    ‘D’ socket pins
136x    Diodes
272x     Capacitors

Main board PCBs: Wired components

4x     PCBs 180x180mm – Black available as an option
66x    Coil connection holder pieces (sub base)
66x    Coil base pieces 35mm Dia.
66x    Coil spacers
66x    Coil top pieces 35mm Dia.
49x     1/4W Resistors
140x    Capacitors
66x     MOSFETs
46x     Electrolytic capacitors
8x     Ferrite filters
18x    Zener Diodes
4x     Microcontrollers
132x    M3x6 bolts – Brass available as an option
264x    M3 washers – Brass available as an option
66x    M3 nuts – Brass available as an option
100g    Enamelled copper wire
30g    Solder unleaded

Main board case parts:

1x    Engraved top board 400x400mm with custom text
1x    Base board 400x400mm
32x    1.5mm and 2mm strips for laminated sides
9x    M4 Brass dome nuts
17x    M4 Brass thumb nuts
26x    M4x16 Brass bolts
35x    M4 Brass washers
10x    M4 locknut washers
10x    M4 Nuts
8x    M5x25 Bolts – for assembling the coil formers
8x    M5 Nuts
8x    M5 Washers

Small batch of the new design 4×4 boards, I’ll build one up tonight to make sure there haven’t been any problems introduced when tidying up the layout.

My glasscutting powers are weak…..


Had to compress them a lot as the broadband speed this weekend is terrible.


I’ve received a quote for the black PCB laminate, there’s a minimum order that would be enough for about 30 boards and the extra cost including the use of brass nuts and bolts in place of steel would be £13 per set making the full kit with black PCBs and all-brass parts £185. If anyone wants to change their order please let me know.

I’ve engraved about 30 tops today, leaving the bottom edge blank so only the custom text needs to be added for each kit. All that’s left holding things up now is to make a few sets of the new 4×4 PCBs tomorrow and Saturday, then I can finally offer the first few kits for sale.

It all finally seems to be coming together, I’ve finally received a bill from Border force for the parcel of IN7s which has been paid and they’re scheduled for delivery on Monday. The new baseboard PCBs which are 1/8th of the board each are done, after 3 redesigns (mostly to make sure everything fitted, the second design coil formers were 0.5mm out) and will be in production from tomorrow.


These are now 100% through hole with no surface mount components and are much easier to build compared to the original. 8 of these are needed and should take around 2 hours each to assemble.


‘Fancy’ version for a future glass topped board.


A few pictures of the coil formers and how they fit together, these will become part of the assembly instructions.

Baseboard driver coil, from the left 0.8mm coil top, 1.5mm spacer, 1.5mm base, 1.5mm holder.

The parts threaded onto an M5 bolt which is used to hold the former while winding the coil. It’s worth running a little superglue into the former before winding to stick the former pieces together as the wire will tend to push them apart. Not too much though or you’ll glue them to the bolt.

Chesspiece coil, from the left 0.8mm base, 1.5mm spacer and PCB which forms the coil former top.

Assembled ready for coil winding.

After winding the wire insulation needs to be scraped off before soldering.

After soldering the ends run some superglue into the coil windings to fix in place.


Wound a few coils for the baseboard last night to test the final PCB design which works great BTW, and remembered what the worst part of building the original board was.

Now that the baseboard design is done I can start making those, as everything else is done for now and the tops will be made ‘to order’ I just need to put together the assembly instructions and start emailing the first on the list for payment. The instruction posts will grow over the next couple of weeks, you’ll probably find your kit is on the way before they’re completed but I don’t want to delay things any longer, my redesigns and ‘improvements’ have already added to an underestimate of the amount of time it would take to have these ready for you.

Placeholder for what will become the assembly instructions for the chess board case.


400x400mm Baseboard and side strips. Note the holes cut into the top parts of the vertical strips, these are to identify each layer. The 3-hole strips form the first layer and support the PCBs. Next there is a layer of 1.5mm strips (the horizontal strips in the picture) using the ‘U’ shped terminal strip to fit around the PCB power terminals, this is followed by the 2-hole strips which have a lip to hold the PCBs in place.

Another layer of the 1.5mm strips, then the 1-hole 2mm strips to provide spacing for the coils and components.

The complete assembly should look like this:


Closeup of the board edge:

Power terminal space showing gap for the PCB.


Placeholder for what will become the assembly instructions for the chess pieces.


Case and PCB components from top left:

34x Piece base cases

34x PCBs

34x Coil spacers

17x ea. Brown and white coil end plates



Electronic components from top left:

34x C1 tuning capacitor

99x pin sockets (‘D’ connectors to be stripped for sockets)

238x capacitors C2-C8

34x D1 diodes

102x D2-D7 dual diodes


Copper wire and solder not show as I haven’t calculated how much will be needed  yet, that’ll be measured during construction of the kit for these instructions.



I’ll soon be ready to start engraving the board top panels, these have to be made individually and can’t just be stacked and cut. While this does take a lot of time it also gives me the opportunity to personalise each board.

They’ll each have their own serial number and there’s also quite a bit of unused space elsewhere so if you have any short custom messages you’d like added to your board let me know. There’s room for about 35 characters and it’ll be in the bottom right hand corner when viewing the board with the power terminals at the top. (Note: the squares are laid out expecting the terminals to be to one side of the players so you’d be sitting to the left and right of them).

The main job this weekend is to finalise the new baseboard design and start making those, once there’s enough for the first batch then it’s just the tops and I can start putting kits together. Then there’s just the small problem of building one for the instructions, which hasn’t really been possible unil now.