Vacuum Fluorescent Display Clock based on Soviet IV-18 tube

VFD IV-18 Clock Finished and working

This week’s post is about my first attempt at (yet another 🙂 ) VFD based clock.

Given that I’m really no expert in vacuum tubes I have simply chosen to go with a kit. I don’t know if there are many types out there, but ladyada’s one, seemed really nicely done, reasonably priced and very very well documented.

Here’s the final result, for those that can’t be bothered with reading through the assembling and testing…


I ordered the kit from the German website Watterott, which is far cheaper that the options here in the UK (about 20%) and I’m quite happy with their speedy delivery and service.

Here are the various parts:

IV-18 VFD Clock electronic parts

VFD Clock - the IV-18 vacuum tube itself


I followed Ladyada’s tutorial and the soldering was really easy and quick (I really like the fact that she explains the role of almost each component and how they fit together, not simply how to solder !)…

IV-18 VFD Clock - half way through assembly

Also, you get to test each of the 3 parts of the circuit:

  1. the 5V power supply on the left
  2. the microcontroller and its watch crystal in the middle
  3. the high voltage boost supply on the right (the VFD tube needs around 50V to light up)

Then came the hardest bit of the process, inserting and then soldering the VFD tube itself:

IV-18 VFD Clock inserting the tube

IV-18 VFD Clock soldering the vacuum tube


Luckily enough everything went smoothly (especially the tube positioning, which can’t really be fixed if done wrong the first time !) and the final test seems successful :

VFD Clock - final test


That’s it ! No code today, as the Atmega168 microcontroller comes pre-programmed, and the kit is really complete, even with the back-up battery !

However, I’m planning on hacking this clock (even if it required some soldering it felt too easy… 🙂 ) and make it connect to other “stuff” and display some custom messages for example… so stay tuned !


3 Responses to Vacuum Fluorescent Display Clock based on Soviet IV-18 tube

  1. Lego says:

    There is definately a great deal to learn about this issue. I love all the points you’ve made.

  2. I simply couldn’t leave your web site before suggesting that I really loved the usual info a person provide to your guests? Is gonna be back incessantly in order to investigate cross-check new posts

  3. Pingback: VFD Clock Connects to the Internet « Robotics / Electronics / Physical Computing

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