[IMPORTANT CREATOR'S NOTE] Many vacuum tubes contain toxic substances and gases (mercury, uranium, thoriated tungsten, etc.). You are well-advised to handle these valves with care, to ensure that they do not break, or react unsafely to the heat generated by the lighting. It is incumbent upon you to do the requisite research on each valve you employ, and by proceeding with this Instructable, you do hereby assume full responsibility for your actions, choices, and mishaps, and do hereby release the creator of any liability arising from your actions, choices, mishaps, or my design ideas. [END OF NOTE]
I own an award-winning luxury LED lighting firm in Texas (MINIMIS), and despite being on the bleeding edge of lighting technology, I have always been fascinated with vacuum tubes. Vacuum tubes, or thermoionic tubes (or valves) were the predecessors to transistors, integrated circuits, digital displays, etc. and were used from the 1920's all the way up through the fifties and sixties (some are still in use in some legacy equipment, and high-end audiophile stereo equipment). Their shapes conjure up images of the jetsons, and other fifties space-age movies and shows.
I wanted to make a light fixture that would adequately pay high homage to these fantastic relics, sparing no expense in making an art piece. Because the wattage required to light the heaters is so high (multiplied times seventy valves for this fixture!!), I opted out of making the streetlights dim in a 36-block radius, instead lighting them from underneath, using LED / lens modules from my own company's stock.
Step 1: Select and Purchase Your Vacuum Tubes
I first searched for the most unusual, exotic vacuum tubes available and ended up with a stunning selection of all sizes and shapes. I was lucky to find out that a gentleman in Santiago, Chile (the country where I live) is actually a world-famous collector and seller of vacuum tubes, with a breathtaking array of options.
Google "Francisco Mella tubos" and rest assured he ships worldwide in extremely well-protected packaging. Mr. Mella was exceedingly patient and accommodating of my uneducated questions, and unorthodox requests ("Send me pictures of your strangest specimens!")
Step 2: Design and Build the Base.
I then designed a wooden base that doubled as a box to hide the wires and 12vDC transformer. I chose to repurpose the scraps of an extremely hard wood from the Amazon, called Dipteryx micrantha, and employed biscuits and all hidden joinery, so that once the box was assembled, it would look like one solid ingot of wood.
The walls of the box were one inch (25mm) thick, enabling plenty of leeway in future drilling depths. Do not be cheap and only go 1/2-inch thickness, it will not work with this design.
Step 3: Measure Tubes and Recreate Them in SketchUp
I then measured the diameter of each tube's base (most of which I had removed their plastic (bakelite) socket bases to allow for light transmission through the valves. Some valves were not able to have their bases removed When measuring these diameters, round up to the next millimeter, to accommodate for heat-generated expansion of the wood. As the heat expands, the holes will shrink and some tubes are fragile enough that they could break from the pressure.
I used SketchUp to re-create the approximate form / shape of each valve. This enabled me to experiment with various arrangement schemes. The challenge with the layout of the tubes was that I wanted them to look random, yet also have a purpose, and also be arranged in such a way that would best display all the tubes, and avoid dimensional conflicts among the tubes.
Step 4: Drill Template and Drilling
Once I concluded upon the final layout, I exploded the entire SketchUp drawing, and deleted all of the forms of the vacuum tubes, save for the diameters of the bases. I then exported the template to a vector .EPS file, editable in Adobe Illustrator. I opened the template in Illustrator and resized the template until it was the actual size of the base. I then printed the template out (I had to print it across three sheets of paper, then stitch them together.
I then set the printed template on top of the wooden base and made center-punch marks, and wrote the diameter for each valve location. I located special woodworking drill bits called Forstner bits for all the diameters that I required. I was able to locate these drill bits on Ebay for an average of USD $3 per drill bit. Forstner bits are excellent for this application because they create perfectly clean, shiny-sided, flat-bottomed holes. With a professional drill-press, set to perfectly plumb, I then drilled each hole to a specific depth that was appropriate for each valve. Most holes were 12mm deep (note that I did not drill all the way through the box material. For the huge ZD1000F Tesla amplifier tube, I had to make geometric measurements to determine not only the diameter of the socket posts, but their relative positions on an arc from center.
Once I had drilled all of the holes, I then took a 3/8-inch diameter drill bit and drilled through the remaining material, in the center of each of the existing holes. These 3/8-inch holes would be for future placement of the LED/Lens modules. Note that some larger valves required that a full-sized hole be drilled all the way through the material, to allow for secure seating of the valves.
Step 5: Install the LED/Lens Modules, and Wire Them Inside.
I then inserted the LED/Lens modules into the 3/8-inch holes - which turned out to be sixty in total. They were able to be pressed in with a nice friction hold. Once all lights were in place, I turned the box over and wired all of them in parallel scheme to a series of european-style nylon terminal blocks that I had bridged in parallel fashion.
Once the pigtails of the LEDs were properly seated in the terminal blocks, I installed a 12vDC transformer of 100 watts - suitable wattage for the consumption of my sixty 1-watt 0.083 amp LED/lens modules. I located a transformer that was 110v-277v in, enabling this fixture to be operated in any country. I secured the transformer to the inside of the bottom plate of the base. I then spliced a wall-plug pigtail to the transformer and ensured suitable strain-relief.
I installed a small rocker switch on the top of the box, to be hidden by all the valves, once completed. I plugged the transformer to the wall socket and turned the switch on to verify that all LEDs were operating.
I then placed the bottom plate of the box into place, drilled small pilot holes and countersinks, and screwed four wood screws into place, securing the bottom plate to the box.
I then located an acrylic paint of a light, light orange (think something close to the color of a Fritos bag), and hand-painted the lenses of the LED/Lens modules. This color would impart a very warm, low-kelvin color, suitable for the old "heaters" of working valves. I tested on one LED/Lens module, and was delighted to find that I did not need to thin the paint at all; the light transmitted nicely through the acrylic paint.
Step 6: Seat the Valves.
I then lined each hole with contact cement, then lined the bases of each valve with contact cement, and set the valves into their respective holes, and allowed the cement to set.
For the ZD1000F, because of its size, I drilled tiny holes in its socket posts, and then set the ZD1000F into its respective hole, then ran galvanized baling wire through the holes, effectively securing the ZD1000F into place.
Step 7: Turn It On, and Enjoy.
Once all the cement has set, turn the fixture on, and prepare to be inundated with complements, amazement, and endless, interesting conversation.
Step 8: Names, Descriptions, and Data Sheets of the Valves.
Below is a near-complete list of the more exotic valves in this fixture, including their model number, description, and link to PDF datasheet.
CV2739 - TRANSMIT/RECEIVE SWITCH WITH TUNABLE CAVITY RESONATOR http://www.shinjo.info/frank/other/CVspecs/cv4-2/CV2739.pdf
V241C/2 - VELOCITY-MODULATED OSCILLATOR https://frank.pocnet.net/sheets/061/v/V241C-1K.pdf
CV2161 - External cavity reflex klystron http://www.ase-museoedelpro.org/Museo_Edelpro/Catalogo/tubes/records_nw/CV2161/CV2161.pdf
CV82 - GROUNDED GRID TRIODE OSCILLATOR http://www.r-type.org/pdfs/cv82.pdf
CV298 - SINGLE-POLE DOUBLE THROW HIGH INDUCTANCE SWITCH https://frank.pocnet.net/sheets/141/f/FA15.pdf
705 - HALF-WAVE HIGH-VACUUM THORIATED TUNGSTEN RECTIFIER http://www.shinjo.info/frank/sheets/127/7/705A.pdf
ACORN - VHF/UHF INDUCTANCE
327 A - UHF POWER TRIODE http://www.ase-museoedelpro.org/Museo_Edelpro/Catalogo/tubes/records_nw/327A/327A.pdf
6322 - SEPARATE CAVITY TUNABLE NARROW BAND TRANSMIT/RECEIVE TUBE https://frank.pocnet.net/sheets/201/6/6322.pdf
707B - EXTERNAL CAVITY REFLEX KLYSTRON http://www.ase-museoedelpro.org/Museo_Edelpro/Catalogo/tubes/records_nw/707B/707B.pdf
721B - EXTERNAL CAVITY DISC-SEAL ANTI-TRANSMIT / RECEIVE TUBE WITH KEEP ALIVE ELECTRODE http://www.ase-museoedelpro.org/Museo_Edelpro/Catalogo/tubes/records_nw/721A/721A.pdf
2C36 - SYLVANIA UHF TRIODE PULSE MODULATED OSCILLATOR http://www.serkel.net/tube/2C36-SYLVANIA-UHF-TRIODE-PULSE-MODULATED-OSCILLATOR.pdf
2K28 - EXTERNAL CAVITY REFLEX KLYSTRON LOCAL RADAR OSCILLATOR http://www.serkel.net/tube/2K28-EXTERNAL-CAVITY-REFLEX-KLYSTRON-LOCAL-RADAR-OSCILLATOR.pdf
6322 - TRANSMIT/RECEIVE SWITCHING TUBE http://www.serkel.net/tube/6322-BOMAC-TR-SWITCHING-TUBE.pdf
813 - THORIATED TUNGSTEN FILAMENT BEAM POWER TUBE http://www.serkel.net/tube/813-RCA-THORIATED-TUNGSTEN-FILAMENT-BEAM-POWER-TUBE.pdf
832 - DUAL TETRODE PUSH PULL RF BEAM POWER AMPLIFIER http://www.serkel.net/tube/832-DUAL-TETRODE-PUSH-PULL-RF-BEAM-POWER-AMPLIFIER.pdf
866A - HALF WAVE MERCURY VAPOR RECTIFIER http://www.serkel.net/tube/866A-HALF-WAVE-MERCURY-VAPOR-RECTIFIER.pdf
CV67 - VELOCITY MODULATED OSCILLATOR http://www.serkel.net/tube/CV67-VELOCITY-MODULATED-OSCILLATOR.pdf
E1148 - VHF OSCILLATING TRIODE http://www.serkel.net/tube/E1148-VHF-OSCILLATING-TRIODE.pdf
GR10A - NEON FILLED 10 WAY REGISTER TUBE (DECATRON) http://www.serkel.net/tube/GR10A-NEON-FILLED-10-WAY-REGISTER-TUBE.pdf
ORP30 - CADMIUM SULFIDE FLAME+SMOKE DETECTING PHOTOCONDUCTIVE CELL http://www.serkel.net/tube/ORP30-PHILIPS-CADMIUM-SULFIDE-FLAME+SMOKE-DETECTING-PHOTOCONDUCTIVE-CELL.pdf
QQV07 - 40 RF POWER TWIN BEAM TETRODE TUBE - DIMENSIONS http://www.serkel.net/tube/QQV07-40-RF-POWER-TWIN-BEAM-TETRODE.pdf
ZD1000F - RADIATION COOLED POWER TRIODE AMPLIFIER http://www.serkel.net/tube/ZD1000F-TESLA-RADIATION-COOLED-POWER-TRIODE-AMPLIFIER.pdf
ZM1020 - COLD CATHODE 10 DIGIT (NIXIE) INDICATOR http://www.serkel.net/tube/ZM1020-COLD-CATHODE-10-DIGIT-INDICATOR.pdf