“I went online to buy a nixie clock and didn’t see any I really liked,” says Woodland Hills, California tinkerer Sean Fannin about timepieces made from coldwar-era numeral-displaying nixie tubes. “A lot were DIY kits that ended up looking cheap. I wanted to build something a little more slick.”

After buying and assembling a basic kit clock, Fannin envisioned a housing modeled after a Victorian phonograph. “I struggled trying to fit the nixie tubes in. Sitting at my desk, trying to draw it out — it was not working.” He let the idea rest and waited for inspiration. Then one day, “I was watching Cosmos episode 6. This CGI sequence about machine-generated chloroplast had brass bells with copper tubing, and it dawned on me. I sketched everything out in about five minutes.”

After some desoldering and tinkering (about 40 hours worth, estimates Fannin, much of that learning curve), the resulting contraption houses the clock’s components in a handsome new arrangement he calls the Curious Nixie. That original has spawned several evolutions, which Fannin sells on Etsy along with other works.

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