After several designs ended up in the waste paper bin I came up with the idea of suspended digits over a wooden base and the first few ideas that I had were just not all that great looking so it was back to the drawing board, again!
I settled on the design you see here and wanted to use some white oak that I had for the parts. A trip to a scrap yard resulted in finding a couple of samples of white oak bannister and 4 spindles, as well as some copper pipe. I started on the part for the tube holders first by mounting the square section in my small metal lathe with a set of reverse jaws and a home made live spindle to stop it flying off. I turned it down from the square section to the maximum diameter that I could get from it, 47mm. Then it was back to the mitre saw to cut the sections to rough size.
I was going to keep the top curve of the bannister section but decided to take it off with an end mill on the milling machine to leave a flat surface which had the edges nicely rounded off with the existing shape of the section. Turning it over and clamping it on top of some thin plywood to protect the top I marked out and cut the recess for the electronics into the base as you can see in the photograph. Next up, the tubing.
I knew that to bend copper tubing you really need a former that holds the tubing against the disk to shape it as you bend it or you need a bending spring that you put inside of the tubing before bending it. I had neither and then I remembered that in an RC Forum that I belong to that one of the guys was bending aluminum tubing and getting the same results as I have here until another member told him to pack it with sand first.
8mm tubing does not lend itself to being packed with builders sand! What next? Fine grain sand? Then the light bulb appeared above my head, SALT!
I formed all 4 of the curved sections and adjusted each until I had a matching set of 4 curves and then trimmed to length with a dinky little tubing cutter I use for plastic tubing.
As for electronics, I ended up purchasing connectors from a site on eBay that supported the IN1 Nixie Tubes. I then used these in combination with the FunKlock kit from PV Electronics.