Welcome to Russells-World

VFD Ornament


This is my VFD clock that is fun and silly. In it you'll be able to solder a VFD tube two digit clock that connects to your WiFi network and NTP syncs to keep the current time. It's all programmed in Arduino, so it should be much more accessible for you to customize. Oh, and then there's the 6 NeoPixels that you can use for your own amusement. I'll walk you through the build process for how I like to construct these devices. Let's get tootin!

Let's get started!

Material Needed/Suggested:
Soldering Iron
Solder Flux
Circuit board holder

Step 1 (The Hardest Part): Setup your Arduino IDE to support the WeMos D1 Mini. There are tons of how-to's on this topic. Here are two links that will get you started in this endeavor.


You will also need to make sure you have the following libraries installed, available here:


Once you get this setup, plug in your WeMos and attempt to compile and load the code to the device. Don't forget to set your SSID and passphrase. If all worked, check your DHCP lease tables for a WeMos ESP device. If it went wrong, please let me know so I can update the instructions and FAQ.
Code available here:At my git!

Step 2 (Solder the NeoPixels): There are 6 neopixels on the board. Go ahead and place flux on the pads for the neopixels on the circuit board. The orientation for each pixel should be that the white corner is away from the PIN 1 notation on the circuit board. The flux will help wick the solder up to the side of the LED and make contact with the pad. You can use tape, tweezers or your fingers to hold down each LED as you solder it. I found it useful to solder two pins on one side of each LED at a time, spin the board around, and then solder the other two pins after ensuring the LEDs were aligned and square.

Step 3 (WeMos): Solder on the WeMos onto the board. I used some tape to help hold it on while I was soldering it. Once you get it soldered, give the board the first power test. Once the WeMos has connected to WiFi, all the LEDs should turn red, and very slowly begin to cycle through the colors. All we care about is that they turned on, since they're serial addressed. If one isn't on, and the rest in the chain in suit, you may have to double check the solder joints you made. It usually helps to just touch the pads on where they are to ensure connectivity if there's something odd happening.

Step 4 (1.5v Regulation): For this part, you'll need two resistors (331 / 101) and the voltage regulator. 331 is R2, 101 is R1. Solder on the resistors (flux helps) and take the very end of the leads of the regulator and bend them so the chip doesn't rest flat against the board, but hovers. This is so that it can vent some heat.

Step 5 (Shifters and such): Solder on the final resistor labeled 301 to position R1. Then solder on the SMD shifters with the lines facing to the left of the board. Then solder on the PTH IC1/IC4 with their notches to the left too. Now that the board is flipped over to solder those on, solder on the remaining two SMD components, the capacitors. They have no orientation.

Step 6 (Boost Power): Take the boost power converter, plug it into a USB powers source and clamp on the voltmeter. Spin the variable resistor until you get to 20VDC. Once set, solder it to the back of the board as depicted below. You can cut some of the leads from the VFD tube to help with this. The board is meant to "hover" over the PCB.

Step 7 (VFD): 5 pins in front, the rest in the back (electrical mullet), and straddle the bulb flat against the board. Hopefully the pictures below explain best to do. Once soldered, slip off the excess.

Now, power it up! 5VDC USB, 1.5 amps at most is what this seems to be happy with. The tubes should start counting up as the WiFi connection is made, then they'll turn on the LEDs. If things don't seem to work, check your solder joints (reflow) and look for shorts.

Feel free to contact me on twitter (@dntlookbehindu) or email (russell@handorf.com) if you have any questions. This is a living document after all. Thank you!