Bad Dog Designs
Nixie Tube Clocks
Paul Parry is the founder of Bad Dog Designs. He designs and makes Nixie tube clocks. For those who don’t know what Nixie tubes are, they are electronic devices for displaying numerals or other information using glow discharge. Using his electrical and design experience he uses his skills to make clocks from anything that he can think of converting into a clock. Most of his clocks are made from bits such as cigar boxes and reclaimed science lab apparatus, but some clocks are made from bits that his customers send requesting to be converted.
Bad Dog Designs started as a hobby back in 2014, after becoming bored in his day job in management and already being a qualified engineer, he decided to start looking into making clocks. In his childhood days, Paul remembers coming across the Nixie Tube that was used to display numbers back in the day on electronic equipment, like petrol pumps and electronic greengrocers scales, all of which have now been replaced with LCD or computer displays.
The name ‘Bad Dog Designs’ was born from Max, Paul’s Golden Retriever Dog. Story has it that Paul was walking Max, trying to decide on a name for the business, when Max decided to make a run to find the deepest, muddiest, smelly pond he could and go swimming in it. When Paul eventually found Max the name ‘Bad Dog’ just came to him.
Paul in his workshop assembling the electronics for one of his clocks.
“I thought Nixie tubes might make an interesting retro clock, and a bit of searching found that one or two people were indeed making Nixie Clocks, but they were all pretty boring – a small circuit board in a clear plastic box with 6 Nixie tubes poking out of the top, so I thought I could come up with something more original. My first idea was to just convert whatever bit of equipment that contained the tubes in a clock, rather than its intended purpose. As the tubes are not made anymore, the majority come from original vintage equipment, so if you get something with tubes in – by default you get a case for the clock as well, you just need to re-do the electronics to make it display time.
I found on eBay an old 1970’s frequency counter and paid £30 for it. Inside were 7 Nixie tubes. I invested another £40 on new electronics to turn it into a clock. A day later I had an original 1970’s Frequency counter that now told the time and it looked like a pretty cool item/gadget to have in a man cave. I listed it on eBay with a cheeky ‘buy it now’ price of £250, and to my surprise it went in about 4 hours after listing it. I then found someone with 6 more of these original Frequency counters, so I brought the lot for £120 out of my profit and turned them all into clocks and sold every one, and that was the start of Bad Dog Designs!” Paul Parry.
A closer look at wiring clock electronics.
Paul’s clocks aren’t fully made by himself. He does the majority himself, such as the designs and drawings for the electronics and overall clock design, assembling, etc, but he also supplies work to the local community. His contemporary clocks that require laser cutting from metal and painting are sub-contracted to local businesses .
Paul’s old fashioned clocks are built from bits he picks up second hand offered to by anyone donating, eBay, antique fairs and collectable rally’s. He’s a great fan of recycling. The silver box on the top shelf in the image below is a radio receiver out of a Russian Mig 21 jet fighter. He has plans to turn in into a clock with tubes out of the top for hours and minutes, and then having front facing tubes for displaying seconds. Sounds interesting. As you can see he loves collecting bits.
Wilson the Robot
In case you are wondering what Wilson is, here he is! Wilson is a clock commissioned by a customer in Singapore. It has taken around 1 and a half years to build him and he’s still not quite finished. When the clock finally heads off to Singapore to be delivered it will have to be taken apart and re-assembled on location by Paul himself. His customer, of course, is paying to fly Paul over to do that job. The individual Nixie tubes that display the numbers each cost £350 and there are 6 tubes.
The hours that have gone into this piece is mind blowing. His customer is going to be very happy indeed.
The Nixie tubes display the hours on the top row followed by the minutes and finally the seconds.
Here are the Nixie tubes. Each tube cost £350.
To date Paul has made over 200 individual bespoke clocks and exported them all over the world, as far as Australia, Singapore, Canada and the USA. Some clocks take a week or two to make, others can take well over a year. He has regular customers who collect his clocks, each time demanding bigger and better. Now that the clock business is going well for Paul, he has gone part-time on the day job and will be working full-time making clocks by the end of 2017.
You don’t have to be super rich to own a clock from Bad Dog Designs. Prices range from just under £300 to £20,000 for very large commissioned pieces.
Some Finished Clocks
Bad Dog Designs has picked up a few awards and been featured in magazines over the past 3 years, such as the Theo Paphitis Small Business Award in January 2016 followed by the International Arts and Crafts Design Merit award 2016.
Photography © Daniel Dytrych/Derby Makers Project