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General Electric 8113 Flip Clock NE-2 Lamp Mod
For my birthday this year (2015) Liz got me a very cool 1970's era GE flip clock, model 8113.
It is only an hour/minute clock, with no radio or alarm - or lighting. Since this is going to be a desk clock rather than a bedside clock that's hardly an issue, but I thought it would be cool to add some retro lighting to it. I'm normally not a huge fan of modifying this sort of thing, as I like to keep them stock, but I figured adding a lamp to this would be both practical and keeping to its original spirit - if done right.
The first major change I did was remove the white/pearl colored piece of plastic from the face. I wanted to see the mechanics of the clock clearly. I also felt that the shroud made the whole thing seem a bit cheap. The front window material is a fairly soft plastic with quite a few scratches, I'm going to replace it with a piece of picture frame glass as well.
My first thought was to lay a short strip of LEDs along the back of the unit to illuminate everything from behind. This would definitely be doable, but I didn't feel great about it due to the fact that I would have to include AC→DC circuitry as well as a switching power supply for the LEDs. I want as little extra hardware visible in here as possible. Also, bright white LEDs don't really match the 70s feel of the clock.
Since the unit is powered straight off of AC, with no DC conversion whatsoever, I figured that an AC lamp would be the best bet. The most common lamp used in these sorts of devices are neon bulbs, often the NE-2 type. These little guys can be AC or DC driven and can be found very cheaply. I found a pack of five with matching 100k resistors (for AC) for $6 shipped on eBay. The lamps can also be driven with DC, but only one of the elements inside will glow, making it half as bright.
All things considered, rigging the bulb up was actually very easy, especially since the AC terminals for the motor were easily accessible. All I had to do was attach the resistor in line with one of the bulb's leads then use a bit of magnet wire to extend the other lead.
The only trickery involved was in removing the enamel from the magnet wire (a lighter does the trick here) and in forming the wire for the leads so that there would be minimal concern of shorting.
One lamp alone is not incredibly bright, but there is room to add more. The other front facing corner would probably do well, as would behind the clock mechanism. I've also thought about putting a small mirror in the corner behind this lamp but I don't want any glare spots on the numbers or in the housing.