Replica Elektronika 7-06 Faceplates

If you’ve been shipped as many Elektronikas as I have, from a variety of countries with very different ideas of what due care for postal parcels means, you’ll eventually encounter something disheartening like this:

No good deal goes un-smashed

You may have purchased a clock where a previous owner changed the faceplate to plastic or glass without the masking areas, or there is extensive damage to the silkscreen on either side of the glass. Or, you might be displaying the clock somewhere you don’t want random people tapping on the glass and possibly breaking it.

In any of these situations, you’re going to need a replacement faceplate. Unfortunately, it isn’t a simple matter of ordering one online from the factory – they haven’t made these clocks for many years, and any replacement glass is likely to encounter the same unkind treatment from the international postal services that got you into this mess in the first place.

Fortunately, I have created a solution for this – replacement acrylic faceplates which are nearly indistinguishable* from the original. I start with precision-cut pieces of colored acrylic (plastic). The pieces I use are cut from 1/8″ (nominal) thick sheets, the same as the original glass. There are four possible choices for color if you’re trying to match the original glass, two of which are much better than the others:

  • 3030 “Glass green” – this is a color designed to mimic real sheet glass. It has a very minimal green tint, just enough to give the edges the green color that real glass has. We don’t care about the edges as they’ll be inside the frame. This is the ideal material for replacing clear glass faceplates.
  • 2111 “Light green” – this color appears to be lighter than the original green glass faceplate, but when installed in the clock, provides a very good approximation of the original green glass color.
  • 2092 “Dark green” – this color is not recommended. While it seems to be the closest match to the original green glass when comparing materials side-by-side on a white background, it imparts much more of a green tint to the tubes and decreases the brightness substantially.
  • “Clear” – this is also not recommended. It looks quite a bit different from real glass. 3030 is a better choice when replacing clear glass faceplates.

Note that these color codes are the ones used by Altuglas International for their registered trademark Plexiglas® product. Other manufacturers also offer acrylic sheet plastic and generally use the same color codes as a common point of reference. Those colors may differ subtly from the reference Altuglas colors.

If you’re trying to change the appearance of the clock, you’re still limited to colors in the green to blue range. Since those are the colors given off by the VFD tubes in the clock, you can’t do something like using a sheet of red plastic – there’s no red light available to pass through the plastic. Unless you have one of the very rare version of this clock which uses orange MTX-90 tubes, of course.

On the original glass faceplates, lacquer paint was applied to the glass via silkscreen. That’s certainly the fastest and most accurate method for mass production, but would require a lot of prep work for making a few replicas. Instead, after carefully cleaning the acrylic, I applied masks cut from 3M 2060 green painter’s tape, in the shapes of the 4 clock digits plus the colon indicator. Remember, the paint goes on the inside of the glass, so the pattern is reversed from the normal view:

Masking tape applied

If you are making one of these replicas yourself, this would be a good time to check your mask by sliding the plastic into your clock and making sure that the mask lines up properly with all of your tubes. Even small measuring errors will be magnified as you repeat the masking process across the plastic. After removing the plastic from the test fitting, make sure that it didn’t pick up any contaminants on the masked side – if it did, they will ruin the completed paint job.

Next, I masked off the back side (which will become the front / outside of the completed faceplate). You may be wondering why I didn’t simply leave the protective paper in place that comes on the sheets – that’s because I needed to see through the plastic in order to properly position the mask pattern. I applied 5 thin coats of Valspar 68100 gloss black spray paint, which is a special paint designed to adhere to plastic. One spray can will be sufficient to paint 3 replica faceplates. I alternated painting lengthwise and across the faceplate, waiting 10 minutes between coats. After the last coat was applied, I let the paint dry for 2 hours:

Painted - back

I removed the tape that covered the unpainted side of the panel and carefully inspected the paint for any flaws:

Painted - front

This particular faceplate is for a newer 11-tube clock, as shown by the wider border below the digits and colon. The 12-tube clock has approximately equal border widths, top and bottom.

I then proceeded to carefully peel off the painted masking tape to expose the clear areas of the faceplate:

Mask removed

Here’s a closeup of the painted side showing the finished paint job:

Mask removed - close-up

After leaving the paint to fully dry for two days, I prepared to install the vinyl decals that I had custom-cut for the project:

New vinyl artwork

After carefully applying the decals, I had completed replicas, ready to use. From bottom to top:

  • Original clear glass 12-tube faceplate
  • Replica 12-tube faceplate in 3030 plastic
  • Replica 11-tube faceplate in 2111 plastic

Completed replicas

These are certainly good enough to look original until examined very closely. See the footnote below for ways to detect replicas.

Here is a picture of the 11-tube 2111 replica installed on the clock with the broken glass shown at the top of this article:

Installed on clock

* I have intentionally made it easy to detect a replica versus an original, to prevent people from passing off the replica as an original piece. There are a number of clues, some of which I’m keeping confidential. However, I am documenting three of them here:

  • The “Э” in Электроника is very circular and doesn’t appear to be italic in the original, while my replicas use a more oval shape with an obvious italic tilt to the letter.
  • The digit “7” in the original has constant line width and only uses straight lines, while my replicas use a slightly curved shape of varying width.
  • If you tap gently on the faceplate with your fingernail, a replica will make sort of a dull “plonk” sound as the plastic is more flexible than glass. A genuine faceplate will make a sharp “tink” sound.

5 Responses to “Replica Elektronika 7-06 Faceplates

  • 1
    Epaulard
    September 16th, 2012 07:01

    Hi, do you by any chance have a template for the glass used in Электроника 7-06М (the smaller version)? I’d like to recreate a clock like this (since I could’t find one to be sent here, in France, at an acceptable price). I already have the ИВ-26 and ИВ-6 tubes and microcontroller-based electronics will be of no problem to me. The only problem will be the cabinet and the façade, both of which I will have to make on my own. (And powering the filaments, since I don’t want to power them with AC and it’s something like 1.2A at 3.15V, so a high percentage of power will be wasted as heat).
    Could you confirm as well that the glass used is also green (as per the wikipedia’s Russian article it should be colorless in the smaller model).
    Thanks.

  • 2
    Terry Kennedy
    September 16th, 2012 07:28

    I don’t have a template for the smaller 7-06M clock. I haven’t encountered any small ones with broken glass. The glass is held in the case via a more complex method on the small clock. Instead of simply sliding out through a groove like on the larger models, it is held in place by the front trim plate and there a bunch of tabs inside the case that would need to be dealt with to get the glass free. If you’re building a clock from scratch, it is unlikely that you’ll have the equipment necessary to make a replacement front trim plate – it would probably be better for you to use the groove method as is found on the larger clocks.

    I would suggest designing the case and internal mounting frame, then seeing where the tubes need to shine through the faceplate. You could use a piece of plastic cut to the size of the groove you put in the case, with the protective paper still left on one side. You could then mark the paper with the outline of the tubes amd use that as a pattern to produce a new faceplate using the method I described in this blog post.

    Regarding the glass color, I believe the Russian Wikipedia article is wrong (after all, they did get the colon tube wrong as it is an IV-6, not the IV-8 shown in their article). All 7-06M’s (the small ones) I’ve seen have used green glass. All of my 12-tube 7-06/7-06K’s have clear glass, while an 11-tube 7-06K had green glass (the smashed one shown in this blog post).

  • 3
    Epaulard
    September 16th, 2012 09:00

    Thanks for the info!
    I was actually thinking about making a groove to fit the glass. And maybe an internal groove to fix the mounting frame. Do you think a piece of acrylic glass would do as a faceplate or would it look too different from the original?
    Yes, indeed some information in the wikipedia article was misleading. I almost bought an ИВ-8 tube for the clock. Luckily, I found the owner’s manual on the net. And, of course, the electrical diagram is great help in trying to reproduce exactly the same 7-segment indication (the 1st, 4th, and 7th anodes of the rightmost tube of every digit are always on, for example, irrespective of the data displayed).
    If I’m not mistaken, the leading zero is non-blanking?

  • 4
    Terry Kennedy
    September 17th, 2012 04:16

    @Epaulard – On the larger Elektronika, the acrylic plastic faceplate is indistinguishable from a glass one, even at close range. You need to physically touch it to tell that it isn’t real glass. That’s with the 3030 or 2111 plastic. Clear acrylic has some characteristic that makes it look “plastic-y” for some reason.

    If you’re building a clock from scratch, you might want to investigate using 5 tubes per digit instead of 4, and Type 1 tubes. That will give you a 5×7 matrix which can display characters as well as numbers. Unfortunately, the IV-26 tubes don’t incorporate a control grid, so they can’t be multiplexed. Supertex makes a number of VFD drive chips with up to 128 outputs per chip, though the selection gets larger (and the assembly easier) when using chips with fewer outputs.

    You are correct, the leading zero is not blanked. You can see this in the 23:59 -> 00:00 transition video in the earlier Elektronika blog entries.

  • 5
    Epaulard
    September 17th, 2012 12:52

    Thanks!

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