ODD TUBES
(updated 8/6/2005) 

I collect tubes (AKA electron tubes, vacuum tubes, or thermionic valves).  Not little radio or TV receiving tubes, but BIG GLASS transmitting, X-ray, industrial, and experimental types.  Many of those in my collection are rare or one of a kind prototypes, and all of them are interesting to look at.  I put this web page together because I thought you might enjoy seeing a few samples of what's in the collection.  In most of the pictures, you'll see an "ordinary size" blue Arcturus #126 tube for size reference.  It measures about 4-3/4 inches tall, including the base it's mounted on.

 

Click on any of the small images below to see a magnified view.
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This VC-1257 is arguably one of the largest glass-enveloped hydrogen thyratron tubes ever produced, standing 20 inches tall and 7 inches in diameter.  Peak forward voltage is 33 Kilovolts and average current is 2.6 Amps. It was made by Chatham Electronics/Tung-Sol.

(Thanks to Chuck Lavoie, a fellow tube and antique radio collector, for making this tube available)

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This is a very primitive digital storage tube. It was built at Los Alamos Labs and turned up in a surplus auction a few years ago. The left end of the 13-1/2" long tube contains a standard looking electron gun and deflection plates which applies the beam to a target disk at the other end, consisting of about three hundred (YOU count 'em) 1/8" squares. Behind this target disk is a five-stage avalanche-type multiplier, which detects the presence or absence of charges on the target grid. As you can see, the target is imperfectly scribed, indicating that this was a one-of-a-kind device. The purple color in the multiplier closeup is the transparent (tin oxide?) "aquadag" conductor coated on the inside of the tube.

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This early (ca. mid 1950's) ITT high current photo detector was used in conjunction with a scintillator material (usually plastic) to detect high-energy gamma radiation (a lot of these were used at the Nevada nuclear test site). Each end is a large coaxial connector , making it series-stackable with other similar tubes. The tube consists of a central tubular electrode of about 1-1/4" diameter surrounded by a mesh electrode about 3" in diameter. The tube is 14" tall. There were few advantages found in stacking these tubes, so...

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...this non-stackable ITT Farnsworth 567 was the next generation developed. Like it's taller predecessor, it could directly drive a 50 ohm load (usually a high speed oscilloscope). 

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Here is a GE Mercury arc rectifier. It is about 24 inches tall and its arm spread is 15 inches. There are several pounds of liquid mercury in the reservoir (the silver stuff just below the small initiating electrode). During operation, most of the mercury becomes vaporised and the whole tube produces a violet glow.  I believe that this full wave rectifier is rated at 440 Volts/30 Amps. 

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Here is a smaller mercury arc rectifier, 11" tall. It is unusual in that it has four arms of two different sizes, unlike the larger two-armed/single phase version above.   This one made the cover of the Tube Collector's Association's Tube Collector publication.

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Field Emission Corporation manufactured this Fexitron #506 1200-megawatt flash X-ray tube. It stands over 16" tall and produces a 600 kilovolt, 2000 amp beam in a 0.2 microsecond pulse. Wow!  The tube's documentation includes an X-ray image of a pistol just after the trigger has been pulled.  You can see the lead bullet traveling down the barrel, approaching the muzzle.  If you look closely, you can also see the shooter's hand and finger bones.  I wonder if his friends call him "Lefty" now. 

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This is one of my strangest looking tubes.  It's a Philips X-Ray image intensifier.  In practice, an X-Ray image enters the large round end and strikes a photocathode plate.  The resulting dislodged electrons are manipulated by internal electrodes and focused down to strike a phosphor screen at the small end, where a visible image is produced.  An external high resolution video camera views the image and transmits it to a video monitor. 

(Many thanks to Eric Tauecchio for identifying this tube)

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This giant photomultiplier tube stands 24" high and is about 6-1/2" in diameter. At the bottom, there's a phosphor screen, and at the top there is a micro channel amplifier. Between these two ends are 22 gradient rings. Although the photos don't show it, the rings all have central holes growing in size from about 1-1/4" at the top to about 4" at the bottom. The tube appears to be in perfect condition, so I suppose that Sandia National Labs simply had no more need for it, and it became surplus equipment.

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Here are a few other tubes that I currently have on display. OK, the one on the left is really a light bulb, but it's big and impressive, so it's a keeper. From left to right, they are: Radiant 3000W/120V lamp (I think this is used as a beacon lamp, as on the top of large transmitting antennas); EG&G EMI 340B photomultiplier; CEI EHT7 triode; Penta Labs PL-185 (same as Eimac 527A) forced-air cooled triode; and Hamamatsu P-100 streak camera tube. (for size reference, the shelves here are 13" apart).

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And here are a couple more. The Sylvania 199 (same as Machlett ML-8094/199) is a 110 KV/10 Amp rectifier and stands 25 inches tall, not including the base and top heat sink. The large base hides electrical connections that allow me to fire up the 12 Volt filament with a 6.3V/25A transformer.

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These shelves hold a good portion of the collection. For reference, the shelves are 12" apart, and everything on the top shelf is taller than 12".

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If you're interested in collecting tubes or in their history, consider joining the Tube Collectors Association , or join the TCA's online Yahoo discussion group .  Another good tube collectors' discussion group at is the Electron Tube Chronicles , again at Yahoo. 

I'm always seeking new additions for my collection.  If you have any large tubes that you would like to sell, trade, or donate, I would like to hear from you.  Generally, what I'm looking for is tubes with large glass envelopes at least 12 inches tall/long/diameter, or glass tubes of particularly unusual shapes that might be somewhat smaller.  Naturally, working tubes in good condition are preferred, but since the tubes are for display only, it's not necessary that they work, so "duds" with clean unbroken glass are also wanted. 

Thanks for visiting.  If you have any comments or questions about this web page, please drop me a note.


alltare -at- yahoo.com

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