Mail from the Former Soviet Union was faster than expected. My VFD's arrived in the mail yesterday. They are ILC1-9/8's -- 8-digit 7-segment displays (7+1 with the decimal point). Characters are 4mm high.
I was able to light a couple segments with a 9V battery; dividing it with a 220 ohm resistor for the filament voltage, and applying the direct voltage to grid and anode. It is multiplexed, but I need to drive it multiplexed anyhow; there's too many pins for one Arduino to handle. I seem to recall a high-voltage shift register chip I picked up from Adafruit; if not I can get another.
On 9V the color is blue-ish green and it is a bit dim. It is gonna need more voltage multiplexed; according to the specs I've been able to find it wants 30-40 volts strobed (though no more than about 15 volts continuous). I dunno yet whether to use a boost converter or just go with 18 volts from a pair of 9V batteries and call it good enough. More research!
Since the displays are here (and the mini rotary switches I ordered also arrived already) I can actually get the electronics package working now, before I have to send off the Shapeways order (to 3d print the actual faceplate/top of the box in sturdy plastic).
On the down side, my last (tiny) check ran out faster than I expected. Working the run of a show on contract is not wonderful. You are working a lot of late nights, and a lot of total hours, but the contract fee is fixed. Kinda sucks to pull 24 hours over one weekend and still be flat broke at the end of it. Even worse when you are between shows, in the middle of a 10-12 hour day, and you can't afford anything but some white rice or dry bread -- if you had the energy after the last 12-hour day to make it and bring it from home.
The only thing that is worse than low pay is no pay. Depressingly, there are two dead months before my next contract show, and even worse, I've only got one show out of the entire season. I'd be in better financial shape working at McDonalds -- except the line for applications there is around the block already.