The Art of Making a Neon Sign
28 February 2019 By Jessica Jones
At Neon Creations, we have over 25 years’ experience in creating custom neon signs for individuals and businesses alike. We can create completely bespoke designs to suit your needs perfectly; so, if you’ve been looking for somewhere to get a neon sign made near you, you might have hit the jackpot!
You might think, in this modern day where digital has taken over, that there’s an advanced way to create neon signs. The truth is, all of our design and manufacture is done in-house by hand. The process has barely changed over the last 100 years or so. We work closely with each customer to bring their vision to life; and it’s our skilful craftsmanship by hand that makes it so brilliant.
So, how does a neon sign work? How do we take a simple sketch and turn it into something spectacular? Here is our insight into the art of making a neon sign.
The first stages of making a neon sign
Every neon sign comes from an initial idea from you, the customer. Even if you aren’t sure at first, we’ve got a whole stock of ideas for you to browse through and get some inspiration. We can even produce the artwork for you to help design your perfect neon sign.
From there, we can create a full size glass drawing ready to create the neon sign to scale. However, we made the drawing in reverse; this is so any parts that need to be hidden are at the back. In order to complete the next stage of making a neon sign, we then need to measure the glass tubing against the drawing, marking any places where the glass needs to be bent.
Our glass comes in straight lengths of 1.5m, with a variety of diameters ranging from 8mm to 25mm. Generally, we use a diameter of 10mm. To shape the glass, we take the straight glass tube and heat it in an open flame. Depending on the colour of the final neon sign, we will use either clear, powder-coated or coloured glass. Keeping the glass in the flame, we bend the glass into the correct shape.
From there, the glass is put into a cooler flame to help it cool back down quickly. As we go, we continually match the glass against the drawing to make sure the original design is replicated perfectly. If there any smaller parts of the design, such as small letters, we sometimes create them separately and join them together by heating the glass on both sections and fusing it together. This makes it easier when making a neon sign that is a little more intricate.
The technical stage of making a neon sign
This is where the process of making a neon sign gets a little scientific. Once we’re happy with the shapes of the glass tubes, we add electrodes to both ends of each section of the glass. Air is then removed from each section using a vacuum pump.
Once this is complete, the tubes are subjected to high voltage electricity, which makes both the tubes and the electrodes very hot. After that, the sections of glass are pumped with either neon or argon gas. It depends on the colour as to which gas is used; most colours will require argon gas, while it is mainly the colour red that requires neon gas.
The pumped sections of glass are hung up in what we call the ageing bay, connected to a transformer. This creates an ageing process that ensures the gases have burnt in enough. It’s at this stage that we paint parts of the glass with block-out paint so light doesn’t show through some parts. This is usually the backs of letters or spaces in between parts of the sign that don’t need to be lit up.
Putting the neon sign together
Now, the exciting part of making a neon sign! Once we get to this stage, the neon sections need to be assembled. This is usually done into an acrylic case, or on to an acrylic panel.
A transformer is fixed to the backing panel, or inside the case, while tube supports are fixed to hold the neon in place. Any separate sections of glass tubing are wired together to create a circuit. The bare wires are covered with silicone and covers for safety, and any cables are wired up to the transformer to complete the circuit.
Final adjustments are made to ensure it’s perfect, and voila! The finished product is switched on and ready to hang on your wall. At Neon Creations, we love experimenting with different neon products, incorporating the bright light with prints, mirrored finishes and even wooden panels for a unique finish.
To get your hands on your very own custom made neon sign, get in touch with us today!