March 4, 2015
February 18, 2015
That reminds me – I must get new tubes made for my Bush neon sign. It met an unfortunate accident in my storage unit
Might be worth enquiring here….. https://www.neoncraft.co.uk/
October 31, 2016
Watched the video made at RACS, it is all about the “Front-end” of CRT manufacture – making a screen then adding the aluminizing and internal dag. Fascinating but as uncut raw video a bit, um, slow. No captions and little narration.
RACS’ work flow, probably authentic to early CRT manufacture, has examples of pre-WWII tubes. At Clinton we did the chemistry quite differently, and much faster for volume production.
BTW, the “secret” that I noticed in this video? Always have a lit cigarette in your mouth and speak French! Voilà! Très bien!
Video is worth a look.
October 31, 2016
Funny neon light should come up in conversation, I went to an antiques and collectable centre near Barnsley the other week and spotted this….
Nice find! Good to know it was saved and restored, too.
And it aint no baby, it’s around 13 foot high !
Some of those Las Vegas signs are really big. On our Neon Boneyard tour we learned that before workplace safety rules were enforced (1970s?) those large signs had “foot pegs” sticking out. Made from sections of galvanized iron water pipe, maintenance workers would climb up without safety gear or cranes.
October 31, 2016
I remember a long while ago some TV show showing how neon signs were made, I was surprised the tubes didn’t just pop when they heated them to bend them into lettering.
I was very into neon for a while, found a school not too far from where we live now, and signed up for classes. I called my Sunday mornings the “Zen of Neon” – I couldn’t wait to get a stick of neon glass and play in the fires!
Because the industry was dying I found a one-man shop that was closing and bought all his equipment and supplies. Almost a parallet story to the Hawk-Eye CRT story. I set it up in my garage, and somehow didn’t burn the place down. I was never really good at it, but it was so much fun!
To answer some of your curiosity the neon glass turns runny (like treacle) when it melts. The tube is capped with a cork bung at one end and a mouth piece and thin rubber tube (with a swivel) at the other end. After the hot tube comes out of the fires one ‘puffs’ air in the mouth piece to maintain the tube’s shape. If you puff too soon while the tube is still in the fires a bubble blows out the tube, and you have to start over.
Gravity plays a big part, the hot tube is hand manipulated to have gravity help when bending. You’ll see the tube bender roll the stick of glass with finger tips while in the fires to keep it from sagging. After bending the neon tube is put on a heat proof table and pressed with a heat proof block to make sure the finished work is flat.
There’s perhaps six bend sequences to learn, everything else is just a combination of these. A productive tube bender will make a new piece while the last one is cooling off on the heat proof table. The sign is made from the back side (the letters are mirrored). The design is drawn on fire-proof paper and the work placed on top for bend marking with a heat proof pencil or crayon and used again later for checking accuracy. A master tube bender will stay in pattern, with only one or two errors. Old-timers used asbestos sheets for a pattern and to protect the table top.
The other thing to master is butt welding, to join sections together (glass sticks come in four foot lengths, so you don’t whack off the back end of the piece when you move in and out of the fires) Neon tube comes in many diameters (4mm to 20mm are common), the thinner stuff is much easier to bend!
Most glass is either clear (fill gas sets the colour) or phosphor coated inside and argon fill gas gives off the UV to energize the phosphor. We’d also fill with neon gas and add a small pill of mercury. The heat from the neon gas when running vaporizes the mercury, the tube turns blue instead of neon orange, after about a minute. Any phosphor inside the tube is excited by the UV from the mercury. We always used “dolphin-free mercury” at the Crucible school!
To finish the piece electrodes are attached, these are pre-made but have thinner glass, so butt welding electrodes to thicker neon glass tubes was always a challenge.
Next the tubes are processed by “putting the gas and electricity in” as the old-timers say, using the high voltage Bomber. There’s quite a bit of overlap with CRTs, including processing the tube by forming the electrodes once the tube is pumped, filled and sealed. If you open a neon tube the electrodes die, just like a CRT cathode.
Well all this neon talk just makes me want to bend more neon glass! I closed my neon hobby and donated all the equipment and supplies to the Crucible school. Another project I’ve tried and had to abandon…
October 31, 2016
That reminds me – I must get new tubes made for my Bush neon sign. It met an unfortunate accident in my storage unit.
Ouch! I’ve had my share of storage unit accidents… All my own fault (or my stupidity)
Luckily I’ve not had any fire, flooding, or earthquakes. One of my units was broken into, took portable tools and made a mess. Without purchase receipts I couldn’t claim off their compulsory insurance (which was tacked onto my monthly bills)
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