Welcome to the topic How Neon Signs Are Crafted.
Neon signs are crafted by bending glass tubes into letters or forms and filling them with an inert gas. Electrons move through the gas when an electric current is passed via the tubes’ electrodes, illuminating its atoms. The hue of light is determined by the type of gas contained in the tubes.
When contained in a transparent glass tube, Argon gas emits a steel blue light, while neon gas emits red light. We can mix the two base colors into over 80 distinct hues using fluorescent powder-coated glass tubes to generate vibrant graphics. For example, blue blazing argon gas contained in a yellow tube produces a green glow.
A glass blowing technique is utilized to shape the tubes. The tubes are marked where they need to be bent using a pattern created on a fire-resistant sheet. Then, using a device called a ribbon burner with a propane flame set to 1200° F, each place is heated. Within around 30 seconds, the glass becomes malleable. The tube is gently bent and then blasts air into the uncorked end to restore the diameter to its previous size. The geometry of each bend is examined against the pattern.
After shaping, any surplus powder is brushed, and the inside of the tube ends are cleaned. The glass tube neon electrodes are attached next by fusing them using a propane hand torch and a flexible latex blowing tube. One electrode is sealed with glass, and the other is left uncovered. Then, using a crossfire burner, a tubulation is created, which is simply a bubble that serves as a pathway into the open electrode. The tubulation is then connected to the open electrode. To brighten the color of the argon gas, a drop of mercury is added to the tubulation. Without mercury, argon gas would be significantly less luminous. Mercury is not required for neon gas (a red neon sign).
The open end of the tubulation is joined to a long glass tube that goes to a pumping system using an end torch. The electrodes are connected to the system, and it is powered on. The pump evacuates the neon sign’s air and injects the gas. The electric current causes the gas’s atoms to glow. To trap the gas inside the tube, the tubulation is removed, and the open electrode is sealed off with the crossfire burner, ensuring the drop of mercury has fallen into the electrode first.
The next step is to paint the back of the neon sign black to make the writing and artwork more visible. A brush is used to distribute the coat and eliminate any surplus evenly. Then the sign is illuminated for around 30 minutes at high power. This dries the paint, but more significantly, it converts the liquid mercury into vapor, spreading throughout the neon sign’s interior.
The sign is secured to a black or clear plexiglass backing using transparent clips. Finally, the projecting electrode wires are connected to a neon transformer. A neon converter converts the conventional 110-volt current from our standard wall outlets to the high voltage current required to power a neon sign (3k to 15k volts).
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