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What do You Need To Learn Neon Glass Bending

What do You Need To Learn Neon Glass Bending



Neon Glass Tubes
Neon Glass Tubes



The main thing you need is “The Will To Do It”
It’s not a matter if you don’t have the money or you don’t have a place to practice or that you don’t have the equipment to start, you only need the will to do it.
Like the saying says “Where there is a will, there is a way”
When somebody has the will to do something he will not doubt that he can do it or that he will reach it, it’s just a matter of taking down all the obstacles that separates him from his goal, in his mind it’s not that he can’t do it it’s just a matter of time and he will reach his goal.
Never ever let the thought that you can’t do something enter your mind, because it’s not a matter that you can’t it’s just a matter of  finding the way, if one way does not work then you search for another and if that one didn’t work then you search for a different approach, until you reach your goal. If you want to know what the human spirit is capable of doing when you don’t accept you can’t and you insist in reaching your goal then watch this video. https://youtu.be/cpAu2TvZ73s


That was what you need mentally now i will detail what the rest of what you will need

1.- You need a place to have at least your fires setup

2.- You need Somebody to teach you  (http://www.neonglassbendingvideos.com)

You need your own setup

That is because it’s going to take time for you to learn, and you learn only by practicing every day at least 4 hours a day, and to do that you need to buy your own fires and glass to practice.No school or teacher is going to let you use their equipment for a year until you learn.
When people go to neon schools (If they still exist) they only get the basics of how to bend glass, but the actual learning is when the student practices on their own.
I am starting to teach at my shop again, so if interested email me (scsneon@gmail.com

You also need somebody to teach you


Or at least somebody to guide you trough the first stages.
Most Glass Benders are very reluctant to teach because they think that you are going to become their future competition.
But if you keep on looking you may find somebody that will at least give you the starting lessons.

What’s needed to get the fires going

1.- Cross Fires
2.-Ribbon Burner
3.- Hand Torch
4.- Blower
5.-Gas/air manifold
6.- A gas supply. Natural gas or propane gas One thing you need to know about the gas, if you are using natural gas the ribbon burner has to be for natural gas and if using propane (Gas cylinders)  then you should also use a ribbon fire for that gas.

Neon Glass Bender.com artificial or Natural Gas
Neon Glass Bender.com Artificial or Natural Gas


How to tell which burner is for natural gas and which for Artificial gas

On the side of the ribbon burner, you will see an A for artificial or an N for natural.
The rest of the ribbon burner is the same for both gases, it’s only the upper part of the ribbon fire that is different, the holes in the actual burner have a different diameter for the different gases. You can actually remove that part and replace it with the correct one if you need to.





More information on the tools of the trade 

neon glass
neon glass

Every neon sign made started as a straight 4 foot long some 5 foot long piece of glass tube , like the ones in the photo,they come in boxes of 52 sticks of glass, some boxes have more depending on the diameter of the glass.The most used one is the 15mm diameter glass ,but there’s also 8mm,9mm,10mm,12mm,13mm,15mm,


..The neon Colors are given by the phosphorus powderinside the glass on the

Neon Glass Tubes
Neon Glass Tubes

walls of the tube and the gas .There’s a large number of colors to choose from , but the most common ones are ;red,blue,white,green,


neon electrodes
neon electrodes

Next element in the neon unit is the electrode .Every neon unit has two, one on each end , the electrode is where the electricity will be connected to the neon unit.One of the electrodes has an opening that’s called a tubulation because it’s a tube where the unit will be connected to the vacuum system for the last stage of the neon process. Next element is

Neon Pattern
Neon Pattern

the pattern.The photo shows two patterns one for a budweiser neon sign and one for Buick neon sign. As you can see they are reversed , the reason for that is because all the bends have to be on the back of the sign , and the front is the flat part , so the glass bender always works with the sign seen from the back.

Now to the tools of a neon Glass bender,first the Cross fires.This fires are used to bend glass, weld

two pieces together,weld electrodes to the glass .Every glass bender has his own personal way of doing the bending and welding, it all depends on what works better for him/her.No two glass benders bend glass the same way ,each one has developed techniques that they have picked up here and there. Next is the hand torch ,it is

Neon Hand Torch
Neon Hand Torch

mainly used to weld two pieces of glass together .Another tool used is the blowing hose ,this hose is made of rubber and at one end you have a mouth piece and at the other end you have a connector that goes into one end of the glass tube ,the other end of the glass tube is sealed with a cork to stop the air that your going to blow in from escaping,one of the first questions asked by everybody is, what is that thing in your mouth and what’s it for?.It’s for blowing into the glass , because when you bend the glass it looses its original diameter , its walls collapse , so to keep the diameter of the tube the same you have to blow a little air to push the walls out in the bent part, back to its original diameter to make it look good.

The Neon Glass benders Tools
The Neon Glass benders Tools

More of the Neon Glass Benders Tools.

  • Blow hose (to blow air into glass after bending)
  • Weight Bag (to keep glass from moving on table while welding two parts together)
  • level block (to measure the height and keep electrodes straight on electrodes that go into pk housings)
  • Radio headphones(very important tool necessary to keep the level of creativity high while bending glass)
  • Coffee cup (coffee is the original energy drink, one in the morning and one around noon and another around 6 pm if working late)
  • electrode holder (used to hold electrode while welding it to the neon unit)
  • marking pencil(to mark where you want your bends)
  • Glass Cutting File(used to cut glass)
  • Calculator ( to keep track of the millions of dollars you are making)
  • Height block(to keep an even height on raises on neon signs)
  • Height block and flattener(two uses , same as height block but you can also flatten a bend when needed

Next the Ribbon Burner that’s used for bending the glass to form curves,the ribbon burner is 16″ long and has a sliding metal part that allows you to shorten or elongate the fire horizontally depending on the amount of glass that you want to heat .For example a large circle would have to be heated in sections of aprox 15″ each.With this tools the glass bender will give form to the glass by heating it to the point that it bends and following the pattern to make the neon sign, A neon sign has to be made in steps and in parts and when all the parts are done then you weld them together with the cross fires

Ribbon Fire
Ribbon Fire

or the hand torch,depending on the size of the sign. After the sign has been made, it is connected to the manifold ,which is a set of valves that control the vacuum and the gas that goes into the neon sign.

This process is called bombarding,and the process is to heat the neon unit to a certain temperature using electricity and at the same time the vacuum pump extracts the air out of the unit and the heat purifies the inner walls of the unit so the gas (when injected) will not react with the impurities inside the tube

.After that you have a brand new neon sign ready to be installed.

Neon Manifold
Neon Manifold

I hope this has helped answer any questions and clear any mysteries that anybody interested in neon or glass bending could have,if there are still any questions E-Mail them to scsneon @gmail.com

Here is a short video of the process of Neon Manufacturing

23 Responses to What do You Need To Learn Neon Glass Bending

  1. Hello everyone
    I have been a production Neon bender since 1986
    I started to practice at the age of 12 at my father’s sign MFG company so I had 6 years of practice before I became a semi decent bender, most of my work went into channel letters at that time just because you didn’t see the actual bends, all it had to do was light up the letter,
    But with time you do get better at the craft.
    In 1986 I was producing exposed neon and my job was the OPEN neon sign, this particular sign has all the bends in it that allows you to practice and hone your skills as a tube bender, plus you can increase your speed as a bender by producing OPEN neon signs.

    I am interested in teaching the craft of neon so if you have a plant set up or know anyone interested in learning let me know.

    I have traveled to allot places to teach the craft of Neon production and enjoy it.

    If interested get in touch with me.

    Mike Nowak

  2. I’m looking for someone who could do some custom neon/torchworking. I want to attach some electrodes to a empty flask.

  3. I have a never been used dbl 6 point set of cross fire torches and an 18″ (used) ribbon fire – I will sell cheap – been lugging them around for 20 years and it looks like I’ll never have the neon shop I wanted – must sell by 1/16/17 – $250 for both – just the heads, no stands.

  4. I’m new at this and am looking for an answer to a basic yet maybe silly question. Is it possible that the cool temperature of my workshop is adding to strain in my welds and breakage?

    Like I said I’m new so my technique is surely flawed but I’m wondering, since I welded glass all day without a single success if the cold shop could be barring my chances of success!
    Shop was 40 degrees Fahrenheit maybe less. Wintertime you know.

    Long story short, what is the best temperature to keep my shop do the glass doesn’t cool too fast and strain to the point of not being able to return it to the fire without breakage?

    • The table you are working on is the enemy of welds and splices in winter, don’t put the welded unit on the table leave it over the edge of the table until it’s cool,the air in the room is not a problem unless you have a fan hitting the new weld.
      The other enemy of welds and splices is movement, once the weld is done try not to move the glass much because every movement will create stress, that’s why i like welding (splicing) on the table with a hand torch, just about 6 inches from the edge of the table that way when i put the glass back in the pattern it is just a few inches away and almost no movement of the pieces welded. the other enemy is not heating the glass enough prior to the weld, the glass has to get orange at the tips before you put the two section together, and just make them touch don’t push the glass because that would make the glass thicker and prone to break, just let them touch and keep heatin it until it is all welded, when finishing welding just pull the two sections about one milimiter apart almost nothing so the glass is evenly welded, one milimiter is almost the size of the dot at the end of this sentence.
      The other enemy of splices is when you use leaded glass and unleaded glass, the two have different properties and need different heat and heating times,so try to use only unleaded or leaded in the same job, it’s not impossible to weld unleaded to leaded glass but you have to keep the fire more on the unleaded part of the glass.
      Hope this works for you

  5. Hi i’m bending neon glass for mor than 17 years but my style is realy diffrent im master and looking for a company to work .mohamad reza 0046 0729080249

  6. Colored, CLASSIC GLASS: HELP! I have a notice, above, regarding my shop for sale. Now, I’ve just completed a lead-free 15mm script lettering job with 14″ high “Lucinda Hand” font. ‘Some problems with stress in the drop bends and a couple of offset u-bends, but not too much glass in the garbage. I did use the ribbon burner for most of this one, and credit that for lower stress bends. One trouble I had on a couple was getting to the pattern screen with the glass too soft, leaving a screen texture on the face of a bend. The above comment about stress caused by too hot glass to the pattern was probably a factor too. Otherwise, lead-free glass is a learning curve, but workable. I think annealing a still hot but set bend or weld by passing quickly and evenly through or near a fire can take out some stress too.

    In the shop now, I have a 12mm script job with CLASSIC GLASS (Emerald Green). It is an outline over existing signage with a curved logo, not a straight piece of glass anywhere. Any hints out there to make this material work? I have the choice of either lead or lead-free electrodes, and could use some advice. I’m planning to start with the 4-foot oval outline, then a coffee cup, with the tricky script logo and steam separately. (I can use some old Snow White 6500 for that steam with lead in the glass—That’s a relief). Some hints sure would be helpful. Leave a message on my cell: 307-680-0840 … I’ll have some hot glass in my hands.

  7. I am a glass bender with an experience of over 10 years.
    But now I wanted to do my own business of a neon company to carry out neon signage so that can be promoted in our region of East Africa and Africa as whole
    For assistance my mobile number is+256 0701833486
    Kamoga James.
    Thank you for your help.

  8. I’m a neon bender and been bending for about 9 yrs. I currently work for a sign company but looking to do some side work of my own for companies in the area with repairs and such. Wondering if anyone can help me with find the equipment I need. Ribbon burner, cross fires, hand torch and blower. Wanting to find a website or something where I can get good deals on the equipment needed.
    Thanks in advance

    • Neon shop for sale: I am ready to sell my shop and business, currently located in Gillette, Wyoming. This neon sign shop is the only one within 130 miles. Do you know anyone interested in a neon shop?

      Gillette continues to grow. Within the past year and a half, we have built 4 new schools and more are planned. We are an energy based economy, growing in many ways.

      In the shop, the pumping equipment includes both, glass flask and pyrex manifold systems. Diffusion pumping makes this a 3-stage vacuum system. All inventory and tools are included, with several hundred pounds of glass.

      The Associated Press featured my shop and work in an article, published in at least four states a few years ago.

      I have enjoyed the artwork and durability of neon, while adding the flexibility of digital displays. Message boards and graphic displays have their place, but the classic neon is still in demand. Gillette is a good market. The advantage of my shop is that it is completely portable, to any other city or state.

      Neon is a unique art and business. Please pass this information on to any who might be interested.

      (307) 686-4800
      (307) 680-0840 cell

      Don Morrison
      Neon Magic of WY, LLC
      1407 W. 4th St.
      Gillette, WY 82716

  9. I have been making neon for 12 years and thought I had it figured out, but this new lead free glass has me beside myself trying to make a bend with out it breaking. Anybody got some tips for me?

    • I haven’t had any problems with cracked double backs. but it’s because about 14 years ago ,(When i used to have problems with classic glass, same problem as you ) i changed my way of bending , i went from using the cannon fires to all bends on the ribbon fires , all my problems faded away , my bends came out stronger , i didn’t burn the phosphorous, and the classic glass didn’t break.
      Since then i only bend on the ribbon burner , everything , all diameters , the only time i go back to the cannon fires is when i am bending 8 mm glass and letters 2 inches high.
      I started doing this because i started working in a company that used classic glass very often , and i saw that the rest of the benders there didn’t have any problems , but they all bent everything on the ribbon burner . So i gave it a try , and i liked it , all my bends started to come out better , and it was easier , my bends were even stronger, so it took me about 2 weeks to get the hang of it and i have never gone back . I think i got a video somewhere that shows you exactly how . Let me know if you need the video and i will e mail it to you

      • I would be interested in the video you mentioned in regards to using ribbon burner for all your bends. I currently use a cannon cross fire setup and have not had any issues using it. Always interested in learning other bender’s techniques and pick up a few tricks. The ribbon bending techniques reminds me of the European bending style.

        • I started back in 1988 and my teacher was an old school glass bender that bent on the cross fires , so that’s where i learned , then i discovered the ribbon fires and found them to be easier to work with and then i found some benders bending everything on the ribbon fires and saw that their bends were a lot better looking than mine , so i tried it and liked it , haven’t gone back to either crossfires or cannon fires , only once in a while when bending 8 mm 2″high lettersdo i use the cannon fires.
          I will send you the videos by e mail later this coming week.

      • I am pretty much self taught and have not had the privilege to work with other glassbenders. l would like to see a copy of that video if possible.

    • Hi,

      I have been a teacher/ tutor at the British school of Neon in the past and now in my 26th years as a glass blower, with lead free you have to be more gentle with the air, softer flame as it holds the heat for longer, try not touching the bench with semi hot glass as this will give you a stress crack.

      I hope this helps even though I am coming into this quite late.

      Any other questions I will gladly help.

      I run pop up workshops here in London to teach the public the basics and for artists to create their own pieces, Fiona Banner, Peter Lamb to mention a couple.

      All the best
      Facebook: Bow Art Neon

    • Turn your gas up and it will slow down a little bit as the lead free glass takes longe to get to the point you can bend it so you will have to be patient . Keep in mind that the colored glass has always been lead free so when you bend clear now it’s got more of the temperament of like ruby red or classic glass .. I have bent glass for 25 years and the removal of the lead is a crap deal . I will say that another thing is that now that the lead is gone from the glass you will need the dididium glasses because now the glass wil throw a backlash of a orange glow to the point you cannot see the weld your trying to make without the glasses . New glass throws a hell of se I dart glow once you get the fires right for lead free glass

  10. Hi. I would like to know if I could use some of the information posted on your blog for a PowerPoint presentation in one of my college courses. I used to be a glass bender in Florida. Then had to return home and start a new career. That is why I am back in school. As you may know the LED’s finally took over much of the lighting industry. I would appreciate your response. My project is due November 27. Thanks, Helen Bouschor

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