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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

1.- You need a place to have at least your fires setup
2.- You need Somebody to teach you

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 used to teach glass bending but not anymore, i don’t have the time, but i remember that most people did not believe it was difficult to learn , so before they committed (Payed for the classes) i let them try to bend some glass , most of them decided not to go ahead with the classes, and they always said “I thought it was easier”  But there were a few that kept on going and didn’t give up .

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 into 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.

 

GLASS BENDING TRAINING VIDEOS

http://www.neonglassbendingvideos.com/

 

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,

18mm,20mm,25mm.

..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,

yellow,pink,orange,purple

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

thepattern.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 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 6pm if working late)
  • electrode holder (used to hold electrode while welding it to 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 a 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

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

  1. 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

  2. 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

    • 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.

      Don
      (307) 686-4800
      (307) 680-0840 cell
      don.neonmagic@yahoo.com

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

  3. 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

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