How Long Does It Take To Learn Neon Glass Bending

Juan Ortega
Juan Ortega

It all depends on your intentions. Some people want to learn to bend glass to make artistic sculptures and some people to make neon signs. If it’s for art then it’s a lot faster because most artistic forms are one of a kind and nobody is going to notice that you were a little off  from the pattern , or there could even be that there is no pattern , you do it on the go. But if it’s for signs then it’s going to take you a lot longer because everybody is familiar with the letters and know if  you make an “E” larger than The “A” in a word or if every letter is tilted in different directions.
So For an aspiring artist it would take about 2 months , that is with somebody teaching you. If it’s for Signs then it would take a minimum of about 6 to 8 months in which you would start making simple signs , then to make the more complex neon signs it would take you maybe 2 years.
A lot depends on your teacher,because there are some glass benders that bend glass on the cross fires and there are some that bend on the cannon fires and there are some that bend everything on the ribbon fire.
When i was learning my teacher was an old school guy that learned back in the 50s and he learned from somebody that used to do neon in the 40s . So he only bent glass on the cross fires and that is where i was learning,which is the hardest way to bend glass .If you are bending   10mm glass on the cross fires it’s not that difficult but it gets difficult when bending 15mm glass, and that’s because the cross fire produces a very concentrated point of heat that is smaller than the 15mm glass , so you are trying to heat a larger surface with a small concentrated heat. After i learned to bend on the cross fires then i discovered the cannon fires and found out that it was a lot easier to bend glass in this fires specially 15mm, but then i saw somebody bending in the ribbon fires and saw that his bends were better looking ,stronger,and did not burn the powder . So i tried the ribbon burner style and found out that it was even easier to bend glass and my bends were better . Latter on i learned to bend every size of glass in the ribbon fire ,from 8mm to 25 mm. In very few instances do i go back to the cross fires.I never use the cannon fires anymore and i use the crossfires only to weld electrodes .
All my bends are done in the ribbon fire  , but it’s better to know how to bend in any of the fires.