What do You Need To Learn Neon Glass Bending

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 separate 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.

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 through 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.




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