How to make a Neon Sign – Please don’t cut this open!

How to make a Neon Sign – Please don’t cut this open!


[Music playing] So I decided to get a Christmas present for
Dan and Lincoln. I’m a little bit late, but I think they’ll
forgive me when they see what we’ve made. I talked these guys into letting me film a
little bit about how neon signs are made, and I think you’ll enjoy the process. Let’s get started. [Intro] So neon signs are all over the place, lighting
up cities, lighting up “exit” signs, lighting up “open” signs. It’s hard to walk around without seeing a
neon sign. They’ve been around for about 100 years. It started over in Paris at the Paris Auto
Show in about 1910. Neon is a rare gas present in the air all
around us, and is separated from the air around us by liquification and then pulling it out
of that liquid. Kind of like how the King of Random was getting
liquid nitrogen out of his basement, if you remember that video I made. But before we get into the gas part of the
signs, let’s talk about the glass tubing. Now the glass tubing comes in all different
shapes, sizes, and colors. The inside of the tube is coated with a powder. The powder can be any color. We got red. We got blue, yellow, orange. But the coloring of the tube doesn’t necessarily
signify what color the lamp is going to be when the gas is actually inside. It’s an interesting process with a lot of
chemistry, and it’s an art form. So to make this sign for What’s Inside, we
started off with a singular piece of glass tube. And glass, when warmed up, gets soft and malleable. You can see it kind of drooping down here
in the video. And we take that piece of glass tube, set
it on a piece of paper, and line it up in the finished shape. We only have a couple seconds to do this because
as the glass cools down, it hardens, and will be in the shape permanently. Now obviously, this was the easiest bend and
probably the only one I could master since I’m not an expert at creating neon signs. To make the tighter bends, we have to go to
something called a crossfire, with a lot more, you know, flame in the middle. And we fold the glass tubing in something
called a double back, which makes the tighter corners for the inner letters of the What’s
Inside sign. Once the glass tubing is bent, two electrodes
are placed in either side, which kind of completes a circuit. Electricity needs to bounce around inside
of the tubing in order to ignite or light the gas that’s inside of it. We take it over to the manifold which successfully
pulls all of the regular air out of the glass tubing and inserts argon – one of the gases
that exists in the air around us but in very small amounts. One cool thing with the electrodes on either
side of the glass tubing is that they needed to be heated up in order to get rid of any
impurities or imperfections on the metal itself, so the inside of the contraption can burn
cleanly. Remember, throughout this process we’re being
very careful not to damage anything because glass is glass, and glass can break. After the glass is warmed up and the burning
is complete, we can inject a very small amount of argon into the vacuum that we created inside
of the tubing. Remember, this small ball of mercury, we’re
going to come back to this later. You can see that the natural burning color
of the argon is kind of like a pinkish color almost. It’s a smooth red. Obviously, this parenthesis from the What’s
Inside sign is still connected to the vacuum system, so we’ll take the hand torch and put
it all around the small glass tubing. And because of the vacuum inside, it naturally
wants to pinch itself shut as it warms up, successfully keeping the argon inside of the
glass tubing and allowing us to remove it from the vacuum machine – the manifold. We’ll let it burn for a minute to make sure
the tube’s good and there are no small leaks, and make sure everything’s functional. Then we’ll turn it off, let it cool down for
a second, and we’ll take the small ball of mercury in that little glass bubble and slowly
tip it into the tube itself. The reaction between the silver mercury and
the kind of pinkish argon is what turns the lighting white. And you can see the color change as the mercury
drop drips into the entire tube. We have the electrode on one end burning the
blueish white, and the electrode on the other end burning pink because the mercury hasn’t
gotten there yet. Once the mercury has touched both sides and
everything is burning clean and white, we can tip it off and remove that last little
niblet of glass from the parentheses. Then we can cover both ends in a small piece
of rubber and mount it to the back plate of where it’s going to live permanently. There’s something called a transformer on
the back of the back plate that allows electricity to flow through each of the connections inside
each letter. Each letter has 2 electrodes completely a
circuit inside of each of the glass formations. One interesting fact is that it has little
glass pieces to separate it from the back plate. Right now, the What’s Inside logo is mounted
on plastic, but if it was mounted on metal it would need like an insulator between the
electrified glass and the metal plate. So these plastic stand offs with the copper
wiring keeping everything in place is what gives it that insulation. The cool thing with all these colors is that
depending on the powder coating on the outside of the tube and the electricity flowing through
it, depends on what color we get and how bright it is. You can see we have a 6500 white right here,
and a 4500 color temperature white over here. Basically anything is possible. And finally, when everything is complete,
we have a finished What’s Inside logo right here, and I think it turned out pretty sweet. And I hope Dan and Lincoln aren’t too mad
at me for missing Christmas and giving it to them a little bit late. I’ve learned that creating neon signs is not
just chemistry, but it’s like an art form. There are so many variables that go into the
shaping of the glass, as well as the gas and the mercury and the different elements that
go into coloring the electricity even. I’ve learned a lot today. If you have any questions, leave them down
in the comments and I’ll try to answer them. I’m pretty excited the way it turned out. Thanks for coming along with us. Huge thanks to the Rainbow Neon Sign Company
here in Salt Lake City for helping me out with this sign. They’ve been around since 1945, making neon
signs for quite a while. They know a lot more than I do about this
stuff. I’ll put a link for their website down in
the video description if you have any questions for them. I hope What’s Inside likes their neon sign. Thanks a ton for watching, and we’ll see you
around. [Music playing]

100 thoughts on “How to make a Neon Sign – Please don’t cut this open!

  1. Guys I learned something really cool about glass in my Material Science class. turns out, hot glass looks just like cold glass.

  2. I see comments saying rip grant from TKOR, is this because is a sciencey Video everyone’s getting sad flashbacks……. 😭😢😫😣😖😩🥺😔

  3. when i heard him talk about the king of random, i checked the time that the video was posted and said. “oh no. he doesn’t know yet” rip grant thompson😔

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  5. Ive always wanted a neon sign. They look so dope. And they are so bright, im gonna look for some online but it will probably break in shipping and handling dangummit

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