How Neon Lights Are Made | Où se trouve: Atelier Neon Family

How Neon Lights Are Made | Où se trouve: Atelier Neon Family

My name is Gérald Collard, and I’ve been doing neon for almost 40 years now. We have my own shop, it’s called Atelier Neon Family. It’s a family because I work with my daughter and with my sister. The invention is attributed to Georges Claude. For the first 50 years, you could only learn neon from Georges Claude’s company, that was called Claude Neon. So I had the opportunity to work there with the old timers, old experts from whom I learned the trade. Alright! So we’re going to do this drawing of a finger – like that. (OK gesture) All the bends will be made in the back like that – but when we flip the neon we get to see this image (the correct way). So to measure the distance, I use a soft latex tube. We measure the distance that we’re going to need, and we transpose it to the tube. I did this part already. Ok, now we go down again. It doesn’t show so much in curves, but in sharp angles when you bend… the glass goes like that (get’s pinched) and goes thinner on the other side… so we blow to keep a consistent diameter so the strength of the glass is not affected by the shrinking of the bend. So that’s why I leave the hose there, because I’m going to need to blow into it. Just to give you an update to what we’re up to now. Let’s say you could see how it will look from the front when we’re done. But we’re not finished now, we have other curves. So, we have to go on! You see, for curves, we don’t alter the diameter. So, I will need to blow for this bend, it’s called 180° and you need to blow. So I start with the cannon burner, but I also give it a little ride on the ribbon burner to make sure. Then, when I’m ready, I bend my 180°, and see why I will blow. Make it all nice. Ok, this I will bring back to the floor. So I’ll remove this… We’ll give it just a slight little curve to give it a more natural look. Alright. Ok. Here obviously I will not have enough glass, so I’m going to use another tube. I will hide the splicing, the joint, behind – so you don’t see a joint in the front of the neon. I want to clear this part, so what I’ll do is measure it. This is what I need left there… …so I’ll do this one… They call it glass blowing, but, this isn’t really glass blowing. Glass blowing is when you have a liquid glass and you blow in it. We are just bending already blown tubes. Well… the tubes are not blown. The tubes are made out of a funnel. The glass melts, it goes around a ceramic rod. So when the glass melts through the funnel, it goes around the rod, it creates a tube. Then it’s cooled off. Then it’s cut. But that’s industrial manufacturing. You see, for a slight curve like that we don’t need to blow because it didn’t affect the diameter. Good! Right now we assemble the two components. Ok, now I’m going to flip it to show you a bit how it will look like. To make it a light unit we need to add these two electrodes. One at each end, so now it can become a lightbulb. We need these electrodes in order to join it to the system, that will allow us to put gas inside to make it a lightbulb. Now it’s just a tube of glass, but in order to connect it and wire it, we need those electrodes. So that’s the last thing we do when the piece is done. We put the electrodes so we can bring it to the illuminating phase. Now we do the same for the other electrode. So as you may have notices there are two types of electrodes. The one I’m doing now is the closed one. And the first one I did is the tubulated one. It has a little tube so with this tube we will attach it to the system, to process it. One electrode tubulated, and the other non-tubulated. A Closed one. This, I will prepare the tubulation to give it an easier angle to access the system. Now to make a light out of this, we need to process it with a system. To put the gas inside, neon is red, argon is blue… we need to suck the air out, clean out the tube and replace the vaccum with a gas. If you put neon you get those colours, if you put argon you get those. So I’m using this tube, but I’ll put neon in it, so it should be pink like that. Ok. We’re going to need to connect the neon (tube) to an electric source. We’ll not only vaccum it but we’re going to heat it up, warm it up so that all the impurities burn up to 500° F. That’s 220° C. So, I burn the impurities. There is no gas in there, there is nothing, it’s just the condensation, the vapours, the dusts. It’s what we call the bombarding process. With the bombarding, the tube gets bigger. So now we cool it, so that it contracts being vacuumed at the same time. So what we use is the contraction of the glass, plus the constant suction of the vacuum so you obtain almost a perfect vacuum space in there. What you see here, I have two bottles of gas. One is neon, one is argon. I will put neon inside because I want pink. I want to put a certain quantity of pressure, so I’ll set my measuring instrument. Now I will let the gas inside. The gas pressure is determined by the diameter, so I’ll put 11 in there. So I’m letting gas iin. Ok so I will remove this from the system. I sealed off the tubulations. Now the gas is kept inside and it’s sealed. Should be good for 50 years. You can paint the tube to give the space between the E and the R and the O – in between the letters. So I’ve been teaching glass in the Montreal school of glass also for 25 years. It’s called Espace Verre. It’s an old fire station in Old Montreal that they renovated to teach glass. My favourite project in the world is the Farine Five Roses sign that we have here in Montreal. When I was a kid, I lived in the townships and when we’d come into town we’d always see that big sign. It was like, fascination, it was like ‘urban entertainment’ and ‘modern lifestyle’… it was poetry in the night. I always loved it and I thought… I will do this magic neon – but in a creative way. Thank you very much for allowing me to do this video, I really enjoyed working with you guys. Great team. If you’d like to see more of the work we’ve done, we have an excellent instagram page at neon_family, and our website at where you can see hundreds of projects we made. Thank you very much!

100 thoughts on “How Neon Lights Are Made | Où se trouve: Atelier Neon Family

  1. Dear artisan: you are thanking people for allowing you to make this video, and it's OK, but I want to thank you for explaining such kindly how neon signs are made. I've been wanting to know this for all my life and it turns out to be as delightful to watch as I had thought it would.

  2. neon glass lights looks Very magical, unique, colorful, different in style, very envious . welcome to enquiry of neon glass tubes ,whatsapp +86 18994756086 ,professional factory

  3. Amazing work of art and science. And the artist, he is very gentle. The way he explained everything just feels like hearing a soothing music😍

  4. salute sir, even your english got an accent, the info given still can be understand. regards from malaysia. 🙂

  5. What a wonderfully delightful, and handsome man Gérald Collard is! He has not only a very much admired talent, but also, a fantastic accent! I enjoyed this video so much because of him, AND I learned how neon signs are made. Fascinating, colorful, bright, and happy workmanship!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *