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How to Build Your Own Neon Lights

You’ve probably seen neon signs and shimmers in movies, spending countless hours as a kid trying to draw your own.

They have been around for a while now. These lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from single-point attachments to colorful displays in store windows.

image - How to Build Your Own Neon Lights
How to Build Your Own Neon Lights

It’s easy to dismiss those bright lights in the window of your favorite nightlife spot or the ones blinking outside a home near you.

Neon signs have been around for decades, but it’s easy to forget their history and even more difficult to learn how they’re built.

If you’re curious about neon lights and want a little more insight into their construction, you can check out Neon Mama.

What are Neon Lights?

Neon lights are tubes of gas that contain argon and mercury. When electricity is applied, the gas begins to glow.

This process is called cold cathode discharge, and it produces a tube of light that’s usually bluish or reddish in color.

The longer the tube, the brighter it glows, and that’s why neon signs are so large! They’re built by bending glass tubes in different ways to produce shapes like arrows or words. The resulting tubes are then filled with the gas mixture and sealed.

Types of Neon Lights

Neon lights come in two varieties, fluorescent and phosphorescent. Fluorescent lights contain a different gas (mercury vapor instead of argon) that’s charged with electricity for a shorter time.

It produces light that’s bluer than reddish, which is why they’re used for things like signs or advertisements.

Phosphorescent lights, on the other hand, don’t use electricity as conventional neon lights do. Instead, they produce light when they’re exposed to ultraviolet light.

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How to Make an Inexpensive Neon Sign

The first rule of thumb is to plan for your sign carefully. What do you want it to say, and what size do you need? Firstly, the size should depend on how much space you have available.

Secondly, keep in mind that the letters (or symbols) will be double the height and width of their final size.

Secondly, find an appropriate background image or drawing of what you want as your logo.

  • Gather the tools you need: neon transformer (the part that plugs into the wall), sign tube, large glass jar, and a metal spoon.
  • Make sure that the sign tube fits into the glass jar. You need to have enough space for the later steps of your project, so make sure you have the right size of a glass container on hand.
  • Prepare the transformer and the signs tube. Just plug them into an electric outlet and connect the transformer’s wires to the middle terminal.
  • Using the metal spoon, make a hole on top of your jar by pushing it through its lid. This will be where you’ll insert your neon sign later on.
  • The hole should be big enough for you to slide your spoon in and out of easily.
  • By using the transformer to power the neon, you’ll know when it’s fully charged. After it has sufficient charge, insert the signs tube into your glass jar.
  • Ensure that there are holes on either side of the inside of your jar for your tube to go through.
  • Once you’ve inserted the sign tube into your jar, you can now start applying gel to the outside of it.
  • This will help make more neon lights: more intense lights will result in a more spectacular display.
  • Make holes on the side of your jar to hold the signs tube in place. Just make sure that you don’t punch through the glass! If you do, then your costly neon tube will break.
  • Attach it according to your preference. You can either glue it or use tape to secure it. Don’t worry if your sign doesn’t perfectly fit into the jar, as you can still make more neon lights by creating a new hole for the next sign’s tube to fit through.
  • Once you’ve just lit up your neon sign, turn off the lights to see what it looks like during the nighttime.
  • But don’t worry if it doesn’t turn on during that first try. Sometimes, you may have to wait a bit longer for the sign to charge before it works. If that happens, just keep trying until it works.

This easy-to-make DIY neon sign can be made by a beginner in no time! There are a lot of tutorials on the iterations that can be made with the signs.

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