Monday, December 30, 2013

The Great White Way

Many a bright-eyed dreamer has spent years in high school productions fantasizing about New York and the heralded Broadway. The street name is simple, common and uninteresting on the surface, but mention it to any theater aficionado and visions of guys, dolls and glitzy productions come to mind.
What is it about Broadway that has fueled imaginations since vaudevillian times? Is it the promise of an artist’s dreams fulfilled? The money that comes with the fame of a star? Or is it pictures of Broadway lit up with thousands of neon lights, earning the moniker “The Great White Way”. Sure some of those lights were bulbs, but we all know that neon made Broadway what it is.
The theaters are all aglow on a typical fall evening, people are dressed in casual comfort as they make their way to the theater and production of their choice. There are so many to choose from, and many are not actually on Broadway (only four theaters are on the street, but there are many within a short distance).
The Great White Way got its name because it was one of the first streets in the United States to be lit with electricity. In the 1890’s the theaters started to get lights on their marquis, and inside, and by the turn of the century most of the theaters on the street (there used to be a lot more actually on Broadway) were lit with colorful displays.
The bulbs though could never be as inventive and fun as neon inspired lighting, so when neon lights came around Broadway was again one of the first streets to adopt the technology. Marquis were then faced with neon and color came to the Great White Way.
Now no one can imagine this scene of the great American theater city without its colorful, leading neon gateways. Showing off is just what show people do and neon allows them to do it with even more style.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Neon Glass Bending to Show Off the Gas

What did you say you wanted that neon sign to say? Alright. What size? Good. Now what type of font for the wording?
Ever bend a piece of glass in chemistry, shop or some other high school class? No? Well you missed out. Glass blowing, forming and bending is something of a lost art. The reason it is not completely lost is because there are neon glass artisans who keep the practice alive. The neon signage industry in the USA has declined in the past several decades, with the introduction of cheap foreign imports and the promotion of LED lighting by the LED industry. Cities are now concerned with preserving and restoring their antique neon signs. 
It is the wide range of colors and the ability to make a tube that can last for decades without replacement, that makes neon glass bending an art. Since these tubes require so much custom labor, they would have very little economic viability if they did not have such a long lifetime when well processed. But the master glass benders who have learned after years of trial and error how to make this very brittle material bend to their will are artists as well as skilled craftsmen.
The neon glass bender will use standardized glass tubing that conforms to the diameter and size needed. He or she creates a pattern that the customer has agreed to and, using the desired diameter of the finished product, produces a two dimensional image of the final product. This pattern will be used as a guide for the final product.
The neon glass has to be heated and cooled, cut and bent, filed and sanded to produce the final shape that the customer desires. Heated tubing is very malleable, but the craftsman has to be careful not to make a mistake and heat it too much, or allow it to cool below a certain temperature. Overheated glass will lode its shape, which can be corrected with some effort, and too cool glass will break, which cannot be fixed.
The neon glass artist diagrams the desired twists and turns and thinks about how he or she is going to get from straight tube to end piece. The final product will match the pattern and conform to the specifications (font, color, wording) ordered. It’s a craft wrapped in an art form.  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Neon Signs - All the Colors of the Rainbow

Artisans in the fifteenth century discovered that they could make different colored glass if they used certain natural elements. They would test different types of metals to add to the silicate while it was hot to see what color combinations they could come up with. Glass was a good medium since it is relatively stable and holds the color once it is established. Look at some of the plate glass windows created hundreds of years ago and it is evident the masters knew how to form a multitude of colored shards into something beautiful that would last.
The advent of neon gas in closed glass cylinders had a similar effect. People saw the pretty red color and the stability of the design and wanted to see what they could create.

Neon signs don’t just come in all the colors of the rainbow (there are only seven after all), but as many as imagination will allow. But not all ‘neon’ signs are filled with neon gas either. A designer determines the effect he or she wants, and they use a 'recipe' of selected gases, glass and coatings painted or baked onto the interior of the glass tubes (much like pane glass designers used) to create rich colors.

You may ask, Not neon? What!? False advertising.

Okay, so you didn't think that. Most people know that gas blends are used to create the different colors shown in a given neon sign. Most commonly used is neon and argon gas. Neon gives an orange-red color. Xenon produces a purple color. Helium yields a pale pink flesh color. Krypton gives a platinum color. Filling a clear glass tube with argon gas produces a faint purple color, but add a touch of mercury and you get a deep blue. Sometimes an opaque instead of a clear tube is used and sometimes the tube itself is colored to add depth to the colors.
Neon is in the name because it was used by a good promoter (Georges Claude) to sell his neon lamps (although those lamps probably did contain pure neon). But who was going to be content with just reds and oranges? Claude and more recent manufacturers had to determine ways to provide more color. So, they did and now we have a richly colored neon sign history.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Liquid Fired Lighting…or How Neon Signs Came About

Anyone who has sat through a first semester chemistry class could tell you (or at least should be able to tell you) that neon is in the noble gas family. These elements are on the far right hand side of the periodic table, as you look it, and they are so named because…OK... enough with the boring science lecture. Tell us how they came about you say?
Neon signs came into existence at about the same time other types of artificial light were being invented. Electricity caused a revolution in home and business power capabilities, but it was also a boon to light. Imagine sitting around the family fire, or a natural gas lamp, or a bulbous Victorian whale oil construction trying to read after dark or do homework. Light was at a premium then, as it is now, and people could scarcely mimic the power of the sun. Most people went to bed early because there was so little light after dark.
Electricity changed all of that. About the same time that he found he could produce and transport electricity, Thomas Edison also found that the filament required to produce a reliable electric light. At about the same time Nikola Tesla, Edison's arch rival, bent glass tubes into shapes for the 1893 Worlds Fair to demonstrate that gas trapped in a pressurized tube would glow. It could be argued that these where the first neon signs. Tesla's invention of a high voltage transformer would ultimately be needed to power neon signs.
Neon was not the first thought as there are much more easily obtained noble gasses around (neon is actually a very rare element, comparatively), but a Frenchman named Georges Claude decided to experiment and he saw that this little known, colorless, odorless gas would produce a bright, sustainable light. He was able to purify the rare element. He then formed a company, produced neon designs with his glass tubes, and the rest is neon sign history.
Thanks to Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Georges Claude, neon lights are now a fixture especially in the advertising community. How do they get the different colors and what other uses can neon be put to? Well, that is a story for another day.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Holiday 2013

Fire House Neon Signs will be closed this Thursday and Friday, November 28-29, for the Celebration of the Thanksgiving Holiday. We will resume our regular working hours on Monday, December 2nd, 2013. We appreciate your business!

Fire House Neon Signs estará cerrada este jueves y viernes, 28 al 29 de noviembre, por la Celebración del Día deAcción de Gracias en Estados Unidos. Volveremos a nuestro horario regular el lunes, 2 de diciembre de 2013. ¡Agradecemos  sus negocios!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Christmas 2013 Holiday Reminder

Give the gift that will be treasured... a Custom Neon Clock! All Orders for Customized & Regular Stock 20” neon clocks are to be in this year by December 9thWe want to be sure your clocks are built & shipped in time to be received for the holiday.Customizing?  Send your art in today to have renditions created, and approved before Dec. 8th

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Longest Neon Sculpture in the World

Have you passed along the neon walkway at Terminal 1 of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport? This 744 foot neon sculpture is reportedly the longest neon sculpture in the world. The piece is called the "Sky's the Limit" by California artist Micheal Hayden with music by William Kraft and was installed between United passenger concourses B and C in 1987. 
Source  On the Road - Chicago

The sculpture is composed of composed of 466 colored neon tubes of 14 foot and 9 foot lengths. They run the entire length of the ceiling above the moving walkways. The first and last sections of the three-section sculpture begin with white neon tubes. The center section starts with indigo and proceeds through the spectrum from shades of blue to green to yellow to orange to bright red. The light sculpture is controlled by three computers that generate patterns of light pulses that never repeats themselves.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Utah Sign Company Owner Killed When Crane Malfunctions

The owner of a Utah sign company was killed Friday morning while working from a cherry picker crane in Bountiful. Richard Gillies, 66, of Gillies Signs & Design Inc., was replacing a sign at an out-of-business Blockbuster store when the truck-mounted crane apparently malfunctioned, according to Assistant Bountiful Police Chief Ed Biehler. 
According to police, Gillies was in the bucket of the crane when the problem occurred. When his son, attempted to maneuver the crane from below, there was an additional malfunction which pressed Gillies up against an overhanging facade and then flung him forward toward the building. He fell from the bucket to the ground 10 to 15 feet below.
Other workers inside the building, which is being turned into a fitness club, performed CPR on the victim until emergency personnel arrived.
Gillies was flown to University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were investigating the accident, and members of the state medical examiner’s office also were at the scene.

According to his company website, Richard Gillies has been in the sign business for over 35 years. The Gillies family has set up this donation/fund to help offset some of the unexpected medical and funeral expenses.  Your support is greatly appreciated. 


Monday, October 28, 2013

Vintage Neon Signs in Las Vegas

Want to see a cool restored film of some of the old neon signs that made Las Vegas famous? One or two of the signs featured in the film are still visible in Vegas today. However most have been lost to us, as anyone who's paid a visit to the cities Neon Museum can attest.

Friday, January 18, 2013

November 9th is Neon Sign Day

November 9th commemorating the development of the first neon sign. In 1911, Frenchman, George Claude, applied for a patent on neon advertising signs. Las Vegas hasn’t been the same since!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Outdoor Open Signs in Stock

We have added a new Outdoor Neon Open Sign to our catalog. When people judge a business by how its signage looks, its important to make a good first impression. With just a quick glance, maybe three seconds, customers evaluate your business. In this short time, the customer forms an opinion about your business. This first impression can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, so making that first encounter the best is extremely important. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and so is your signage. An attractive sign can help your business stand apart from the competition; it can presents a professional image and it serves as a silent on the street salesperson for your business. Now you can make a great first impression with this outdoor neon open sign.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Photographer Catalogs New York Neon Signs

The neon lights of New York are the subject of a collection of photographs showing off the glowing neon marquees in the city that never sleeps. Photographers James and Karla Murray captured the neon signs illuminating establishments across the city and compiled the snapshots in their new book 'New York Nights' published in December 2012.
'New York Nights' captures and preserved the beauty and charm of New York City’s traditional shops bathed in neon light. This is a book that is sure to thrill those that lamented the dwindling numbers of old neon signs.