Yesterday we took a little field trip (by little I mean across the parking lot) to our neighbors at Neon Williams Inc. They are in the process of making us a neon Indy Fab sign and needed to talk about the final details. (I would link to their website if they had one)
Like us, everything they do is custom. They make signs for just about everything: barber shops, palm readers, bars, and even helium inspection lights for the automotive industry.
Like us they are tube slingers... They have an inventory of tubing from all over the world.
They have been at this forever, many of their devices and wall charts are as relevant today as they were years ago.
...and they were built to last.
For each sign they make a custom blend of gasses.... it's not just neon in the tubes, they use other gasses like helium and argon as well. We also use argon to purge our frames during the welding process.
For me, it is just nice to see a place where things are made, the tools, the devices, the techniques all add to the magic of these handmade signs. Neon sign making is becoming a lost art, just like most manufacturing in the USA. I was told that Neon Williams Inc. had a total of 17 work stations, they are now down to 2.
If you work in a shop or have a home shop area, then you know about the little bins that accumulate handy goodies that you just can't throw out.... I think I spotted one....
The tabletops were covered in canvas and seasoned with years of drawings and burn marks.
One of the brothers gave me a demo. He was working on some helium inspection lights for the automotive industry. He explained why they used helium.... something about the wavelength, I must admit that I became mesmerized by the flame and the bending of the tube and didn't retain the information.
After heating the tubing he has about 15 seconds to get the glass into shape.
They are good.... real good.
Look for future installments of Neon Williams.
I will try to snap some shots of our sign being made......