Craft of Bending Glass
A worker skilled in this craft is known as a glass bender, neon bender or tube bender. The neon tube is made out of 4-5′ straight sticks of hollow glass sold by sign suppliers to neon shops worldwide, where they are manually assembled into individual custom designed and fabricated lamps. There are many dozens of colors available, determined by the type of glass tubing and the composition of the gas filling.
A section of the glass is heated until it is malleable; then it is bent into shape and aligned to a pattern containing the graphics or lettering that the neon sign will ultimately conform to. This is where the real art of neon comes in that takes some artisans from a year up to several years of practice to master.
The finished glass pieces are illuminated by a neon sign transformer.
Light-emitting tubes form colored lines with which a text can be written or a picture drawn, including various decorations, especially in advertising and commercial signage. By programming sequences of switching parts on and off, there are many possibilities for dynamic light patterns that form animated images. Neon signs are particularly useful to Utah businesses with late hours.
It is the wide range of colors and the ability to make a tube that can last for years if not decades without replacement, that makes this 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.
In some applications, neon tubes are increasingly being replaced with LEDs, given the steady advance in LED luminosity and decreasing cost of high-intensity LEDs. However, proponents of neon technology maintain that they still have significant advantages over LEDs.