Tulsa Sign Maker Still Making Them The Old-Fashioned Way


Tuesday, September 13th 2011, 5:22 pm
By: News On 6


Rick Wells, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The trend in lighted signs is mostly about LED - those low voltage, ultra bright little bulbs that seem to be everywhere. They're in signs, street lights and even cars.

Whatever happened to neon? Actually nothing much, just fewer people are doing it now.

Jon Roberson has done lighting most of his life. He fell in love with neon about 30 years ago.

"It's just old school. It's a lot more fun," Jon said.

Want to bend some glass? Shelby Fuss – a News On 6 intern – picks out her favorite color and Jon begins the process.

He heats and bends a 4-foot-long glass tube into the correct shape, in this case an R, and then checks it against a pattern on the workbench. He then blows air into the heated tube to keep it from collapsing.

He says there are millions of feet of neon glass up on signs that will be there for a long time. Those signs will need repairs, so glass benders like him will have work for years.

"Every piece of neon you ever see is hand bent by someone, not a machine," Jon said.

The process of creating a neon sign is heat it up, cool it off and heat it up again. Watch and wait. Patience, young glass bender - good neon takes time.

Here's some trivia: lots of neon signs contain no neon. Neon gas glows pink even in blue glass, so the gas inside is argon.

"It's way cool stuff. I've done it for 30 years and am still fascinated with it and still enjoy it," Jon said.