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  • Help sourcing Neon bombarding and pumping equipment, please?

  • Duncan York

    October 25, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    I’ve recently retired from electrical engineering and I’m looking to buy neon making equipment to expend my current glass blowing and bending hobby.

    I’ve been doing glass work for 20 years and I’ve done a few neon making courses over the years, so I really want it be able to gas my own neon tubes.

    The problem – as I expect everyone knows – is that in the UK Neon seems to be some kind of esoteric practise that no one shares information about. I can find any amount of equipment in America, but buying a bombarding transformer or pumping gear in UK is somewhat similar to trying to illicit material. The only search results I keep getting are Richard Wheater in Wakefield
    who runs a very basic teaching course and a couple of sign makers.

    All I want to do is buy the bombarding and pumping gear, but it’s so incredibly difficult to find any info I’m wondering if it’s been banned or something?

    If anyone is selling it knows of anyone selling a full set up, I’m interested. I already have ribbon burner, crossfires, etc. aS I’ve been blowing glass for years but if I have to buy a full set of gear I will.

    If anyone can advise of a good import source for bombarding gear I’d be really appreciative too.

    Why is it so hard to didn’t out about a skill that’s existed for 100 years and which is, apparently, in danger of dying out; I’d have through people would be desperate to share information, not sit on it.

    It’s heart breaking and maddening at the same time!

  • Robert Lambie

    October 26, 2019 at 4:29 am

    Hi Duncan

    I looked into buying the complete setup a number of years ago now.
    Like you, I pretty much hit a brick wall on the information in the UK and the manufacturing equipment worked out at nearly 4 times the price of importing same from the USA. At the time I was speaking with DACO Neon, but they closed their doors around 2010. Coloured tubes and some other bits and pieces could be sourced from Amari in the UK, but doubt that is still the case these days.
    Even being able to source the manufacturing equipment wasnt the solution, you had to either source training or someone with experience, which was slim, and those that you could source were either pretty crap at what they did, or extremely good and demanded a high price for their skill.
    When you look back at what I was faced with 12+ years ago… high-cost equipment, limited UK training and knowledge sources, high-cost equipment and looming restrictions on the use of Mercury in neon, and it’s no wonder its future was fading.

    That said, the genuine appearance of neon is never being replaced anytime soon. Though the LED version from a "distance" is giving it a good go! I saw lots of the LED stuff being pushed at SignExpo in Vegas this year. looks great from a distance, but doesn’t give that genuine sexy neon look and quality when up close.
    This is a picture i took of some sat on a table at SignExpo.


    quote :

    The Restriction of Hazardous Substance (RoHS) has released regulations that mean the use of mercury in neon signs will be banned. This would mean that neon signs moving forward could only be red, pink, amber or purple in colour. The ban is due to come into effect in December 2018, with no application for an extension having been submitted.

    However, after further consultation over the regulations, the British Sign and Graphics Association (BSGA) has found that this isn’t as devastating to the industry as you might think. In other words, if you were thinking about buying a neon sign; you still can!

    It is true that low voltage, cold cathode lighting lamps containing mercury will no longer be produced after December 2018. However, high voltage signs using mercury are currently outside the scope of the RoHS regulations, as well as large installations.

    You can find out a bit more here on Neon creations blog about the future of neon.


  • Andy Thorne

    October 28, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    These guys may be able to help you….

    They have a pump and bombarder system in their catalogue … N19v52.pdf

  • Duncan York

    October 29, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the response. Your response pretty much echoes the experience I’ve had while trying to discover neon for myself.

    I do find it incredible that literally no one can/will provide actual information.

    Neon, so we are told, is quickly becoming obsolete and a dead art; everywhere I look there are stories of how sad it is that neon will “cease to be” in a few short years, or that it’s expense because crafts men are “so hard to find” and “the skills will be lost I’d new people don’t train and replace them”.

    I found several “art” articles with interviews by artists like Richard Wheater and Julie Bickerstaff, both of whom were claim to be “happy to help and always available for a chat” with anyone interested in learning neon. I also know that (in Richards case at least) grants to help “keep neon alive by teaching new people the skills“ have been awarded.

    This all gave me hope: maybe these people we’re different and would/could help? Sadly not. I’ve contacted them both – more than once In fact , and I’ve received no reply at all from Julie and a response that bombarding transformers will be “available soon for about £20k” from Richard! Which is a ridiculous amount of money – they cost a quarter of that in America and China.

    What irks me is: I’ve worked with glass for many, many years. The move to neon, for
    me, is a simple one. I need the equipment to gas and prep the tubes and that’s it. I already have the glass blowing, bending, joining skills and I was an electrician for years, so working around high voltages is fine by me.

    Like you, I found all the equipment to be American. There is nothing here in UK. You literally can’t buy anything, and no one seems willing to spend any time helping anyone else get starte! There’s NO other field I know of like this: about 10 years ago I wanted to repairing a vintage radio; Within two weeks I’d found people to help. Valves use – lethal – voltages, and no one in the vintage radio crowd had a problem telling me anything I wanted to know, so long as I understood the risks and promised to be careful; the Tesla coil I built was the same – the tech community helped with anything I asked.

    Its weird to me that even Welding is the same – I learned to weld a few years ago from some local engineers who had a meeting once a month; they were happy to pass their knowledge on. The live steam model engineers were the same – I got a second hand lathe; cuttings tools; materials; compressor; milling machine, etc. at reasonable cost, very easily and I learned to use them (and still am learning) from kind people who love passing on their hints and tips.

    These things are all difficult to master in their own way and they all use high temperature or dangerous machines or lethal voltages – so it’s not that neon is difficult to teach and it’s really not a complex science.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that, unfortunately, Neon has become a fad – people who CAN do it, want to keep it to themselves because they can charge for their “skills”; courses teaching neon for £350 a day “intensive” are all a joke: you learn how to bend and cut a hollow glass tube! You can do that at home for less and you’d still own the equipment after you finish so your money would be better spent.

    Until I find someone who genuinely knows how to make neon and who is prepared to demonstrate the bombarding and gassing, all I can do is wait, or, guess at how it’s done and try to make my own equipment: gassing is easy enough, the equipment isn’t particularly specialist for piling a vacuum and pressurising a tube, thankfully.

    bombarding however… that requires a 20 000 V transformer that goes to an Amp. To build something myself from a pole pig is possible, but honestly I’d rather have the correct gear and know it works.

    The fact that I’ve contacted several manufacturers who list bombarding transformers, but their uk prices are insane (as you said) is sad. How can I buy a bombarder in USA for £3000, yet it’s £15,000 here in uk? That can’t be right!

    The other advantage to USA is, the have second hand gear coming up constantly. You can get a full set of pump, transformer, rods, gassed, etc. second hand for £2000. That would never happen here.

    It a sad fact that there are actually plenty of people here who’d love to give Neon a try. It’s only made prohibitively expensive by something… it’s a 100+ year old technology and it’s almost impossible to get into! Nothing else is like this.

    Maybe there’s a business To be made here: Importing and selling all the gear to make neon at a reasonable price and selling it on with a 3 day training course. I’d buy it!

    I bet China make some crazy transformers for cheap. All it needs is someone who knows what’s required to import them and package them with the pumping gear and they would have people queueing up.

  • Phoebe Brown

    October 31, 2019 at 11:02 am

    This makes me very sad to hear as it would always be great to have more neon benders around!
    I offer neon to my customers as have been designing and working with it for a number of years. I have to outsource the making however, it is an incredible skill and very difficult (i have tried-insane!) I definitely get the sense that it is a dieing trade which is crazy, because customers still love it and we need more people learning and being taught about it. Artists still use it and it is a thing of beauty. It way out styles any LED product, which I am sure will fade or not keep as long as good neon.

    Are definitely the best supplier of neon gear. try them as someone said above. They are really nice and know their stuff.

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