Signs of the Times - October 2017 - 45
The letter "E" in neon with the shape of the glass
tube as a 3D object.
Neon product catalog, 1959.
the glass tube can be bent in a way
that these electrodes are practically
Neon tubes can be made to light
in one of many colors; the final color
(or spectrum) of the emitted light
is created by the combination of
the gas fill, eventually a fluorescent
coating on the inside of the glass
tube and maybe the use of colored
glass acting as light filter. Every
ionized gas lights in a characteristic
color. Pure neon gas emits a reddish
light, while fluorescent coatings
on the inside of the glass tube and
colored glass or different gases create
other colors. Some (red, blue and
pinkish-white) can be made in clear
glass so that the tube is practically
invisible when not in operation - an
advantage for some designs (such
as the window-hanging sign shown
on p. 44).
As the electrical current flows
through the gas inside the glass tube
- always embarking on the shortest
In between the "L" and "E" of "Lee's" above, look closely to find the blocked-out
sections that camouflage interconnections.
path - the glass tube between the
two electrodes must remain a single,
continuous path for the current,
without forks or dead-end sidearms.
Thus, while a block character "L" is
simple, an "O" cannot be closed and
must be made like a "C" with adjacent
ends and a small gap.
To excecute a more-complicated
"E" in a single piece, the tube starts
with the bottom line, then the first
half of the vertical stroke, then into
the center horizontal line up to the
end. There, the tube is bent back 180°
exactly behind the center line - and
thus invisible up to the point where
the vertical stroke turns and continues
to the top. Finally, the tube is bent
back to the front and continues
as the vertical, upper part before
terminating to the right, as in the
Also, with smaller size text (up to
8 in. high) it is common not to make
each character a separate tube, but
to connect the characters (as in handwritten script). However, to make the
interconnections invisible, they are
painted black and called "blockedout sections" (see photo above).