Written by: David Buck
A friend of mine was storing a bunch of neon signs for one of his friends. It seems that about 10 years ago his friend’s twin boys were playing in the barn and started to throw rocks. Yep, you guessed it, right at the pile of vintage neon signs that were from his Mom and Dad’s business. About a year later a man called me. It was the proud owner of the vintage signs. He had heard that I might be able to fix them. After we talked about what he wanted I went to work, on the lot. There were 15 signs, all the same design and all in the same shape ( broken). We had agreed that I would restore 1 to start with. After going through the signs I found only 7 pieces of neon that were not broken. Lucky enough I had several units to use as patterns.
The glass was removed, then the tube supports, the ceramic sign was removed, the outer aluminum frame was taken off by drilling out the rivets, and lastly, the transformer. The bare metal frame was bead blasted then primed and painted gray. The aluminum frame was cleaned then burnished and a red enamel pinstripe was added. I was very lucky when it came to the ceramic name plates, they had survived the ordeal in flying colors. All that was needed was a good scrubbing to clean off the dirt from years in the barn. The neon tube were cleaned with Windex ( I find it the best to remove surface film ) and a scuff pad the remove the old loose paint. New block-out paint was then applied to separate the letters. New tube supports were mounted with new screws (I had made a pattern that told me in which direction the supports were oriented ) The ceramic plate was riveted to the outer frame and the frame was riveted to the metal base frame. The transformer was tested, cleaned and a new power cord was attached, then mounted with new nuts and bolts. Lastly, the neon was placed and new GTO ( the high voltage cable that goes between the neon units) and boots were attached.
The total work time took about 2 weeks. I called my customer, and told him his sign was ready. He was so pleased that he asked me to restore the other 14. So I went to work taking all the signs apart . The assembly line began.
All the transformers had new power cords installed and I found about half of the on/off switches had to be replaced, only 2 signs got new transformers. This project took me 1 month to complete and I have to admit, one of the most labor intensive and enjoyable jobs I have done.
All the signs got labels were added to show the new customer that the sign were restored to original spec’s but also some retained original glass. Out off all the signs 2 were 100% original. My customer gave them to his parents on their 50th wedding anniversary which was 2 days after I finished the project. The rest of the signs were given to other family members, and yes, his grown twin sons each got one and of course he told them DON’T THROW ROCKS AT THEM.