Hobbies and Crafts

Making A Neon Sign With Jason Pickens | See J Work

Welcome to
Tribeca, home of Let There be Neon, where
today I’m going to meet Ed and learn to make a neon sign. I’m already confused. And my first attempt at
making an R looks like this. I can’t tell you how
complicated this actually is. You are a, what? Glass bender. A glass bender. How long have you
been doing this? About 30-some years now. That definitely qualifies
you to be an expert. Did you go to school for it? Well, back in
the ’80s, there was a shortage of Neon2 benders. And every day I
would go home, and I would pass this little shop. And this old guy would be
hanging out, drinking a beer, smoking a cigar,
watching the girls go by. And I’m thinking, that looks
like something I could do. How am I passing right now? Do I look like somebody
that could bend neon? Give me the once-over. Well, you have a
neon-colored shirt. Thank you. So that’s a start. What would be the
first thing that I would need to learn
to do if I was going to start bending neon? In other words,
you’re telling me I have to teach you everything. That’s correct. I want to know
everything in detail. So you can give it to me. And then at the end, you
can give me a grade on how I fared working with you. But I think I can do this. I think I can hack it. [music playing] So before we start doing
this, there are open flames here behind me and everywhere. ED: The fires stay
on all day long. And I see when you’re
pointing at it there, you’re getting your
hands pretty close. It’s about 1,700 degrees. But when you’re doing
this as long as I am, you build up a tolerance. And you just go right in. You just get used to it. So maybe, kids, don’t
try this at home. The other thing we
need is our screen. This keeps our pattern
from starting on fire. [laughs] That’s
pretty important. Yes. ED: All right. Now I’m starting to feel
it get a little bit soft. JASON: It’s really
starting to sag. ED: And that’s why you got
to turn, turn, turn, turn. JASON: Yeah, I see
gravity is your friend. As you can see, it’s
starting to get a little– a little fluid. JASON: Yep. ED: Lay it on my pattern. I feel like I’ve had
to practice the dance. Get in the rhythm. Yeah. This is a full-body operation. I’ll give it a try. I’ll try burning something. [inaudible] It’s hard to talk [inaudible]. This is not a kind of career you
could take if you like to talk. If you mess it
up, don’t worry. We’ll give you a broom,
and you sweep the floor. Yeah. That I can do. I’ve swept many a floor. OK. Here we go. OK. Wow. You’ve got to really,
like, spin it. ED: Little more, little more. JASON: And I got to
blow it in a little bit? ED: OK.
Yeah, now you’d make your bend. Make your bend.
Make your bend. Make your bend. [groans] OK, I see. See? Gravity. Gravity, gravity. For your first time,
that’s pretty good. I’ll take it. I mean, you didn’t
get burnt, you didn’t drop it on the floor,
you didn’t set anything on fire. So you’re doing good. Hurray. You want to try
a double-deck next? Yeah. First, double back. Uh, I’m already
confused, but that’s OK. Well, you’re going to
bend it 90 towards you and, at the same
time, pull it down. OK. Oh, stretched it– oh, no,
I think I’ve ruined it. I think I’ve ruined it. I ruined it. I ruined it. There you go– mistake 1. All right. So I’m going to
try this R again. Got to figure out how all
this goes together here. You’re going to be laying
it on the pattern this way, bending this 90, and
raising up this way. OK, I see. Ooh. Hot. I think I kinked it. Oh, no. No. I’m going to be doing
this guy here 90. All right, but this looks
pretty awkward the way you got your hand there.
– Really? You think so? – Wrong way, wrong way.
– Wrong way. Wrong way. No. Oh, no. Did I crack it? ED: That’s a no-no. So my first attempt at
making an R looks like this. This is super complicated. Complicated. Super complicated. Super complicated. It’s like I said. I can sweep, if
that’s what it takes. Well, it is
trash day Thursday. You can take the trash out. It would be like having
a pasta noodle with weights on one side, trying to spin
it while it was being cooked, while you were riding a horse. That’s sort of like
what it feels like. You’ve done your ribbon heats. You’ve done your 90-degree bend. You’ve done your
180-degree bend. Now for one of the most
important parts of this job– What is it? I get to learn something else? Lunch. I noticed earlier
when you were working, you had put
headphones on to just, like, put you in the zone. I also work that same
way when I’m in my shop, with the headphones on. So if you want, I brought mine. So we can get in the
zone and get this done. Let’s do it. Let’s roll. I’m going to turn my music on. [music playing] [laughs] Yes. The work of the
great Ed and Jason. Me all day, you all day. So what’s next? We need to move it– – Next is the processing.
– OK. To pump it full of gas. Yep. You first evacuate
it, bombard it, heat it up, take
all the impurities out, anything organic, and
then backfill it with the neon. And then backfill
it with the neon. Everybody got all that? You got all that? Done. This is so cool. I’ve gotten to be
with you all day. What would you give me for
a grade as your apprentice for my first day? So Jason, I think I’m going
to have to give you a D. A D? For a Damn good
effort, which is to say, your actual grade is an A. An A? Yeah, A, for Almost there. What? Let’s just call
it an even B-plus. B-plus. Yeah. I was not expecting
to get a B-plus. Yeah, this is much more than
I accomplished on my first day. Thank you so much for
letting me come in your shop and spend the day
working with you. I really appreciate it. Oh, pleasure was all mine. I enjoyed it, too. I can’t wait to see
how crazy you can make things in another 30 years.
– Great. Thank you very much. You’re welcome. Right on. Yeah. How’s my hair? How’s your hair? ED: I should’ve got a haircut.
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4wTiDzxMz0

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