Forge Your Own Neon Signs With EL Wire

Neon tube signs radiate an irresistible charm, which has been keeping them alive to this day. The vintage, orange glow is hard to substitute with modern means of illumination, but never trust a neon sign that you didn’t forge yourself. [NPoole] shows you how to build remarkably realistic faux neon tube signs from plastic tubing and EL wire.

After sourcing some polycarbonate tubing from a pet shop, where it’s more commonly used in aquariums, [NPoole] simply inserted some orange EL wire into the tubing. He heated one end of the tubing with a heat gun and twisted it off, sealing one end of the tube and welding the EL wire in place. [Npoole] then went on bending his neon tube to shape, repeatedly heating it up with the heat gun, bending it carefully, and blowing into the open end of the tube to prevent kinking of the tube.

He ended up with a neat ¥-shape of which he treated the unwanted parts with a black sharpie and covered the ends with black heatshrink tubes. Once attached to an inverter, the result looked already quite convincing at daylight, but [Npoole] found that at in darkness, the forgery was just too obvious with only the thin EL wire lit. To add some glow, he frosted the inside of the tubing by flushing it with Acetone. The solvent adds a fog to the clear tubing, completing the illusion. [NPoole] suggest you flush the tubing before inserting the EL wire and bending it, but mentions that the annealing may also undo the frosting at the bends. Watch his first attempt on building an EL wire neon sign below:

12 thoughts on “Forge Your Own Neon Signs With EL Wire

  1. Love the frosted effect using acetone, and the shrink tubing ends for faux HV insulated ends are a great touch, the wire holding the tubes… great job!

    I just might have to purchase some EL wire now. :)
    I’m wondering if it would make much of a difference if the outside was frosted as well. I would attempt bending the tubes before ‘frosting’ and insertion of the wire.
    “imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!”

  2. Anyone know if EL wire has a decent life yet? plast time I bought any the life was measured in 100s of hours and you lost 50% of the brightness in 100 hours of on time, by the time 400 hours passed it was 1/8th as bright as when it was new.

    1. Would it help if you insert two EL wires, use one until it fades out, then switch to the other one until it fades out, then connect both (and double the current)?

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