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What would be the easiest way to hand-make an enclosure for a neon sign with a complex shape? Answered

I want to make a rather small (less than 1 ft/sq) neon sign with a screen-printed plexiglass front, in the style used on the outside of stores (see attached image). Initially I'd considered just making a simple wood box, but for what I'm going for I need to make some more complex shapes, such as starbursts or clouds. Would I just get a strip of aluminum and bend it into shape, then seal the ends together, then just glue in the laser-cut piece of plexiglass?



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Maker Design Lab
Maker Design Lab

1 year ago

Another option would be to make to the housing from multiple layers of laser cut Plywood or MDF. You mention that you plan to laser cut the plexiglass so I assume you have access to a laser cutter. Depending on the final thickness of your sign you will need to stack several layers but complex shapes won't be a problem.


1 year ago

Unfortunately it is not that easy :(
These LED signs are all custom made, which makes their price...
Think of it like these plast frame windows - whatever shape and size you need is possible...
I replaced a few of these over the years and at least the older types were clearly made from single frame pieces.
Means the sides are cut and if required bend into the right shape, then they are TIG welded together.
The bottom comes last and is usually cut exactly like the translucent plastic top.
On the older ones you can easy spot the numerous small spots holding the frame together.
For the more modern ones the process is slightly simpler.
Here only the areas of the frame that has the groves to fit the plastic are cut out in areas that need forming.
Bottom is still done the conventional way.

If you want to do it on a hobby level then I guess your approach with aluminium strips is not too bad.
Although I would prefer thin sheets.
Using these laminated signs is another option.
You can sometimes get huge advertising signs for free when they are replaced.
It seems cheaper now to replace the lot instead of just the vinyl that has the picture on it...
With those and a simple router you can machine away one side of the sign - the aluminium and inner plastic filling.
Provides a nice way to fit the acrylic properly.
Bending is still possible with these but a really sharp bend reuires to machine out a small strip on the inside the prevent warping.
Joining the ends works similar:
Machine away the outside on one end and the inside on the other.
Glue the overlap and press them together to get a gap free joint.