Learn the art of tube bending as neon signage makes a comeback

Cruising down any Main Street in the 1940s and '50s, drivers were guided by brightly lit buildings – illuminated by neon. The lighting trend continues today, but is considered a specialty, not a standard.

The arrival of LED lighting has made the popularity of neon lighting wane. Neon lights are expensive, compared to LED, and require highly-skilled artisans (tube benders, as they are affectionately called) to create, maintain, and repair.

Despite those barriers, neon is making a comeback.

"Neon took a nosedive about 10 years ago, so to have it come back is pretty cool," Stated Eric Roeske, owner of Adept Neon.

In a modest 1,200-square-foot shop in Largo, Eric Roeske and his apprentice, Kira Oglesby are keeping neon lit.

"We did the restoration on Ferg’s down in St. Pete. We have Park and Rec, No Vacancy, DTSP, Ceviche," explained Roeske.

Adept Neon is only one of three neon shops in the Tampa Bay Area. When many companies switched to LED lighting for their signs, a lot of tube benders went out of business. 

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"It’s a dying art, it’s an intangible culture asset in some states and in others it’s called the dying arts," expressed Roeske. 

An art that takes place one bend at a time.

"A lot of people come in here and have no clue an actual person is bending every little bend in every work. They think a machine makes it or it comes from China," said Roeske.

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For Roeske, he hopes neon can stick around and light up the night.

"It’s the color you get from neon, it’s a 360-degree light," Roeske continued, "when you walk into a place you feel more alive. It makes you have more energy."

If you want to learn more about Adept Neon or make neon yourself, Eric and Kira hold maker shops on the weekends. Visit https://adeptneonmfg.com/ for details.