Neon Shark
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At first it was was just going to be a glass block bar.  But when faced with the challenge of lighting it from behind and also having some storage space for bottles and glasses, I thought neon would make an interesting solution.  

Placeholder  (Look back in two weeks) This is the original CAD drawing that I created by tracing over an image of a reef shark downloaded from somebody's underwater diving page.
I had put blue tape on the inside of the glass block to get a general idea how large to create the shark.  Although this was done well before I had the actual picture of the shark, the size is overall size is approximately right.
Next, I built this 40 inch by 8 foot form out of plywood and "Wacky-Wood". (Bendable plywood - see it also in action at the "Curved Stair Landing" page)  The form models the back glass surface of the "S" shaped bar.  The shark was going to have to be made to follow that shape to within a couple of inches.  By lying this form on its straight "rails", a curved work surface is created on which the neon is bent.  The entire shark was assembled this way.
The creation of neon signs and art is quite interesting.  Shown here is Charlie from Custom Neon & Sign Company (Burlington, Mass.)  heating and bending glass tubes as part of the overall process.  Note the tube in his mouth used to put just enough air pressure in the tube so that it doesn't collapse during forming.  This hyperlink to my neon page is well worth a visit for a more in depth look at how this is done.
Now for the installation.  Jimmy from Custom Neon starts by hanging small chains from the underneath of the bar top in strategic locations.  To his left is his son and helper, Jim.
You can just about make out where the tubes are hanging. (Don't be confused by that blue tape on the glass!  The neon tubes are white!)  There are three separate pieces of shark  joined at various places.  One of the joints is plainly visible in the picture as the front of the dorsal (top) fin.  These joints get tied together with thin wire and some small padding material so that the fish hangs as a unit. 
Here's the section of the neon that forms the three vertical gills of the fish.  Note how the thick paint is used to obscure the parts of the tube that shouldn't show.  This section is also at the end of one piece of neon, and so it terminates in an electrode that must be jumpered (wired) to the electrode on the adjacent tube.
Here, Jimmy is cutting and sealing the high voltage jumper wire to complete the gap
This is the result.  The turquoise color is the result of the color that the gas naturally glows and the inner phosphor coating of the glass tubing.
Immediately after installation, the shark poses with its installers Jimmy and Jim.  The result is quite dramatic, but ultimately I figured I could get it to be more obviously shark-like if I repositioned it with its mouth in more plain view.  To make sure I wouldn't obscure something else, I went back to the CAD drawing and accurately modeled the mortar joints.  Playing with changing the pitch and position, I was able to get a plan that looked good if not menacing!
OK, so I broke it!  It still looks great, and the slight upward angle gives it more motion.  Obviously, I should have thought this through before the Jim's came to install it!  Click the picture to see the larger, cleaner view with the lights in.
Note that the shark is now complete, the background is in, and also some new 3D metal fish have made it to the walls behind the bar.
Here are thee of the four removable shelf backgrounds, after sponge painting and before installation.  The sponge painting is important so that the bar looks OK when the neon shark is off.
The combination of the sponge painting and distorted glass looks good with the neon both on and off.  Without the painting, the white background looked alarmingly boring.  It was quite out-of-place.
This is how the bar looks in back with the shelf sections.  The real function of these was to tie the back of the bar top into the floor so that it supports the front of the bar top cantilevered across the glass block.


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