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Boreal Community Media

Northland Neon breathes life into old signs and new creations

Nov 28, 2022 10:19AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Northland Neon shines in Duluth (KBJR)

Dave Anderson - Northern News Now - November 25, 2022

It’s hard to hold a conversation in the Northland Neon shop on Woodland Avenue in Duluth. The hum and hiss of high-voltage, vacuums, and pumps keep a dull roar going on all through the workday. You need to be part chemist, part electrician, and part artist to work on neon signs.

“Yeah, that does sum it up, yeah!” said Dave Johnson of Northland Neon.

Northland neon traces its roots back to 1929. A few years ago, East grad Dave Johnson and Denfeld grad Dan Nelson purchased the business. They didn’t know much about neon at first but after four years, they’ve got the process down.

“Taking it all the way through from a straight piece of glass to bending it up and putting ends on it, pumping it full of neon and lighting it up,” said Johnson.

Fixing a vintage sign or creating new artwork for a client takes a careful balance of voltage, amperage, chemical composition of the gas, and even the gas’s pressure.

“Every once in a while when the pressure is wrong that machine will end up sparking a ball about that big!” said Dan Nelson of Northland Neon.

Dan Nelson doesn’t mind fixing vintage neon signs but his favorite work is breathing life into a client’s custom dream project.

“Just taking a stick of glass and turning it into something they had imagined is just a great feeling,” said Nelson.

Dave Johnson feels neon signs give everyone a great feeling.

“It just hangs in the air, there’s a dimensionality to it, they’re letters hanging in space, there’s something strange about it.” said Johnson.

To read this original story and more news, follow this link to the Northern News Now website.