Good& plenty, Sounds like you are very familiar with the product. Exactly what you discribed is how this product is made and assembled!
Or you have been peeking around my shoulder @ my work bench?
____________________ Chief Dog Scratcher & President Possum Ridge Railway.
Some people are like Slinkies... they're really good for nothing
...But they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.
[ ATTENTION: THINKING OUT LOUD!]
OK!, From now on if you see this at the beginning of my post, it means that I'm just cranking the old jack-in-the-box with the tranny in neutral! How's that?! I gave a couple subtle clues...
Ya couldn't tell I was making it up as I went along? i was starting with one idea and then slammed on the brakes and made a bat turn...
The soldering tips are all professional advice. Actually you can consider most of it professional advice. This is not my idea except for some of the detail. This is actually used for invisible electronic displays. It uses the same principles as fiber-optics and those single lamp toy car/train headlight/tail-light deals with the clear and translucent plastic rails.
I meant to post an addendum to make that crystal clear. All you have to do to try it is scratch something in the surface of a piece of clear plastic, wire up an LED or 2 and see how it looks... Put a drop of water on the LED to get a good clear connection and line up the LED's element with the edge of the plastic so the light is pointing at the etching. Adding LED's will just improve the brightness and evenness.
I just bought some clear sheet styrene but it's soft. Does anyone have a source for anything rigid in the .005" to .020" range?
While the etched panel is most effective for the "backless" neon signs, If you're going to add a back panel and the exterior appearance is much more important than seeing the interior, you may consider the following "cheat" for neon or use it for a back-lit sign.
Take a piece of 1/8" plexiglass and drill a hole or 2 in the side edge(s) to insert small bright white LED's Option: file the tip of the LED flat and glue to flat edge.
Paint everything white EXCEPT the front surface, then flat black, and if you like, white again (most light boxes seem to be white)
In your favorite graphics program:
For Neon -
a. Create your neon masterpiece and invert it so the background is black and the "neon" is clear and flip it backwards so the printing will be on the back surface.
For multi-color, do everything together as clear.
b. Print it on a laser transparency. Cut it out.
c. Use Sharpie's to add color by hand. It's easy since everything is masked in black. For white, you can either apply nothing, or engrave those areas to diffuse the light right at that area. If you get light bleeding through the black printed mask, print another copy unflipped, and add it behind so the two print sides face each other. It's not a bad idea to plan on this insurance. It also enhances the look if you engrave the whole graphic in the front side.
For Back-Lit Picture -
a. Color laser or inkjet print your pretty picture on the thinnest white paper your printer can handle. Or Color Laser onto transparency and sand the back side to diffuse light. Sand side to side as well as up and down.
b. "Laminate" the front of it with REAL shiny clear tape (none of the magic crap). Burnish the tape down real good and cut it out.
Spray the back of your masterpiece with tack spray and install it on your light box.
An alternative for simple neon is to use the transparency for the window with the graphic printed on it and "Sharpie" the colors in or cut pieces of colored lighting gels you can get at most music stores these days. Then stick a sheet of frosted gel or simply sand a piece of transparency and stick it behind the graphic. Mount a bright white LED in the ceiling of the room behind the sign and aim it at the sign.
For more realism, you can make up this type of neon sign separately from the window and carefully superglue clear mono-filament "thread" or fish line, if you can find something thin & clear enough for your scale, over the flat "neon". Tiny flecks of silver and black paint will create the little mounting brackets that hold the glass tube and the sections that are blacked out between letters.
If you have a good temperature controlled solder iron, you should be able to dial in a temperature just warm enough to relax the mono' for bending and actually form the neon.
Somebody let me know if any of this BS works so I can try it!