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Author Topic: Fluorescent Christmas Lights  (Read 8875 times)

Offline Ross

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« on: May 21, 2001, 04:55:00 pm »
Chris, thank you very much for your reply to my first posting.  I have enjoyed browsing eBay.   As a result, I am now completely fascinated by pictures I have seen of the round fluorescent Christmas lights from the U.S.A.   Can anyone tell me how the arc is formed within the bulb ?  I am familiar with the principles behind standard fluorescent lamps (current-limited arc in low pressure mercury vapour) - presumably these lamps run in parallel and have the current-limiting built in ?

Perhaps someone may also know what I am trying to describe here:  on holiday in Switzerland once, I saw some lights (sadly non-illuminated at the time) which I suspect may also have been fluorescent.  The base appeared very much as a moderm miniature Christmas light base, the wiring looked to be parallel.  From each base emerged a milk-white tube, about the same diameter as a drinking straw.  These were folded in to various simple outline shapes (christmas trees, fruit, musical instruments etc).  Sadly the shop, in whose window this featured, was closed at the time so further investigation was not possible.   Anyone have any ideas about this - sorry for the poor description - I can attempt a sketch if anyone is interested.

Offline Chris W. Millinship

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2001, 05:53:00 pm »
Hi Ross, me again!

Flourescent christmas lights, well the description is a little misleading to someone more familiar to flourescent lights used in offices, etc. Sylvania`s flourescent christmas bulbs are more like neon bulbs- especially the green kind you occasionally see as power-on indicators in mains powered appliances (commonly used in lighted power switches). A tubular shape bulb within the milky white globe is filled with a mixture of gases- not sure exactly what. Two paralell rods are the electrodes with lead wires both exiting at the same end of the bulb, and when power is applied, limited with a resistor in the base, a discharge occurs between them which has quite a bit of UV content. The inside of the tubular bulb is coated wiht a phosphor essentially the same as the phosphor in flourescent tubes, except it emits coloured light instead- this is excited by the discharge and glows bright and colourful. Think of them more like little versions of the neon tubes used to make shop signs, only in bulb form. They are occassionally found in the naked form without the globe, as "flourescent candles" though I have not got any and have only ever seen a picture- they are very scarce.


Those lights you saw in Switzerland sound exactly like little versions of those shop-sign neon tubes and if so, operate on much the same principle as Sylvania`s bulbs, except they have an electrode at each end, and would possibly be excited with a higher voltage than mains can give, requiring a step-up circuit in the base (possibly just a little baby transformer?). If they were short enough the mains via a current limiting resistor might be sufficient but longer lengths between electrodes require a higher voltage to strike the arc between them. Either way they sound great and I`d love to see a set in action!

I have a small desktop neon christmas-tree light here with thin neon tube in the shape of a tree, enclosed within a clear plastic disc to protect the delicate tubing. It runs on either batteries or a low voltage mains adaptor, and has a high frequency inverter circuit in the base. It may be a similar thing.

Of course those lights you saw could be totally different, if they were quite large (more than a few inches tall- ) they may use some kind if  neon-ropelight- simply flexible plastic tube with miniature bulbs inside its length every inch or so. I`ve seen similar things here only much larger and with transparent tube- they plug into the normal large bayonet festoon light strings in place of a bulb.


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[This message has been edited by Chris Millinship (edited May 21, 2001).]

Offline Tim

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2001, 06:22:00 pm »
quote:
Originally posted by Ross:
From each base emerged a milk-white tube, about the same diameter as a drinking straw.  These were folded in to various simple outline shapes (christmas trees, fruit, musical instruments etc).


   
     

My first impression is also small diameter neon tubing similar to these old 1/4 dia. neon letters I have. Although there's no electrodes they operate by close proximity high voltage. As Chris suggested, maybe there's something in the base that steps up the juice?

 
quote:
Originally posted by Chris Millinship:
I have a small desktop neon christmas-tree light here with thin neon tube in the shape of a tree, enclosed within a clear plastic disc to protect the delicate tubing. It runs on either batteries or a low voltage mains adaptor, and has a high frequency inverter circuit in the base. It may be a similar thing.


Chris, where I can get me one of these trees? I'm fascinated by miniature neon tube signs/art :-) You wouldn't happen to have a picture on file of one would you?

Getting back to xmas fluorescents, has anyone ever tried repairing these bulbs? I have a ton of "duds" that I suspect might just have bad ballasts (ya I know, wishful thinking) but they are just too costly now to throw out without examining ways of rejuvenating them.

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[This message has been edited by tim (edited May 21, 2001).]

Offline Chris W. Millinship

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2001, 07:39:00 pm »
Chris, where I can get me one of these trees? I'm fascinated by miniature neon tube signs/art :-) You wouldn't happen to have a picture on file of one would you?

It came from a local electronics store and it`s doubtful I would be able to get one at this time of year- christmas is strictly seasonal in this bit of the world. Dunno who makes them either- about all it said on the pack was "Fancy Neon" and had lots of pictures of the other ones they made too. If I`m ever that way again in the near future I`ll ask them- maybe there`s one tucked away somewhere....  

Mine is sealed in with the rest of my christmas-time-only decorations and by a daft tradition of mine, can`t be taken out till december   , but I may have a few shots of it amongst my video archives somewhere.....I`ll see about that tomorrow (it`s kind of late now here) and snap a still from it if I can find any.

Getting back to xmas fluorescents, has anyone ever tried repairing these bulbs? I have a ton of "duds" that I suspect might just have bad ballasts (ya I know, wishful thinking) but they are just too costly now to throw out without examining ways of rejuvenating them.

Well I think all it is down in that bakelite base is a current limiting resistor like figural neon glow lamps use- it could have burnt out but the neon/flourescent bulbs inside will fail over time too, but not normally just stop overnight. Send a couple of dead ones this way (blue one?   ) and I`ll see though- I do have some myself, but all working ones which I paid far too much for (ebay!) and don`t want to risk breaking any to see inside at what makes them work. I only discovered the fact that they have a seperate bulb inside by shining a laser at the side- it cast a vague shadow of the inner bulb on the side of the globe.


   

Offline Ross

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2001, 05:00:00 pm »
Chris and Tim - thank you so much for your prompt and detailed replies to my questions.

Chris - that really answers my question perfectly.  I had wondered if the fluorescent lights contained something along the lines of a neon lamp; it is great to have the facts.

Tim - those letters of yours look startlingly similar to what I remember of these "Swiss" lights.  They were, as your pictures show, single-ended tubes (I should have mentioned that).  If I see anything similar again, I will make greater efforts to investigate fully !

Very many thanks again.

Ross.

Offline Chris W. Millinship

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2001, 07:19:00 pm »
Glad to have been of use Ross!


Tim- the neon tree pic/video still I said about. Well I looked through a bit of last year`s archives and couldn`t find a closeup. This is as good as it gets   -->

Welcome to the world of a truly addicted collector   ! OK so it`s not like that now (although it is full of bulbs instead) but I get just a little too carried away over the festive season. The neon tree is indicated by the blue arrow. I scaled the pic down cos it was a bit too big but even larger, it wasn`t too clear.

Seriously though I`ll have another look through the archives, I know there`s a closeup here somewhere.

I have another miniature neon light made in a similar way- it was made to stick onto a car somewhere, don`t know how or where, but it`s about 6ins tall, lights blue, less than 1-4 inch wide and only has connections at one end- an electrode going into it, and a connection wrapped round the glass outside. Not sure how it works, but it does. Probably to do with the high frequency, high voltage electric field generated from the 12 volt step up cct in the base. The tree shape has electrodes at each end of the looped round tube but also has 2 extra one-ended tubes coming off from the main one which also light up fully, but purple not green like the rest of it- different phosphors used.

I agree- they are fascinating things. I must get a better picture.....



Offline Chris W. Millinship

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2001, 10:54:00 am »
OK well I couldn`t find a decent shot of that neon xmas tree but I can however, include a pic of a little neon decoration light I have which is intended for a car somehow. Not being one of those who adorns my car with oversized exhausts, wierd "jumping" suspension systems and 8000 watt stereo systems I wouldn`t exactly know where you are supposed to stick one of these (hey wait....I don`t even have a car   ) but as a lighting enthusiast I got it anyway cos it looked interesting.

12 volt DC powered with a small hf inverter in the base. One electrode goes into the thin 4 or 5mm dia tube at the bottom and the other wraps around the glass outside much like the firing electrodes on xenon flash tubes. There is no connection at the top of the tube.

If you can`t see the picture, try clicking this... http://electriclights.tripod.com/smallblueneon.jpg  and maybe it`ll work. I`m guessing Tripod have done something to my hosting service and stopped outside hotlinking to images which they don`t really like but used to allow. Annoying really.


Offline Chris W. Millinship

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2001, 10:56:00 am »
Well doesn`t that just suck? They wont even allow the click-on link to work any more. That is VERY annoying. Sorry folks, guess that means I cant post any pictures here anymore.


Offline Tim

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2001, 08:05:00 pm »
Bummer Chris, sorry we can't see your pictures anymore. I thought it was just my computer since my hard drive is about to go out and it's been acting strange, but now I see what your talking about when you click the link - time to look for a new host!

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Offline Chris W. Millinship

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2001, 02:42:00 pm »
time to look for a new host!

I agree. If only to get rid of that annoying advert box everyone has to put up with. But it`s not even finished yet so I`ll wait till it is, and then see about getting a proper one then. Who hosts Bulbcollector?


Anyway I can still show pics here but I`d have to make a seperate html web page first with them posted on, and give a click-link here or possibly embed it in a frame, if that is allowed. Probably isnt. Time consuming but for things where I just have to give a pic it`s sort of necessary. Course it means all my posts here now with pictures on are ruined. And my old "proper" host Honesty have started charging for their service too so all my old pics have now been deleted.

I can`t win right now....   . Nothing comes for free on the Net anymore.

Offline Tim

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Fluorescent Christmas Lights
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2001, 11:44:00 pm »
Chris,

This site is hosted through prohosting.com if you wan't to check into it further. It's not free but I've been pretty happy with them and the features they offer including the amount of space they give you. You can email me if you need more details.

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-Tim
BulbCollector.com
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