As the previous post so eloquently puts it, flame throwers can be nasty little
buggers, and might not be very useful as weapons.
However, in the field of pyrotechnics, we don't like weapons anyway, so
Instead of talking about nasty weapons of destruction, (and instead of doing
semi-lame things like making
a "flame thrower" out of a lighter) I have found flame throwers
to be great fun for use on stage. Therefore:
How to make your very own flame thrower
this is something I "invented" myself, and as such, it is probably
possible to improve the design quite a lot. But it is cheap, and works perfectly.
The basic idea
The first thing I did in pyrotechnics was to start learning how to breathe fire. This was great, but having the liquid in your mouth
while being maimed with a angle grinder or while juggling with torches
can be rather nasty. Instead, I wanted to make something that did the fire
breathing for me, as a small effect.
Grab one of those plant-watering bottles that disperse the water a lot, you
know, into a mist of tiny, tiny droplets. Fill it with kerosene* , and blow
the mist at the candle. Whee! Huge flame from small droplets.
*) NEVER USE ANYTHING OTHER THAN kerosene. Read
the rest of this writeup to find out why.
The extended idea
Of course, the solution from the basic idea works perfectly, but you cannot
sustain the flame for very long (unless you pump very fast, and that just
looks silly) so I wanted to come up with something that made a sustained,
large flame based on the same principle. I wanted something that can safely
be used on stage and that looked cool.
My next raid of the local hardware store came up with some interesting ideas
- I found the sort of water misters as mentioned above, but in a pump-version.
The one I found dispersed the water perfectly, and was able to hold the stream
going for several seconds. Great - but not great enough. It turned out that
the heat made the nozzle melt, and eventually the whole thing stopped working.
The Final Idea - The Flamethrower! Whee!
Go to your local gas station, and buy a gallon of kerosene (see the "fuel"
Go to your local garden centre, and ask for a weed-killer disperser. What
you get then is a 3-4 gallon tank with a handle on top. That handle moves
up and down to increase the pressure inside the tank (see where I'm getting
at yet :). Ask if you can test it with some water. If they say no, go somewhere
When you try the disperser, make sure that it makes a fine mist of the water.
Big drops aren't dangerous (they won't ignite), but it is not very
nice to spray your audience in fossil fuels. When you are sure you have
the right kind of disperser, have a look at the nozzle. Is it plastic? Keep
looking. Is it metal? Then you have found your flame thrower.
Fill your flame thrower with kerosene. Go outside and put a candle somewhere
with nothing flammable in a 100 foot range. Now - check the wind direction!!!.
Make sure you have the wind in your back. Now light your candle, and spray
your mist at the candle. Fun, isn't it? Aim it around a little, and then stop.
Check your nozzle. Is it still okay? no burn or melting marks? Splendid.
Now for the tricky part - even though you now have a working flame thrower,
you might want to make some kind of ignition system in front of the nozzle,
so you don't need your candle. There are several ways to do this, but myself,
I used an electronic fuse. Yes, they can only be used once, but it doesn't
matter, really, you are unlikely to have to start and stop your flame thrower
during the show anyway. And if you are, you might be better off using the
candle solution anyway.
What I did when I used the electric fuse, was that I taped
a 9V battery and a switch to the handle of the disperser. From there, I pulled
electrical wires to about 6 inches in front of the nozzle (it won't ignite
right in front of the nozzle.. You need the mist, not the flow). It looks
VERY impressive during a show, to show up with a self-lighting flame
/me misses circus inferno
(the juggling / pyro / extreme performance art group I was a member
Words of warning
Never. Ever. Use. Petrol. - Finely dispersed petrol (gasoline,
gas, benzine, whatever you call the shit) will explode. You don't
want that. Also, if you DID use it, it would continue burning after it has
landed - I guarantee it will set stuff on fire. You don't want that.
Only use first-grade kerosene (or paraffin, if you are a Brit)
- Don't use the stuff made for closed-circuit stoves etc. Only use kerosene
made for lamps. It won't burn after it has landed (as a matter of fact,
you can dip torches in kerosene to extinguish the torches. It's not recommenced,
but you can.)
When breathing fire, the first thing you are told to watch
out for the wind. This is very important. When fire breathing, you handle
about a mouthful of kerosene at the time.
When using the flame thrower described here, you put out a mouthful a second.
Make sure the wind doesn't blow the burning kerosene anywhere. (With anywhere,
I mean anywhere important. Have a look at the "order
someone tipped me about adding an extra disclaimer to this
particular node, so here goes: If you kill or hurt yourself trying this, you are
1) very very stupid and
2) on your own.
Just be careful, I don't want anybody to get hurt! If you don't know what you are doing, don't do it.
Back to the node on pyrotechnics
Please read the disclaimer
. Also, make sure you have read the Pyrotechnics
. SAFETY FIRST