JUGGLING AND SWINGING TORCHES. Immerse the wick of each torch in the fuel for at
least five seconds. Close the fuel bottle. Leaving a fuel bottle or bowl open while performing
is taking a very large risk for no good reason. Move at least ten feet away from the fuel bottle
and swing the torches in an arc near the ground to remove their excess fuel. If you don’t
shake off all the excess fuel, when the torches are lit and thrown, a stream of fire will fly off
them. If you are performing on concrete or asphalt you can set the shaken-off excess fuel on
fire, and then light your torches from that. If you are working on grass, move away from that
shake-off area (and the fuel bottle) before lighting up. If you are working on a wooden or tile
floor, it is a good idea to wipe that area with your small towel because the fuel can discolour
or remove the finish on the floor. Remember to get rid of your cigarette lighter before
Good showmanship requires that you finish when or before your torches go out. But you may
want to relight if you are just using torches for fun. If you are working with others and sharing
fuel, be sure you know what kind of fuel they are using. Never assume that their fuel is the
same as your fuel. If kerosene is being used you can charge your torches and relight almost
immediately. If anything else is being used you must wait at least 30 seconds after your torch
is completely extinguished before recharging it with fuel. Mixing fuels also has strange
You can extinguish torches by putting them into a relatively airtight metal box, like a tool
chest. Lack of air smothers the flame, no matter how much fuel is left on them. More
commonly, jugglers wait until their torches are almost out of fuel, and blow them out.
Whether or not you use a metal box, use a rag or towel to pinch the torch heads. This
ensures that all embers are extinguished and helps to keep the sooty torches from getting
everything else dirty. If a torch is not smothered or not blown out and pinched, it may
continue to smolders and consume the wick itself. If you use kerosene you can ensure that
all embers are out by a quick dip in kerosene (but don’t try this with any other fuel).
BATON, DEVIL STICK, and STAFF fire props are much the same as torches, and the same
general guidelines should be followed.
Staff often has a great deal more wicking than other fire props, and will absorb a
correspondingly larger amount of fuel. This may not always be what you want to happen.
The first few times you use it, dip lightly and time the duration of the fire. As with torches, the
fire itself adds resistance to spin, and with staff this means you will get tired much more
quickly than you would in a practice session. Because DIABOLOS spin quite fast, you
should be sure that all excess fuel is shaken off before lighting up. It’s a good idea to inject
fuel from a plastic bottle with clear measuring lines on its side, and to measure carefully.
Some diabolo wicks can absorb enough fuel to make a flame that reaches well above the
handsticks. Diabolo is probably the most dangerous of all juggling fire props because of its
tendency to skitter out of control, roll a considerable distance, and jam itself far underneath
something immoveable but flammable.
FYREFLY juggling balls hold considerable fuel, so you should adjust the amount of fuel
injected to match the length of your act or how long you can stand the heat. Otherwise you
may wind up with three balls that are too hot to hold and are difficult to put down without
setting something else on fire. A cylindrical metal canister with a tight-fitting lid is ideal for
snuffing out Fyreflys. These are commonly available as food storage containers. A
squeezable plastic bottle with a small spout and with fuel measurements etched on the side
is perfect for filling Fyreflys to burn for just the right length of time. (The newer kevlar-coated
Fyreflys can be held much longer than the clear-coated older ones.) The wicks on Fyreflys
are centered in a wire spiral. After snuffing them out in a can or blowing them out, you can
spread the wire spiral and pinch the wicks with a rag to stop them from smoldering.
FIRE METEORS traditionally consist of two small bowls, connected by a length of rope or
chain, into which fuel is poured and then lit. The bowls are then swung about like clubs, staff,
or batons, and look like harnessed meteors. Centripetal force (and very smooth technique)
keeps the fuel in the bowls. In China, where this technique was developed, students are not
allowed to use a fire meteor until they have several years of experience with a water or
sandbag meteor. A simple way to reduce the amount of danger is to bolt wicks to the bowls.
Then follow the same guidelines as with other wicked props. In this way you don’t have to
deal with flaming liquid sprayed in a 50 foot radius when you goof up.
Copyright © 1998 by Eric Bagai
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