This is my personal method of making torches for fire-eating,
and others may not agree, but these have served me well for
more than fifty years.
little discussion first. A fire-eating torch can be as simple
as a bit of rag on the end of a coat hanger but I believe that
its appearance should reflect the rest of the act, and made to
use as long as possible. These take a little effort , but they
look professional and are safe to use within the confines of
the act and your abilities.
All fire-eating can be
and all fire-eaters do and will get burned. These torches will
NOT protect you from that.
To make any torch last longer,
donít burn it long enough to evaporate the fuel. Keep it at
least a little wet, and put it out while the fuel is wet.
(Fuel doesnít burn, the vapor does.)
Mine start their life at the weld er supplier.. Use 3/16 Brass
rod. It comes in 32 inch lengths. When this rod is cut in
half, it will make two well balanced torches.
Find an old fashioned hardware, and look at file handles. Some
are fairly ornate, and will enhance the appearance.
like to make several at a time, I usually will use at least
three in my act. And If any get to looking frowsy I can wait
Ďtil later to recover them. (More about that later)
start, youíll need to bend a bit of a hook at one end of the
rod. Since brass is brittle , a little heat treatment is necessary. Just use a pro-
pane torch to bring the end to a
medium red heat and bend the hook with pliers. It doesnít need
much, 3/4 inch or less. The hook is only there as a safety
device to prevent the head from slipping.
Torch head materials
Hereís an absolute rule! Never use any synthetic
cloth materials with any part of fire-eating, particularly
torches. Synthetics melt, and drip and stick...Cotton and wool
do not, and are much safer and more durable.
There is never any reason to use any alcohol product for
any show purpose, ever! Itís hotter, can burn invisibly for
long periods, and is much less controllable. Adding chemicals
(even salt) adds to the problem as well as enhancing
have a problem with Kevlar wicks and cords. They do not absorb
fuel even though they do not burn. My personal preference is
that a torch be absorbent, allowing me more time and control
of fuel. Since only the vapor actually burns, a wetter torch
allows me to deposit fuel on my tongue, fingers and hands, and
will let me pull the torch out of the flame, an elegant
Beginners will almost always make the torch heads too big, or
try to make them into absurd shapes. I recommend avoiding this
and using the flameís appearance to sell the act.
my experience, hard cotton is always the best balance between
absorbency, weight and durability - weight and durability.
use an old dishtowel for material. The old roll towels are as
good as you can get. Cut it in strips about 1 1/2 inches wide
and remove any hem. A little Elmerís Glue on a very narrow
strip at the end will help you start the wrapping, beginning
under the hook. Keep the wrapping as snug and as smooth as you
can, and keep in mind that there is no need to make the torch
any bigger than 3/4 of an inch in diameter.. (Thatís a big
torch!) When you get the diameter you want, clip off the rest,
and apply a little more glue to the end. It wonít need much,
and the glued area will not be absorbent. As is, the torch is
now usable but the next step is what makes my torches unique.
Find a product called Surgitube. Itís a tubular gauze bandage
made primarily for appendages such as fingers and it comes in
rolls of about 30 feet long. It seems like a lot, but use
Surgitube. Make sure it is made of cotton, the synthetics will
melt off your torch in seconds and become dangerous. Pick up a
package of red fabric dye, (I use Rit) and dye the whole thing
according to directions. When it dries, you will have more
than a lifetime supply. Follow the directions on the Surgitube
box and use it to cover your torches. Now , whenever your
torches need refreshing, just recover them and they will
always look new. To finish, I use a little bit of unraveled
brass picture wire, just one strand, and clip the covering
close to the wire. Tap the file handle onto the other end of
the torch, and you have an elegant long lasting torch with the
proper absorbency, control, and balance you need to be a