Fire props get beat up, that’s just the way it goes. But we can limit damage and extend the life of our toys with a little care and maintenance.
Main culprits of prop deterioration
- Unprotected practice (put socks on your wicks)
- Transport (don’t just throw your stuff in the trunk, carefully place it)
Always cut away loose strands of wick. If you don’t do this it will speed up the unraveling of a wick.
Always put socks on your wicks. When you put them on, ROLL them on like a condom, and roll them off. Sliding them on and off may pull loose strands of wicking.
Fire burns up your wick. Most people don’t realize, but the Kevlar that ALL prop makers use is actually a mix of Kevlar, Fiberglass, and some other Aramids not disclosed. Fiberglass is effectively fireproof, but not durable. Kevlar is Durable but not fireproof. When you mix the two you get a mostly fireproof, and mostly durable material.
When a prop is burned, it is the vapors of the fuel burning. But towards the end of the burn when fuel is running low, the Kevlar itself begins to burn. If you look closely at a wick towards the end of a burn you will see little flickering red embers. This is the Kevlar burning away. If you look at an old wick you will see a lot of silvery strands. This silver is the Fiberglass, but more specifically, it’s the ABSENCE of Kevlar that has burned away.
When a wick reaches this point it more susceptible to damage from drops and abrasion.
So how do we repair a wick that is beginning to shred? ELMERS WHITE GLUE.
Elmers glue is fire proof, mostly. Over time it will burn away, but on most wicks it will substantially reduce the deterioration of a wick.
Only use Elmers White Glue, or All Purpose. DON’T use school glue, wood glue, epoxy, etc.
Put some glue on the damaged part of the wick, and gently massage it in and allow to dry fully before burning.
Sunshine Fire Toys puts elmers glue on many prop wicks prematurely to prevent deterioration on key points of the wick, i.e. the bottom of our Solar Flair heads.
Please note, the following is a cheat sheet. Email us with specific questions, or consult your local Facebook prop page.
First, know your materials.
High quality material key words: Stainless Steel, Anodized aluminum (6061 or 7075 T6)
Materials to avoid: Nylon, nickel or zinc plated steel (quick links can be zinc, as long as they are rated around 220lb)
Methods of attaching wick to itself or to a metal object:
Pop (blind) Rivet, self-tapping metal screw, nut/bolt, Kevlar thread
Other methods of attachment: JB Weld, actual welding, Kevlar Thread. JB WELD IS NOT FIRE PROOF EITHER. It is heat resistant to 500 degrees, but our flames reach over 2000F. I have witnessed JB Weld melt and wicks falling off. Only use it if it is insulated, and make sure it’s the 500F type.
The key to re-wicking your fire prop is knowing how it was put together. Many wicks are assembled with nut/bolt assembly or Phillips screw assembly. These are easy to find and you don’t need anything other than a screw gun or pliers/wrench.
Higher end props are often assembled with rivets and/or hand sewn. Rivets need to be drilled out in order to be removed, and that’s not easy and you need just the right drill bit size, otherwise you will mess up the hole in the prop body.
Every fire prop is put together differently. Even the same companies change their designs over time. Don’t assume just because you took apart one fire fan you know how all fans are wicked.
Re-wicking a riveted staff: drill out the rivets and then get self-tapping metal screws. Put the new wick on with screws. The downside is that you will be introducing new holes to the staff which weakens it.
Common specialized tools used in prop construction:
Pop Rivet Gun
Split Ring Pliers