How to make a fire whip:
Let me start off stating that this will not be the best way to make a fire whip. I am trying to provide information to the average fire performer. Since most do not have a lot of money, access to large manufacturing equipment such as welders, or even more common tools such as a rivet gun, I have limited myself to using only tools and materials easily obtainable.
Note: Many of the details were left out because designs change and I canít think of everything nor do I wish to type everything that goes into making a whip. Materials:
I donít give dimensions because everyoneís preferences are different. Also prices vary depending on what you buy so this wonít be the same for all.
Handle = Metal tube (Aluminum Tube) ($2 per foot)
Core = Wood dowel, threaded rod, Kevlar rope (about $9)
Belly & Overlay = Flat Kevlar
- 50 ft of 1/2 by 1/8 from HOP ($20 after discount) (enough for two whips, so $10)
- 100 ft of 1/2 by 1/16 from TrickConcepts ($20 after discount) (enough for two whips, so $10)
Hardware = Fender washer, screw, nut, wire, needle, glue, thread (about $5)
Grip = tennis grip ($3)
Total cost: ~ $29 (about $50 if you want to do it well.
For the really cheap people: 100 ft Cotton Rope ($4), pipe ($2), Screw ($0.03) ~ $6 (it works though) Procedure:
Simple Easy Method: One can simply drill a hole and put a screw through the handle, thread the wick up the handle around the screw and start plaiting.
I recommend for most to find a dowel the same size as the inside of your handle and secure it by placing it in drilling a hole and either screwing it in place or riveting it. (I use a 7/8Ē aluminum tube, with .06Ē wall thickness, a 3/4Ē dowel, and 1/8Ē rivets or screws.) Even better is to first epoxy the dowel in first. (Other Manufactures will place the base of the whip inside the handle to hold even more fuel.) Make sure the dowel sits just inside, about a mm short of flush with the handle.
Drill a hole slightly smaller than your threaded rod into the dowel on the end of your handle. (I use a 3/32Ē drill bit with 1/4" -20 threaded rod.) and screw the rod into the hole keeping about 4Ē sticking out. (epoxy this too for more strength)
Place a Fender washer if you want a guard for your hand, not absolutely needed. If you can, itís better to have this welded on if you have your core starting inside the handle.
Now this is where it gets tricky. To conserve Kevlar and you would need to calculate exactly how much Kevlar is needed at this stage. For most, making a single plaited whip and just cutting the 50 ft roll of 1/2 by 1/8 from HOP in to 4 lengths of 12.5 ft and using 2, 12.5 ft lengths is the easiest. However this will not hold as much fuel for behave as well as double plaiting your whip with thinner wick. The extra effort is well worth it. This is why Riz and FCB charge so much, but they have the best whips out there. I could type several pages as to the exact length you need, but if this is that important to you, youíll figure it out.
(I use 4 lengths of about 8, 10, 15, and 17 ft of TCís 1/2 by 1/16 wick for an 8 foot fire whip)
Poke a hole about in the center of your 2, 12.5 ft lengths, and place the end of the threaded rod through the holes. If you are using 4 lengths of the 1/16Ē thick wick, your whip should look like this:
Go ahead and bolt this down with a nut. The core:
The easiest thing to do is to just take a piece of Kevlar rope and put it over the threaded rod.
For a much better whip, you can shot load a tube of Kevlar with steel shot, in a progressive manner. This is what a real whip maker would do. A good middle ground is to buy several sections of thinner and thinner Kevlar rope and sew the ends together. Depending how you do the core, the prices and the quality drastically change. (I use 4, 1 ft sections sewn together at 1/2, 3/8, 1/4, and 1/8)
Place the core over the threaded rod. Itís best to secure this to the rod with glue and wire. Itís not needed; none of my other whips have ever had a problem with the core becoming loose, but itís a good idea. This is the stage at which you start plaiting. Plaiting:
I will do my best to describe the basic 4 plait. For nicer fire whips and normal whips much higher plait counts and designs can be introduced.
There is a very pretty way to start your whip. Go somewhere else to learn it, or figure it out. Sorry, itís too difficult to describe to be worth it.
Keep two strands one either side of your core ( S1 S2 Core S3 S4 )
You will bring the outside strand (S1) behind the core and between the opposite two strands (S2 Core S3 S1 S4)
Cross the strand over back to the same side but underneath the other strand on the original side (S2 S1 Core S3 S4)
The same thing happens on the other side (S2 S4 from behind S1 Core S3)
Bringing the strand back to 2 on each side (S2 S1 Core S4 on top S3)
Repeat a lot.
Basically you are doing a wraparound kern-mantle braid over/under. This will taper to the end.
Note: When doing a double plait, make the overlay looser to allow for more fuel absorption.
The ends will drop off so that you can then have a 3 braid followed by a 2 strand loop. Most likely your ends will not end in a nice taper. Cut the strands when youíre done plating so they end about every 6 inches.
I recommend that if you donít know how to properly tie off whips, either learn, or just sew off all the ends with Kevlar thread. In my experience itís better to try off ends rather than sewing, gluing, tucking, or even melting (for nylons) It might not look as nice, but functions much better and last longer.
I now sew a loop into the end with 1/8Ē rope because it makes it very easy to change the fall. The best fall and poppers I have ever come across are just 1/8Ē rope tied in to a loop and Kevlar thread made into a popper. Even what I get from HOP, Riz, and BC donít seem to work as well, and is much more expensive.
You can add a grip or even a handle stop if you choose and you should have a functional fire whip.
Once you get this down, youíll learn that fire whips are cheaper, easier and faster to make, louder, and more durable than nylon or leather sport whips.
The one pictured cost about $40 for me to make in about 2 hrs. I now have about 12 fire whips and have made about 20.
For those curious about buying a whip here are some previous posts:
Fire by Riz is the best commercially.
Home of poi's is pretty good too, it flows smoothly, but the poppers and falls that come with it are not that good.
BearClaw's are usable, the newer one is still not as nice as Karaka's (HOP's)
So far the best in terms of quality, fuel absorption, durability and price, ss to make your own.
It really is not that difficult, you can make one in about 2 hrs, it'll cost about $30, and it will be loud and last longer than anything on the market today.
I've gone through one of Riz's pretty quickly, but it's too pricey for me.
Two of HOP's (Karaka) and they can't be repaired plus I seem to spend more on the replacement falls and poppers.
I don't use the one from bear claw at all anymore, it just doesn't feel right.
I forgot to add:
I have yet to use one from them, but I hear they are of the same quality as Riz's
A lot of first time users do not realize that the popper/cracker will break after only about 5 uses.
If it's less than this, then it's usually due to improper fueling.
The fall will usually last about 15 uses.
As for good whips, the top of the line that I know of is Fire by Riz; they are the only ones to actually plait their whips. If you can afford them, get them. The poppers that come with these are super loud, but you really need a tight in plane crack. (I have discovered that FCB does plait their whips too)
Second is Karaka whips, and they are weighted very nicely, but it is still just Kevlar rope with some core removed and shot loaded, not plaited. FYI, these are what HoP sells.
Next is Bear Claw Manufacturing, especially their new Fire Whip III. However, their falls and crackers are pretty crappy I've never gotten them to really pop or last more than one burn.
When it comes to the falls and poppers themselves, as a beginner, get the ones from HoP. Theirs are by far the best to start with. Fire by Riz and Bear Claw's are nothing but twisted Kevlar which the diameter and drag ratio to fray (fluid mechanics think Reynoldsís number of Mach 1) is very poor. Trust me, beginners get very frustrated when they can't crack a fire whip and 80% of the time it's because the popper/cracker just can't move fast enough. Technique, length, weight and quality can help.
Now the best whip you can possibly have will be plaited. Think the 4-plait or 8-plait nylon or leather whips you see.
The cheapest way the get this is by making one yourself.
HoP sells a 50 ft. roll of 1/2 in Kevlar for $20.00 US after the 15% discount.
A metal tube, a hard wood dowel, cotton sheets, and patience will give you a very nice whip for less than $30 US.
This whip will also be about 11 feet in length if you use all the Kevlar.
But a 10ft plaited fire whip will cost you at least $300 to buy.
With experience you can make 2 of these whips in less than an hourís work. I'll try to upload pictures of my old whips I made with the time stamps on the photos later to prove this. Otherwise I still have enough K&A l around I could make a quick tutorial if you really want.
Now, as I said before, and the number one compliant from customers of Bear Claw and Fire by Riz is that the cracker breaks off after 1 or 2 uses. Then they get really mad because of this and write nasty reviews when it's not the manufactures fault.
First off, fuel the whip correctly. There is no need for you to dip the Fall and Cracker in your fuel. Don't believe me? Just try it. You can still get nice fire balls and even better arcs after your cracker breaks off.
(Note: If you buy the fall cracker combo from Home of Poi, RE-TIE THE KNOT!!! HoP does not tie their poppers on correctly and they will fly off with the first crack. Glue it too, just in case. This will also help with not having the fiberglass melt into the Fall or end of the thong since HoP puts fiber glass in their Kevlar.)
Do not dunk your whip, the fuel inside will stay in the whip for just about forever, there's no need to. Instead trail or snake the whip through a painter's tray or planting tray from the end of the thong to the end of the handle. Obviously use the correct fuel. Lamp oil, K, and white gas work well. Lighter fuel will destroy a whip.
Lastly, if you have a long whip, stick with overhead and halo cracks, maybe a flick or two. Every time your whip hits the ground, this will damage your whip. Plus a photographer can then lay underneath you and get pictures of the cracks from underneath, with the recoil of the whip and a full moon. This makes for epic pictures. Iíll try to find those too.
If you really donít like to use Hopís falls and crackers because of the price, you can buy braided kern-mantel Kevlar rope and make your own. You can use Kevlar thread too, but that will get expensive. Cotton braided rope works surprisingly well. So does hemp. Really it does. I didnít believe this either until a show where we forgot extra poppers or the material to make them, a girl was making necklaces with hemp, we asked for some, and they lasted an entire burn with really great cracks. Plus itís cheap as h3ll. You can attempt nylon, but it will melt and elongate but look really cool as long as the whip is in constant motion; actually donít; just donít.
Thatís all I can think of for now. Iíll try to find pictures of when I made by 11 foot plaited twin fire whips. Otherwise next time Iím back home, Iíll take pictures of all the different whips and show you the differences.
Hopefully this helps, otherwise if you are still confused, post what about and Iíll try to explain further.
Oh wait, burn time.
If you let your whip burn a little longer at the beginning before your first crack, you will heat up the fuel in the whip and the cracks will look much bigger. However, only let the thong burn, and try to burn it flat. Lay it on the ground like a coiled snake is better because (and every fire eater knows this far too well) HEAT RISES!!! Burning with one end higher will damage the whip further. This also means that you should never, ever, EVER, let your whips burn out. Once it stopís producing you can do one or two twirling tricks, angel wings, tosses, bells, whatever, but then put out the whip. When youíre done, check a bight, (bend) and if your whip is not dyed black, you should still see the original color of your Kevlar in the bight/bend. Otherwise youíre burning through your plaiting and burning the belly or even the core. (Iíd get photos of this too, but that whip is long gone.) The core should never burn; this is why even a cotton core will work with making a whip, its lighter too and will hold more fuel than one with a Kevlar rope core.
If you want more info I will do my best to check both this thread and private messages on a regular basis.
Okay, now I think thatís all.