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Posted: Greetings and Warm Hugs to all, especially Pele...
It's been a long time since my last visit to HoP, as I'm not really a twirler (though one day, maybe...) The closest I've ever really come to poi was years ago when I made myself a set of revolving fire bowls. Never did put them to use in my performances, though, and I finally gave them to an enthusiastic juggler friend.
I had a bit of free time tonight, and happened to be surfing around...Came upon some old discussions here, from two years ago, and got my interest whetted! Had to re-join HoP in order to post this!
First off, I'd like to make a couple corrections to some statements made by Pele in her replies to that old 2001 post from Big Daddi-Yo (kind of late, I know!)... I don't know where she got the idea, but it's definitely NOT a friend who works my website. I built it and manage it alone. This means that when I'm on the road and offline, it may take awhile to get a response to any questions or inquiries submitted. This is also the reason it hasn't been updated as much as I'd like it to be. I just don't get the time to sit down and add what I'd like. Second item is the subject of chemical pnuemonia, which Pele has mentioned at least twice that I contracted. This is incorrect, sorry, Pele. The truth is, on two different occassions, way back when, I did get a bit relaxed while performing and somehow accidentally inhaled with a burning torch in my mouth. I felt the heat of the flame all the way to the center of my chest, and was left in a bit of a daze for awhile after. But I did not suffer any affects, either long-term or temporary, other than that shock. Don't get me wrong. I was damn lucky, that's all. Yes, by all accounts, I SHOULD have sustained serious internal injury, and I'll never know why I didn't -on TWO different occasions, yet!
I've had my share of burns and other injuries though. Early on, I did have some of my blows back up on me. Back in those days, I was blowing white gas, which was available at many gasoline outlets and farm supply stores. I don't believe I have a single performing costume part without a burn hole someplace or other. As could be expected, most of those burn holes are in the chest and stomach areaa.
In regards to fuels, it's my belief that Coleman fuel (our new and convenient version of white gas) is about the best thing for a fire eater's torches, as it burns clean and lights quickly and easily. Kerosene, or it's European equivalent, parrafin (not to be confused with the American "liquid parrafin," the major ingredient of lamp oil) is what I recommend for the "blow," or what I refer to as the "human volcano." Aircraft fuel is a highly-refined and pure kerosene -about the purest, cleanest you can get. I have also tried "odorless" kerosene, and neither odorless or aircraft fuel are really worth the expense and trouble of obtaining them, for the slight differences in the flames they create. When performing for an audience, we need to keep in mind that it's all the same to them. Whether you blow Coleman, kerosene, or jet fuel, they are going to be impressed regardless. But they won't be so impressed if instead of taking a bow, you have to be rushed off in an ambulance! It's true that Coleman fuel, or naphtha, as it's also technically known, will produce a slightly more brilliant flame. But it's dangers far outweigh that slight difference. Believe me, the audience is not going to know the difference, and will not know which fuel is being used. Blowing Coleman fuel requires a different technique, and far more safety measures, and is STILL much more hazardous to both the performer and the audience. Droplets of burning fuel can rain down and start little fires or burn people. Any spills of kerosene will not be burning when they land. Kerosene is so safe that you could actually wet your hand with it, and pass your hand through a flame without any danger! We all know what happens if you dip a finger in lighter fluid (also naphtha) and touch it to a flame... My point here is, Coleman fuel CAN be, and IS, used by experienced professionals for blowing. I don't recommend it myself, and especially not for beginners! Kerosene is not totally fail-safe, but is far less dangerous. I also agree that alcohol, of whatever variety, should NOT be used as a fire eating or torch fuel. There again, it's just not worth the trouble Should it happen to spill and ignite, you may not even see the dim blue flame untill too late.
I do agree that milk can help relieve the "fuel burps" after a fire eating performance, and solid food is even better. Alcoholic drinks don't do a thing but "kill the pain."
In December of 2001, carpe_nox had asked, "Do you know any old fire eaters?" Well, the old ones I knew are all gone now, having died peacefully of old age. I'm 57, and have not missed a summer season of fire eating since 1970. (Sorry again, Pele, but that makes 34 years this coming month -April. You put my experience at 35 years back in 2001!) When I worked the carnival side shows, it was about 30 performances per day, 7 days a week. The Renfests are only 2 - 5 shows a day, weekends only.
One more thing to think about before I take my leave here... If a fire eater should boast of "never having been burned," that person either does NOT have much experience, or is lying. The fact is, EVERY fire performer gets burned, some minor, some serious, and some terminal. Anyone contemplating doing this, remember, you WILL get burned. It's not a question of "if," but "when." And sometimes you will get burns on top of burns.... It's more fun to get hit in the face with a flaming poi! -Still interested? Good luck!
musashiistarring Skippy the green llama 1,148 posts Location: Seattle, WA
Posted: Hi Mephisto!
Good to see you on the board. Your site is a great resource for someone starting out with fire eating, contact fire, and fire breathing. Got me started out fire eating, think I've used every tip on your site at least once, with no burns to speak of yet. I'm curious as to the different technique you speak of regarding blowing with colemans, not that I would use colemans myself. If I had to guess it would involve holding less fuel, and atomizing your spray less? I'm quite happy with parrafin for the time being, will most likely switch over to biodiesel once it's more readily available in my area, just curious.
I'm also curious if you've ever played around with partner or group fire breathing, and if you'd mind sharing them. Our troupe does a few, static breathing(where each person lights themselves - ie their own torch), such as fire boxes, dynamic breathing(where only one person has a light, everyone else lights off the persons breath) such as fire ladders. Anyways, welcome to the board!!
First intention, then enlightenment.. Ars Pyronomica
" Life is programmed. Whether death is programmed or not is yet to be determined."
Posted: Hi Mephisto, welcome. Great to see you back on the board after such a lengthy delay. I don't fire eat, but I did enjoyed reading all the stories at you site. Cheers for now
If we as members of the human race practice meditation, we can transcend our fear, despair, and forgetfulness. Meditation is not an escape. It is the courage to look at reality with mindfulness and concentration. Thich Nhat Hanh
Most humble thank you's for your generous comments! Actually, I did do a sort of practice performance with a friend (who is a founder of Fire, Inc.) and I believe that somehow, word of it got to Penn & Teller, who are now featuring something very similar in their Las Vegas performances. I can't really say we invented it, as who knows what's really original anymore? But this was what could be called a "kiss of fire." -With both of us having live fumes in our mouths, one of us lit a "gas jet," and the other lit his off the first. We then both lit torches off our individual jets before running out of fumes. With good timing, this can be a very romantic and impressive move.
We also did a "duel," which I cannot recommend ANYONE try! (-Penn especially) This involved removing our shirts and splashing kerosene on each others' chests. We then backed off about 12' apart, and took turns blowing breaths of fire at each other! Dangerous? -Maybe. I have had many arguments over whether or not spilled kerosene will burn on your skin. My firm opinion is that it will NOT, unless it is heated almost to a point that the hot kerosene alone would scald you. This still does not make it safe, however, because it WILL burn where there is any hair. The hair of a beard or moustache, or even hair on your arms, will serve as a wick. We also had to shower immediately after, to prevent skin rash from the fuel on our bodies. My buddy did not shower till later, and next day had a bad rash along his waistline!
When blowing with kerosene, if you have no facial hairs, it is perfectly alright to snuff your torch in your mouth immediately after a blow, without wiping off excess fuel. Leftover kerosene in your mouth should be spit out first, of course, but there will not be explosive fumes remaining in your mouth from kerosene. If you have any facial hair, even a soft "fuzz," then by all means, wipe your face first!
Yes, there is a special and different technique for blowing with Coleman fuel. Keep in mind that years ago, automotive gasoline, or "petrol," as our European cousins call it, was the sole all-around fuel for just about all fire effects. And back then, we didn't have unleaded. "White gas." was regular, as opposed to Ethyl, or "red gas." The white gas was cleaner, though definitely NOT safe! Then, with the advent of unleaded gasoline, "white gas" became naphtha, which was dispensed from 55-gallon drums. Today, there are very few times when I ever resort to using Coleman fuel for anything but torches. And I won't use automotive gas for torches, even if it is unleaded. It still has detergents and additives. It may work okay for juggling clubs, but not for anything put in your mouth.
But to get back to the technique of blowing with Coleman fuel, the first thing is to remember that it's going to try to "bite" you, EVERY time. It's like working with a rattlesnake or cobra, as opposed to a "tame" species of snake. Never let your guard down. You MUST have a wet towel ready, in hand (or a safety standing close, the towel held open and ready to throw). The slightest breeze will "stir the hornets." Yes, you do take a slightly smaller amount into your mouth than you would with kerosene. (NEVER fill your mouth to bulging, with ANY fuel. A shot of kerosene is more than enough; 1/2-to-3/4 shot is nearly too much Coleman.) The blow should be finer, and at the same time, stronger than with kerosene. You want to get it all out, and AWAY from you, fast! When the flame has reached its climax, keep on blowing as you pull backwards and then pinch your lips shut tight. Take a step back, as well. This helps mimimize the "blowback" to your mouth and face. (When using kerosene, I do tend to lean forward with the blow, and have never had it back up on me.) Keep your mouth closed tight and do not inhale, till you are positive there is no fire on your face or clothes. Chances are high that there WILL be some burning overspray on your face, and you don't want that to enter your mouth. Keep the flaming torch well away from your face as well, and immediately wipe your face with the wet towel. Once you have wiped well, and taken several deep breaths through your nose,and expulsions of air through your mouth, it might be safe to go ahead and put the torch out in your mouth. But the safer way would be to NOT bring the torch back near your face at all.
I make no claims that this is anything near "safe," and I can almost guarantee that anyone trying the method described here will still have accidents with it. I've stated this for reference and education ONLY, not as instruction for any fools to follow! I've known several professional fire eaters who refuse to do the "blow," even with kerosene. Personally, I never use lamp oil, as it always seems to leave a more oily aftertaste than pure kerosene. Most lamp oils also have fragrance added, which amounts to just another additive to be concerned about.
I've also heard of some fire eaters who claim to mix a bit of Coleman fuel with kerosene, for blowing. I don't recommend this at all, as properly blown kerosene should not need any sort of "booster." Plus, the added Coleman is going to make it susceptible to "blowbacks." For torch fuel, especially for outdoor daytime shows, I sometimes do mix a bit of kerosene -or even diesel fuel- into the Coleman fuel. This creates more smoke, and can be a good attention-getter. If you use kerosene or other high flash-point fuels for your poi or other twirling equipment, a little Coleman fuel (or lighter fluid) in the mix will make them easier to light. -Just remember to shake out all excess before twirling!
A very good effect, for the experienced fire-breather, is to ignite a bit of Coleman or lighter fluid on your palm, and use that as ignition for the blow. Alternatively, you could dip a finger in fuel, light it, use the finger flame to light your blow, and then quickly jam the flaming finger in your mouth!
Finally, I've never yet had the opportunity to experiment with biodiesel, but I hope to try it one day! I have blown with diesel fuel (VERY oily and terrible tasting!), and in a pinch, charcoal lighter fuel (slightly more volatile than kerosene, but still safer than Coleman fuel). In one show, for dramatic effect, I had a squirt bottle of WD-40 (light lubricating oil), and shot little bursts of fire over a torch as I walked up to the stage. I don't recommend using powders, for the same reasons set forth by Pele and others here. They are messy, leave your mouth dry, and can easily be accidentally inhaled. The magic shops sell little bottles of licopodium powder, for squirting over a candle flame, and frankly, the flame they make is "wimpy," at best!