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Forums > Social Chat > Ball Chain: Safe? Durable?

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kmactane


member
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 97
Posted:My girlfriend and I are getting ready to make a set of fire poi, and we're looking at various aspects of construction. One of these is ball chain.At http://www.crossroads.net/a/writing/firemaking.html#Chains
, Adam Rice says he now prefers to use ball chain. However, in some casual conversation with a couple of other fire spinners, there was a lot of worry expressed about using the stuff.The first worry was tensile strength. granted, this was probably because when we heard "ball chain", or first though was "that stuff you use for ID badges," which is obviously not strong enough for spinning. We immediately realized that it's available in stronger grades, but that just led into the second question:Is the stuff durable enough? It's going to be subjected to repeated heatings and coolings. It's probably going to get kerosene and other nasty stuff all over it. In short, it's going to get abused in ways teh average ID badge chain never sees. (One hopes.)Has anyone had any experience with ball-chain fire poi, especially over the long term? How does the stuff handle after a few hundred burns? Is it still strong and flexible? Do links seize up, or even worse, break?If anyone has anything else to tell me about using ball chain in fire poi, I'd love to hear it. Thanks.--Kai.


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Twist


member


Total posts: 160
Posted:If you want the thinness of ball chain, I'd say just use cable. I've never used BC myself, but I've got to say that I love my cable poi, particularly after picking up some of the clunky (IMHO) link chain poi used by acquaintainces.

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Posted:I haven't had an experience with ball chain, but I, too, wonder about its strength over the long term. One reason I know some kids have said they use ball chain is the pivoting ability they have. I only want to point out to the general reader that there are pivots available at hardware and fishing supply stores that can be included between chain and grip to keep poi from winding up. Hope this helps. Diana

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crispyx


member
Location: Denver, Co.

Total posts: 53
Posted:I use ball chain and really like it, what I use is steel and after six months of heavy use I haven't had any trouble. Check out ballchain.com they have a lot of different types with different compositions.

How is it ever possible to feel safe and secure in a world in which everyone dies?

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adamrice


adamrice

poo-bah
Location: Austin TX USA

Total posts: 1015
Posted:I might as well stick my nose in here, especially since I've already been mentioned.Ball-chain seems to be the chain of choice among most of the more-experienced twirlers here. My own ball-chains have been through at least 40 burns, and the worst thing that has happened to them is that the chrome has come off the couplers (which are made of brass). I haven't seen or heard of any breakdown problems with the stuff. In fact, the only failures I've ever seen with any poi equipment of any kind were in the grips, the wick, or the connector between the chain and the wick.I have used cables with fishing swivels, but the swivelling action is less satisfactory than with ball-chain, where every link is a swivel. Cables are uncomfortable for wraps, and (I am told) extremely large-ball ball-chain is too, for hand-wraps. The stuff I use is 2 or 3 sizes below the maximum.The way I have mine set up, there's about 3" between the last ball on the chain and the top of the wick: in between, I have a ball-chain coupler, a quick-link, and a solid ring built into the wick. So even if heat is an issue (and I don't know for certain if it could be), it is attenuated by that distance. Only the bottom-most ball on my ball-chain (which is inside the coupler and facing the wick) is even discolored--the others are still shiny and look new.Hope this helps,Adam

Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

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Twist


member


Total posts: 160
Posted:hmmmm.... perhaps i will have to consider a switch.... adam, have you ever crimped your swages with anything other than a swaging tool on the cable sets? i just put a big, heavy set of 8" wicks on my cables and got all paranoid about my swages....i've been swinging and bashing the heck out of them with no problems... but i still have that sneaking fear of sending a fireball into the crowd... i used vice grips to do the initial crimping, then clamped them with pliers and bashed away with a hammer. also... i kinda hate those fishing swivels... but you can get really cool swivels at the hardware store with locking clasps and solid ring construction.and quick links rock.

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kmactane


member
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 97
Posted:Twist -- I've got a set of the Fyre Fly poi, which use cables, but they're a little too light for my taste, and the cables do get kinked. I realize that doesn't really cause any trouble, but it looks icky.Adam -- Hi, nice to see your input here. I hope you realize I'm not trying to call yuor construction expertise into question; I'm just trying to make damn sure that nothing will go wrong. Like Twist, I have that sneaking worry about sending a fireball flying into a crowd.Forty burns? I think at the rate I'm going, I could go through that many burns in about a month. I'm doing a lot of practice, both with and without fire.The fact that you've never even heard of a failure is encouraging, though -- I presume that if something bad happened to one of your products, your customer would probably tell pretty quickly, yes?Crispyx -- "Six months of heavy use"? That sounds like the kind of data I need. Just how heavy is "heavy", out of curiosity?Thanks, everyone, for the data so far. If there are any others who have used ball chain for a long time and can tell me anything (preferably, "It works fine!"), I'd love to hear it.--Kai.

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adamrice


adamrice

poo-bah
Location: Austin TX USA

Total posts: 1015
Posted:Twist: before I got my swaging tool (which set me back $30 or so--not too bad, but kind of expensive if you only want to make poi cables for yourself), I tried all kinds of different crimping techniques. None of them ever fell apart, although I think that some of them pinched or bent the cable. Oh, and although they are kind of pricey, if you like cables, the best swivels are Sampo fishing swivels, which ride on ball-bearings and are little stainless-steel gems. I've got a few 100-lb test models.Kai: no offense taken. Equipment failure is serious business, we should all ask this kind of questions. I try to test everything myself, although proving durability over time, well, takes time. Incidentally, other folks here in Austin have been using ball-chain *much* longer than I've been making fire equipment.40 burns a month? Yow!

Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

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Pele
BRONZE Member since Dec 2000

Pele

the henna lady
Location: WNY, USA

Total posts: 6193
Posted:I can say that Adam's Ball chain went through several burns and several hands at the spin party this past weekend and the chain did fine. Honestly, I didn't notice a difference between ball chain and regular chain for swinging, but that is me. We even had some monster fire around it and after about ten burns in one night there was no problem, so if heat was ever going to be an issue, I suspect it would've been that night of exposure to continuous fire.

Pele
Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

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kmactane


member
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 97
Posted:Adam -- Glad no offense taken. I find it never hurts to add extra politeness online.
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You say folks in Austin have been using the stuff for a long time? Cool, that also helps to know. How long, just so I have some solid data?Folks here in SF mostly seem to use dog-leash chain. (And some use cable.) The dog-leash chain is really sturdy stuff -- it's welded, solid, and just picking it up is enough to let you know it's not gonna give you any hassles. But it's also heavy as sin. I can handle the stuff, but my girlfriend just hasn't got that much arm strength.When I say forty burns, I'm including practice burns here. I and some friends get together for a weekly practice session that runs about three to four hours, and I can easily get in four to five burns in one night during one of those. In a few days, my girlfriend and I will be getting fuel of our own (to go along with the new, personalized fire poi), and at that point, we're likely to do burns more than once a week. Given that, I can imagine getting forty burns in a single month.(Granted, it would be a somewhat tiring month... but then, the past few months have involved a heckuva lotta practice already. It would be a normal extrapolation of the kind of schedule we're already keeping.)Pele -- Thanks for that story about the spin party. Ten burns in a night? Yeah, that sounds like some serious wear and tear. (How long was this party, anyway? Sounds like fun!)


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crispyx


member
Location: Denver, Co.

Total posts: 53
Posted:I'd say I adverage around 5 burns a week and 10-15 hours swinging a week. This is done with a set of Adam's tube core wicks which are pretty hefty wicks.

How is it ever possible to feel safe and secure in a world in which everyone dies?

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Pele
BRONZE Member since Dec 2000

Pele

the henna lady
Location: WNY, USA

Total posts: 6193
Posted:kmactane, the party was three days long but the bulk of the burning was saturday night. It was amazing. I think the handles took the biggest beating of all of the poi Adam donated. Like I said, if that chain could hold up to the ten burns in a span of a few hours then I think it should hold really well through over 40, for certain. (BTW, I use dog chains, have no arm strength but do okay. Think it might be the heft of the wicks that effects your gf??? That can be a real issue, especially after they are soaked.)
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------------------Pele Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir...


Pele
Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

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adamrice


adamrice

poo-bah
Location: Austin TX USA

Total posts: 1015
Posted:Kai--A lot of the other firespinners in Austin got into it as a result of Burning Man (surprise) 2 or 3 years ago. So they've probably been using ball-chain for some goodly fraction of that time.Some folks here use dog-chains too. Aside from weight, there are a couple problems with it: 1. it is so strong that it is hard to cut to a desired length--that strength is nice, but it is drastic overkill, and there's going to be a weak point somewhere else anyhow; 2. *if* you use the little spring-loaded latch thingy at the end as your wick attachment, you are begging for trouble. I've seen a wick shoot loose twice in one spin from those latches.

Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

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kmactane


member
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 97
Posted:Pele -- I don't think that's the problem. You may be using a different weight of chain than my friend Chris uses on his. (Those are the ones that my girlfriend Anne finds too heavy.) See below.Adam -- These are the kinds of chains that are pre-cut to a particular length and then have a single big ring at each end. Then Chris uses a carabiner or quick-link to attach to the swivels. The overall construction is incredibly solid. (This is another reason why Chris decided on these chains, despite their weight.) But your concern and your information about the unreliability of other linkages are well placed, and appreciated. Thanks.--Kai.

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Twist


member


Total posts: 160
Posted:I'd just like to echo that carbiners and other "press in" links can be scary... I too lost practice balls twice before i asked mine... if you get the right twist on your chains, the can press in on the link as firmly as your finger...

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