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Instructions for making fire spinning chains.

The basic idea: Fire spinning gear consists of two pieces of chain or metal cable of equal length, each with a wick attached to one end, and a grip at the other. Here I will describe exactly how my gear was constructed.

Wicks

Kevlar wicking is the best, because it does not disintegrate as it burns. Some people make their wicks out of cotton wrapped in a little cage of wire, but cotton falls apart, sending showers of flaming bits in all directions as you spin. I made my wicks like this:

For a single wick, use 4 feet of 2-inch-wide kevlar wicking. In the diagrams, the A and B mark the two ends to keep track of them as the wicking is folded.

_ _ ______________________ _ _ 
  A                          B
_ _ ______________________ _ _ 
Starting in the middle, fold it at a 45-degree angle.
_ _ _________
  A          |\
_ _ _________| \
             |  |
             |  |
             | B|
             .  .
             .  .
Fold the B end from bottom to top, going around back:
             .  .
             .  .
             | B|
_ _ _________|  |
  A          |\ |
_ _ _________|_\|
After the last step, the little 45-degree fold is still visible.
Then, fold the A end left to right, in front, over B:
             .  .
             .  .
             | B|
             |__|____ _ _
             |      A
             |_______ _ _
The 45-degree fold is now hidden between the two ends.
Fold the B end from top to bottom in front over A. All folding from this point takes place in front.
             ________ _ _ 
             |  |   A
             |  |_____ _ _
             |  |
             | B|
             .  .
             .  .
Keep folding, A right to left over B; B bottom to top over A, etc. until only an inch or two of wicking remains. Hide these ends by tucking them inside the last fold. You don't want stray ends sticking out. When you are done you will have a little rectangular stack of folded wicking a little taller than wide.

Each wick needs to have an eyebolt through it. I used 3/16" eyebolts, with shafts about 3" long. It might help to first drive a nail or an awl all the way through all the layers to make a hole. Then work the eyebolt through (the threads can work to your advantage in this, but it will take patience), and use a washer and an acorn nut to hold the wicking in place. It shouldn't be packed too tightly -- it needs to be able to absorb fuel. You can use Locktite on the nut to keep it from coming unscrewed while you are spinning.

Grips

Soft, medium-weight leather is recommended. Don't use something so lightweight it could tear with a strong tug. Cut 2 strips of leather, one inch wide and one foot long. In the center, cut a lengthwise slit 4 inches long. Punch two holes, one near each end.
   _______________________________
  |.         ____________        .|
  |_______________________________|
The holes should be centered, although my ascii character set doesn't show them that way. You can reinforce the holes with grommets if you want. Fold each piece in half (now it is 6 " long) and thread both holes (which should be next to each other now) onto a circular key ring.

To form a grip for your fingers, hold it so the key ring is down and the slit end is up. Grab both inner edges of the slit and turn each side up, over, and inside out, so that two loops are formed. (Ascii art, don't fail me now!)

 ____   <-     ->     
 | | |   /\   /\                
 | | |   \ \ / /    _____   _____                 
 | | |    | | |    / __\ \ / /__ \                    Side view:
 | | |    | | |    \/__|_ | _|__\/        ____       ___    ___
 | | |    | | |    \_____\|/_____/       / /\ \     /   \  /   \
 |   |    |   |        | \|/ |          / /  \ \   |     ||     |
 |   |    |   |        |  |  |         /_/    \_\   \__________/
 |   |    |   |        |     |           |    |          ||
 |   |    |   |        |     |           |    |          ||
 | . |    |   |        |  .  |           |  . |          || 
 |___|    |___|        |_____|           |____|          ||
                                        finished      finished
I feel most comfortable putting my middle and ring fingers through the two loops, with the chains going out from the back of the hand.

Chains

Ball chain (15 guage) is best, I think. You can also use lightweight linked chain, such as for a dog chain, but linked chain has a tendency to twist and tangle, something you want to avoid while twirling flaming balls. If you use ball chain, you will want to get 4 type A connectors to attach the ball chain to the other components. With linked chain, you don't need anything fancy; just connect to a link.

Start with pieces of chain about as long as your arm, shoulder to wrist. Attach the key rings on the grips to one end. You can also use key rings to attach the wick-eyebolts to the other end of the chain, but it's handy to use a quick-release mechanism there, such as a carabiner or a little D-ring with a screw closure. That way you can easily remove your wicks and/or add other interesting things to twirl, like glowsticks.

You will probably want your chains to be short enough so that the whole chain, including the wick, will pass comfortably under your arm (while your hands are wearing the grips) without hitting yourself in the torso. For most people, a little over a foot of chain is long enough. You can always cut the chain long, then adjust it as you figure out what is comfortable.

Practice chains

If you are making a set of chains just for practice, you might want to use something other than the wicks on the ends. You could try bean bags, stuffed animals, rubber balls, etc. For practice at night, attach glowsticks or photon lights. This can work for performance too, if you are in a place where you just can't light up.

Considerations

The heavier your wicks or weights are, the slower they will spin and the steadier they will feel. Also, the longer your chains are, the slower they will spin, giving you more time to react. However, heavy weights make you tire easily, and long chains are more prone to tangling; plus, there are certain moves you just can't do with chains that are past a certain length. I believe that practice with slightly lighter-weight, faster-spinning chains is a good thing -- if you feel steady with those, you will feel rock-solid with your heavier fire chains.

Materials list

OK. Here is a list of the materials used:
  • 2 4-foot lengths of kevlar wicking
  • 2 3/16" eyebolts, with shafts 3 inches long
  • 2 washers
  • 2 3/16" acorn nuts
  • 2 pieces of leather 1 inch wide by 12 inches long
  • 2 key rings
  • 2 carabiners, or D-rings with screw closure, or another 2 key rings.
  • 2 lengths of ball chain, 2 feet long or less. Regular linked chain will also do.
  • If you use ball chain, 4 type-A connectors.

Conclusions

Have fun! Read the stuff at Learning to spin fire if you don't already know how. Respect fire.

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