Materials Needed to Make Fireballs
- 2" x 5" strip of cotton cloth (like from a t-shirt)
- 100% cotton thread
- naphtha lighter fluid (e.g., Ronsonol™)
- match or lighter
- Thread the needle with 3-5' of cotton thread.
- Tightly roll the cotton strip into a ball.
- Pierce the ball with the needle and wrap the ball with the thread. End by running the needle through the ball one more time and break off the thread.
- Soak the ball with lighter fluid. Don't soak your hands.
- In the video, the guy lights the ball while he is holding it. Don't do that. Set the ball on a fire-proof surface. I used a frying pan from my kitchen.
- If you want to hold the fireball, my recommendation is to pick it up with tongs and carefully/slowly set it on your hand. That way you'll be able to tell if you can take the heat or not.
- It's important to use 100% cotton fabric and thread. If the fiber is synthetic (like nylon or polyester) it will burn or melt, with unpleasant consequences.
- The 'trick' to this demonstration is the fuel. It needs to be naphtha. The video tutorial, assuming it wasn't faked, used Ronsonol™. I used Zippo™ (not the butane stuff... read your ingredient list).
- It's pretty hard to blow the fireball out. You need to suffocate the flame to extinguish it. You can set a saucepan lid over the fireball.
- The fireballs are reusable. Put them out when they run out of fuel or else the cotton will burn (you can tell this is happening when the ball starts to blacken and produce sooty smoke). If you get to the point where the cotton itself is burning, the fireball will be too hot to hold. Ideally you want to extinguish the fireball before it consumes all of its fuel. Simply soak it in more lighter fluid and relight it to reuse it.
- Regarding holding these in your hand or doing tricks with them... I'm about as likely to hold one of these for an extended length of time as I am to walk barefoot across burning coals (not going to happen). The base of the fireball nominally is cool enough to touch, but my delicate writer-hands weren't up for the challenge. I don't know if it's that the Ronsonol™ burns a little cooler, the video was faked, or else you need callouses on your hands. I can confirm the tutorial makes an awesome fireball, but personally don't recommend juggling with the fireballs or twirling them between fingers. The cone of the flame is hot, especially above the ball, however, the fuel burns at a relatively low temperature. The flashpoint of Ronsonol™ brand of naphtha is 6°C or 43° F, with combustion mainly around 400°F. To put that in perspective, touching the fireball is a lot like touching a hot pizza right out of the oven (except without the sticky cheese part).
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Image: My fireball. Note that the cotton isn't charred. Also note I didn't take the photo of the fireball in my hand. (Anne Helmenstine)