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Fireball Instructions

Fireballs You Can Hold in Your Hand

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One secret of success is to hold the fireball in the palm of your hands.

One secret of success is to hold the fireball in the palm of your hands, moving it from one hand to another to keep from getting burned. The flame of the fireball is much hotter than its base.

Henrik Sorensen, Getty Images You can produce a flame cool enough to hold in your hand.

You can produce a flame cool enough to hold in your hand.

Henrik Sorensen, Getty Images This is a close-up of a fireball.

This is a close-up of a fireball.

Anne Helmenstine

Fire is made up of light and heated gases from combustion. You can control the temperature of fire by selecting a fuel that burns with a cool flame. If you pour the fuel onto a substance that won't burn, you can make a fireball that you can hold in your hand or juggle. Here are written instructions for making your own handheld fireballs. There is also a step-by-step video tutorial of this fire project if you would like see what to expect.

Materials Needed to Make Fireballs

  • 2" x 5" strip of cotton cloth (like from a t-shirt)
  • 100% cotton thread
  • needle
  • naphtha lighter fluid (e.g., Ronsonol™)
  • match or lighter
How to Make a Fireball
  • Thread the needle with 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.
     
  • Don't ignite the the fireball while you are holding it. 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. Once you gain some confidence, you can pick the fireball up using your fingers.

     

Safety & Additional Information
  • It's best to use 100% cotton fabric and thread. If the fiber is synthetic (like nylon or polyester) it might burn or melt, with unpleasant consequences.
     
  • The 'trick' to this demonstration is the fuel. It needs to be naphtha or kerosene. I have had good luck with Ronsonol™ and Zippo™ (not the butane stuff... read your ingredient list). Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) works, but it burns a little hotter.
     
  • It's pretty hard to blow the fireball out. You either need to blow hard or else 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... 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).

Fireballs are great fun to make, but like all fire projects, use proper safety precautions and common sense. Don't get burned or set your house or yard on fire. This is a project which requires adult supervision.

Try Another Fire Project

 

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