Fire Wick Maintenance
PROTECTING YOUR WICKS
The material in your fire wicks is designed to withstand very high temperatures, but their fibres are vulnerable to abrasions and tears. Avoid dropping them on rough surfaces and use heat resistant cases, tins or covers when transporting your equipment.
QUICK TIP: Keep your equipment safely stored away, when possible, during a fire jam – it prevents accidental burns, protects your equipment and helps to contain any residual smoke or fumes from hot wicks.
Having the right practice equipment allows you to save your wicks for fire spinning only and will prolong their lifespans considerably. When choosing your practice or daytime props, try and match their size and weight to your fire toys to help you transition smoothly between them.
FUELLING YOUR WICKS
In South Africa, paraffin is the most common fuel but it isn’t the only option. We strongly recommend you read up about fire dancing fuel, including paraffin, in order to stay safe when spinning.
Different fuels also affect fire wicks differently. For example, fuels that are naphtha or alcohol based have higher burning temperatures which can shorten the lifespan of your wicks – but they do have very clean flames so the trade-off might be worth it for you.
Paraffin can be bought at most grocery and hardware stores – it’s cheap and relatively safe but still comes with its warnings.
QUICK TIP: Avoid excessive skin contact with your fuel by choosing an appropriate container and/or method for dipping your fire wicks.
How Much Fuel?
All fire wicks are made from a composite fabric that allows absorption of fuel while still being heat resistant. You’ll be surprised to see how little fuel your wicks actually require to burn for a sufficient amount of time. Why not experiment by pouring small quantities of fuel onto your wicks and timing how long the fuel burns for? This will help you use just the right amount and avoid unnecessary fuel spray off
QUICK TIP: If you’re submerging your wicks in fuel, watch the bubbles: once they stop your wick has absorbed as much fuel as possible (probably even a little more than you need).
Spray Off the Excess Fuel!
You’re bound to absorb more fuel than you need, so plan how to get it off your fire wicks before lighting them. Some equipment can be spun off into containers while other wicks need a ‘squeeze cloth’ to soak up the excess fuel that would otherwise fly off when spinning.
There are, however, techniques to deliberately spray off excess fuel when burning to create ‘balls of flame’ effects – practice these without fire first!!
QUICK TIP: Every fuel is poisonous in some way to plant and animal life: be conscious of your impact on your environment.
BURNING YOUR WICKS
Check your equipment before lighting: Any loose parts or damaged wick that could fly off?
Move away from your fuelling station before lighting your wicks.
Extinguish your wicks by blowing them out or suffocating them in a wet blanket (watch out for steam!), fire blanket or underneath sand.
You’ll quickly notice that the fabric wick isn’t the hot, dangerous part – it’s the metal hardware near the flames that are the very hot parts that can easily burn you. After spinning, this hot metal is still a danger to you, your fellow spinners and the plastic/rubber parts of your equipment and cases – be careful where you put your hot wicks!
QUICK TIP: Stop your wicks from smoking as soon as possible after your fire is out: the smoke is noxious and the smouldering heat inside your wicks causes unnecessary damage.
How to stop the smouldering and smoking:
- Suffocate the wicks in a closed container (keep finger loops away from the hot parts!)
- Allow the wicks a moment to cool down before dipping them back into the paraffin
Some people insist on redipping wicks after burning to keep the wick fabric moist and malleable (instead of dry and brittle) while others avoid soaking up and then storing any excess fuel.