As a fire performer, your props are the lifeblood of your art. Proper maintenance of these tools is critical, not only to ensure their longevity but also to guarantee your safety and the safety of your audience. This guide will help you understand the best practices for maintaining your fire props, whether they’re made with para-aramid fibers (often known as Kevlar) or a blend of fiberglass and para-aramid fibers. Props made with ceramic, cotton, or any other fibers are not recommended for the higher safety concerns involved
Before we dive into maintenance, it’s crucial to understand the materials commonly used in fire props. Para-aramid fibers, such as Kevlar, are often used due to their high heat resistance and durability. Some manufacturers blend these fibers with fiberglass for added heat resistance and durability. However, the blend may be less flexible than pure para-aramid fibers and can cause skin or respiratory irritation if small fibers become airborne. This is generally not a huge concern in most fire spinning scenarios but always handle your props with care, especially when they’re worn or damaged.
Proper fueling is the first step in maintaining your fire props. Before lighting, ensure the wicks are thoroughly and evenly soaked in an appropriate fuel. Dry spots can cause the wick to burn itself instead of the fuel, reducing its lifespan. Avoid using fuels that burn at excessively high temperatures or have corrosive properties, as these can damage your wicks over time. Refer to our Fire Safety guide for more information on fuel.
Over-burning occurs when the flame is allowed to burn until it extinguishes itself. This means the wick, not just the fuel, starts burning, which can lead to premature damage. To prevent over-burning, extinguish the flame before the fuel is completely burned off. Some props might not be able to be extinguished very easily or safely without letting the flame extinguish itself.
After a burn, allow your wicks to cool down completely before touching or packing them away. Storing hot wicks can cause unnecessary wear and tear. This is also important so any residual fuel evaporates before packing them in their covers or bags. Store your props in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to prevent the degradation of the materials.
Regularly inspect your props for signs of wear and tear, such as fraying wicks or broken parts. If a wick is severely damaged, replace it immediately to prevent potential safety risks. Some types of frays can be repaired with kevlar thread and sewing. If you are inexperienced in doing so, please contact us or your prop’s original manufacturer for advice.
Cleaning wicks is generally not needed or recommended. The only time this might be a good idea or necessary is if you’re trying to travel by plane with your props and need to ensure they are clean and that they do not smell of any fuel.
To clean your wicks, wipe them gently with a clean rag and warm water. Make sure to use rags that you wouldn’t mind turning black from soot and dirt. Place your props in a well ventilated area that is ideally not in sunlight. Ensure they are completely dry before storing or using them again.
Avoid dragging your fire prop wicks across rough surfaces like concrete to prevent unwanted damage. When performing, it’s crucial to stay mindful of your surroundings to avoid interactions with any harsh surfaces. Practicing on softer grounds like grass and using wick covers can help extend the life of your wicks. Additionally, consider having a separate set of practice props specifically for trying out new techniques. This strategy can further protect your main fire props and extend their usable life-span.
Taking care of knotted wick fire props is largely similar to maintaining other fire props, with just a few extra considerations. While these knots are usually tightly secured, it’s best to avoid pulling on any strands or fiddling with the knots. This practice not only keeps them intact but also extends their overall lifespan.
Proper maintenance of your fire props is essential for the longevity of your tools and the safety of the performer, audience, and environment. Regular inspection, correct fueling, and proper storage can go a long way in preserving the life of your props. Always remember that the art of fire performance requires respect for the fire and the tools you use. Stay safe, and keep the flame alive!