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How to Maintain Fire Prop Wicks

Momo Bonobo

bonobo flow isis fire rope dart

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 the safety of you and the audience. This guide will help you understand the best practices for maintaining your fire props.

Understanding Your Fire Props

Before we dive into maintenance, it’s crucial to understand the materials commonly used in fire props. Wicking is made of para-aramid fibers, such as Kevlar, which are often used due to their high heat resistance and durability. Some manufacturers blend these fibers with fiberglass for added heat resistance and core strength. 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 scenarios but always handle your props with care, especially when they’re worn or damaged.

Some props from different countries come with wicks made of different materials such as ceramic. Many of these alternatives are used because they are cheaper, but they carry bigger health risks compared to para-aramids. For fire spinning purposes, I do not recommend any other type of wicking other than the para-aramid we call Kevlar.

Soaking the Wicks Properly

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. You don’t have to soak the wicks in fuel for very long. As long as the wick is evenly saturated on all of its surface area, it should be a quick dip (or pour over).

Avoid using fuels that burn at excessively high temperatures or have corrosive properties, as these can damage your wicks over time. The only place fuel should go is on wick, so be careful not to wet an leashes or tethers.

Preventing Over-Burning

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, so the kevlar might degrade more quickly compared to other fire props.

Cooling Down and Storage​

After a burn, allow your wicks to cool down completely before touching or packing them away. The metal hardware around wicks in many props can cause serious burns as well. Storing hot wicks can cause unnecessary wear and tear on your storage vessel as well. Store your props in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to prevent the degradation of the materials.

It’s also important to allow any residual fuel to evaporate before packing them into their covers or bags. Covers and bags will absorb the fumes and become more flammable. This is especially important for rope props, as the leashes and tethers can absorb the fumes and light on fire next time you fire spin with them.

Regular Inspection and Cleaning​

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 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 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 direct sunlight. Ensure they are completely dry before storing or using them again.

Avoiding Unnecessary Damage​

Avoid dragging your fire prop wicks across rough surfaces like concrete or asphalt to prevent unnecessary 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.

Spinning near bodies of water poses the risk of your fire prop getting submerged if they are dropped. This is generally not recommended, but if your props get soaked than just let them air dry in a well ventilated area not in direct sunlight.

Knotted Wicks​

Taking care of knotted wick fire props is 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. Refer to our post about the differences between flat wick props and knotted wick props.

Conclusion

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. Refer to our Fire Safety guide before spinning fire to learn basic fire safety principles. Stay safe, and keep the flame alive!