I used to perform magic shows at children's birthday parties, and other events, from approx age 8 to 16. This gave me an ideal semi-professional outlet to integrate my deviant teenage pyrotechnic tendencies. Over the years I've built laser guided shoulder-fired missiles, modified paintball guns to shoot exploding bullets, designed micro-wrist strapped flamethrowers and rocket launchers, and done many other kooky things that are probably best left off this page. Anyway, one pyro staple of the magicians trade is known as flash-paper. This is a tissue paper dipped in a solution of fuming nitric and sulfuric acids, then dried out looking quite normal. The beauty of flash paper is that it ignites rather easily, and burns almost instantaneously, with little heat, leaving no residue. What this means, is that you can have explosions in your hands, and create other cool pyro FX that are safe for indoors, easy to setup and integrate into your performance, and quite cheap to pull off.

One technique I currently use, is wrist launched fireballs. This is achieved by taking a length of copper water pipe, approx 1/2 an inch in diameter, & 5 inches long, soldering a cap on one end, and drilling an 1/8 of an inch hole through the cap on the side of the pipe. Then a glowplug is inserted ( these can be obtained for under $5 at your local hobby store ), and it is wired to a 9 volt battery and a switch of your choice, dependent on the application. You then take 1/2 a sheet of flash paper ( it costs $1 per sheet ), crumple it into a ball, and stuff it to the bottom of the pipe. You are now ready for launch. When the glowplug is energized, it will ignite the flashpaper, which has nowhere to go except out the open end of the tube. This results in a high speed fireball that travels 25 feet or so ( use less paper for less distance, etc ), and when done burning in approx 1-3 seconds, it leaves no ash, and the effect is complete. It is generally good to build small arrays of flashtubes, with a launch pattern to send criss-crossing fireballs on an upwardly diagonal arc over the heads of the audience, so the fireball consumes itself before reaching the audience. You'll have to experiment a bit before the show to get it right.

If the ceilings are low, you could always try building flash pots instead, or just use them to augment your other pyro effects. Flashpots are essentially as simple as an empty coffee can, with a glowplug in the bottom, or alternatively, a piece of steel-wool stretched across two bolts to act as your ignitor. You can construct a tall slender tubed pot, to create a nuclear "mushroom cloud" blast, when combined with a small amount of magnesium powder or the like. Always a bit of good fun, and works well connected to a footswitch.

I will write more pyro tips and tricks in the near future. Keep safe!
If you prefer to purchase professionally built pyrotech, check out TheatreFX for a wide array of wicked products!

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