Simple Cheap Pyro Igniters

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Introduction: Simple Cheap Pyro Igniters

These are extremely easy to make, very cheap and very effective. They work with any voltage battery and are easy to mass produce.

Step 1: Get the Stuff

You will need:
-Matches
-Nichrome Wire - see note
-Some sort of flammable glue (I don't use CA glue because it's too good; can stick ya fingers together)
-Wire cutters
-Random bits of (something) to rest them on while the glue dries

Note: Nichrome wire can be expensive if bought as nichrome wire. I get it as heating element. These are for old kettles and can be found at hardware stores. I got two for $0.50 at a garage sale.
Each element should give you 30-50 igniters.

Step 2: Nichrome Wire

You need to get the wire off the roll and straight.
First, obviously, open the bag. Then take the legs off the ceramic plate. This just makes handling it easier. (You may need a screwdriver and or pliers to undo the mounting bolts)
Then, straighten one end of the wire, to thread it back through the hole it's coming through.
You should end up with something like the fourth picture.
DON'T take all the wire off the ceramic thing. It gets VERY tangled.
After this, stretch out about one length of the wire. By this I mean one of the lengths between each side of the ceramic thing, half a wrap. See the fourth and fifth images.
Now cut pieces of the straight wire, about 7~10 cm. I can make do with 7 cm but 10 is easier to work with, and gives more room for attaching wires (from the battery) to the ends of the nichrome wire. Do this for as many igniters as you want to make.

Step 3: Match Preparation

Using the wire cutters, cut each match about 2~3 mm down from the head. If you cut it closer the head material can fall off. This is obviously no use.
Do this for as many igniters as you want to make.

Step 4: Wrapping the Match Heads

OK, here's where it all comes together.
Take a piece of nichrome wire and a match head.
First, position the match head about a third of the way down the wire. Wrap the wire around the match tightly, just below the match material. This makes sure the match can't fall out the bottom.
Then, wrap the wire two more times (the same way) around the match material. I like to do the last one a lot smaller and at the top of the match head, so it can't fall out there either.
Repeat for as many as you want to make.

Step 5: Glue Them

This is one thing that wasn't part of my original design. I added it to add rigidity and make the igniters stronger, and less likely to fall apart.
This can be done without getting glue on your fingers, but it's rather hard.
Apply a SMALL amount of glue, using the glue's nozzle. You want a blob a little smaller than the match head, then pick it up by the wires and move it around to get the glue to cover the entire wire wrapped match head. You don't need to cover the little bit of stick that is there.
My glue moves lethargically slowly so I find it easier to pick it up in my fingers and use them to spread the glue. This is why I don't use a CA glue.

Step 6: Dry Them & You're Done!

That's just about it. Once you get to here, you can set the one you just made up to dry and start mass producing! It does get faster and easier.
I leave them overnight to dry, usually, but don't feel you have to. About an hour is sufficient, depending on your glue. Just don't use them while the glue is wet or you'll have burning glue dripping everywhere.
Go and enjoy your pyro!

Step 7: Delay

Nichrome igniters have a reputation for having an annoying delay. I will admit that they do, but mine are very predictable, and many pyro substances have a delay of their own.
The delay is also dependant on the battery you use to ignite them. Using a couple of AA's or even an 9 volt will not be as fast as my 12 volt battery, because it doesn't heat up as fast. Higher voltage means the wire gets hotter faster, and that sets the match head off sooner.
Don't go using a capacitor or something, to get like 350 volts, though. It needs to be on for more than the fraction of a second capacitor discharge to heat up the wire.
I really recommend using a 12 volt battery. If you can afford two to make 24 volts, even better. Pro pyros use 24 volts like this.
Here's a video to show you.
By the way, the second click from the switch is when the contacts close, so it's only about 0.6 second delay.

Please don't complain about delays with these igniters. They are very safe. If you have to wait more than 5 seconds I'd say it's time to pull the plug or you might fry your wiring.
Remember to always take safety precautions and keep a fire extinguisher handy!

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    111 Comments

    For the nicrome wire, could you use the heating coil of an old hair dryer? Or could you use one of those space heater things?

    1 reply

    Yes you can, but the thicker the nichrome, the more it takes to heat up

    Could you use the filament of a dead light bulb as the heating part?

    Nice instructable.  It sounds a lot easier and safer than the alternate Christmas light igniters.  
    p.s., it might not be a bad idea to invest in a camera with macro settings, at least if you plan on doing more instructables.  

    You could replace the nichrome with a bit of steel wool.

    1 reply

    This has been discussed. It works, sometimes, and not as well. :)
    However i'm going to completely re-make this 'ible in a few weeks with a new design.

    I counted 9 match heads... yep your ready to go into mass production

    2 replies

    What? I simply produced a small run for the instructable as I did not need any more... Comments like yours boggle me. Just because they can be mass produced, does not mean I have to, or anybody does.

    Sorry im just joking around

    can u use a single wire from speaker wire?

    Nice work! Id work on the pictures though, use your Macro setting. -PKT

    1 reply

    Hah. That was ages ago - only had a crappy phone camera. I'll re-do this sometime with better pictures and more detail, but I'm working on a new 'ible at the moment.

    Interesting article. I'm a little upset regarding how you speak of increasing the voltage to create a hotter wire. Unfortunately that is not completely true. My background is electrical engineering and I just can't let this one go. You see electricity is two parts, both voltage potential and current flow. The heat produced by any electrical device is due to a current flow. End of story. The relation is V=IR so if you use a wire with a higher resistance such as nichrome wire the I = V/R your current is actually less than if you used something such as copper. So in order to improve that and have a higher current flow you either have to buy a less resistive nichrome wire or step up the voltage.

    The reason you would not get very good results from a small 9V battery is because it is current limited. Not because it is not enough voltage. Those small 9Vs are actually many 1.5 cells stacked together. The current you can draw from it is very small do to a limitation in the design and it is usually just 630 or so mAh. That is why when people try to test the battery by short circuiting it with their tongue they feel a tingle and don't die. However if you tried to lick the battery terminals of a 6V lantern battery you will feel it. The battery has a much higher mAh rating and it can sink a lot more current, so don't start licking it. Car batteries also provide a high current and that is why they are great as a rocket igniter.

    You're article and comments makes a few bold claims and statements. I think that is the reason why there are so many flames. Unfortunately the anarchist cookbook is about as reliable as wikipedia for a source of validity. Otherwise its not too bad.

    7 replies

    Bah. You just contradicted your own reason for writing this. I appreciate it when ppl take the time to write something this in-depth, though. You say: "I'm a little upset regarding how you speak of increasing the voltage to create a hotter wire. Unfortunately that is not completely true." then later, "So in order to improve that and have a higher current flow you either have to buy a less resistive nichrome wire or step up the voltage." Step up the voltage. Exactly. And I never said the anarchist cookbook was reliable. I am aware of the difference in the amperage available from different batteries, and the current I can get from my 12v deep cycle is over 20 amps, ideally. However it takes some significant load to do this. I haven't tested the current it puts through nichrome wire, yet. Also I do try simply to be accurate and helpful to the best of my knowledge.

    20 amps? you do realize that a half of an ampere is enough to kill a man?

    Actually, It's 15 amps...

    It can produce way more than that. A car battery produces around 300 amps to start the engine. However, I can hold the terminals of my battery and not feel a thing, as it is only at most, 14 volts.

    it's not the voltage that kills you. it is the amperage.

    Well i know that. A handful of milliamps through the heart is enough to kill someone. I think it's something in the order of 6 mA, but I may be wrong. My point is, it' the voltage that makes your skin conduct. skin is not a very good conductor so below a certain voltage you can hold both terminals and not feel a thing. And I have no idea what that threshold voltage is, it probably varies. Moisture makes a difference. That's why licking a 9V battery makes a tingle. disclaimer: Don't do that. You can certainly touch a 12v battery but dont go blaming me if you're dumb enough to try with mains voltage. :P

    i liked a 9 volt battery awhile ago. not doing that again. why did I do it? lets just say I was very, VERY bored.