Introduction: Firenado Lamp
There are quite a few videos of fire tornadoes (fire whirls) on the internet. People use various mechanical devices to get the fire to spin, but in one video, instead of machinery they used a glass cylinder, cut in half. When the two halves of the cylinder were together a tin of burning alcohol just burned as it would in open air. But when the two halves were off-set slightly, the air coming in from each side made the fire spin. The effect was very dramatic: instant firenado.
I tried bending Plexiglas to reproduce the effect, but with poor results. After a number of failures, I had a sudden realization: as long as the air comes in from opposite sides, it shouldn’t matter what the shape of the chimney is. Using rectangular pieces of glass would be easy, and it would also allow the chimney parts to be folded up for easy storage. The final Firenado Lamp design is simple and easy to assemble, a portable firenado that will brighten up any outdoor event during these long winter nights.
The lamp consists of three basic parts: a wooden base, a chimney made from two pairs of glass rectangles in an “L” shape, and a ceramic bowl to hold the burning alcohol. If it is not sufficiently obvious, let me state at the outset that burning liquid is inherently dangerous. It has to be handled like a pet rattlesnake, with extreme caution. At the end of this instructable, there is a list of safety precautions that (if followed) can help prevent property damage and or serious injury. This project can bring lots of oohs and aahs, but the consequences of misuse can be severe. This is not a toy, and it should only be used under sober adult supervision. You have been warned.
Tools Used: Table Saw, Power Miter Saw, Dremel Tool with Router Attachment, or Router with Plunge Base, Orbital Sander, Utility Knife, Roller, Straight Edge, Air Compressor (not all are required).
Chimney: Tempered Glass: 4 pieces (1/8th-inch thick), 6-inches by 18-inches; Clear Caulking Tape -(3-feet).
Wooden Base: Oak 3/4-inch thick, 7 1/4-inch wide by 8 1/2-inches long; Emery Board, Sandpaper, Sealer, Brush.
Burner: Ceramic Incense burner.
Step 1: Making the Base (First Method)
For the base, I used ¾-Inch thick lumber that comes about 7 1/2-inches wide (sold as 1 X 8 but may be as narrow as 7 1/4-inches). Start by cutting a piece of lumber (I’m using red oak) 8 1/2-inches long.
There are a couple of different ways to make grooves that will hold the glass pieces securely.
The first method is to use a router or Dremel tool with a 3/16ths-inch bit to make a single groove running around all four sides of the base, about a half-inch of from the edge of the piece. I'm making several of these as gifts, so I built a jig to hold the base base piece, with “rails” around all four sides so that the router could be run around the sides of the base, being held firmly up against the rails on each side. It is best to make this half-inch deep groove by making two passes, each removing about a quarter-inch of wood. Note, the router will work best if you follow the rails in a clockwise direction, as it is more difficult to hold the router up against the rails if you go in the counter clockwise direction.
If I was only making one or two of these, I think I would have preferred using my Dremel tool instead of the big router with the plunge base. The plunge base allows you to cut the groove to the total depth in two steps without having to stop and make a depth adjustment. But the downside was that I had to to stop and re-position the tool a couple of times because my router's plunge base is not actually round. I ended up wasting a couple of pieces of wood because I forgot to stop and change the position of the router.
I think the rotary-cut grooves look cleaner than the through-cut grooves I made on the table saw, but it is also a little more tricky fitting the glass pieces into the grooves. Once the grooves are completed, sand the piece and apply a coat of your favorite wood sealer (I’m using urethane). I used an emery board to sand the grooves, and sanded the entire base with a couple of different grits of sand paper. If you need more information about sanding and applying sealer, you've co me to the wrong maker. Sanding and applying sealer is not my favorite part of any project, so I didn’t take pictures of these steps.
To complete the lamp base you can add feet underneath. I like using these peel-and-stick felt furniture floor protectors, but you can also use the little cork pads that come with the tempered glass. Just use a bit of double-sided tape to attach the cork squares to the base.
Step 2: Making the Base (Second Method)
The second method for making the grooves for the glass to fit into is to use a table saw. Set the depth of the blade to about a half inch, and set the fence to cut grooves about a half-inch in from the edges of the piece. Make these cuts around all four sides of the piece, and then adjust the fence about 1/16-inch and repeat the same four cuts to make the grooves wide enough for the glass. You can make the grooves wider, if you like, to make it easier to set the glass in place.
If you make the distance between the grooves six-inches wide, you can fit a six-inch tile inside. If you're going to burn fuel in metal cans, you will want to have a tile of some kind underneath the can.
Step 3: Making the Glass Chimney
I highly recommend using tempered glass for this project. Prices vary widely, so call around to check prices before ordering the glass. You will need four pieces of 1/8th-inch thick tempered glass 6-inches by 18-inches.
The glass can be taped together with clear duct tape, but I prefer the clear caulking tape, which is much thicker. This tape comes in 2-inch width. Cut this tape into two strips (one wider than the other) to make the hinge parts. The outside piece needs to be about a quarter of an inch wider than the inside piece because the outside piece needs to wrap around the edge of the two pieces of glass.
So, one strip needs to be about 1 1/8-inches wide, and the other piece needs to be about 7/8-inch wide. This allows the two pieces of tape to cover the hinge with about a half-inch of overlap on each side of the glass.
The two pieces of glass need to be aligned with a straight edge, and the inside (narrow) strip of tape is attached first. This caulking tape is a little tricky to work with. I had best results by cutting a strip of tape a little longer than 18-inches, and attaching the tape to a piece of textured plastic (other material may also work). This allows me to cut the tape neatly with a straight edge. After the first piece of tape (for the inside hinge), is affixed to the glass, press out any bubbles. Bubbles that get stuck can be pierced with the tip of a knife. Fold the two pieces of glass , and press the hinge firmly. Place the hinge side of the two pieces at the edge of the work bench, and attach the wider piece of tape to the top side of the hinge, being careful to align the edge of the tape with the edge of the tape on the inside of the hinge. Press out any bubbles, and carefully wrap the tape around the double edge, flip the glass pieces over, and finish pressing the tape to the other side of the hinge. Trim the ends of the inner and outer pieces of tape about a half-inch from the ends of the glass. This should remove finger prints and allow the glass to fit into the grooves without sticking.
Step 4: Burner and Fuel
The lamp is essentially done. You only need a fire-proof container to hold the burning fuel. Note, the height of the flame is directly proportional to the diameter of the dish. I recommend using nothing with a diameter greater than three inches in this lamp. I like these relatively inexpensive (under $10) incense burners, there are many sources online and prices vary. Note: the glass will get hot, but generally not too hot to touch. This is one reason I don't recommend a larger burner for this size lamp. If you use a metal container (a can), make sure you put a piece of tile or something under the can to avoid burning the wood.
For fuel, I recommend burning isopropyl alcohol (available in most grocery stores). This alcohol is available in various percentages, with 91% being the usual choice. Even 70% Isopropyl alcohol will work, but it will leave unburned liquid behind. Isopropyl alcohol up to 99% is available in some areas.
Another option is to use “sterno” gel fuel that comes in cans. Depending on the size of the opening in the can, you may need to use a can opener to remove the top of the can so that the fire can get enough air. There are various types of sterno fuel, and I have not tested many of them to see which ones work best. Be aware that pure ethanol and methanol burn blue—in daylight the flame may be invisible, and in the dark, it doesn’t give off much light. You can add a bit of salt water to the alcohol fuel to make the flame burn yellow.
NOTE: DO NOT USE A GLASS CONTAINER OF ANY KIND TO BURN THE FUEL. If the container breaks while the fire is burning, you will have burning liquid flowing out of the lamp. Do not risk burning your house down or injuring people. Please use common sense. Read and follow the safety precautions at the end of this instructable.
I have found 91% isopropyl alcohol (available at the grocery store) to be the best fuel. I do not recommend mixing chemicals with the fuel. Just use good judgment and enjoy the wonderful light this lamp gives. The whirlwind of fire will last for about fifteen minutes, or longer if you use a container with a smaller opening..
Step 5: Scaling Up
If you are wondering whether this lamp enclosure would scale up, the answer is yes. I made a larger version of the Firenado Lamp using 11-inch wide board for the base and 9-inch by 36-inch glass. The lamp works the same way, and you can use a larger burner to make a three-foot flame. This one puts out a truly stunning flame, but I wouldn't use it indoors.
I have tried different widths for the air inlet gap between the glass chimney parts. The lamp will operate with a range of opening sizes; I settled on using a 7/8ths-inch gap between the glass chimney parts. This seems to allow plenty of air, and the gap is wide enough to insert a long lighter or match so you can light the lamp after the glass pieces are in place.
Step 6: Infinite Possibilities
Do you want an infinity firenado? With the simple addition of a couple of pieces of see-through-mirror window film, applied to opposite sides, you cann make the Firenado Lamp into an infinity lamp. I bought scraps of some high quality mirror window film from a company that installs that stuff on buildings. It's not at all difficult to put on, but to make it look nice you need to avoid getting any dust between the film and the glass. The best tip I found for doing this was to spray water (with or without a bit of soap) on the film as you pull the backing piece away from the film. The film has electrostatic qualities that attract dust, so this additional bit of effort, just prior to applying the film, is really worth the effort. I cut the pieces to fit before removing the backing. Make allowances for the hinge, and do not extend to film all the way to the bottom edge of the glass. Otherwise, the film will catch on the wood as you slide the glass into the grooves in the base.
Be sure to put the film on the outside of the glass chimney pieces. That way you can clean off any soot from the inside without scratching the film.
In all honesty, I don't care for the infinity mirror effect on this lamp. The flame itself is visually stunning, and the infinity mirror effect is limited to a narrow field of view. When people crowd around, the mirror film detracts from the effect. Also, it does dim the light a bit and can be blurry if you don't buy high quality ($$) film and apply it perfectly. Still, if that's your cup of tea, by all means fulfill your heart's desire.
Step 7: Other Colors
Regular isopropyl alcohol produces a nice yellow flame. Other types of alcohol, ethanol or methanol (available from paint stores or automotive parts stores), burn with a blue flame. This doesn't give off much light, but because the flame is almost invisible, you can add things like boric acid (sold as roach control powder) to produce a green flame. This picture doesn't do it justice, in the large lamp, this looks like the Minas Morgul beacon from the Lord of The Rings Movie. You can also mix roach powder with the methanol gel in cans of Sterno to get this effect, but be aware that the gel will turn to liquid if you do this, be careful not to slosh it out of the can.
Supposedly, lithium from batteries will make bright red fire. I don't know a safe way to extract lithium from batteries, so I don't recommend doing that.
You can find information about various ways to make colored fire from the internet. Some of these materials will leave a sooty residue on the glass, that you'll need to clean off when you're done. All of them likely produce toxic gasses that you would not want to breathe, so if you experiment with coloring the flame, be sure to find a reliable source of information, and do it outdoors (standing on the upwind side).
Step 8: Making It Portable
Since this is a nice thing to bring to parties, I made a bag to carry the lamp parts and fuel. The bag is actually two pockets, with a third pocket sewn to the outside. The main bag is just a piece of canvas, folded to make two six-inch deep pockets (for the chimney parts). Sewn to the outside of this, is a simple pocket made from a piece of canvas with two boxed corners. The bottom and sides of the outer pocket are sewn to edges of the main bag to hold the lamp base, burner, fuel, and lighter.
I inherited a bolt of this thick cotton duck canvas (36-inches wide). The main bag is just a 21-inch length of this canvas, folded (accordion style) to make two, six-inch deep pockets, with the finished edge of the material on the front and back sides. The two pockets take up two feet of material, leaving an extra foot of material to fold over for the flap. I cut a second piece of material 27 1/2-inches wide, and 12 -inches long, with the finished edge on the long side. Box the bottom corners by cutting out squares of material three-inches in from the bottom corners. Sew the three-inch cuts together with a half-inch seam, and sew the bottom edge to the bottom of the outside pocket of the main bag, and sew the sides of the pocket to the side seams of the main pocket. Add a strap to the outside edges (I found some cheap seatbelt material at a surplus store), and a small strip of the same material to hold the outer pocket three-inches wide at the middle, and you're done. If folks are interested I can do an instructable for the next bag I make.
Step 9: Safety Precautions
FIRENADO LAMP SAFETY
WARNING before lighting this lamp, read and follow these safety precautions.
This is not a toy. It is not suitable for use by minors. This lamp runs on burning alcohol fuel. Burning liquid can be dangerous, and this lamp should only be used by responsible individuals. Care should be taken not to move or bump the lamp (or the surface it is sitting on) from the time the flame is lit until the lamp has cooled down.
IF THE FUEL CONTAINER SPILLS OR BREAKS, BURNING LIQUID WILL FLOW OUT OF THE LAMP AND THE FIRE WILL SPREAD CAUSING PROPERTY DAMAGE, INJURY, AND POSSIBLY DEATH. THEREFORE, AT ALL TIMES WHEN THE LAMP IS LIT, AND UNTIL THE LAMP HAS COOLED COMPLETELY, THE LAMP MUST BE OPERATED UNDER THE CLOSE SUPERVISION BY A RESPONSIBLE ADULT.
NOTE, WHEN LIT, THE GLASS AND THE FIRE BOWL WILL BECOME VERY HOT. ONCE LIT, THE LAMP SHOULD NOT BE TOUCHED UNTIL IT HAS COOLED COMPLETELY.
BEFORE LIGHTING LAMP, BE CERTAIN THAT A WORKING FIRE EXTINGUISHER IS ON HAND.
THE LAMP IS COMPOSED OF FOUR PARTS, THE LAMP BASE, THE TWO FOLDING GLASS CHIMNEY PARTS, AND THE FIRE BOWL.
PLACE THE LAMP BASE ON A STABLE AND LEVEL SURFACE, ONE THAT WILL NOT MOVE IF BUMPED.
PLACE THE FIRST PAIR OF GLASS CHIMNEY PARTS INTO TWO OF THE GROOVES IN THE LAMP BASE.
PLACE THE FIRE BOWL ON THE LAMP BASE, TAKING CARE TO PLACE IT AS NEARLY AS POSSIBLE IN THE CENTER OF THE LAMP BASE.
POUR 91% ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL FUEL IN THE FIRE BOWL, FILLING THE BOWL ABOUT HALF FULL
WIPE UP ANY SPILLED FUEL AND PROPERLY DISPOSE OF THE WIPES BEFORE LIGHTING THE LAMP
PLACE THE OTHER PAIR OF GLASS CHIMNEY PARTS INTO THE OTHER SET OF GROOVES IN THE LAMP BASE.
USE A LONG MATCH OR A BARBECUE LIGHTER TO LIGHT THE LAMP THROUGH THE OPENING BETWEEN THE GLASS PANELS.
ENSURE THAT ALL INDIVIDUALS STAND A SAFE DISTANCE FROM THE LAMP BEFORE LIGHTING
ONCE THE LAMP IS LIT,
ENSURE THAT THE LAMP AND THE SURFACE THE LAMP IS ON ARE NOT BUMPED OR JOSTLED WHILE THE FIRE IS BURNING.
DO NOT REMOVE THE GLASS CHIMNEY PARTS UNTIL THE FIRE HAS BURNED OUT AND THE LAMP HAS COOLED.
NEVER ATTEMPT TO ADD FUEL UNTIL THE FIRE HAS BURNED OUT COMPLETELY AND THE FIRE BOWL IS HAS COOLED.
DO NOT USE OTHER FUELS IN THE LAMP.. USE ONLY ALCOHOL BASED FUEL.
DO NOT USE A GLASS CONTAINER TO BURN FUEL IN THE LAMP, NO MATTER HOW THICK THE GLASS IS. GLASS CAN BREAK, RESULTING IN BURNING FUEL FLOWING OUT OF THE LAMP.
BE SAFE - HAVE FUN - AND ENJOY
Second Prize in the
Make it Glow Contest