Introduction: Mini Burning Man Home Burn Kit

Burning Man, like most in-person events, was canceled this year. Sure, there are plenty of online opportunities to participate (eight Recognized Universes in the Burning Man Multiverse) and even a virtual Black Rock City Temple. Knowing the talented people who make up the Burning Man community, I am sure these will be cutting edge and amazing experiences. Let's face it though, there is no substitute for an in person event. Who really likes remote learning with Zoom or fooling around on Naked Skype? (don't worry, that link won't take you to a bunch of middle age nudists; its a very funny song by John Craigie, a long time Burner who also happens to have a funny Burning Man song). The reason people have such a hard time explaining what Burning Man to those who have never been is because it is something you have to experience for yourself, in the heat and dust with the non-stop sounds and sights assaulting your senses. And, you need to experience it with other people, preferably open-minded camp mates who enjoy blinky lights and fire, lots of fire. Over the years, I've been fortunate to camp with a great group who make the event memorable every year. They live all around the West Coast while I moved back East several years ago, so I will not even be able to commiserate in person.

That is why I decided to make the Mini Burning Man Home Burn Kit and ship them out to my friends. It is a great way to extend the gifting culture of Burning Man while also providing a means to see the Man burn other than on a screen. On a selfish note, it was also a way for me to provides small pay back for all the kindness from my camp mates who have taken care of the camp arrangements and set up since I've moved East. I've been branded a Sparkle Pony for stepping off the Burner Express with my duffel bag to a perfectly constructed camp. Feel free to personalize your own kit with an assortment of blinky lights, pyrotechnics, techno beats, body paint, drum circle tambourines, beverages of your choice, or anything else you associate with the Playa.

Remember, there is always next year.



  • Balsa Man plans - SVG file created by Hudson and used with permission
  • 1/8 (3mm) plywood - 20 in X 7 in sheet at least, I used Baltic Birch
  • #4 wood screws - 2 for the arms if you want them to move
  • wood glue

Optional items

  • plastic sandwich bags
  • sand (ideally from the Playa, but regular play sand will do)
  • LEDs, el wire, Neopixel
  • Glitter
  • Feather Boa
  • matches


  • Laser Cutter
  • Small clamp

Step 1: Laser Cut and Arrange the Pieces

As I mentioned, I did not design these plans but found them online. I had planned on designing my own Man, but these were so beautifully crafted, I couldn't resist. Sure, they were more complicated than I would've built, but the end product is definitely burn-worthy. I did make some minor modifications to the SVG, adding a "2020" on the chest and shortening the small end of the arm so it could rotate better. You can just cut about 1/4 inch off with pliers or scissors if you don't want to mess with the SVG.

If you have access to a laser cutter, you probably already know the settings to etch and cut 1/8 inch (3 mm) plywood. It took about 15 minutes for mine to cut including the 2020 etching.

Since I completely messed up assembly the first time around, I got smart and laid out the pieces before attempting to glue them together. Assembly took me about an hour to complete, but I'm sure you can do it faster.

Step 2: Build the Torso

I started with the torso to give it time to dry before adding the arms and legs. I used a small clamp to hold it up straight as I worked on it.

The first step is to add the oval ribs onto the torso, starting with the largest (you need remove the clamp to come from the bottom up). I found it best to add all of the ribs first and then glue them in place. When I tried to do it one at a time, I kept knocking the previous one off since it wasn't dry.

Once you've placed them on, dab some glue on the center support beam, insert it through the torso (notches facing up), dab some more glue on the ends of the support beam, and then place the oval rib on the beam. Repeat for the other four ribs.

You could let them dry at this point or move on to the head if you don't jiggle it too much. For the head, glue the four support beams to the top of the torso, longer pieces on top. Once they are relatively dry, you can add the head. If you have your support beams exactly level and even, you probably don't need to add glue to the head. I still did. I also let the first head completely dry before adding the second head. I had the hardest time trying to do both.

As the torso dries, move on to the limbs!

Step 3: Build the Legs

The legs are the longer pieces and the center shaft has the square notch in the middle so it can be joined at the hip. Dab some glue at top of the shaft about an inch down from the notch. Find the largest leg circle and drag it up to the spot with the glue. Maybe dab a little more around it. Repeat at different intervals up the leg. The final circle should be flush with the end of the leg so none of the shaft is protruding out.

Now that all of the circles are evenly spaced, dab some glue in the four notches on each circle and start adding your leg supports. Remember that the support will be flush with bottom circle so it is best to start there and lay in the support. Repeat for the other three supports.

Repeat for the second leg.

Move on to the arms!

Step 4: Build the Arms

The process for the arms is pretty much identical as the legs. The only difference is the supports will be flush with the top circle, the one closest to the "armpit". The smallest circle should be a little bit in from the end of the shaft to create "fingers" that stick out from the circle.

Repeat for the second arm.

Wait a bit for the arms and legs to dry before moving on to the final step.

Step 5: Assemble the Man

The torso should be dry by now so now you can put the Man together.

Start with the "hips" by dabbing some glue on each side of the pelvic bone (I really am guessing at all of this anatomy stuff so I hope the pictures are clear). Add the hips and then insert the little pegs through the center two square holes. They fit snug so you might not need glue, but it can't hurt. You can now slide the leg into the hips and insert another peg to secure the leg in place. Repeat for the other leg.

Similarly, glue the chest plate in place and secure with two more pegs. To attach the arms, you could use a piece of small wire or pin, but I drilled out the hole so my #4 wood screw could screw the arm in place but still allow me to move the arm up and down. You could also just glue the arms in place, but the Man's arms are traditionally down until the night of the burn.

Grab the boa you considerately never bring to the Playa and celebrate!

Step 6: Package It Up or Burn the Man

My final step was to mail these out to my camp mates. The first batch I bubble wrapped and stuffed in some recycled shipping envelopes I've accumulated from a certain online store. Unfortunately, they all arrived damaged to some extent. I had to adjust my shipping strategy to use styrofoam that just happened to fit. I included a starter bag of Playa, some Sparkle Pony glitter, and blinky LEDs. I did not include matches or pyrotechnics as the USPS does not like to deliver that type of stuff.

The Man Burns on Sept 5th!