Introduction: The Ring of Fire: a Cheap Steel Wool Pyrotechnic Display
Have you ever wanted to create showers of sparks flying in all directions? Have you ever wanted to create an amazing pyrotechnic display, but were unable to due to the high price of fireworks? Well now you can! In this instructable, I will show you how to build an apparatus that when swung in a circle, will produce huge showers of fire. The best part is, you can build this for under 5 dollars! It can also be utilized to create amazing long exposure photography. The video below will show you some amazing demonstrations of the Ring Of Fire in action.
Lets Get Started
Step 1: Materials
This project only requires a few very cheap materials.
It only requires:
- 0000 Grade Steel Wool(Can be found for about 4 dollars at any local hardware store)
- A Metal Coat Hanger (You can find it in your closet)
This is all you need, only 3 materials. With these three materials, you can make an incredible light show. If you want to take pictures of your Ring of Fire though, then you will need:
- A DSLR Camera
- A tripod
Step 2: Tools
This project only requires three tools:
- Needle-nose Pliers
- Wire Cutters
- Lighter of 9 Volt Battery
Step 3: How It Works
The ring of fire is basically a cage filled with steel wool attached to a rope. When you light it, it starts a chemical reaction. This chemical reaction is one that you will most likely see everyday: Rust, the formation of iron oxide from iron and oxygen. Now, you may not picture rust as a violent exothermic reaction that showers sparks everywhere, but that is because the rust you see in daily life is on items with a low surface area. Steel wool, on the other hand, has a very high surface area. It is made with many tiny fibers that creates a very large surface that is exposed to air. When you initially light the steel wool on fire, it will just smolder, this is because there is not much oxygen getting to the steel wool. After you start swinging it in circles though, air flows which accelerates the reaction, like when you blow into a fire and it gets hotter. While it is swinging around, the centripetal force of the rotation causes small burning pieces of steel wool to fly in all directions. These are the sparks you see. This whole process is just extreme rusting.
Step 4: Adding a Loop to Your Coat Hanger
For this step, you will need to take your pliers, and bend a loop on top of the coat hanger. This is where your rope will attach to. Make sure to add a small lip to the end of your loop so it will not slip off.
Step 5: Separate the Two Parts of the Coat Hanger
To do this, use a pair of wire cutters to cut the bottom of the coat hanger in half. Then, twist out one of the wires of the coat hanger. You can then straighten the wire. You should be left with a straight wire with a loop on one end.
Step 6: Making the Cage
This part will be used to hold the steel wool. It will allow the steel wool to be held in place, yet release sparks nad have a good airflow. To make the cage, use pliers to start making a spiral starting at the opposite end of the loop. Make the spiral go outward, then back inward. This step is a little tricky, but when it is done, you should have a fairly solid looking spiral with a loop on one end.
Step 7: Tying the Rope
After the cage is done, you will need to tie it to a rope. To do this, take the rope, and tie a double half hitch. This is the specific knot that I used, but it can be replaced by many other knots. All it needs to do is hold the cage to the rope.
Step 8: Loading the Steel Wool
To load the steel wool, take a chunk, and pull it apart to so that way it takes up a bigger volume. This will allow more airflow and therefore more sparks. You can then insert it into the cage until it held securely in place by the wire. You will now be ready to test it!
Step 9: Testing!!
To test the Ring of Fire, light it on fire with either a 9 volt battery or a lighter. Then, swing it around on a rope. Now, before you test it, you need to choose a proper location. This device creates a stream of sparks, which can catch anything on fire. You will need to choose someplace where the sparks will not catch anything on fire. I chose the beach because there is no flammable material. There are many other places that will work for this experiment too, just make sure there will be no fire hazard. So, have fun!
Step 10: Taking Pictures
To take pictures of your awesome light show, just set your SLR camera on a tripod. Then set it to manual exposure, set shutter speed to 3.2 seconds, the ISO to 200, and the Fstop to 7. You will then need to set the camera to a 2 second timer to prevent shaking in the camera. You will then need to focus the camera on the subject. To do this, have the person who will be spinning the steel wool hold a flashlight. Then, use the manual focus to focus on that light, with that, you should be able to take your picture. Be creative with this. These pictures will turn out amazing!
Step 11: Cool Photos
Here are some awesome pictures of the Ring of Fire in action. There is not much to be said, these pictures are just spectacular.
Step 12: Be Creative!
You can use this Ring of Fire to take awesome pictures. I find it cool looking to spin the steel wool while walking forward. It makes it look like a spring. I also find it cool to stand in the sparks. Now, this does hurt a bit, but it is worth the cool picture! I also took some pictures sitting behind a boogie board in the sparks. It seems like there is a rain of fire that I am trying to hide from. You can be creative as you want with these pictures. They are fun to take.
Good luck with building your Ring of Fire and taking pictures!
Disclaimer: This project deals with fire and can be dangerous without the proper safety precautions. Exercise common sense when using.