Fireballs You Can Hold in Your Hands!




About: Sometimes my Instructables are few and far between, but I try to make them as well as I can. Hopefully you can be inspired or helped by the content in them!

Ooh, fire. One of the biggest fascinations of man since the beginning of time. Doesn't it seem so cool to be able to hold it in your hands? You've probably seen the video of this stunt before. If not, check it out here and be amazed.

Many of you have reported being burned, scarred, hurt etc. I've made these, and tested them with different fluids. I will show you in detail how to make these, explain how they work, and share my notes on the best kind of flammable fluid to use.

This trick is really fun to perform, and a great way to reuse an old t-shirt. It is still fire, though, so be careful! If you want to know the science behind it, check out step two.

Step 1: Supplies

Most of these things you should already have laying around your house. If not, a quick trip to a craft store will get you the things you need.

100% cotton t-shirt or fabric
100% cotton thread - make sure it's thick enough to hold the ball of cotton together, but not so thick that it won't fit through your needle
Needle with eye big enough to fit the thread you are using
Some kind of flammable liquid (details on this in step 8)

Not much, huh? Make sure everything is all cotton. See the next step for reasons why. Skip to step 3 to get straight to work.

Step 2: Why Cotton? Won't It Burn Me?

Why use Cotton?
You need to use all cotton because it doesn't melt. If you have polyester, your fireball will melt in your hand, which will hurt very badly. Cotton can burn, but it doesn't melt.

How does this work?
If you've seen the video, you can see that there is a blue flame at the bottom that turns orange as it goes up. The large surface area of your hand combined with constant movement makes it so it doesn't burn you.

If you hold it in one spot, however, it WILL burn you. That is something the video does not explain. It is still fire, after all. The thing is, the flame where you are holding it is just cool enough to hold it comfortably.

Shouldn't the Cotton Burn?
It would if not soaked with fuel. Kind of ironic, really. When you light these, it is not burning the fuel directly but the gasses from it. The heat makes more fuel turn to gas, which gets burned. It's a cycle that repeats itself as long as there is fuel to vaporize.

Step 3: Clippin' Cotton

Cut a piece of cotton about 3.5 x 4 inches. (9 x 11 cm). It doesn't have to be perfect.

Roll it into a ball. No special technique here, just try to make as few "loose ends" as possible. I have found, however, that a super-tight ball does not soak up fluid as well, and does not stay lit as long. Don't make the ball too tight, but not so loose that it's falling apart.

Step 4: Mr. Needle, Meet Mrs. Thread

Take about 2ft of your thread and thread it through the needle. Tie a few knots in the end, so it won't pull through the cotton.

Step 5: Stuck With a Needle

Find the "end" of the cotton ball (the end of the fabric) and push the needle in to it. Push it all the way through. It can be very hard to if your cotton ball is dense, so needle nose pliers can be a big help.

Pull the thread all the way through, until you get to the knot. Trim the extra thread before the knot.

Step 6: Hardcore (W)Rap

Take the thread and start winding it around your ball. Not too tight, but don't make it loose, either. Try to wrap up all the loose pieces hanging out.
Keep the needle on the thread, and when you have a few inches left, stop.

Then stick the needle through the ball again. Don't take it off the thread yet, though.

Step 7: Time to Get Knotty (Naughty?)

Loop the needle and thread under an existing piece of thread, and tie a knot so it doesn't come undone.

You then have the finished fireball! Usually, they're about 1-1.5 inches in diameter. I haven't tried any bigger or smaller.

Step 8: Light 'er Up

Whoops, not yet. There are different liquids that work better than others. I've only tried two kinds of rubbing alcohol, but I can guess on others fluids based on people's comments.

Rubbing Alcohol - 70%
This is a good fuel for starters, but any lower percent won't work much at all. 70% rubbing alcohol burns with a decent flame, and not too hot either. It's great to get up your courage, and moderately impressive. You get an ok burn time with this, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Isopropyl Alcohol - 91%
This is only 9% water, meaning it burns much hotter than 70%. The result is a much bigger flame, which is obviously much more impressive-looking. This is a great option, burning at a heat just low enough to hold in one spot for a couple seconds. Recommended for those who are a bit more daring. Burns for about 3 mins.

Zippo Lighter Fluid
DO NOT use this. It burns way too quickly and hot. This stuff is meant to produce a hot flame, and it does. You will be burned if you use this, with not much bigger flame than isopropyl alcohol.

Lighter Fluid
I would say only experts should use this. It's very hot, but has a huge flame that is just plain awesome. I've heard some kinds don't work, like grill lighter fluid. Get the charcoal kind.

Yes, the body spray. It's very impractical to use this. You'd have to spray a ton into a jar just to get enough to soak your fireball in. I'm not sure how well this would burn, however, if at all. I've never heard reports of this being used, so I really can't say. Try it and tell me about it.

I did a comparison between 70% and 91%, and the results are quite dramatic. Check the pictures.

Step 9: Burn, Baby, Burn

Hopefully not your hand. Take your fireball, and soak it in whichever fluid you chose. If you can't decide, I recommend 70% for beginners and 91% for those more experienced.

Once you think your fireball has enough liquid in it, squeeze it just a bit to make sure there isn't any fluid that will get on your hands and light them up.

Dry your hands off, then light it.

Neat, huh? Here are a couple shots of the 91% in my hand. It's really cool to look at. :P Please be careful and have fun! This is still fire, after all. It's quite easy to drop this and catch your sock on fire. (And I would know.)

If you just can't take the heat, check the next step for tips on not getting hurt.

Step 10: Too Hot? Try These Tips

If it's a bit too hot for you, try some of these ideas.

- Get your hands wet. The extra water takes away some of the heat energy, so it's not as hot.
- Add just a little water to the rubbing alcohol.
- Most of the pain is mental. Convince yourself that it's not actually as hot as it looks.
- Keep it moving! If it stays in one spot, it will burn you.
- Use lower percent rubbing alcohol (not under 70%, though)
- If you really need to, you can use leather gloves, but that kind of takes away the coolness factor.

It'll also help if your hands are naturally callused. That is, the skin is harder and "tougher" that the average person's. It'll probably hurt more if you're a lady, because your hands are probably softer.

Be safe and have fun! Please tell me your experiences with other flammable fluids so I may add the to the list. I'll try to take some night shots sometime soon.

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    156 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I hate getting burned so when i make min i am wearing oven mitts, has antone just done that b4? also is there a way that i can add another chemical to change the color? or will it not work?

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    you could maybe put copper inside the ball somehow, im unsure tho


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Copper is bad,because since its a soft metal, it burns easily. Practically all metals except gold oxidize when heated, and release toxic fumes.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I got an idea for a flat pad of cotton, that you soak in water and set the ball on top of


    7 years ago on Step 2

    if i used polyester but didn't hold it and put it in my catapult would it matter?


    7 years ago on Step 10

    Tryed it turned out great scared the hell out of some of my friends!!


    9 years ago on Step 8

    i have string but im not to sure if it is 100% cotton. any way to tell if its cotton or not. also mybrother sprayed axe on my hand and lit it. it will burn and it gets a pretty good flame.right in between 70% alchohal and91% ALCHOHAL i recomed it for people who are to scared of 91 alchohal but bored with   70% alchohal

    3 replies

    you can tell by how it burns, if you put a flame to it and it burns to ash its full cotton, if it shrivels up and gets hard when the fire gets near its likely nylon. as for the axe, the reason its flammable is due to the propellant i don't remember what it is at the moment (i wanna butane) but its a common propellant, however for health reasons you shouldn't use it, the deodorants and preservatives in axe can emit toxic fumes when burned that can cause brain damage, asthma, and even cancer.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 8

    You can't tell, really. You could dip it in some rubbing alcohol, light it, and see if it melts. If not, it should be fine to use.


    7 years ago on Step 10

    How about using some walmart brand hair-gel, and rubbing it on your hands? It's fire retardent I believe, you could rub it on your hands and have it be clear, then keep the fire ball in one place and even use a hotter liquid for more impressive fire?


    8 years ago on Step 8

    lighter fluid with naphtha works best


    8 years ago on Introduction

    can hold in hand few seconds when useing alcohol, with other flamable licquids its too hot to hold in hands.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 10

    Isn't Vaseline flammable? Or am I mistaken? :P If it's not, go ahead and try it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 10

    LOL... Vaseline bottles even say right on them.... Pure Petroleum Jelly... I would guess the stuff is like napalm...