Practice Fire / Contact Staff - Cheap and Easy




About: I like to tinker and create things. When I have time, i make stuff. The stuff could be as simple as my patent pending spoon-on-a-stick or very complex. But I always have fun doing it.

Hello there.

So I wanted to learn how to spin a Fire Staff and/or do Contact manipulation of a staff. But I did not want to invest a lot of money until I knew I was going to like it.

Searching the internet and instructables yielded many results on making staff out of aluminum rods, shower curtain rods and wood dowels. But those items tend to be:

a) expensive
b) hard to come by
c) too heavy and
d) hurts a LOT when it hits you in the face.

So I went to my local H*** Despot and Wally-Market and picked up supplies to make a PVC Practice Fire / Contact Staff.

Total Cost: Less than $20.
End Result: Staff that does not hurt me (much) as I learn to spin.

Please Note: At NO point should this practice staff be set on fire!

Step 1: Parts List and Tools


 1/2" - 1" Schedule 40 PVC pipe. 10 ft is $2.00
Foam exercise mat or camping mat - $6
Role of duct tape. $4
Really big nails: $1
Contact cement: $3
Tennis racket grip tape. $4

Hack saw

Step 2: Cut to Length

I read staff length can be 2, 3, or 4 feet. I read someplace else that the staff should go from floor to mid-sternum. Then there is the physics of it, Fast spinners want the staff short, slow spinners want the staff long.

I went for the mid-sternum method. And it just so happens to be 4 feet. And at $2 for 10 ft of PVC pipe, I have enough to make two more that are 3 ft each.

I went back to the hardware store and purchased another 10 ft length of pvc and made another staff 3ft 4in. So I have a full range of staffs.

Mark the length you need with sharpie and cut with your hack saw.

Step 3: Weigh the Ends

We want to add mass to the ends of the staff. A real fire staff is made of aluminim with a large wad of kevlar on the ends. the Kevlar is then soaked in fuel. We need to simulate all this weight and when we do we want all the weight at the ends of the staff. Mass at the ends provides momentum to cary out the spins. We will use large nails to add the mass at the ends.

Get the nail and wrap a little  bit of duct tape on the ends. wrap just enough duct tape to make the nail fit snugly into the pipe. This is not for keeping the nail in. This is just to keep the nail from rattling in the pipe.

Insert the nails into the each end of the pipe.

Step 4: Cut Foam and Glue on the Pipe

Cut a section of foam that will wrap around the end of the pipe. Make it wide enough to approximate the kevlar wick. Since I have never seen a staff in real life I just guessed.

Put contact cement on the end of the pipe. Apply contact cement to one side of the foam.  Carefully align the end of the foam to the PVC pipe and wrap the foam around the pipe. 

Repeat on the other side of the pipe.

Step 5: Wrap Ends With Duct Tape

Seal the end with duct tape. Start with 3-4 layers over the nail. This is what will keep the nail in place.

Next , wrap the foam in duct tape. This will make the ends more durable.

repeat on the other end.

Make sure to use the same amount of tape on each side. We want to keep the staff balanced.

Step 6: Add Grip Tape

I went to wally-market and got some tennis racket grip tape. 

I marked the center of the staff. then made sure the staff is balanced. If it is not balanced, add more layers of duct tape on the side that is light.

From the center I started wraping the grip tape towards the end following the instructions on the packaging. Flipped the staff over and wrapped more grip tape on the other half of the staff. I made sure the tape covers equal amounts of the staff on each half.

All done.

The staff is heavy enough on the ends that I get good momentum.  It is a lot more forgiving than an aluminum staff or a wooden staff.  I have smacked myself with it a few times already where a wooden staff would have probably given me a serious bruise.  I have dropped it while it was in a high speed spin where an aluminum staff may have bent but this staff just bounced.



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    16 Discussions


    2 years ago

    My son made his with 3/4" PVC, as many 3" nails that could be shoved into the end of the pipe, then sealed them in with duct tape. He used a bit of pipe wrap foam to pad the very ends and sealed that with more duct tape. Painters tape wrapped tight provides the grip.

    The heavier ends allow him to practice slow spins with control.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    That is wonderful. thank you for sharing. Does the painters tape wear out? the tennis racket tape wore out in about a year.


    2 years ago

    Thanks for this instructable! I finally made my contact staff today. I did a few things differently. My flow style with a hoop and wand is slower, so I went for a slower, heavier staff. I used a five foot PVC pipe 3/4 of an inch thick, with a four inch steel bolt on each end. Instead of using the rubber mat to simulate the wicks, I used layered fabric. I also covered the entire showing PVC pipe with black electrical tape, and used some of my hoop grip tape in place of the tennis racket grip tape. My result: A long, heavy staff! Thanks for this great instructable!!

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you for the compliment. Also thank you for sharing a different build method. I found that the tennis racket grip tape wears out after about a year. Can you give link to hoop grip tape? does it last longer?


    3 years ago on Introduction

    I believe that professional contact staves are weighted different at each end. Real professional fire performers want 30% more weight on one end of the staff which is what allows for the flow of the contact staff during manipulation. Can anyone verify this?

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Oooops, I see how my original comment could be confused with what I meant about how professional performers balance their Staves! What I meant is that BOTH of the counter weights EACH equally need to be 30-50% (Your Preference) of the weight of the entire staff body.

    For example. Say the material body of the staff weighs one pound... You'd want each of the ends (wicks, oak plugs) to weigh up to half of that body weight. 30-50% counter weighted. Making the staff spin and feel like a staff 30-50% longer than it actually is.

    Essentially, if you have too lightweight a staff body and very heavy rubber ends then the staff is going to be out of balance. A 2lb staff would want at least 1lb in the body and a half pound on each end. Good luck and safe burns my friends.

    BurnerBrian Detroit

    Sources: Jameson, Fire Technicians


    4 years ago on Step 5

    foam can be used as KEVLAR wick ??

    possible ?

    how long it will last ?

    n i have steel staff , tell me how to paste foam on staff ??

    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Please Note: At NO point should this practice staff be set on fire! (in the intro page).


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I would not use anything other than kevlar to use for burning. Foam is plastic with air bubbles in it, if you burn it'll stink and melt, and not be useable again.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Personally I'd use bicycle inner tube as it's mega cheap (£/$ store) and simply wrap the inner tube to the ends of the staff. I have found that if you start the inner tube about a foot into the staff and spiral to the end, getting thicker as you go, the weight isn't completely at the ends, I prefer this feel for contact staff.

    Be sure to wrap the rubber REALLY tight so it wont slip out of place over time. Once I taped the inner tube down with insulation tape that I had lying around, I wrapped it in foam tape. This is because when the rubber is pulled tight it's really hard can hurt alot. I wrapped the foam tape under the grip and over the rubber, then used gro gaff high vis tape to make it pretty. I'd recommend using clear heatshrink as the finish. the clear tape I sued as a finish over the high vis isn't very good and I've not found any clear tape that does the job... clear heatshink will add weight and make it easy to clean. the foam under the grip makes it nice and squishy....

    tho these staffs are really heavy (in the right places) (great for contact) they are really forgiving due to all the foam.

    ps, staff length should be anywhere between your nipple and chin. (standing obv)

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Oscar,

    Thank you for your contribution on this instructable. Your comment is very informative. I have used inner tube rubber as well to make these practice staff. I used it in place of foam on the ends.



    Thanks you very much for this great instructable!

    I want to learn staff contact but i was asking myself is this contact staff enought heavy? It seems very light...

    (Sorry for the mistakes i may have made, i don't speek english very well! ^^)

    2 replies

    i have made more of these staffs. Use really large galvanized nails (8-10 inch spikes). In addition, instead of foam, wrap the ends with inner tube rubber. It makes it really heavy.