Ouch

Every important activity in my life, whether it be a vocation or an avocation, involves the dexterous use of my fingers. Consequently, it was with some degree of surprise that I found myself standing in a checkout line at Wal-Mart, preparing to purchase two large containers of Ronson butane fuel. I was going to go home and play with fire, and I was going to do it for all of you. The review desk had received some requests to evaluate the current crop of "fire from the hand" devices, and I was going to honor those requests, even though I seriously considered passing off the assignment to somebody else, perhaps someone whose sleight-of-hand abilities would not be affected by the wearing of a large amount of cotton bandages. (For example, Bob Farmer.) But, I decided that this was the type of character building challenge that I needed to face, and so, armed with Hydrocortisone spray and a fire extinguisher, I descended to my basement, slapped an old Jose Feliciano record on the phonograph, and played around with Chappy Brazil's "Hand Dragon," Jim Pace's "Inviso-Torch," and Steve Sheraton's "Inferno."

You're probably familiar with older style fire production devices such as "Fickle Fire," or the "Hot Wallet" or "Hot Book." They use a large fiber "pad" which is soaked with lighter fluid and then ignited with a flint. They continue to burn until a "cover" is closed, which extinguishes the flame. With each of these devices, the you must dispose of the prop which produces the fire. (You can dispose of the book and the wallet openly, the "Fickle Fire" gaff must be ditched secretly.) The new generation of fire gimmicks is designed to be done barehanded, and the gaff disposes of itself, either up your sleeve or under your coat. In all three cases you must be wearing a coat in order to do the fire production. The "Hand Dragon" is geared toward the stand-up or stage performer. "Inviso-Torch" and "Inferno" can be used stand-up or close-up.

(Important note! In order to describe the various features of these three products, I must in some degree explain how they work. I don't want to completely "tip the gaffs," so I will do this in a somewhat vague manner. Do not attempt to take this information and build a device for yourself! To do so would be very, very stupid. The creators of these devices have done the dangerous part in order to develop safe products. Support their efforts.)

(Important note number 2! These devices are not toys! They are basically hand-held flamethrowers which are capable of causing injury and destruction. Read and study the instructions carefully, and don't leave them where children could have access to them.)

(Important note number 3! I would not use any of these devices in a public performance situation unless I was sure that my liability insurance would cover any accidents.)

The theory behind the working of all three of these devices is this: pressurized propane gas is directed to a flint mechanism via a rubber tube. The flint is struck which ignites the gas, producing a large flame. The flame is extinguished either by stopping the gas flow, or by releasing the rubber tubing which simultaneously shuts off the flow and distances the flame from the gas source. Unlike the "Fickle Fire" gimmick, these three devices should only be allowed to "flame up" for a few seconds at the most. Producing a flame of greater duration could result in injury to the performer or degradation of the prop.

Chappy Brazil (inspired by John Kennedy's "Flame-thrower Match") released his "Hand Dragon" in 1989, and it is meant to duplicate the "Fickle Fire" effect; that is, fire appears from the magician's palm-up hand. The flame appears perpendicular to the hose which directs the gas flow. The nozzle where the gas ignites is made of brass, and this nozzle can get hot, which is why Chappy suggests producing a short burst of flame. If ignited for too long a period of time, the nozzle could burn your arm when it is retracted.

The device is worn under your jacket, and the tubing goes down your sleeve. The tubing itself has no elasticity, and it is retracted via a mechanical means. The gas flow is controlled by pressure of the left arm (assuming the device goes down your left sleeve). This is a rather bulky mechanism, but it allows you to use a small (about 3.5 inch) can of butane as the gas source. Because you control the flow of gas in real time, you can create a small flame which flares up into a large flame and then dies down and disappears. Using a can of butane allows you to produce several large flames during the course of your act without fear of running out of fuel. The unit is designed for left-handed use. (Chappy's thinking here is that as the flame is produced in the left hand, the right hand steals or produces an object.)

The "Inviso-Torch" and "Inferno" are much smaller units, consisting of a small gas source, a length of tubing, and the nozzle/flint mechanism. The "Inviso-Torch" is about a foot long, the "Inferno" is about 13 inches long. Curiously, both units are almost identical in design and construction. They differ mainly in the type of hose used, an aspect I will discuss in a moment. In both cases the nozzle is designed to be held at the fingertips, and the flame runs in the same direction as the hose (rather than perpendicularly as in the "Hand Dragon"). Stretching the elastic hose releases the flow of gas, and the gas is ignited by striking the flint. The flame is vanished by releasing the nozzle. This accomplishes two things: the release valve is closed, and the flame is pulled away from the combustion source and is extinguished. However, if the nozzle is not released quickly, it is possible for the nozzle to retract still lit. I guarantee that this will happen to you at least once when you're playing with the device, and you will find yourself with a length of rubber hose with a fire at one end of it hanging by the side of your leg. The initial instinct is to panic. Don't. The flame can be easily extinguished by patting it with your hand, or you can grab the hose and let it snap back quickly.

(Concerning this aspect of these two props: Once you understand how these devices work you will always let them snap back quickly. But in learning how to use them you will probably make a mistake. Consequently, in the initial stages of learning, do not wear a jacket! This allows you to easily correct a mistake and extinguish an errant flame. I found it curious that neither set of instructions addressed this simple safety tip.)

As I mentioned, both these devices are almost identical in construction and operation. The gas chambers of both are identical. They are easily refillable. The size of the flame can be adjusted by manipulation of these chambers. (But the size of the flame cannot be changed in real time; in other words, you set the size of the flame before you start to perform.) Both units allow for easy flint replacement. The main difference is in the type of hose used. The "Inferno" uses a special hose made of synthetic elastomers which allow it withstand extremes of temperature and degradation caused by sunlight, ozone, butane and greases. Degradation of the hose could cause leakage, which could present a hazard.

Since the "Inviso-Torch" and the "Inferno" are identical in design, I thought I should ask the inventors for the history of their creations. In a letter to me, Jim Pace explained that his development of the "Inviso-Torch" came from seeing Chappy Brazil's "Hand Dragon" at the 1993 Desert Magic Seminar. Jim wanted to achieve the effect of a retractable fire source without the bulkiness of Chappy's design. Jim tried several different designs, and the discovery of a serendipitous gas container made the final design possible. Jim released his "Inviso-Torch" in 1994.

In an email message from Switzerland, Steve Sheraton explained that the basic idea for "Inferno" was shown to him in the mid 1980's by an Austrian engineer/inventor who was a magic enthusiast. He gave Steve an "Inferno" prototype which Steve thought little about until last year, when Steve decided to become a magic marketer. Steve put "Inferno" on the market, but has been unable to track down the Austrian engineer who showed him the original idea. (Perhaps one of our readers might know of this gentleman. If so, perhaps he could contact Steve or MAGIC.)

Is this a case of coincidental independent invention? That's for you to decide, I'm just a reviewer. "Inviso-Torch" was released in 1994, "Inferno" came out in 1996.

One thing I would like to see with all three props is a better set of instructions. Considering the potential danger of using these devices, I think that the users deserve more than a single sheet of paper. (The "Hand Dragon" instructions are printed on two sides of a single sheet of paper. There are two illustrations. The "Inviso-Torch" instructions are printed on one side of a single sheet of paper. There are two illustrations. The "Inferno" instructions are the most complete and extensive. But the information is crammed onto two sides of a sheet of paper using very tiny type, and it is very difficult to read. There is an addition piece of paper which contains nine small illustrations.

Steve Sheraton has done a good thing, however, by offering a companion video. This video shows Steve performing various effects using "Inferno," and very clearly explains the use of the prop. There is an extra gimmick included in with video which allows you to do a couple of hilarious gags. (Incidentally, the video is done completely silently, so regardless of your language you can understand what's going on.) The video can be purchased with the "Inferno" (which saves you $10) or all by itself for $24.95. (Owners of "Inviso-Torch" may want the video just to get some handling tips.)

So, which product should you buy? The "Hand Dragon" serves a particular function, and if you're a stage worker who wants to incorporate a "Fickle Fire" effect in your act it would certainly fit the bill. Both "Inviso-Torch" and "Inferno" are usable and practical devices. "Inviso-Torch" is $10 less. For safety reasons (because of the special hose) and for clarity of instruction, I lean toward "Inferno," especially if you are a pro who will be using the prop a great deal.

That's about all I can tell you. Whichever one you get, be careful.

Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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