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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sculpting with Fire

I suppose that by now, it goes without saying that I enjoy some fairly non-mainstream hobbies. Nothing truly weird, like poking badgers with spoons or celebrity stalking, but I do enjoy things like foam fighting and firesculpting.

“What’s firesculpting?” asks the imaginary you in my head? Well, I’m glad you asked.

I first encountered this tradition many years ago at a drum circle, as I watched a small group of men with red suspenders and toolbelts hauling timber into the fire. (Toolbelts that held welding gloves and cans of beer.) Before long, they’d built a structure out of burning wood that resembled a dragon with wings made of flame, jetting from the holes of a hollow log.

It was awesome, and the not-so-tiny pyro within me said “That is some cool shit, right there.”

These men were the Firetenders, an integral part of the drum circle. They kept the light and the heat happenin’, and made some cool art while they did it. Hollowed logs, color-changing metals, and raw flame were their tools. Not only could these guys make fire from two sticks and a tinder bundle like Cody fuckin’ Lundin, but they could sculpt it into awesome shapes and lights like a backwoods Vegas show.

Copper Sulfate or boric acid soaked wood makes a pretty flame. And freaks people the fuck out.

Thus did I pay attention and learn the ways of the flame. It’s not enough to make pretty fire; you have to make it a spectacle: a thing worth watching. I’ve watched tenders catch falling flaming logs, ride a burning slab of wood like it was a mechanical bull, and build intricate green-and-blue-flamed monstrosities.

Hell, I once played an old Cuban drum that was actively burning in a bonfire. (It was old and crappy, but what a way to send it out.)

In firetending, as with much of life, there are things that must be understood lest you become toast. There are hot spots and cool spots. There are ways to shield the heat, even as you roll a big hollow chimney up onto bright coals. There are ways to coax the flame up into that chimney, so that it produces a jet engine afterburner torch.

Boots and gloves and sweat are your friends. Water is a must, lest you dehydrate. It helps, I think, to be a little weird. Fortunately, I’ve got that last part covered. In spades.

Dangerboy and a pair of chimneys in full afterburner mode.

Just like drumming, I’m nowhere near as good at sculpting as the true masters. But, just like love, you don’t have to be perfect to enjoy it. You just have to have fun and try not to get burned.

What kind of odd hobbies do you enjoy?


  1. I play the mandolin. That's kind of odd since I'm from Detroit, I suppose.

  2. Oh man, would you come up to our place in Maine? We could use an expert like you for our paltry bonfire. I am taking notes. ;)

  3. Amazing! I shall show this to the hubby as he and I have a halloween party coming up, and yes, he is a pyro! Too cool...

  4. They make toolbelts that hold cans of beer? Sounds like my kind of hobby!

  5. @Jayne Sure, why not? :)

    @Nicki The big pouch holds a beer can just about perfectly, and if you have more than one pouch...MORE THAN ONE BEER!!!


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