Flame Heat trials

In 2006, NAFAA members Krispy the Dragon and Tedward conspired to bust the biggest of myths in the fire performance community.  Specifically, they wanted to test if different fuels actually burn hotter or cooler.  So they designed 4 total experiments to help determine the truth.  Two tests of identical wicks with a variety of fuels and either stationary, or moving air. Then the same fuel and different wick size and shapes.  They added in a test with colored fuels for good measure.


Krispy had access to an STI D2301 Pyrometer with temperature needle probe. This allowed them to test the temperature in two ways: first a general area heat report, second a specific surface site test on the wick itself.

Tedward drew from his resources at Bearclaw Manufacturing to create a number of wicks for the trials with a specific bent in mind. For the different fuel trials, the test wicks all came from the same roll of kevlar, had exactly the same amount of wick (and thread), eyebolts all selected from the same batch, etc. All to insure that the wicks were as identical as possible. For the wick trials, all of the test fuel came from the same can, and great care was make at all levels to insure the wicks were dipped, dripped and light on the same time schedule to insure fairplay.

You can read the original Flame Heat Proposal here.

The setup involved a specifically made welded steel rack to hold each wick, the pyrometer, the IR thermometer, and attachments, in the same space, in default still air.


Data was collected every 30 seconds starting at ignition from both thermometers.  You can see all the data  on this chart, which has been transcribed into the graphs below. Click image to see full sized.


While it’s understood that these were single points of data, and that to be completely scientific, many runs identical to this would be required, we also ran into the issue of funding. All materials were donated by artists. Each run of identical wicks took approximately half a roll of kevlar. As few as 10 runs would require 5 rolls of 2″ kevlar to produce the wicks. This was outside our budget at the time. Nevertheless, from the data gathered, we have determined that:

* all fuels burn at the same temperature. They make get there at different schedules, but even the “cooler” alcohols burned the same temps.
* wick construction seemed to be the key to burn times, though we had some surprises in which did better. More wick does not seem to be the end-all answer.
* and finally colorants to not seem to have any appreciable effect on burn temps, rates or times.

The North American Fire Arts Association