/ #Alien Jon #DIY 

Tornado Wicks - Post Burn

Ok, so as I mentioned in my previous post on the topic – I made some lovely new Tornado wicks (so called after the Tornado weave that is used to make them), following Jez’s instructions on the topic and with some modifications that Alien Jon and I came up with.

On Sunday I got the chance to play with them alight and after some fairly heavy thrashing I can now post a pretty balanced review. It’s not biased, honest!

The good

The monkeyfists bite!
The first thing worth noting is that they burn very well. The weave creates additional surface area that wouldn’t be available in a pure cylindrical head. It does mean that it tends to burn through fuel. Ha!

Burn time is very reasonable – it stands at about 3 odd minutes or so which is about average. Compared to the glacial pace that my 90mm monkeyfists burn down, this is much nicer because it allows for snappy performances without either running out of ideas or ruining your arms. I have had moments where I was simply flailing wildly trying to kill time and burn fuel because my arms had turned to jelly.

The weight is pretty good too – the balance is towards the end of the wick, meaning they don’t wobble when the head is at a zero-point (an up-stall for instance). My friend Jan whose house I was spinning at found them extremely pleasant to use. So much so that this set of heads will go to her once I’ve made the MK2 versions with a bunch of improvements.

Additionally, the best thing I noticed about the heads is they don’t bite when you spiral wrap. By that I mean you don’t get lovely bite marks like this:

The monkeyfists were great heads but the protruding i-bolt meant that when you spiral wrapped without gloves, the eye would press into your wrist and brand you sometimes. And it hurt because of the ol’ pressure distributed over small surface area thing.

The low-profile chain attachment means that when they spiral, the poi head itself comes into contact with your hand more often than the chain. Since the head doesn’t get as hot as the chain, they are very friendly poi.

So much so that a complete novice who had never spun before asked to have a go and had a perfectly fine time playing with them with only a couple minor mishaps.

Ideas for improvement

The top of the fire heads. Note the slight damage caused by the hot chain.
While the new heads handle like a dream, I have considered some things that I would like to change in the next version.

Firstly, I noticed that during use, the chain that runs up the middle of the head has caused the kevlar around it to fray. While this isn’t ‘fatal’, it’s still not perfect and mildly annoying. So in the next version I’m considering using much bigger chain so I can weave the kevlar through the links instead of around them. This means that when the chain moves, it’s restrained in both directions – inwards and outwards pressure by four strands of Kevlar instead of just inward pressure from two.

Secondly, the burn time could be a little longer – but that will be fixed too.

Thirdly, the weight of these heads is a little on the  light side when used with my relatively heavy chains, leading to some chain wobble as the weight is still a little too evenly-distributed through the whole thing.

The next iteration will have:

  • Thicker chain inside the heads to enable me to weave through the links for added stability
  • Double the number of washers in the base – from 2 to 4 – for added weight and stability
  • Another half a metre of Kevlar, bringing the total to 4x 2m strips for each head.
  • Thicker kevlar strips – possibly 15mm for added width and subsequently burn time.


Itinerant photographer, firespinner, poly feminist, he/him.