Contact Fire Poi

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About: Roving Californian flow artist. Follow me on Instagram for poi and travel goodness - instagram.com/havepoiwilltravel

The next step in the evolution of completely disregarding that your poi are on fire.

Technical specs:

  • Head diameter: 85mm or 90mm
  • Head weight (unsoaked): 142g (85mm) or 184g (90mm)
  • Burn time: 5-7 minutes
  • Technora tethers
  • Epoxy plugged handles

Special thanks to:

  • Brandon Lam AKA Flowmancer, for providing the original inspiration for this build and pushing the prop crafting community forward with his innovative designs (he sells beautifully-made fire contact poi with a similar design here!)
  • John Allwine, for responding to my multiple emails and providing an incredible wealth of knot resources on his website (including his invaluable globe knot tutorial)
  • The Poi Mechanic, for his tutorial on how to attach Ultraknobs to Technora

Supplies:

Step 1: Gather Materials & Tools

Each of the poi specific items — Kevlar wick, Technora, handles, and splicing fid — include links where you can order them at dark-monk.com. (Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Dark Monk, I just like their selection and prices for prop supplies.)

MATERIALS (for set of two poi)

  • (36'-41') 1/4" Kevlar rope wick — 36' for 85mm three-pass head, 41' for 90mm four-pass head
  • (2) 60mm wooden balls (for 85mm head; find on eBay) or 65mm wooden balls (for 90mm head; find on craftparts.com)
  • (11-13') 3/16" Technora (for average-thickness 5/16" tethers) or 1/4" Technora (for thick 3/8" tethers) — 11 ft for average-length poi, 12-13 ft for longer poi (NOTE: if you already have Technora thread from a previous build, you can subtract 3 ft from this)
  • (2) Handles — I recommend Ultraknobs if you want LED handles, PomGrips if not
  • (2) Small screw eyes — 3/8" (10mm) heads and roughly 7/8" (23mm) long
  • (17"x4" rectangle) 1/8” thick packing foam sheet
  • (12) Toothpicks
  • Toilet paper roll
  • 5-minute epoxy — the kind with two chambers and a plunger
  • Disposable stirring stick (a chopstick or popsicle stick works great)
  • (Optional) Roll of Velcro tape (at least 3/4" or 2cm wide) — if you don't want your Ultraknob lights to fly out

TOOLS

  • Cordless drill
  • 10mm spade bit (3/16" Technora) or 12mm spade bit (1/4" Technora)
  • Medium splicing fid (3/16" Technora) or large splicing fid (1/4" Technora)
  • Large sewing needle
  • Electrical tape (or duct tape)
  • Glue
  • Scissors (even better are fabric scissors or a sharp knife — Technora is difficult to cut)
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Marking pen
  • Printer (or place where you can print one simple black and white image)

Step 2: Collect Technora Thread

(Skip this step if you already have Technora thread from a previous build.)

Grab your Technora, splicing fid, screw eyes, tape, and scissors.

Our Technora rope can be unbraided to use as sewing thread, which we'll need later. Measure 3' (91cm) from the end of the Technora and wrap a piece of tape twice around that spot. Cut the Technora directly through the middle of the taped bit — I find it easiest to cut Technora by getting the cut started with some wire cutters and then finishing it off with a sharp pair of scissors.

Take your new 3' piece, untape the ends (or untape one end and retape it a few inches lower so the end frays - see pic/gif), and carefully pull out and peel apart a strand of the rope until you have four ~1.5mm thick pieces of Technora thread. Aim for thread that's about three times wider than normal sewing thread, but thin enough to fit through the head of your large needle. Set these four pieces of thread aside for later.

Step 3: Cut Technora Tethers

Find the middle of your long length of Technora, wrap it with electrical tape as tight as possible, and cut it in half. You should end up with two pieces of Technora of equal length (between four and five feet each, depending on how much you started with), with all four ends taped up to prevent them from unraveling.

Slide a screw eye onto one of the lengths of Technora down to the middle, fold the length in half, lay it on the ground, and then adjust one side so it's around 2" (5cm) longer than the other side. (The long side is the one getting spliced, and will compress a bit as the short side slides into it.)

Step 4: Splice Technora

Splicing is when you put one end of a piece of rope isn't a metal splicing fid, fold the rope in half (roughly), and insert the fid into the rope at the halfway point. Running the rope up its own gut in this way will increase the thickness and, most importantly, create a loop at one end that lets us avoid metal hardware when attaching the tether to the head. Watch the gif to see splicing in action (it might take a minute to load) =).

First, lay your tether on the ground and fold it in half so the left side is two inches longer than the right side. Insert the short side of the tether into the bottom hole of your splicing fid (near the rounded end with the little hook). Now pick a spot just above the screw eye on the long side of the tether, cleanly part the braids with the needle end of the fid, and slide the fid directly up the middle of the long side. Take care that the fid stays inside the Technora down its entire length and doesn't catch an edge or otherwise pull any strands out of place.

Once the fid is fully inside the spliced end, you can start pulling and moving the fid along until it emerges from the top (you may need to loosen up the tape on this end for the needle to fit through). Remove the fid (careful it doesn't get caught on the small hook at the end), set it aside, and continue pulling and smoothing out the spliced tethers until the screw eye is in a tight loop at the end.

Ideally the ends of the inner and outer Technora braids should now be roughly in line with each other, but it's ok if the core is slightly longer than the sheath, or vice versa. Just make sure that the spliced length of the tether is at least as long as what you want the final length of your poi to be. We'll trim off any extra later.

Step 5: Sew Spliced End

Grab one of your 3' pieces of Technora thread and pull it halfway through your large needle. Pinch the two ends together, tie a triple knot near the end, and trim off the excess.

Now push the needle through the tether between the strands on each side, pull it tight, pick a spot one or two strands (1-2mm) away from where the needle exits, and push it through again. The point here is to keep the splice from slipping or loosening up at the critical point near the screw eye.

Continue sewing in a circular direction around this ~1 inch long section of the tether near the eyelet. You can wrap a section of the tether with the thread a couple times to tighten it up even more (see second pic) — don't overdo it though as you want your tether to be able to bend. When only 2-3 inches of thread remain, cut the thread near the needle, take the two ends, and tie a triple knot, pulling tight against the tether. Trim off the excess thread and you're ready to move on to the next step.

- A note about Technora -

A clean splice and tight braid is crucial to the final integrity of your poi. Technora actually has a higher fire resistance (932°F) than kevlar (930°F), which is why we can attach it directly to the wick, but this fire resistance drops precipitously if the Technora braid is loose or elbowed. If the tether looks sloppy near the wick, I highly recommend sewing around it to tighten it up. You can further prolong the life of your tethers by taking care not to submerge them when you fuel up. Splash some water on your tethers near the wicks before you dip to really go the extra mile.

Step 6: Drill Hole in Cores

Collect your power drill, spade bit, wooden balls, 5-minute epoxy, stirring stick, some scrap cardboard, and your tethers from Step 2.

Attach the spade bit to your power drill and find a flat work surface (a workbench is best, but you can also lay cardboard out on your floor).

You want to drill a hole deep enough for the top of the screw eye to be just below the surface of the core once it's been screwed in all the way. For my ~2.3cm long screw eyes, I drilled the wide part of the spade bit just shy of 2cm into the ball (just at the edge of the where the numbers start on my drill bit — see pic). Thus, at the bottom of the cylindrical hole, there was a smaller hole left by the pointed end which the tether could screw into nicely.

Step 7: Fill With Epoxy and Screw in Tether

Once you've drilled the tether chamber in each wooden ball, grab a small piece of cardboard, your stirring stick, the epoxy, and your tethers. I'd also recommend a paper towel or preferably a wet wipe as the epoxy can get messy.

Snip the ends off the epoxy and squirt around 20% of it onto the cardboard, aiming for an equal amount from each side, and get ready to work fairly quickly before the epoxy can harden. Stir the epoxy's resin and hardening agent together until mixed, then carefully scoop it into the hole in your first wooden ball until it's about two-thirds full.

Push the tether firmly down into the hole (some epoxy will probably ooze out, just let it happen) and screw in in a clockwise, righty-tighty fashion until you feel the screw eye screw all the way into that smaller hole in the bottom of the chamber and the tether stops turning easily.

Wipe any excess epoxy off the face of the ball around the tether, lay the ball and tether on a piece of cardboard to dry, and repeat with the second ball, mixing more epoxy if needed.

Step 8: Print Knot Template

By far the most complex part of this build is figuring out the exact type of globe knot you want, as there are near-infinite permutations depending on the size of your core, number of pass-throughs to fill out the knot, and thickness of your rope. Luckily, I did that part for you (with the help of knot guru John Allwine and his grid maker application).

Open the Printable 30 facet template PDF and print it in portrait mode. The PDF format should preclude your printer from adding margins or scaling the image, but if it prints out funky, you might have to adjust your Page Setup options.

Cut the knot pattern out of the sheet — it should be roughly 4" tall and 8.5" long.

Note: If for some reason you're after a globe knot with a different number of facets (e.g. you want to make a bigger head, or use a different thickness of rope wick), or if math just gets your blood flowing, you can download the attached Contact Fire Poi Math PDF for my calculations.

Step 9: Craft Mandrel

mandrel

(noun) a round object against which material can be forged or shaped.

Mmhmm, that's what a mandrel is. We'll now make one out of a toilet paper roll and packing foam.

Grab your toilet paper roll, sheet of packing foam, and some tape. The roll I had is 4" tall, which I hope is the standard height for toilet paper where you come from because that's what the rest of the measurements are based on. Anyway, take your roll and tape the edge of the foam to it, then wrap it tightly around and around and tape down the end.

Take your printed out knot template and glue it around the mandrel. It should wrap around the mandrel just about perfectly (a little overlap or coming up a bit short is ok).

Now take your 12 toothpicks and cut one end (~1/2” or 1cm) off each of them so you don't stab yourself when you're tying your knot. Take your large sewing needle or another similarly sized poking object and make holes on the inside of each bend on the knot image (i.e. on the other side of the rope from each of the A1, B1, etc. symbols). You should push all the way through the cardboard into the center of the tube. Stick a trimmed toothpick into each hole.

Step 10: Knot Up

Take your length of rope wick and cut it in half, taping each end so it doesn't fray. Now take one of the halves and find the centerpoint —this is what you'll hold against the mandrel to start the knot. You can start anywhere you want on the mandrel as you'll eventually come back to the same spot, but I usually start at one of the top bends (A1, for example). Just follow the image of the knot, taking care to slip your rope UNDER or OVER (depending on how it looks in the image) at each point where it crosses itself.

Once you come back to your starting point, you've completed your first pass and are pretty much home free. Take out the toothpicks, slide the knot off the mandrel, and insert one of your tethered cores into it.

You'll now complete two more passes (85mm) or three more passes (90mm) to fill in the knot over the core. This means simply following the first pass all the way through, copying the overs and unders exactly until you run out of wick on one end, then continuing with the other end until you've completed three (or four) passes total. In other words, each square section on the knot face should have three (or four) bits of rope visible.

When you've done all your passes, you should have a little rope sticking out and a lot of slack in the knot to take care of. Start at whatever end has the shortest bit of rope sticking out and work away from it, pulling each bit tight (not insanely tight, just enough so it will definitely lie flush). Tigthen allllll the way through all your passes till you reach the other end.

You should end up with beautifully round knot with no slack left. Mazeltov! If you want to add more bulk (i.e. a slightly longer burn time), you can now continue adding passes until you run out of rope/room in the facets. You'll likely need needle-nose pliers to pull the rope through at this point.

Once you're happy with your wick, trim the excess rope with some wire cutters or sharp scissors, leaving the end tucked beneath the nearest "under" section (this one section should effectively have an extra pass, but it won't be visible).

Repeat for poi #2.

Step 11: Size Tethers and Add Handles

To find the right tether length, the easiest way is to grab a pair of poi that you really like the length of and hold the tether straight up so the tether has no slack and the poi head is resting lightly on the ground. Pull the Technora tether up next to it and then adjust the handle up or down the Technora until it's even with the poi you like. (Alternatively, if you don't have a nicely sized poi set to compare to, you can measure from the bottom of your hand to the top part of the shoulder for a good general poi length.)

For your second fire poi, size it against the first one.

Once you've dialed in your handle position on both tethers, thread your needle with Technora thread (pull it through the needle and tie a triple knot with the two ends to have double-thick thread). We'll now sew and wrap a small section of the tether so that when we trim it in the next step, the top of the tether will fray, but only down to where we sewed.

Push the needle through the tether a few times, pull the tether through the bottom of the handle a bit more (making sure not to pull it all the way out of the handle) and wrap the thread tightly around the tether as you spiral upwards, creating a ~1/4" wrapped section that will be inside the handle hole. (If you hardly have any extra tether coming out of the handle, you can skip this wrapped bit and just sew normally.)

Push the needle through the tether again at the top of this section, sew a few more times around, then cut the thread near the needle. Take the ends and triple knot tightly against the tether, and trim the excess thread.

Step 12: Prep Handles

Pull the tether through the top of the handle until the handle is well below the sewed section. Cut your tether about 1/3" above the sewed section, and then purposely fray the end so it's completely spread out in a big poofy circle.

Now pull the tether back through the handle till the bottom of the sewed section is where you started it, against the bottom of the handle. If you're using Ultraknobs, I recommend cutting two 2/3" Velcro circles (the pokey side of the Velcro), as the light inserts have a tendency to eject when you drop them and the Velcro will prevent that.

Step 13: Fill Epoxy Plug

Once both your poi are sewed and trimmed and frayed, collect your epoxy, cardboard, stirring sticks, and paper towels/wet wipes. A pair of tweezers will also be handy if you're adding Velcro.

Squirt out a good portion (around 1/3) of your epoxy. Stir it up well and then scoop it into the bottom cavity of the handle, mixing it underneath and around the frayed tether till the fray is saturated. Continue scooping in epoxy until the small circular cavity in the bottom of the handle is almost full. Leave this handle laying upright (I hung the poi from a door handle) and repeat with the other handle.

Now is the time to tweezer or otherwise gently lay the Velcro circle on top of the partially dried epoxy in the first handle — you want the pokey hairs protruding just past the top of the small cavity into the wider handle area, so add more epoxy if necessary. Add the Velcro to the 2nd handle as well. If the epoxy is too dry to press the Velcro into at this point, you can always super glue it.

Let both handles dry upright for at least 30 minutes to make sure the epoxy is fully hardened. While you wait, you can cut out two 2/3" circles from the furry side of the Velcro and glue those to the bottom of your silicone Ultraknob light inserts. I find that longer-drying Gorilla Glue keeps the Velcro attached to the silicone more effectively than Loctite or other instant-dry glues, but it will probably still need to be reglued every so often.

Step 14: Fin

You magnificent creature. You've done it!

Go enjoy the fruits of your labor and lay down some spicy contact combos at your nearest spin jam or backyard barbecue.

Stay steezy my friend.

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    5 Discussions

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    RandalThor

    2 months ago

    Hey mate!
    Just a quick question on your kevlar rope wick length, I unsed 6.5mm/ 1/4' rope and it took me 196' for a four pass head! 3 passes didnt even cover my 60mm ball, I tied my knot around my hand, not using grid maker or a mantral, would it be that? Maybe my rope is thinner than yours for some reason?
    Not much of a question but hey, haha

    15516532972579211522801327639957.jpg
    2 replies
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    HavePoiWillTravelRandalThor

    Reply 2 months ago

    Yo! Our kevlar diameter should be more or less the same, but it looks like we have a different number of facets, which would be the result of using your hand instead of the mandrel (the mandrel template I uploaded will produce a knot with 30 facets, while yours looks like it has closer to 20).