Flame On

Reading Time: 2 minutes


I’ve had a great two weeks guest blogging on GeekDad. Thanks to Ken and John for making this possible and thanks for taking the time to read my posts and allow me the opportunity to share a few ideas.

I spent last weekend at Maker Faire, and had a chance to meet a number of terrific flamethrower makers. This is a picture of my friend John Sarriugarte’s firebreathing art car, The Golden Mean.

For my last post, I thought I’d explore one of the messages from my new book, Absinthe and Flamethrowers. I believe it’s okay to take a few risks in life, especially if they serve a higher purpose. Actually, risk taking is better than okay. If done well and with preparation and wisdom, then risk taking is noble and important. And that’s not just my opinion, a number of well done scientific studies bear that out.

The final chapter in A and F definitely involves risk taking. It shows how to build a flamethrower, and that’s the subject on which I’ll end my run here on GeekDad as well. The first question people ask me regarding making a flamethrower at home is usually, “why make one at all?” Good question.

Well, there is a certain lethal practicality involved. Doubtlessly, one could use it to chase away villains, thugs, and unwanted garden pests. But really, it’s more about making grand, large scale, and vaguely scientific gestures. It’s about being able to build and control a machine that’s capable of scaring neighbors living a block away. It’s knowing that you know an interesting subject so intimately and completely that the maker becomes being the master of a grandly exciting, arcane, and perhaps even diabolical technology.

After the “why question”, comes the “how question” which in this case is straightforward. My instructions for a flamethrower (purists will note that technically what I make is an accumulator based flame cannon, not a WWII style pressurized flaming-liquid projection system) exploit the natural vapor pressure of liquefied propane, an off the shelf high-pressure regulator, an accumulator tank, a pilot system, and a metering valve. If one assembles such equipment in a logical and straightforward manner, the result is sublime – a hot, roiling, brilliantly lucent, and well controlled fireball, ready to amuse and impress at the user’s command.

There are lots of ways that people take risks, They take financial risks, emotional risks, career risks. And once in a while, they might want to take a well thought out physical risk as well, especially if it involves cool technology.

Thanks again for spending a bit of time with another geekdad.

Today is the official publication date of Absinthe and Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously. Follow me on twitter: wmgurst.

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