spectating participant

May 1, 2005

fire barrel art

Filed under: art — suzanne henderson @ 5:22 pm

I needed an [art] project for the spring [Playa del Fuego]. I thought that a [burn barrel] would be a good start. I’ve been seeing more people bringing their own burn barrels and ever since [Kathleen|Kathleen Ellis] made hers, I’ve been dying to make mine. And so, began the quest for my very own.

First, I need materials:

  • 1 steel 55-gallon drum
  • 1 plasma torch

Finding a barrel can be tricky. Ask around on local email lists, [burner] list, or [freecycle]. Also, check around your local industrial areas, sometimes they’ll set them out by the road to be taken away by those who want them. Keep in mind that you’ll gonna be putting a whole lot of flames on the inside and out, so pay attention to what it had in it. I lucked out and found one down by the workshop I could use. However, if you’ve got an extra $50-60, buy a brand new one, you’ll thank me when it comes time for cutting and it’ll last longer.

A friend up the street had a plasma torch I could borrow. An amazing thing, a plasma torch is. It just uses a little air and electricity (well, a lot of electricity) and cuts right through the metal. It takes a little while to get used to the way it handles, but it didn’t take long to complete the design–

oh yeah, design. Well, I made several and decided against them when I got over to Bill’s house. And then, once I got the plasma torch going, I realized that it was pointless planning too much detail and better to just go with the [air]flow. I wanted stars (what a surprise) and nature and the design just worked out in the end.

Process: use the plasma torch to cut your design. My barrel was covered in a fine layer of rust, so the cuts were not perfectly smooth. In the few areas that were rust free, the plasma torch slid through them effortlessly–a new barrel would make intricate designs easier. Pay careful attention to what you’re cutting, you don’t want to accidently cut the wrong part and end up with a giant hole. Make sure there is enough vents toward the bottom so that the fire gets enough oxygen. And, I learned that they provide convenient access to lighting the fire too.

Final suggestion: practice using the torch on scrap metal before cutting your barrel. also, understand your design and how the lines work, you really don’t want to cut across the wrong line and lose the entire thing.

Images show the barrel that was used, some of the finer detail lit with fire, and the two main designs with and without fire.