MG01 Electronic Flash Gun
Flash paper is great for adding a little excitement and visual interest to any show. It also makes a good "starter" product for people just getting into pyrotechnics, as it is one of the most straightforward effects there is. Light a corner of the paper, toss it quickly into the air and a ball of flame seems to leap from your fingers. There are, however, two aspects of flash paper that can make it a bit intimidating to the user. First, flash paper burns very quickly and some people are not comfortable holding it in their hands while lighting it. Also, the average performer may have difficulty lighting the paper and tossing it so that the flame appears "from out of nowhere." Our Electronic Flash Gun solves both of those problems in an elegant and affordable package.
The Electronic Flash Gun was designed as a gimmick for magicians who wanted a one-handed way to ignite and toss flash paper. Basically, the device consists of five components a barrel to hold the flash paper, a glo-plug to ignite the paper, a 1.5V "AA" battery, a momentary switch to control everything and a flesh-colored ring that holds the device securely in the performer's hand. Flash paper is loaded into the barrel - using flash cotton as a primer - and when the switch is pressed, the glo-plug (which looks like a miniature version of your car's cigarette lighter) heats to red-hot. The heat from the glo-plug is enough to start the flash cotton burning which ignites the flash paper. As the flash paper burns, the gasses produced by the ignition drive the flash paper out of the barrel, propelling it up to fifteen feet away.
The effect created can be quite spectacular; a jet of fire shoots from the performer's fingertips and arcs across the stage. Since its introduction, the flash gun has become popular with a much wider range of performers than the magicians for whom it was designed. Rock and roll bands use them to add a pyrotechnic edge to their concerts, professional wrestlers (especially those devious managers) have used them in matches, and exotic dancers have purchased them to add an aspect of danger and magic to their acts. Of course, theatrical companies have found the flash gun a wonderful effect as well. The flash gun is the perfect accessory for the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz and, due to its low price and ease of use, can be used by the smallest theatre company on the most shoestring of budgets.
There are a few tricks you can use to get a better overall effect out of your flash gun. The easiest way to vary the effect you get with your flash gun is to try different sizes and shapes of loads. If you're looking for a long distance shot, use a quarter-sheet of standard flash paper - a piece about 4" square. Poke the center of this piece down into your loosely closed fist until you're holding a tube of flash paper in your fist. Twist the ends of this tube together to make a "flash paper torpedo." After loading the flash cotton primer, load the "torpedo" into the barrel tail-first. This load should fit snugly into the barrel. What happens when the switch is pressed is that the tail ignites and begins to burn, the gasses produced build up behind the rest of the load because it fits the barrel so snugly. Very quickly the pressure behind the load is enough that it is ejected from the barrel and shoots up to fifteen feet from the performer, continuing to burn as it goes.
There are times when a long distance shot might not be desirable; for example, when the Wicked Witch is shooting fire at the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz. For a short jet of flame, try using two sheets of paper from a flash pad (2" x 3"). Lay one over the other, rotated forty-five degrees so that you can see all eight corners. Poke both sheets into your loose fist and twist the ends together. The result is a wad of flash paper with a "tail" made up of the twisted-together corners. After loading the flash cotton primer, load the wad into the barrel of the gun tail-first. This type of load results in a jet of flame that generally stays within 4'-6' of the performer.
Some of our customers have asked about adding powders to the flash paper to create simulated airbursts. I cannot stress this enough NEVER USE FLASH POWDER IN YOUR FLASH GUN!! Igniting flash powder within the confines of the flash gun's barrel can cause an explosion that will destroy your gun and cause serious injury to you. In case you missed it the first time NEVER USE FLASH POWDER IN YOUR FLASH GUN!! Never, okay? Okay.
That being said, some of our customers have tried adding Electric Sparkle Additive (this is not a flash powder) to their flash paper to get a crackling, sparkling fireball. We do not recommend doing this, as you do run the risk of destroying your glo-plug and fouling the barrel of the gun. If you feel you have to try it, however, here's a method that seems to work well. Create the load described above with two sheets of flash paper. Before poking the load into your fist and twisting it together, take a small amount of flash cotton and coat it lightly with sparkle additive. Place the flash cotton in the center of the flash paper and continue with poking and twisting as usual. What happens is that the flash paper burns as before - tails first, and the bulk of the wad after it's been ejected. As the paper burns into the flash cotton/sparkle additive center, the cotton ignites and the sparkle additive bursts out in a small shower of white, crackling sparks. An impressive effect, especially for magicians, but one that should be done at a distance from the audience as the sparkle additive does create a slight fallout hazard. For most effects the flash paper alone should be plenty.
By now, you should be comfortable enough with the flash gun and the products it utilizes to start experimenting on your own. Try varying the amount of flash paper and cotton you use with each shot; try creating your own loads for different distances and looks. Using these tips - and your own imagination - you should be able to come up with a multitude of ways in which the Electronic Flash Gun can enhance your productions.
Theatre Effects Customer Service Department
Theatre Effects, 1810 Airport Exchange Blvd. #400, Erlanger, KY 41018
Phone: 1-800-791-7646 or 513-772-7646 Fax: 513-772-3579