Flashback: Diminutive Balls of Fire

Craft & Design
Flashback: Diminutive Balls of Fire

What do you get when you mix a glo-plug, a large binder clip, flash cotton, a momentary pushbutton switch, and a few other ingredients? One serious way to get someone’s attention! Back in lucky MAKE Volume 13, Joel Johnson showed us how to shoot fireballs from the palm of our hands with the Orpheus Shooter. As Joel writes in the intro, “You can buy one from most magic shops for around $50, but if you build one on your own, you’ll not only save a few bucks, you’ll also learn how easy it is to add fire effects to any electronics project. (And what gadget couldn’t stand a little more spurting flame?)” Word!

The super-fun Orpheus Shooter uses a minimum number of parts and can be pretty fully concealed in your hand:


The glo-plug is the only disposable part, usually bearing a rating of 50 ignitions, but Joel claims to pull at least twice that number from his. Plus, there are online sources like starlight.com that sell them for about $5 a pop. Here’s the glo-plug glowing:


And here’s the Orpheus Shooter project in our Digital Edition. For plenty more trickery, pick up a copy of MAKE Volume 13 in the Maker Shed!

8 thoughts on “Flashback: Diminutive Balls of Fire

  1. Laptop Bags says:

    This is awesome. Job would be proud!


  2. Tait says:

    I’ve built a few. The only problem I’ve had is that the flash cotton does not reliably ignite the flash paper, so unless the projectile isn’t fired just right, it just shoots out.

  3. Carl says:

    Yes, but where did the lighter fluid come from?

  4. Michael Fusion says:

    i the flash paper doesn’t ignite, you can do a few things.

    use flash cotton as a primer and flash paper as the igniter.

    take an xacto knife and basically shred the flash paper.

    i used to use a device from the magic shop for fun and to make a fireball i did the first. the flash cotton acts as a propellant.

    p.s. you can also use gun cotton cause that’s what it is, it’s a little cheaper. or you could make it but don’t blow yourself up

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

View more articles by Goli Mohammadi


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).