Saturday, March 31, 2012

Color My Fire

A few years ago, I found a story about salt-saturated pine cones that give off different colored flames when burned. I was so fascinated with them, I decided to make a few. Of course, I didn't have a fireplace, but my parents did and that was good enough for me!

So I set out gathering and making a couple dozen 'firedancers' as they were called. A few different types of salt alters the color rendered with each pine cone.

The basic premise is this- gather pine cones- as many as you want to make- and soak in a solution of salt and water. Then let dry. It's that simple. Time intensive, but labor lite.

I did see in Plow & Hearth that you can purchase a bag of the color-rendering pine cones for $40. But why purchase them when they are so easy to make yourself?

Here's what you do:

Gather pine cones.
Place pinecones on a foil covered cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for about an hour. (Skip this step if using store-bought cones.) What this does is open up the pine cone and kill any bugs inside.
Allow the cones to cool.
Meanwhile, mix 1 cup chemical to a half-gallon hot water (but I always use as much chemical as the water will absorb). Stir to dissolve the chemical.
Add 1 teaspoon dish soap.
Soak as many pine cones in the solution as will safely be covered in the water. (If the pine cone sticks out of the water, it won't make pretty colors!)
Soak for 24 hours.
Remove from solution and set out to dry for at least 2- 3 days.
That's it.
Your pine cones are now ready to burn in your fireplace....or camp fire (providing you are not cooking on your campfire!).

Most of the chemicals are different types of salt compounds.
Here are some of the compounds you can use to make different colored flames:

Powdered Borid Acid- Bright green flames
Copper Sulphate- Green flames
Copper Chloride- Blue flames
Strontium Chloride- Red flames
Lithium Chloride- Crimson flames
Potassium Chloride- Purple flames
Calcium Chloride- Orange flames
Baking Soda- Yellow/Orange flames
Table Salt- Yellow flames
Epsom Salt- White flames.


  1. Now you just need to tell us where to get the various funky chemicals.

  2. Your kitchen, and then the hardware store! :)
    Sometimes, you can find things like calcium chloride at your local brew supply store.