*Not a Flamethrower

by Ben N on January 13, 2019

Last night, I got to play around with a Flamethrower!
OK. The device itself is actually named NOT a Flamethrower…

This was actually an odd promotional item by the Boring Company. I guess Elon Musk didn’t want the company to be boring, and issued these flamethrowers as a fun promotion.

A friend of mine had one on order, and it arrived in the mail a while back. He’s been a busy guy and also lives in an urban area WITHOUT a good space to play with a flamethrower – at least NOT without somebody calling the police or fire department.

I got the flamethrower on loan, and was hoping to try it out at a New Years Eve Drone Battle event. Unfortunately, that even got snowed out. Hard to get there when I couldn’t see the road!

So, finally, I had the opportunity to try out the flamethrower.

First thing was just to check out the device and read through the manual. The manual is very straight-forward. It shows how to hook up the propane bottle, adjust the valve, and fire it up. There’s also about a solid page of warning with strong suggestions such as “Do not use to light your grill.”

The Boring Company Not a Flamethrower has a stout plastic body in the design of some tactical or military type weapon. The standard 14 oz propane bottle threads to a gas grill style connector and short piece of hose before sliding into a clip on top of the gun.

Near the front of the grip is a red ignition button. It’s literally the same red button most people have on their LP BBQ grill! https://amzn.to/2skx4rc
After opening the gas valve, a small amount of propane comes out the end of the barrel. Clicking the red button causes a spark, igniting the gas. An “idle” adjustment allows the user to adjust how large the flame is which burns continuously at the end of the barrel.

Once lit up, pulling the trigger releases the full flow of propane and creates the fire blast.

We headed out to some private property which already had a bonfire ring. We also had a large fire-extinguisher and several 5-gallon buckets of water.

After remembering to adjust the idle valve, the flamethrower fired up.
Right away, it made some nice large blasts, but the size and power of the flames seemed to diminish as we used it. The change in pressure from any pressurized gas tank will cause a drop in temperature. We noticed the propane tank frosting up. We took a break for a few minutes to let the tank warm up again.

I also noticed a few times that there was some liquid spray coming from the end of the barrel. I can only assume that was liquid propane. Using a regular torch, common practice is always to keep the end of the tank UP. I don’t know if the horizontal orientation of the tank was less than ideal.

While it was fun to test the flamethrower with some blasts in the air, I really wanted to try it in practice against a real target. Ahead of time, I had grabbed a Christmas tree off the curb that somebody was throwing out. I propped it up in the bonfire ring. It was a six foot tall tree, and looked very fresh. I was a little concerned that perhaps it wouldn’t burn well, because of how green it was.

Boy, was I wrong.

Flaming the tree, it quickly lit, and then took off with a life of its own.

While I was standing in front of the camera, the direction of the wind changed and the full force of the flames came my way. Yipes! That’s one good reason for wearing a sturdy natural fiber work-coat! I was standing far enough away, but it’s still startling if it catches you off-guard!

We extinguished the flames. (Another fun thing to do. If you ever get the opportunity to do fire extinguisher training, do it.)

While the tree was burnt down just just the central trunk, I still wanted to test out my own LP Burner. A few years ago, I built a burner designed for use with a small forge for blacksmithing. I never got around to building the forge itself.

We hooked up the burner to a 20# LP tank and lit it. The torch burns hot and blue. It looks more like a rocket engine, whereas the Not A Flamethrower is an orange fire blast.

We didn’t have much flammable material left (especially any that WASN’T covered with Dry Chemical…) but still fooled around with toasting the tree. The burner was created with a TOTALLY different intent than the Not A Flamethrower. It’s much less impressive to watch, but does a great job of making hot, concentrated heat for metal-working. It’s also great for burning weeds!

Playing with the Not A Flamethrower was a blast. Literally.
It’s not the sort of thing I’d play with every Saturday night, but sure was fun just to try out once! I was really surprised at how fast and hot the Christmas tree went up. That really makes me re-consider the safety of having one of those at home in the first place!

While we did have fun playing with the device, safety first! For real, if you do want to go play with fire, be safe about it – open space, handy water, fire-extinguisher, watch for wind, and use uncommon sense.

Do you or a friend have a Not a Flamethrower? How did you like it? Let us know!

-Ben Nelson

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Fred Lee January 13, 2019 at 4:06 pm

I live in a rural area and have a burn pile for brush, branches, and trees that I’ve cleared. I usually burn it every 6 months or so after a particularly wet spell.

About 15 years ago I put our Christmas tree on top, just for fun. The tree had plenty of green needles on it, even a little bit of sap running down the trunk. It had been outside in the rain for a day or so.

Despite all that, and as you observed, that thing went up like a torch when touched with a flame. I don’t mean I had to hold the flame to the tree, I mean having a flame near it. Within a minute or so the 8 foot tree was pretty much done.

I was stunned and amazed. You always hear about how Christmas trees are a big cause of house fires but seldom see it. Having experienced that I haven’t had a real Christmas tree since and I won’t ever again.

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