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Realistic Fires

By Colin Churcher

This web page was last updated on January 24th, 2010.


I have been experimenting with leds from strings of Christmas lights.  These are very cheap (I purchased a string of 70 lights from Home Hardware on special after Christmas for about $9.00) and easy to use.  This project was to prepare some glowing embers which result from a forest fire burning out.  If you need a proper fire, such as a campfire, Evans Designs at http://www.modeltrainsoftware.com/ have a good range of leds that can be connected directly to track power.  This company also has a number of other useful items such as flashing leds and welding kits etc.

Making Fire - 1
I made this on a piece of green covered project sheet.  Three leds have been removed from their sleeves and soldered to hookup wire using a 1000 ohm resistor on one side and covered with heat shrink insulating tubing.  The orange led was subsequently changed for a third red one.

Three holes were made to take the sleeves for the leds and a template was prepared  to simplify drilling of the holes for the final installation.
Making Fire - 2
Making Fire - 3
The fire area was painted black to show basic burn area and the leds were test fitted into the sleeves.
A base coat of powdered blackboard chalk is applied  in the central area to simulate ash.  It was flooded with methyl hydrate and then secured with a 50-50 mixture of white glue and water.
Making Fire - 5
Making Fire - 6 5.
Flames and embers can be made from  cotton balls impregnated with fluorescent red and red/orange model paint left to dry overnight.  The wispy ends make good flames while the thicker areas can be cut into small irregular pieces to simulate embers or hot coals.
Some spots of fluorescent red paint are applied over the chalk and some embers are glued down around the holes for the leds.
Making Fire - 7
Making Fire - 8 7.
Small twigs are painted black and glued down at random around the embers.
Powdered white chalk is applied over the whole, particularly the twigs (branches).
Making Fire - 9
Making Fire - 10 9.
The leds are inserted into their collars.tested and glued down.
More embers are glued around and over the leds.  Take a careful look at this to place the embers in such positions that they obscure direct vision of the leds, the intention being that the embers glow indirectly from the leds, which should not be visible directly.

After installation additional blackened branches will be secured above the coals to simulate the final stages of a forest fire.
Making Fire - 11