I recently took some time to answer this question which continues to be asked again and again:
What are the best fire fans to get for beginners? Never done it before so I really want to get a pair and dive right in.
First and foremost, remember that best is subjective and relative to your goals with the tool. If you want to use a russian grip, for example, you want to get fans that will accommodate that and vice versa if you don’t. There was recently a great conversation on styles of spinning in Techy Fan Spinners (on Facebook) which, if you haven’t read, I’d encourage you to consider before choosing what type of fan you wish to purchase. The thread is rich with reading material and then study some of those videos so you can have a sense of what you want to create with the art form personally. Also understand that the Techy Fan Spinners group represents one style of fanning and may not represent the style and types of movements you are drawn to portray. Search the internet for videos of styles that inspire you and then get some coaching once you know what sort of fan work you wish to create.
Unlike poi, fan props are quite different one to another. Sure, poi may have a slightly different handle on each rig but you can always pinch it to grab the poi whereas twirling a fan on your hands is dramatically different depending on the size of the hole, how many fingers you put in it and how large your fingers are relative to the holes. Consider also that with poi, if they are too long for you you can wrap the leash around your hand to shorten it whereas a fan that doesn’t fit on the inside plane is a fixed prop with no flexibility in this dimension.
So to answer the question, I don’t think there is a single answer to this question that is “the right answer” and as a result, I don’t think there is one “best” fan to use, although there may well be one best fan for you. This article is designed to help you figure out what considerations make sense when selecting fans for the first time. Where poi can be assembled with household items for under $10, a set of fans will run 10x as much for a solid model and they really don’t afford you the opportunity of making practice sets on the cheap. While you’re out there searching for the ideal set of fans, here are a few other considerations that have been important to me as a fan artist in my practice over the years.
- Do you want to do folding work with the fan? This is when you bring the wicks in toward the elbow and fold your arms around it, as pictured here. While it technically can be done while using a fan with an odd number of wicks, you have to hold the fan in an imbalanced way to accomplish this. As a result, if you want to do folding work (one of my favorite tricks on fire because it literally looks like you’re setting your arms on fire and gets so much crowd response), you’d probably want a fan that has an even number of spokes.
- Arm length. If you’re short with a short arm (as is my situation coming in under 5’3″), the length of the spokes and how far they protrude from the grip will make a tremendous difference in what you can accomplish with the trick. A buzzsaw, for example, with a fan too large to fit on the inside of your arm is either dangerous or impossible or maybe even both, especially if you’re also working with breasts. One of my early sets of fans was was too long in this dimension which made buzzsaws consistently feel out of control.
- Tosses. Have you considered if want to toss? Even if you don’t do tosses, chances are high that at some point the fan will go flying and accidentally hit the floor in a way you didn’t intend. This will cause wear and tear on the fan, particularly at the attachment points for the spokes. Different vendors have different levels of durability on their products and are better/worse able to withstand the pressures of the impact of a missed catch on the fan itself. In fact, even from the same vendor, two different fans may well have different strength, which makes sense based on size, shape and sturdiness of the tool.
- Weight. Another factor for me as someone with repetitive stress injury in my hands and arms is the weight of the fan itself. Heavier fans tire my hands out far more quickly and although they may be more durable, I’m prone to having painful inflammation flair-ups in my hand after the fact. In contrast, lighter fans allow me to practice literally hours longer.
- Cost. No matter how much research you do, you may still not end up with the ideal set of fans when you start out. However, it’s quite different to spend a little more than $100 to get going than paying almost $200 for a new style of tool one may or may not actually enjoy by the time they practice enough to progress to fire.
- Burn duration. When you’re starting this may be less of a consideration although I’ve seen some fans with wicks that are so tiny an eating torch would be bigger. What that translates to is a very short burn time with not a lot of brightness. On the one hand, that really helps with heat because it won’t be that hot for that long. On the other hand, many people who purchase props like that are bummed with the wick size and end up spending money to rewick them with something more sizable and/or get a different kind of fan altogether. If you’re interested in a specific show duration though, the wick size and burn time will count and is something you might want to consider before making a purchase.
All of that being said, for the money, as someone who doesn’t use a Russian Grip (which means I don’t have my whole hand in the hole of the fan), who has recurring RSI in my hands and arms, who doesn’t toss, who does a lot of folding with short arms and enjoys inside work (like buzz saws), I recommend the Light Weight Khaos Fire Fans from Trick Concepts, although, truth be told, my performance set is in chrome and my practice set is the black finish. I prefer them in the chrome version because it slides on my finger more smoothly and after some time, the black has chipped off the fan although I’ve used them for 6 years now.
Although they have a model that looks remarkably like this, I would not recommend that version, the Heavy Duty Kaos fans, to start out with myself having watched a friend and colleague develop some RSI in her arms as a result of the weight of them. If you have any questions, please contact GlitterGirl for more assistance. Happy Fanning! PS: If you’re looking for some fan inspiration, here’s some practice videos.