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3 Part Staves


Shortly after we introduced our basic staves, people started asking for something that would fit in their trunk, or in a backpack, or in a toolkit. The requests kept coming, so we had to innovate a new kind of tool. The multi-part staff was introduced. We went through several models but the first to make it to the website was our 3-part staff.

The simple design of the 3-part staff has made it a very popular tool since it’s introduction. Essentially, it’s 3 pieces of equal length, with wicks and connectors. For the connectors, we went through a large variety of types: screw-in, crutch, quick release, slide and click, progressive tension, rotational tension, gravity grip … I could go on. But, in the end, we chose the “crutch” style.

Each connector has it’s problems and strengths. Pool cue connectors pull out of the wood, and form the weak point of the stick, anything that depends on friction will fail, quick release eventually release too quickly, etc. And the “crutch” style connectors are no different. First they’re directional: if you push one direction they’re secure, but go the other way, and they can release. In actual crutches, they make sure the secure direction is the one you depend on. Same with these, we wanted to make sure that in normal spinning, the connectors would be most secure. The down side is that you can’t use these staves for vaulting, or jabbing motions.

On the flip side, the 6″ overlap we install makes the joints stronger than the main tubes alone. This overlap allows for a certain amount of “rattle” if you shake it right, but such noises rarely occur during spinning. They are based on the tolerance of the telescoping tubes and can generally be prevented with a single wrap of scotch tape.

Following the 3-part staff, came the Great Staves. Scaled up tubes and wick options, the great staff introduced variable length staves. The great staff can be assembled and shifted from 6 feet to 8 feet in 6 inch increments. Otherwise, it has all the strengths and features of the 3-part staff.

Next, we introduced the All in One kits and wanted a staff that could fit inside one of those cases. Unfortunately, a 3-part staff that would fit in an 18″ toolbox would only be 3.5 feet long. More of a baton, really. So, we added another level of connectors (which looked a lot like one of the original prototypes), and came up with the 5-part staff. Again, same strengths and features of the 3-part, just 18″ pieces and a 5.5 foot length.

Grand finale’ in this line of staves is the Instructor staff. No real innovations, but we finally embrace the “crutch” heritage of the connector. Unlike the rest of the multipart staves, the middle tube is a bit longer (see picture). What this allows is a staff that can be any length from 4 feet to 6 feet in increments of 3 inches. So, a staff instructor, or spin jam operator with this stick can hand it over to someone who’s interested in staffing and adjust it until their perfect length is found. Then, the newbie can order their preferred size staff with confidence.

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Hybrid wick fire poi


Hybrid wick fire poi are one of the very first tools we introduced to the fire world. To be fair, we didn’t really invent the thing. Even the Seattle fire codes as late as 1990 indicated that cotton wicks should be covered with kevlar. Doubtlessly, news of this trickled down to LA to influence the design. However, the specific construction methods were pretty much new.

First, instead of wrapping a denim cathedral stack in kevlar to keep the cotton embers from flying willy-nilly, we started with a sealed cube of kevlar, then filled it with cotton. Plus the cotton used isn’t a woven variety so these wicks are super absorbent. This makes them perfect for spinning alcohol based fuels. Unlike pure kevlar, alcohol burns beautifully on these wicks, even the colored fuel variants.

Unfortunately, cotton has a weakness for heavily oils, so kerosene and lamp oil are contraindicated. It seems that the extra time burning these oils will cause the cellulose to break down and start a low oxygen burn, kinda like charcoal when it’s just red and glowing. This makes them less than ideal for beginners and travelers, who might not have as many choices in fuel.

The kevlar grips are another thing we introduced at the request of many teachers. Most people used leather when these were introduced. Now leather has two real problems. First, they have a break-in period before they become comfortable, then, they stay exactly that way until they break. So, no real indication that they’re about to fail. Next, they’re usually quite stiff. In fact the better they’re made the more stiff they are. This stiffness reduces a lot of the pull from the wicks. Reduced pull means that you have to spin faster to feel where the wick is. Faster spinning makes it harder to hit the timing on new moves, and sharpens the learning curve.

So, with kevlar, both problems are solved. The lighter, yet stronger, material transfers most of the weight to the wearer, so they can spin slower and still feel where the wick is. And kevlar gives a long, slow clear indication that failure is imminent. The strands stretch, they may even fray a bit, and generally they look like ratty jeans. This allows even the most inexperienced spinner know that it’s time to replace the wicks.

The rest of the hardware is all steel, rated at 150 pounds or more. The parts are selected for their modularity, the chain is all spinners, so no kinking. Also the nice round ball chain is generally preferred for comfort among those who do chain wraps on the skin.
Tedward
Bearclaw Manufacturing

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Welded Fire Swords

The Bearclaw Welded Fire Swords may not have been the first fire tool we ever made, but they’re still our trademark. The process of developing the “right” sword lead to studies in metallurgy, alchemy, thermochemistry, jewelry, Bushido, and ultimately lead to opening Bearclaw.

Our founder started doing tool-based fire performance in the late 1990s. And though his first tool was a variable wick staff, the sword was in development immediately after his first burn. Initial sword designs were very rough, with bolts sticking out and dubious metals. But the beginnings of this design could be already seen. Slowly this primitive design gave way to dozens more as he made more for himself and other admirers. How the idea for the welded edge came about, no one is completely certain. But it proved to be the right idea. That very first welded sword is still in use after years of solid use.

The welded edge, unlike a folded edge, is a different metallic structure. This allows the thin aluminum sides to heat up without the edge getting heated as much or as fast. This transfers much of the flame heat back into the wick, yet allows the edge to be used for cutting and raking motions along the body with relative safety. The wick on the back edge of the sword is always more than an inch away from the edge, so dramatic rakes along the back, legs, body, etc are more possible with this sword than any other.

The wick design involves a complicated mix of metals (aluminum, stainless and copper), cotton, and kevlar. The kevlar is stitched to the aluminum body with copper wire. Each of these materials were specifically chosen for their specific properties. But the real wicking potential comes from the cotton and stainless. The internal cotton core is at least twice as absorbent as kevlar, and many times more absorbent than fiberglass or other high heat materials. This is where the prodigious amount of fuel is stored making this one of the longest lasting burns of any fire tool.

The Tsuba and handle of this sword and it’s cousins, the Twin Welded Fire Swords differ pretty severely. The single sword has a full round tsuba (cross guard). This gives the ‘katana look’ to the sword. The tsuba gives better flame protection to the hand than western cross guards, and better mobility than fencing dishes. The handle is beefed up with hardwood covering to give some protection from the heat, but the edge is exposed all the way through.

The continuous edge is an important safety factor in this sword. As mentioned above, it doesn’t take as much heat as the body, but is does take heat, and it’s slowly transmitted up to the handle. Typically, this means the sword is quite warm by the end of the show. However, This heat is a beautiful indicator of the overall heat of the sword. If the handle is too hot to hold, then the rest of the sword is too hot to re-fuel. This prevents accidental auto-ignition problems. Also, this gives the wielder a clear, obvious, blind indication of the orientation of the sword, allowing rakes and such to be performed in the heat of the moment without stopping to verify where the wick is.
Tedward
Bearclaw Manufacturing

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Shipping and returns

Ordering an item from Bearclaw? We can ship to virtually any address in the world. Note that there are restrictions on some products, and some products cannot be shipped to international destinations.

Shipping Date & Delivery Time

Many items at Bearclaw are custom manufactured at the time of order. This requires us, at the very least, to maintain a staff of highly trained fire tool makers. It also requires us to maintain a large and complex stock of base materials to make these tools. Most items we can make from materials on hand, some we do not keep stocked, and occasionally our stock levels drop below what\’s needed to make some tools. Naturally, we will ship as soon as your item is made, but heavy traffic and material resupply can alter your delivery date.

The delivery speed you select is based on the date from when the order is ready, not from the date of order. Some third party manufacturers, like Hazard Factory and Demonia shoes have radically different shipping policies that can result in delays of days or weeks. You will be notified if the delay will be more than a day or two. You can check the status of your order in the account page. When the order is shipped, you will received it at the shipping speed requested.

Our preferred shipping method is USPS. They guarantee delivery or promptly provide the insured amount. Ground delivery is usually sufficient inside the continental US.

Calculating Cost

Shipping costs for orders from Bearclaw depend upon the method and option you choose. Please also note that the shipping rates for many items we sell are weight-based. Every attempt has been made to approximate weights exactly. However, some items, particularly third party items may have “dimensional weights” or other issues that raise the shipping price. When this is the case, additional shipping fees, up to $20 will automatically charged, otherwise, you will be contacted directly.

Returns

If your products arrive in an unsatisfactory condition, for any reason, please contact us immediately. The two biggest reasons for returns are shoe problems and shipping damage. For non-Bearclaw products, like the shoes, the individual companies may require us to begin the returns procedure. So, we need to know about it first. Do not attempt to return the package without contacting us.

If your package gets damaged during delivery, our shippers have proven very reliable in making amends with us and we can usually reship immediately. However, other shippers are not so reliable. In either case, both parties will have to contact the shipper, so please let us know immediately.

Please contact for any other returns reasons first: wrong product, unexpected product, defects, etc. Some returns will garner a restocking fee of 10%-50%, some will be handled free. We will give you the proper returns address when you let us know that you wish to return and why.

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Welcome

I never thought I’d get “into” blogging, but I found that I keep other blogs like a public journal. So, when I was looking for a little writing inspiration, I thought about blogging the things that have become my life: Bearclaw fire tools.

I’ve been working Bearclaw full time since 2000. It is, in fact, the longest running job I’ve ever had (take that, Army). What a long strange trip it’s been too. When we first started, there were two distinct pressures: people needing something other than Poi, Staff, or clubs. Really, that’s all you could find online. The other pressure was the concern that a local tool maker in LA would cause a “wave of bad poi spinners like in San Francisco.” I’m not sure I see how that could be the case, I think people are gonna do things whether or not they’re facilitated. If people are going to do fire, they’ll build fire tools themselves, even if done badly. Or, they’ll find someone (like me) to make tools for them. Why not me?

Okay, so, I responded to both in approximately the same way. I sat down and honed out several designs. When we opened, we offered Torches (swinging, not juggling), eating torches, countach torches, a variety of staves, hybrid poi, triple poi, swords, naganata, fire hoops, fire fingers, and even a rudimentary folding fan. Most of these designs had never been seen in the fire community, some completely new. Local spinners went crazy for the new tools, and other tool makers fell over themselves to knock off the designs.

To this day, we still set the standards in innovation. But bearclaw isn’t just about the tools. We were also the first company to distribute safety information with each order. Then we became the primary financial support for the North American Fire Arts Association. We started the Los Angeles Fire Conclave and found it’s home, Burn Club. The safety methods there carried to Burning man, and became the de-facto standard of safety for the community.

Most recently, Bearclaw members joined together to start up Red Swan Entertainment. The theory behind Red Swan is not to be just another performance troupe, but to be more of a talent agency. Red Swan gathers data on fire performers, helps get them training, photographs, video, costumes, etc. Then, presents the information to performance venues that are generally out of reach to individuals, and small troupes. With hundreds of people to choose from Movie casting agents, party planners, etc can really zero in on what they want, and be assured that they’re dealing with a professional.
*sigh*

Yup, we’ve come a long way. And with the new website we put up last April, I noticed that the text was a little thin. So, I decided to take my blogging habit and put it to use. About once a week, I’ll be discussing the history, the specifics, or just blather about one tool at a time. Maybe this text will return to the site to help bolster the content of the main site, maybe it will stay here, alone. I don’t know. But I imagine this being like a little secret corner of the web. So, curl up, drink some cocoa, and listen to some [hopefully] interesting stories….

Tedward
Bearclaw Manufacturing