The Cauldron
Diary of Construction, 1999
1999: Construction - Burning Man - Winter
2000 - 2001


August 26, 1999: Morning: Truck picks up the firefall!
August 25, 1999: Day before the truck picks it up
      Early morning: Hose fixing, last minute epoxying
      Morning: Nynex calls!
      Afternoon: Got extinguishers
      Evening: Broke my hand...
August 24, 1999: Purple visits!
August 23, 1999: Epoxy and shopping and fuel
      News flash!! Cheap fuel!
      Epoxy and shopping...
August 22, 1999: Working on the bottom bowl
August 21, 1999: Picked up the bottom bowl
August 20, 1999: No bowl today, hopefully tomorrow
August 19, 1999: Getting the bowl tomorrow
August 18, 1999: Ran the pump finally!
August 17, 1999: Fuel pump and misc.
August 15, 1999: Setting up the pump
August 8, 1999: The week of SIGgraph...
August 6, 1999: Top bowl work last night
August 4, 1999: Bowl ordered
August 3, 1999: Pump arrives!
July 31, 1999: Naptha tests
July 28, 1999: White gas arrived!
July 26, 1999: Pump ordered for sure this time!
July 20, 1999: Pump rented!
July 19, 1999: Pump order cancelled!
July 17, 1999: I am wanted!
July 16, 1999: Pump ordered!
July 12, 1999: First night tests
July 11, 1999: First flow tests
June 8, 1999: Found the top bowl for the next firefall!
Unknown, 1999: Pre Cauldron: The Ceramic Thing

August 26, 1999: Morning: Truck picks up the firefall!

At 4am, I heard the familiar buzzing of a mosquito in my ear. Nothing like that high-pitched whine to keep you thinking you're still hearing it. Once awak, I couldn't sleep at all, so I got up and worked.

I got the fuel fitting back in -- even was able to screw it in with my lame hand :) -- and I think it's not going to leak this time, even w/o epoxy. I went back to bed after that.

I woke up again at 7 or so, and finally got up around 7:45. I shopped for food -- since I could put it on the truck -- and then went to work gathering my stuff together.

Most of this is fuzzy, even though they just left with the stuff. I was hungry, but too stressed to eat, so I was light-headed. And I needed to do some work with the circular saw -- cut the plywood to make the pump box and geometric shapes -- but I was too afraid to by myself, so I waited until Dave got home again.

I packed a lot of stuff! And even labled it all with my name and our camp location. I got pretty much everything I need on that truck! My little car will be so happy to hear that! :) :) So all I need to take with me is Phil's stuff, and some fresh food, and the sushi fish for the DPW! I just now realized that it was dumb for me to keep the two rugs that I was planning on taking. I had been planning on putting them on my roof so I could load stuff up there. But I don't think I have anything I need to load! Oh well.

I also realized I did two things which are too bad. [Well, three, including the rugs.] I didn't have them take my leveling board. It's kinda long, but I guess that I can now put it on my roof with the rugs! :) Also, I packed the fuel pump, which I need a reading on the amperage so Scott will know what type of thing to buy to power it. Darn. Well, I think I did pretty well anyway, considering!

The lady next door called to me from her porch asking what I was doing. I just said, "I'm making a fountain. And I'm taking it to Burning Man." She didn't know what that was, so I said it was an art festival. :) Didn't want to get too specific. They're real quiet types. :) [I've been afraid of those folks since they called the police on last year's Burning Man Recompression Party... I think the husband is a bit cranky. :( I kinda felt bad, but we weren't being all that loud anyway... So I've not talked to them at all really.]

Paba Phree was really great, and so were the two guys who helped out! [I'm afraid I have already forgotten their names...I am still a bit of a stress-basket!] They treated everything very carefully and loaded everything I gave them, including lot of personal stuff, and my bike! Awesome!

They left without the map to Sparks! But I called Paba on his cell phone, and then met them at the bottom of the hill. And then dropped by work to try to figure out if it is at all possible to pack my office before I leave. I really don't think so... I need to go talk to someone about it.

I still have quite a bit left to do on the fountain... The fuel is not at all hooked up. :( And the metal is not attached to the sides. Actually, though, both of these can be done with the fountain filled -- thought it's harder, of course. :) Not sure when the DPW is going to fill me. If I have a choice, I'm going to say sunday or monday to be on the safe side...

Yesterday, I got a water-proof disposable sport camera! I'm going to take some pictures from inside the water!! :) I wonder if there's a way to click it remotely so I can take some pictures from underwater with fire!! Wow! I wonder what that would look like!!

Phil called and said his flight will be delayed... This kinda puts a damper on shopping for food... I'm not sure what he likes. So we'll have to shop in the morning. Bummer.

But frankly, I think we're well on our way! I think we'll make it off by noon with no problem!

August 25, 1999: Day before the truck picks it up

Early morning: Hose fixing, last minute epoxying

Lots of things today -- last real day to work on the firefall...

First, I woke up feeling a LOT better about things. I took the S-fitting out and attached it to the pump, and also cut and epoxied the feed hose so it would fit. [I'll take the left-over piece with me, in case I need patches in the hose. Ug, that would suck!] I also scrubbed the small amount of soot off the sides on the bowl and pedistal [from my playing with fire with Scott on sunday. :) ] I was worried the soot would stain it, and it did a tad. One spot I had tried earlier scrubbing w/ steel wool then stopped because I figured that was a bad was, since the soot had dug deep into the plastic and there was no way it would scrub out! Arg...

[Saw a water beetle in the bottom bowl. I have NO idea how he coulda gotten in there, but he swam and tried to find hiding under the suction screen. :) Kinda made me happy seeing him, but then sad because I didn't know what would happen to him when I ran fire later in the evening, then drained the tub completely to ready it to pack...]

Took my car bacn in for some minor check-overs and stuff. Getting two new tires on the front, and the usual tune-up and oil change. I take it back out at 3 to run some errands. [Gotta get the extinguishers, and felt, and one last run to the hardware store...last?? I lie to myself. :) ]

I'm still a bit at a loss as to where I can find a metal goblet for the lighting ceremony...

Plans today:

get extinguishers
get felt for filter bags
make a stop at the fish market
random stuff at the hardware store
Tonight, I plan on setting up and trying to light it. I told some folks they should come over around 9. I hope I have something to show them! AK!! :)

Morning: Nynex calls!

George called this morning! Had lots of news.

First, our town is 30' shorter than we anticipated...the dimentions we were given included the road and we didn't know that. Bummer. Not sure what we'll do -- we're pretty packed in.

He said, too, that all space behind us was taken, including the diagonals. This sucks because we were hoping to put overflow camping back there... Baja-TTT may become a random scattering of folks...

Also, I told him about a water tank filled I was getting! not sure where we'l put it, but there we have it!

He said they are now checking tickets at the gate. And there is no will-call. This kinda sucks cuz he's holding tickets for his mom... Not sure what we'll do about that.

The sunsets and rises are spectacular, he says! There's a rumor that there's a big fire somewhere nearby...

Afternoon: Got extinguishers

Got my car from Art at Auto Point to run a quick errand to ACME Extinguisher. Nice folks. They're charging me only for the recharge -- which means I can open them up when all is said and done!!

I pulled up my car, and they brought the first one down. I asked, "so, can I take it now?" and the guy said, "you can, but it's 50#. You might not want to lift it." So I shrugged -- having done far more work than that in the last month :) -- and [lifting with my legs, not back, of course] tipped it over deftly and hoisted it up. I heard behind me, "or, well, I guess you'll have no problem!" :)

Then the sweet guy who said that [I'm not being sarcastic] felt all bad and came over and chatted -- saying he didn't mean anything sexist by it, like I couldn't pick it up. :) I smiled warmly. And he chatted about strong women he knew. :) I just got a giggle out of it. :)

Also was able to get the felt and even beat the traffic back to work for my shot review at 5:45! :) [My last day at Pixar, as they are laying me off...]

Evening: Broke my hand...

First of all [hey, I like suspense! :) ] My review was an hour and a half late, so I got a late start. I got a bunch of stuff, but by the time I got yto Home Depot, I realized I had time only for getting the trash cans -- which I had to get because the truck came in the morning! I also grabbed a couple other things. But I got home so late, and Erika had come by and left already...and I didn't have time to fill it anyway... i filled it enough to make sure the fuel tunnel wasn't leaking, then shut off the water.

I wanted to finally address the leaking fuel fitting on the top bowl, so I managed to get the top bowl resting on the side of the bottom bowl and the edge of the pedistal. It was difficult in the dark, and having to reach around to both sides of the bowl to hold one side and crank with all my might on the other side...and while I was turning as hard as I could, I heard a loud CRACK!! and felt a sharp pain on my hand. At first it felt like a painful joint pop, but it hurt more and more, and I went into mild shock... I was still able to get the fitting off from a differet grip without too much pain, but by the time I went inside, I was feeling woozy and just decided to rest. I don't remember much else before bed, except that frantic feeling that I needed to still get things packed up and ready.

Dave told me he had talked them into coming to get our stuff around noon instead of 8am, which was a god-send!! This relieved a tremendous amount of stress, so I just went to bed...

[continued in the next day entry. :) ]

August 24, 1999: Purple visits!

It's been a looong time since Purple and I really had a good sit-down! But last night was not the night for it! He came over as I had just finished "welding" the ABS pipe for the fuel tunnel. George had warned me about the fumes of ABS weld, and he was right -- I had a headach after welding only two joints at once! I even tried hard to breath as little as possible...

I think the weld fumes were affecting me too -- I felt a bit flustered and freaked and confused. Yeah, it musta been the fumes, not the deadline. :)

I had gotten a circular saw at Big4Rents, but the blade didn't work right [I found out later that we just didn't have it cinched down right...] We tried cutting the plywood for the geometric shapes, but it wouldn't work. I also felt a bit bad leaving Purple on his own [well, I was spotting in case he cut off his leg, or something. :) ] I was working on geting the pump ready to measure the hose and cut it to the best length.

I was also trying to figure out how to bring the feed hose to ground-level without using NPT elbows [which I tried in vain to find -- "no, we don't carry this -- they don't even exist!" "Well, I have two of them at home, but I ordered them and there's no time to order more of them..." grr.] I decided in the end to use weld fittings, arguing that the real length they add is parallel to the ground [where I have to make welds back into NPT using fittings] and with the welds tight together it should be fine -- and also, if it did get to be taller than the pump, then I'd simply bury the feed hose.

Well, anyway -- last night truly was a blur :) -- we went to the hardware store last minute. I hadn't closed with this one yet, so they were still tolerant of me. :) Purple, very wisely, said I should worry mostly about parts and not construction, since I could even still do that on the playa. He's oh so right. I also decided I would make a Reno run on sunday, if things "looked bad" when I set up. This took a big load off.

This was the first moment I had actual panic that I might not even finish this project! AK!!!

[I woke up this morning feeling much better about it, though.]

We did have a good sit-down in the end, eating some B&J Dilbert icecream he brought! Purple is such a good guy...I miss having him around...

After he left, I put together some more weld [the feed hose S-shape to bring it to ground-level -- so the hose isn't damaged] -- since I was going to bed and wouldn't notice the headache. :)

I have a new concern: I think I'm going to have to bury the hose as best as I can, even though I didn't prepare for this. I'm worried folks will trip over then in the night... Not sure if I have time [or energy] to solve this. I will do my best.

August 23, 1999: Epoxy and shopping and fuel

News flash!! Cheap fuel!

I just talked to the petroleum folks in Sparks -- the price is $2.99/gal.!!! The best price I found in the Bay Area was $3.45! So each drum is only $165 -- compared to > $200 which was what I was expecting to pay! I'm psyched!!

I also talked to Paba Phree of the Cataclysmic Megasheer Ranch, who are trucking my stuff up for me. He says they're loading the truck 8am-4pm, and don't know yet whether I'm first or last... Ug! So I need to be ready to load up at 8am...

They are planning on leaving either thursday night after the last loading, or friday morning bright and early! Unfortunately, I'll probably not be able to be there when they pick the fuel up... So I will have to call the Barry Hinkley folks up and make arrangements.

The CMR folks are also graciously taking some other stuff up for me, so I don't have to load down my poor little car!

It's getting closer and closer! I am soooo excited!!

Epoxy and shopping...

I woke up early, stressing about getting this project done -- as usual. I've been waking up at 6 or so and lying in bed thinking about what I have left to do. Not good. This weekend went really well, though, so I felt a lot better already!

But here I was, awake at 7am...and I couldn't go back to sleep, so I went ahead and got up and went out and epoxied the short pipes into the bulkheads. I also epoxied the suction hose -- inside and out, by golly! It's not gonna leak this time!!

I opted not to epoxy the feed hose, because I think I'm going to cut it down to the exact size I need. I also think I'm going to go ahead and get an elbow to bring the hose to ground-level. It's not good for it to hang up there at a foot off the ground! The hose will eventually rip, and I'm not really sure how to support it properly...

Today, I have a game machine to pick up from the airport [I bought a QxBert machine on eBay a while back -- before I got laid off, of course!] So I'm going to run some errands while I'm out. I have a long shopping list still to get [small things, though] and some stuff I still need to do today. So I'm going to duck out of work for a while and get those done.

My goal is to be done done DONE by wednesday -- and have some friends over and show it off!

Here's my total shopping list:

Hardware store:

3" pipe for fule "tunnel"
3" elbow for fuel "tunnel"
long bolts for diffuser [must go through and across the feed pipe]
long bolts for flashing [must go through both sides of the "lip" of the bowl]
spray paint for Color Space
can of paint for Color Space
plywood for geometric shapes for Color Space and pump housing
metal shelf corners -- for fuel pump housing
teflon tape -- yellow kind and white
elbows for feed hose
wedges -- paint mixers? different sized wood scraps?

water storage containers
tarps to cover fuel and water
astro turf for water spillage?
extra rope to stitch water containers closed
strong rope to tie down Color Space
white PVC pipes for Color Space for fun
extra hose clamps for flexible coupling
drum lid for running fuel hose through -- take drum lid to fit!
diffuser parts -- circle, mesh, arms [left-over aluminum?]
stakes for Color Space -- I think George got these for me
stapler for stapling carpet to pump housing [or use tacks and hammer]
wire and aligator clips to prevent electrostatic shock from fuel barrels

felt for filter bags
velcro ties for quick-connect hose fittings
tap vent for drum tap hole -- get in Sparks?
old carpet -- pick this up at the side of the road somewhere!
metal goblet for lighting ceremony

August 22, 1999: Working on the bottom bowl

Holes drilled, but no bulkheads yet I spent all day sunday cutting out the holes, attaching the bulkheads, and generally setting up. I cut the holes with my dremel tool using cut-off wheels -- this worked very well! I also fixed the leaky side of the feed hose with epoxy and epoxied the water inlet to the top bowl, but decided I wanted to re-seat the fuel inlet before trying to epoxy that in place.

The bulkheads are utterly leak-proof with only finger-tightening -- and when I say "finger tighten" I want to point out that this is a two-hand job! The nut for the bulkhead is probably 5-6" in diameter! I had to depend on friction to hold the other side while I stood with feet apart and grabbed a hold and turned with all my might! "Finger tighten" HA!

Scott Bartlett came over and showed me the slides he took on his last visit -- man oh man! did the blue flames show up! SpecTACular!! He took some video and pictures as we got the final stuff together and got ready to fill the tank.

Took off the filter bag and noticed that it worked really well! It was all full of trash and leaves! This is very good news! I hope it works as well with playa dust! :)

Cat included for size :) I got impatient, so we went ahead and filled the tank -- which took quite a long time with a garden hose! I primed the pump like George showed me by putting the hose into the outlet to fill the feed hose all the way to the pump. The flexible coupling started to leak. Er, quite a bit. And eventually it failed altogether. This caused the elbow connection to the top bowl also to fall apart...I looked at this with dismay. Oh, it was fine, I just needed to hook everything back together and tighten the clamps a little more...but, I would have to do all this on my knees in 8" of water that was still rising! Ug. So I rolled up my knee-high leggings and climbed in -- oooo is that water cold!

The feed pipe goes from the bulkhead to an elbow to the top bowl. I put a piece of wood under the elbow so when I put the top bowl down on the pipe, it forces the pipe into the hole tightly -- so the bowl actually rests on this piece of wood. Well, this piece of wood [and the smaller piece to shim it to the proper height] had come loose. Note, that wood floats. Note also that I have only two holes I can reach my arm in, and none to look in, since both are now underwater... So with one hand, I had to get one floating piece of wood under another piece of floating wood and both together under the elbow... I reamined remarkably calm, I think. :)

Then to putting the top bowl back on the pipe. I have this down to a science now! :) Three pieces of thick wood, under equal places to hold up the bowl. Stick my arm in the hole, and line up the pipe. Take one piece of wood out. Reach in and put the pipe back under the bowl cuz it fell. Take out the other piece of wood. The pipe fell again, but now won't fit under the pie because the bowl is too low, repeat steps 1-35 until the pipe stays for you to pull out the last piece of wood. :) Set the top bowl down gently and hear the satisfying sound of the pipe sliding into the joint...

I found a way to level the bowl pretty easily. Lay a flat board across the bowl. Set a saucer of water on the board. Put shims under the bowl until the water in the saucer is level. Lay the board the other direction. Rotate shims around to left or right to make level. Works well!

See warranty lable instructions Once it was filled, we ran the pump! Very exciting! The pump serged a bit, though, and we realized this was because the suction hose was so very leaky that it was actually drawing air into the pipe. So we plugged the intake and took off the hose. The pipe was not threaded in properly. We found out that it was almost impossible to screw it in without threading it poorly -- it was stripped! Ug. No way to replace the parts. So Scott filed it back into shape, but it still didn't work! We struggled for maybe 10 minutes. I wanted to tap on it with a hammer while screwing it -- partly so it would be forced into place, but also because it would be very satisfying. :) So I did, while very carefully noting where the threads went awry. And it actually worked! [I think Scott's filing made it much easier...]

I was also dismayed with the fact that the other side of the feed hose also leaked!! Arg! Both sides were not sealed properly!

With the suction hose finally better sealed [it still leaked some though :( ], the pump no longer serged! I also found that I could control the water flow with the throttle on the pump -- nice because this would mean the pump wouldn't use as much fuel! It's not good for it, though, as it can over-heat...

Scott playing instead of taking pics A little fire to test A little fire to test Scott and I played in the smooth sheet of water for hours! The water sheet is so thin and clear! It's cool! He took lots of pictures. I was impatient again and got some fuel and dumped it on top and lit it! Yeah, yeah, with the unprotected plastic, but I kept an eye on it and splashed water where any flames still lived and got near the plastic. It was fine for a quick test. :) The most important note is: the bulk naptha worked fine! We both took pictures [me with my little disposible.] I was laughing that here I was with soda-container full of fuel, lighter and camera! What a sight! The flames left a little soot on the bowl, so this may stain it. [Note to self: better scrub this off before it soaks into the plastic itself...]

Scott also grabbed some sounds from the water falling. It had a wonderful percussive sound to it.

We generally had a lot of fun playing in the water, breaking the thin sheet of water with our hands!

George showed up just in time to see the festivities! The pump was about to run out of gas, though, and as he went to crank it way up, it ran out! We let it sit a while then tried again. George, of course, wants it super-cranked up, whereas I just want it to flow smoothly over the edge.

I decided then to go ahead and drain it -- since I had a lot of epoxying to do still, so I let him unhook the hose and hold it while it spewed out water at 260 gal/minute! He loves this! :)

Just then, George's friend Skully shows up -- just a little too late! Arg! And also our roommate Dave Cherry with Uktena in tow! Arg arg! I wish they've been just 5 minutes earlier! Oh well.

We all then went to eat yummy pizza. When I got home, I went out to epoxy the parts, but it was way too dark and I was way too tired anyway. So I just dried them all off and got them ready.

August 21, 1999: Picked up the bottom bowl

My good friend Dan McCoy and his son Lian helped me pick up the monsterous bottom bowl on saturday! At Water Components, I noted to Lian about the footprints on the inside of the bowl, on the walls -- "like a gerbil wheel" I said! So as we rolled it, I said he could hop in and try it! So he giggled as we carefully rolled it to the truck and Lian walked to keep up. :)

Tying it down was quite a project! Thank goodness I brought a tarp and rope, figuring it was easier to tie down a cylindar w/ a tarp rather than just ropes alone... So we tied it down and secured the flaps as best as possible, and took off over the SRS bridge back to Point Richmond... Over the bridge was an adventure! I kept a close eye on the bowl from my side mirror, figuring I could keep a better eye on it than Dan could. The bowl was flapping and bucking in the wind! The tarps whipping and flapping like mad! I suddely had a flash that if one rope failed, the whole thing might just leap off the truck, so I slowed us down even more to 35... It didn't help that big trucks were passing us at 75! But we made it to my house.

I set it up in the lower part of the yard, in the shade. Far enough away from the trees, but I still will have to be careful.

George thinks it's too high and that I should cut it off so the surface of the bottom bowl can more easily be seen. I kind of agree with him, yet, if I do, then that would mean cutting off the lip, which strengthens the sides -- thus compromising the integrity of the bowl for shipping. Also, I noticed that there is a little bit of splashing on the sides. For Bunring Man, this would mean a big mud pit. So I think no for now. Maybe later when I bring it home...

One other important thing. Dan suggested I rent the firefall out rather than sell it. Wow! I think this is a fabulous idea! I will have to work out the logistics of it as well as the legalities of it...but I could see it being a cool Bay Area attraction! [If you are reading this and are interested in buying it or renting it, please contact me.]

August 20, 1999: No bowl today, hopefully tomorrow

Jerome got mightily sick last night and couldn't make it. And couldn't contact me either, so I just had to leave.

I got a lot of other stuff done, though! Got just about everything I need to assemble the big bowl this weekend! Pipe fittings for water as well as fuel, aluminum flashing to cover the plastic with, and even some zip-ties for the filter. I even got the recent big dent pulled out of my car so I can drive there! I feel a lot better about getting stuff done.

Ran into Steph and asked about her cool project -- it's going very well! She's excited! Some folks send her mail telling her about some of the cool things they plan for her procession. I can't wait to see everything together!

August 19, 1999: Getting the bowl tomorrow

Went by to pay for the bowl today. Man, is it lovely! White, with a 1.5-2" lip all the way around -- good for bolting the aluminum flashing to! [Yeah, I think I'll just make my life easier and just get flashing at the hardware store -- it's only 20" wide, but should do just fine.]

My good friend Jerome Strach has offered the use of his truck to pick up the bottom bowl tomorrow. So by 1, I should have my bowl in my grimey little hands!

I've been thinking about the diffuser, and realized that if I put the filter over the outlet, it would slow the water flow! Ah-ha! Kill two birds with one stone! So I'm now going to work on figuring out just how to do this... I need a flat plate, and a spiral somehow to make the water be spiral-like. [Hmm...a thought... I should have a good chunk of left-over aluminum flashing... I wonder if I could make the diffuser out of that somehow...

August 18, 1999: Ran the pump finally!

Everything went very well! The pump is quite powerful! The little diverter I made didn't work at all...I need to re-think this! :) [Not a big deal. I have some ideas.]

The hoses leaked, which is a bummer. I will have to get a new hose clamp and some epoxy or goop sealant... Another item on the to-do list.

Assembly of the top bowl is gonna be painful... I knew it would be. The problem is how to attach the piping without screwing [turn the top bowl around and around?!?] or using a hose clamp [which would be a pain to try to attach inside a barrel.] I decided to use weld fittings but not weld them. ["Weld" in this case meaning ABS pipes "welded" together with solvent.] This method works very well and doesn't leak, but means I have to hold t he bowl up while I fiddle in the barrel to line up the pipe. A real frustrating pain in the rear. >:-( I expected it, though, and if I just be patient and calm, it's not too bad.

I'm thinking I'm just going to have to forget trying to bury the hoses. Just too much complication...

George suggested adding a tiny amount of oil to the gasoline to help lubracate the engine some. it runs dirtyier, but makes the engine last longer. So I used a funnel to put in the oil, and then used the same funnel to put in the gas -- just enough! It didn't run all that dirty either.

First test of the new pump George has fun!

When we finished [George was out with me playing with his new chainsaw -- trying out cutting wax logs he's using to make a big flaming pentagram for Pepe Ozan for the Opera this year], George wanted to spray the hose out into the yard! If you think about a garden hose, then think about a 3" diameter hose, you get the idea of how awesome this is! He used his hand to make a stream, much like you'd use your thumb over a regular hose. It was fun!!

More pictures soon!

August 17, 1999: Fuel pump and misc.

Went back to the automotive folks next to Jackson's Hardware in San Rafael to talk to them again about a fuel pump. Last time I went in there, the guy spent a long time with me, but he also gave me only two options, and they were at the extremes of what I needed! One was 1.5-4 psi, and 5-10 gph [$40] -- just on the lower boundary -- and the other option he showed me was 14-17 psi, 100 gph [$150] -- quite a bit much for me! Today, the guy went straight to a page and found a pump that was 5.8-8.7 psi and 25 gph which should be just enough to rage hard if I need to! He said it'll probably need a 20 amp fuse, but its working amps were probably more like 10. Sounds just right! The instructions say not to install it higher than 24" above the bottom of the, well, I guess I'll put it near the ground and hope siphoning works well.

I also got some fittings for the pump hole. I opted for a 2" weld -> 1.5" npt -> 1.5" npt x 1" reducer -> 1"x3/4" reducer -> 1/2" female union -> 1/2" npt x 3/8" hose barb, and 1/2" npt x 3/8" compression. Does that make any sense?? :) Basically I reduce down a whole freaking lot of times, then in the middle of all that mess, I put a hose barb underneith [to connect to the fuel line coming in from the pump] and a compression fitting out the top [to a copper tube which can be positioned where I want the fuel to come out.]

I also realized today about how to add in a diverter using my big ball-valve. The problem lay in how I could screw in the pipe fittings with attachments sticking out the sides which would hit bottom -- eg. it's hard to screw in an L-shape into a wall, if the bottom of the L is long and it is close to the floor, because the bottom hits the floor. So I have to be careful how I attach stuff to the piping. But today I found a flexible coupling made of rubber! This should work well with both the feed pipes in, and the fuel "tunnel" pipe. This will make my life one hell of a lot easier!

The bottom bowl should arrive tomorrow!! I'm so psyched!! I'm well on my way!

Hopefully tonight I can run the pump too!

I should also get new pictures on thursday!

To do tomorrow [phone calls]:

Petroleum company in Sparks
Order some plastic spray bottles and some other stuff [including drum-opener]
Find a CO2 extinguisher place -- used from AAA and charge?
Find sheet metal to wrap bottom bowl with
Follow up:
The white paint does work fairly well on the vynal balls
Still need to get sand
Made a felt filter bag and ran it for a couple hours in dirty small firefall water -- check to see how that worked...

August 15, 1999: Setting up the pump

So, last night [Aug 15], I set up the fittings, but it got too dark to run the noisy gas-powered pump in the stillness of a quiet sunday evening. :) I also think I'll wait until I can go ahead and weld the fittings securely and allow them to cure. So I won't be able to connect the pump to the top bowl until tomorrow afternoon.

However, I decided to use the plastic drum [in the pictures] and got the holes cut for that. I also got the pump assembled. I got a feel for how "fun" it'll be to assemble it, but have learned the lessons of building artwork in your home -- make sure it'll fit out the door! :) I'm keen on building disassemblable [is that a word?] artwork. :) So I will place the top bowl on the drum, then somehow set it gently onto the "weld" connectors, so it'll slide into place -- not an easy task through a 3" hole! But I got it together last night, and so should be able to handle it out on the playa -- I learned some tricks too.

The inner piping -- from the bowl side to the top bowl -- will be thus: screw the pipe into the side, then it runs into the supporting drum, through a hole in the side, then an elbow, then up to the top bowl. Since the piping will be screwed into the inner side of the bowl, I made sure the elbow is high enough to fully rotate without hitting the floor. The pipe from there will be unwelded weld connections. Thus, the weight of the bowl will keep it sealed. It doesn't have to be water-tight anyway since it would just leak back into the bowl anyway. So I think I'm set from the bowl side to the top bowl.

The outer piping will be quick-connects from pump to bulkhead. The suction hose is 20 and the feed hose is 25'. [I really don't know what I was thinking! :) ] I'm toying with the thought of running them underground by way of elbows... I may do this.

The fuel piping is a 3" bulkhead, running into the supporting drum, then above water level. Thus, it'll be a clear air-hole through the water. I can simply feed the hose through and connect it to the top bowl. However, the water may not leak!! Since this would mean a water puddle on the playa, so I'll have to be careful. Even more importantly, the fuel may not leak from the top bowl!!! This would cause an even more worrysome fuel puddle on the playa, and fuel puddle in the pipe. This is far more worrysome since this will be near the flame end of the fountain -- the tank itself will be at least 10' away from the flames. So this "tunnel" connection is very important to get right. And since I have to transport it, I cannot epoxy it into place and still move it around. There are two screw joints I will have to worry about sealing well -- one into the wall bulkhead, and one down into the elbow.

I hope to have a new sketch up soon of my current plans. They have changed much since the last sketch!!

Here's my to-do list for this week:

Weld the pipe pieces together
Run the pump not hooked up to the top bowl -- break it in and warm it up
Sand from beach for Color Space project -- rinse salt out of it and let it dry
Test paint on vynal balls to see if it'll hold [Color Space]
Make filter bag and see if I can filter the firefall water

hardware store:
ABS welding compund -- George and Dave are getting me this today
Y-connector to adjust water flow -- I'm going to put a diverter here
Water storage -- trash cans, also cool rectangle storage boxes I found!

Later this week:
Run the pump connected to the top bowl
Get that fuel pump finally!! Plus hose for the fuel pump
Call Sparks petrolium company
Hopefully get the bottom bowl and start work on it
Start work on the safety station
Start work on the wooden geometric shapes for Color Space

Left to do:
Put bulkheads in sides of bottom bowl
Get metal sheet to cover plastic
Figure out a way to make a funnel shape on edge of bowl
Get gas cans for pump gas
Buiild housing for pump to dampen sound
Get tarps for covering fuel and water storage
Get Tiki torch for lighting ceremonies

August 8, 1999: The week of SIGgraph...

One small thing of note, I got a 72" printout of the Firefall!! Now to figure out where to hang the thing!! :)

August 6, 1999: Top bowl work last night

Yay! I went over the Cell in SF last night to do some work and get some advice. John Wilson met me there to help out. He was very nice and very helpful! I also saw Scott [I forget his last name.] Locals may know him as the Plant Trees guy -- he always shows up at parties with lots of free food, and many articles of clothing that has "Plant Trees" silk-screened on it! John and Scott knew eachother: "Yes, I know Scott. I wear his sweatshirts all the time!" "I wear his lingerie all the time too!" I said! :)

Scott and John helped me carry the bowl into Cell. John then cut off the yucky pipe that was still attached, and gave me a lot of good ideas, and leads for supplies. First he said there was a plumbing supply house that has just about everything. he couldn't remember the name, but says it's on Shafter and 40th street. He also said Bayshore Metal has metal sheet and might have what I need to line the bowl with. [Another friend, Alex Stahl, also went to Bayshort Metal to buy some copper sheet -- he got a big piece for an amazing price! He said they were a bit patronizing, though. Oh joy...] He also said there was a fabulous metal shop in Redwood City called Allen Steel. he said it had a lot of exotic metal items -- now I want to go down there just to browse!

Scott is a very bright guy, and excited about my project! He had a lot of good advice too, then he bounded away, energetic as usual, and I missed saying goodbye.

I am leaving for SIGgraph on sunday, and here's my to-do list before I leave [hopefully, I'll get this all done!]

find xmas lights for the Color Space project
call Paba Phree about truck rental -- to get the Firefall out there!
order spray bottles for the Isle of Mists

hardware store:
sand for Color Space -- to weight down inflatable items
return some parts I don't need
bolts to put Color Space together
white paint for Color Space
[my, I need a lot for my other project! :) But this is all for that one, and I'm done with it!]

flea market -- bikes, and other whatnot
55 gal metal drum to support top bowl
plastic fittings for top bowl -- I hope to get the top bowl done this weekend
fire extinguishers -- find some used
water drums -- Rachel found a place that sells them: Fairfax Hardware [check the bottoms for
leaks, also, clean them for olive oil, etc.] I think this is their number: 415-453-4410

August 4, 1999: Bowl ordered

I decided to give in and purchase a ready-made bottom bowl. It is made out of polyethaline, which is good, since it is impervious to many chemicals. [That's what the soda bottles are made of and that's why I can use them to hold fuel.] Flames, on the other hand, are a different matter, but I will simply line the pool with metal sheet to protect it. I will also put metal sheet around the outside to make it look more "finished".

I will put three 3" bulkheads in the side. Water intake, water feed [which will attach to the top bowl], and an open pipe that goes above water-level [and thus is not filled with water] that the fuel lines [and anything else I need] can run through unobstructed.

Tomorrow, I go over to Cell Space in SF to do some minor welding stuff -- cut the pipe off the top bowl, and possibly attach fittings to the holes for water and fuel.

August 3, 1999: Pump arrives!

Actually, I'm not sure when it arrived, I just found a bunch of boxes and hoses outside on the patio last night! Man o man, is a 3" hose a sight to see! I must be outta my freaking mind! :) This pump is going to pump one heck of a lot of water! Just what I want!

I've been thinking about using a 55 gal drum to support the top bowl, but have been worried that it won't be high enough to look good. So I tried it today. It looks fine, so I'm going to go with that.

I've also pretty well decided on ordering a plastic bottom tub, but line it with a funnel shape to catch the splash. I've been going back and forth about the bottom bowl -- read, stressing pretty bad. An inverted truncated cone would be ideal -- wide mouth, but less water. But there's no possible way I could construct this in 4 weeks. I firmly believe in pre-made! So the plastic bowl will be only 6'2" wide, but I will make a funnel shape insert to sit on the edge to make it wider mouthed and direct splashes back into the bowl. This should also deter folks from standing in the water. On the outside, I'll ring the bowl with aluminum flashing to make it look finished. I need to make a sketch and put it up...

My to-do list for the week:

visit Cell Space in SF and talk to my contact there
order the plastic tub, unless my contact has a better idea...
take the top bowl there and cut off the left over piping
weld a 3" fitting to the large opening [for water]
     and a 2" fitting to the small one [for fuel lines in]
get bulkhead fittings for the water lines to attach to
     and the fuel to go through
find steel sheet for the funnel
order the naptha in Reno
get the fuel pump

July 31, 1999: Naptha tests

Scott Bartlett came over this evening to take some pictures of the Ceramic Thing firefall. We tried the new Naptha from the barrel that I got. Strangely, it doesn't stay burning at the top like Coleman Fuel does. George thinks it's because it's less viscous and thus breaks into smaller bubbles and has less time to break across the surface. Personally, I think it has a higher flash point. I do think it's harder to light than white gas. Which is good for safety, and I think will be fine for the Cauldron.

As with everything else in this project, I won't really know until it's running! Ak! :)

As I said, Scott took pictures with some "tungston-corrected" film, so we'll hopefully catch some of those lovely blue flames! We'll put pics up as soon as they come back.

Note, also: pictures from the pump tests are now scanned in! See July 20 below or the Picture Gallery.

July 28, 1999: White gas arrived!

My first barrel of white gas arrived today! The guy was very nice and helpful. I'm still hoping to find naptha in Reno, but at least these folks will deliver it to me curtiously. I also found a studio where I can construct the bottom bowl! Cell Space in SF has been so kind to allow me to work there and offer advice. Charlie Gadeken of Illumination Camp works at Cell, and gave me the contact. I've had offers of welders from Loren Carpenter, Ken Schultz, and others, but I figured this one was a bit big to take advantage of friends for. At Cell, I'll be able to spread out. They seem like a great bunch of folks! The pump folks also sell a 1.5" and 2" fog/stream fitting! It got me thinking again about how to dispose of my water without making a huge mud puddle... And a continuous stram of fog while we break camp would be wonderful! Also, the idea of a 100' stream of water or so sounds like fun too!! :)

July 26, 1999: Pump ordered for sure this time!

I finally placed an order for a pump and all the hoses and fittings! I finally decided on Jerry B. Leach. They were very nice on the phone and didn't bother me with "ligitimacy questions" like the Napa Valley Petrolium folks, who are being a touch patronizing... :-p

I appreciate folks trying to protect me from doing something dumb, but in the long run, they are not going to talk me out of this, and it would be a lot more helpful if they would help me make decisions rather than make things difficult instead. I'm having enough of a struggle getting this thing together without also having to struggle to get what I need... [There, I feel better for venting! :) ]

I would also like to take this moment to thank my mom for never holding me back from my crazy ideas. She let me learn how to be responsible on my own. I probably would have always done my crazy ideas anyway, but I realize now how much safer it was I did my projects in the open, with her knowledge, rather than in secret, where it would have been dangerous. I think this is the key, too, why folks, in general, don't get hurt at Burning Man. People are allowed to be open with their crazyness, and thus personally responsible.

Anyway, I finally ordered one barrel of BT66 [apparently the trade name for naptha.] It will even be shipped to my house! Only one for now so I can do tests to see if, indeed, it will do the job. [I certainly hope so! If not, then I'm in trouble! :) ] Now that I have a trade name, I'm going to try calling places in Reno again. It would make life so much easier if I didn't have to transport it over Donner Pass and across the state line, though I can do that if I have to.

July 20, 1999: Pump rented!

I went ahead and rented a 11,500 gph pump to make sure I wasn't out of my mind. Well, yep, it's about what I'll need! Scary isn't it??

Since deciding to move to TTT, we will need to supply our own power for the firefall. So I think my best bet will be to purchase a gas-powered pump instead of electric. George says generators are more fuel-efficient than gas-powered pumps, and it will probably use more gas...but it makes a lot more sense.

[All of these are about 30k or so]

Trying to smooth the water Fighting the force This hose is strong!

George and Dave side What I hope it will look like!

Two thirds of the bowl runneth over

Also, white gas found!! Don Syrek found me a place in Sac'to, but he inspired me to try one more time, and I found a place in Napa a tad cheaper. It's still $3.45 a gallon -- not much less than the $4/gal I can get it for at a local camping store. So I'm going to see if I can get a bulk discount at the camping store with a corporate account -- if I can get it from them for less than, say, $3.65/gallon, then it'll be easier for me to handle in gallon cans than in one big drum... [That'd be about $33 extra for smaller storage containers for 165 gallons [3 drums worth] -- not a bad deal!] Still searching for somehwere in Reno -- which would be a lot easier to transport.

July 19, 1999: Pump order cancelled!

Don Syrek had some ideas about pumps, so I cancelled my order until I could get more info.

Water okayed! Location decided upon -- Tic Toc Town, my very own camp!

I found a source of water finally! Hooray!! And I have now decided to put the Firefall in our own town: Tic Toc Town! I am not looking forward to disappointing my other options: Center Camp, Cataclysmic Megashear Ranch, and Illumination Camp. All of these gracious folks have offered me a home for my artwork, but once I started on the trek to find power, Rachel Carpenter said, plaintively, "why not bring it home to us?!" She was right. TTT is the place to be!! [But I knew that all along. :) ]

July 17, 1999: I am wanted!

I have been offered power by two amazing camps!

Illumination Camp is affiliated with Cell in SF. They had already come to me earlier wanting me to build a big one for them. I have only time for one project, though! When I wrote them, they were very encouraging and definitely wanted my Firefall in their camp. Their theme this year is fire, so it would've been a great place to be!

The Cataclysmic Megashear Ranch are a great bunch of folks! My roommate took me to one of their "Full Moon" parties, where I got an "Ass ID" -- a picture of my "full moon" laminated in an official ID card -- don't leave your camp without your Ass ID!! :) When I asked them if they could help, they were also very excited and helpful! They were even talking about possibly powering my firefall with their windmills alone! Wow, cool! Unfortunatly, they are on the far north end this year, which would be quite a walk/ride for nightly maintenance.

Center Camp is where I'm currently located, but I'm not sure if I can get everything I need there, hence my sudden change of plans.

July 16, 1999: Pump ordered!

Alita PV-411 stainless steel pump I have decided to go ahead and order this lovely stainless steel pump.. Isn't it beautiful? The folks I'm buying from are called Price1. They have been extremely helpful! The salesman has sent pages and pages of research for me. I highly recommend them.

[Photo comes from the Alita product page]

These were my other choices:

8000 gph Rule 12V with 40 amp draw -- cheapest price, picture
Another very similar to the one I'm getting. It's 200 gpm, and draws 7.7 amps, 847 watts.

It looks like I am not going to get the resources I was hoping for: power, water, shipping... Oh no! So currently I am searching for sources of water, and possibly shipping the bottom bowl out to the playa. [At worst, we take it on the car, and make it a 9 hour trip over the pass...] I've been a little paniced today, but found power finally! Yay!

July 12, 1999: First night tests

Last night I tried the fire for the first time in the dark. Just lovely! I filled a 2 litre bottle [about 1/2 gallon] and it was used up in about 20-30 minutes. :-\ This is for about 1/4 of the bowl... So multiply that by 4 and then by 8 [hours a night] then by 7 [days for the week...] Ug. These are only rought estimates which will certainly change once the thing is fully built. But it's kinda scary!


The fire/fuel broke the thin flat sheet of water into streams. Not really sure why -- if it was the fuel, the fire, or the heat. Kinda interesting.

July 11, 1999: First flow tests

I finally did some preliminary tests with my 1500 gph pump. My goal: to determine how much water I would actually need, and also [hopefully] how much fuel. Well, the 1500 gph pump caused a little less than 1/4 of the bowl to overflow. So I need at least 6000gph, and hopefully more. Kind scary, eh?? :-) I also hooked up the fuel from my little firefall, to see if I could compare the fuel usage. First thing noted was that it was quite smokey... And also the flames got kinda big [1-2 feet tall] which I didn't like. So I'm definitely going to have to keep the fuel only at the edges -- which is good, this will help reduce fuel use.

Will you just look at that lovely laminer flow over the edge??

Laminer sheet of water! Spraying just a little gas Poured the fuel in Some serious flames!

[13k, 16k, 20k, 15k]

Just watching... Touching the flames

[20k, 18k]

June 8, 1999: Found the top bowl for the next firefall!

[This is an old story told recently --Kiki 4/16/03]

The sign reads ''Be Careful'' ''Keep this place clean and orderly'' :)

The sign reads ''Be Careful'' ''Keep this place clean and orderly'' :)

Loren and I went to AAA Salvage during our lunch break to see if we could find anything, anything at all that might make a nice top bowl for the next firefall. I wanted something, oh, about a couple feet in diameter, and let the water flow over the edges, or make spouts.

We didn't find anything.

Until we were about to leave, of course. :)

Large version

And there we saw it, a giant bowl, sitting on the top of a shelf, the second shelf from the exit. I was very excited! But I was terrified how much it would cost. I just knew the guy would want something like $600 for it! I didn't want to spend more than $1000 for the entire project! [Ha! Little did I know then...] So I paced and stressed, and tried to psych myself up to offering $300, and maybe the guy would agree to $350...

Finally, I go get the guy and, too nervous, I ask, "so, how much for that bowl up there?"

And he says, " about $150?"

I fake out and look unhappy with the price! heehee! I climb up on the shelf and look it over, pretending to look for flaws. Loren was on the ground, saying, "it's just perfect for what she wants!" I want to say, "shush!"

Finally, I climb down and say, "how about $100?" And the guy says, "how about $125 and you take all the rest of the stuff that comes with it?" So I agree! I pay him cash, and say I'll return the next day to pick it up!

Incidentally, George and I go pick it up with his Volvo, and tie it to the top. The bowl was still tied to the Volvo [just a day or two later] when I did the Crucible show with the Ceramic Thing. I pointed it out to a handful of people that night -- "see that bowl on top of that car there? That's going to be the next firefall!"

Unknown, 1999: Pre Cauldron: The Ceramic Thing

This all started in the summer of 1998 on a camping trip with a friend of mine. He brought all the camping gear, so I bought some fuel for his stove. But his stove wouldn't light. We figured out that someone had bought the fuel, used it up, and returned it filled with water! So -- having nothing to eat and nothing to do -- Leslie emptied the stove into a cup and lit it. The small amount of fuel left on the surface burned down to the level of the water...then stopped. I thought, "now that's kinda cool."

Later, in January, I started experimenting to see if I could build a water fountain that would burn like that. I did experiments in a bucket in my bathtub at first, then sacrificed an old plastic tub. Then constructed a small fountain from an old weird ceramic thing I found at a local salvage. I call it The Ceramic Thing.

Right now, it's broken... But here's some pages about it.

The Ceramic Thing
Where it's been
How it works

Others I'd like to one-day build too [don't hold yer breath]:

Beat-up Brass Lighting Fixture thing
Big Pipe
Brass Pot
Round Pot
Rectangle Pot
Dragon Head (from kitchen stuff -- probably will never finish)
Round planter -- this will be my next, albeit smaller, firefall project. [I miss having a little one I could throw in my car and take to friends' houses... :(