You know how we’re always talking about the range of options for indoor fireplaces, with electric, gas, traditional stoves and open fires, all adaptable to your indoor decor. Many electric fireplaces even come with LEDs that change the colour of flames and allow you to create a really individual look. So, how about taking that idea to your outdoor fireplace? If you’re burning a bonfire in your garden, or better still, you have an outdoor wood burning fire pit, here’s a fun idea for bringing colour and life to your outdoor fire for those very special social occasions.
Changing the colour of your fire is a great novelty and will certainly wow your guests, but before we go any further, just a few essential safety notes. Don’t use this idea indoors, or in a gas or propane operated unit. That could be dangerous. You need excellent ventilation, and be careful not to mix the chemicals we list below. Also, if you’re intending to cook food, you’ll need to do so on a regular fire, not the colourful one. Watch out for pets and children too, and be aware of local fire bans and restrictions. Got all that? Okay.
What you need is a whole pile of pinecones. Collecting pinecones is a fun task for the whole family if you fancy a trip to the woods at the right time of year. If that’s not an option, have a look at your local garden centre or craft supplies store and you should find some for sale.
Next, especially if you’ve picked the pinecones from the ground yourself, you need to prepare them. They’ll need to be baked in an oven on a low heat for a whole hour, with you keeping a close eye on the process. This stage ensures that any debris or insects are burned away. Obviously, you won't need to do this if you purchased them from a shop.
Having been dried, the cones should be nicely open and ready for the colourants to be added. So get a large bucket, some rubber gloves, and a pair of tongs to ensure you don’t need to come into contact with the chemicals. A pile of newspapers is also handy.
Pour hot water into your bucket, add the colourant - about a cupful - and stir. Soak the cones overnight, or for at least 8 hours, and then with the tongs, place them on the newspaper to dry. If you do more than one colour, use a different bucket, or make sure it’s completely clean each time.
Here are the chemicals you need, and the colours of the flame they produce: Yellow - salt; White - Epsom salt; Green - boric acid; Yellow/Green - borax; Red - strontium chloride (from an aquarium supplier); Purple - potassium chloride (a water softener). When your treated cones are dry, use them very carefully. Place just one in the fire at a time, and make sure you’re being really safe.
Colourful flames for an outdoor fireplace or bonfire is a perfect way to spice up a barbecue or drinks evening with friends, and later, when the embers burn away and you’re ready to go inside, you can adjust your own gas or electric fireplace to continue the party inside in the warm. Colourful flames are a great idea for socialising.