The Burning Bible
Dramatic flames leap out of an open Bible,
and return every time you close and open it again.
1. Dilute some white glue with an equal amount of
water, and paint it on the edges of all the pages and
the entire inside back cover of the book. Use lots of
glue and riffle the pages to help it soak in. You want
the book to be a solid block except for the front cover.
2. Place wax paper or plastic wrap under the front
cover to keep it from gluing shut. Clamp the book
or press under very heavy weights to prevent the
pages from warping. If you can open any pages
after it’s dry, use more glue.
3. Cut a piece of cardboard to the book’s page size,
then measure in 1½" from all sides, and cut out a
frame shape. Use this template and a utility knife
to cut the center out of the first page or two. Don’t
try to cut through more than that yet. If the page
comes loose, go back and apply more glue. Repeat
and continue cutting down into the book. After a
dozen pages or so, you shouldn’t need the template
anymore, but be sure to cut straight down; a long
blade helps. Also keep the corners square. Cut until
you reach the back (Figure A), and don’t worry if
the last few pages won’t come out.
4. Paint the inside of the hole with more diluted glue,
then insert the wax paper and press dry as before.
5. Now we’ll line the cavity with metal. Trace your
template’s inner rectangle onto the bottom of a foil
baking pan. Cut off the outside corners of the pan
to meet the corners of the rectangle, then score and
fold in the sides so the pan fits into the cavity. Press
the tabs snug against the sides of the hole and fold
them out flat at the top (Figure B). Trim them so
they don’t stick out, and staple the metal in place.
I found that a desk stapler works better than a staple
gun. Staples in the bottom will come out the back
of the book; fold these over by hand.
6. Out of the second pan, cut a piece of metal to line
the inside cover, and staple it in place.
7. Paint the entire inside of the book with black heat-resistant spray paint. You don’t want to get the rest of
the book black, so be careful or mask the other areas.
62 Make: Volume 13
8. Paint the page edges with gold paint. You’ll be
amazed at how much this “sells” the book as a Bible.
9. Cover the book with the black textured paper,
glued on with spray-on glue or diluted white glue.
You can tuck a bit in around the edges, but don’t go
in too far or it could burn!
Ready the prop by pouring a little lighter fluid
on a handful of ceramic wool (not the whole bag)
and putting it in the cavity along with your lighter
(Figure C). At the start of the performance, light
the lighter and tilt the book to bring the wool close
to the flame. Doing this without being obvious takes
practice. The lighter fluid will immediately start
burning dramatically. I suggest you first try this
outside, and be careful.
Do not place your face over the book. Practice
holding it out in front of you, which is safer and
more theatrical anyway. Hold the book open flat
and tilted toward you slightly, to hide the inner
workings from the audience. The black paint
helps obscure the details.
Practice opening and closing the book, keeping
your thumb at the lower right corner so it doesn’t
shut completely. If flames shoot out the sides,
you used too much lighter fluid or didn’t close the
cover enough. If the fire goes out, you used too
little or closed it too tight. After a few openings
and closings, shut the book completely and place
it under your arm for a while to extinguish the fire.
The type of lighter used won’t catch on fire or
explode, but it will get very hot, so you need to
watch for that. The ceramic wool cools quickly.
One possible upgrade is a clip to hold the lighter,
to make it easier to flick.
You need some patter, but understand that no one
is listening; they are looking at the fire. From the
moment you light it until you extinguish it under your
arm (and everyone is worried that you will catch on
fire) the fire is the star of the show.
Regardless of this, your patter should somehow
explain why the book is burning in the first place,
and why the fire continues even after you close the
Photography by Dan Weiss (A, B, C) and David Torrence (far right)