View Full Version : Metal Sparks

Paul Hudson
01-15-2010, 05:25 PM
Does anyone know how to make a hammer crate sparks when striking an anvil. I have a spot to shot next week that calls for this. There must be some chemical or trick for this. Any help would be appreciated.

01-15-2010, 10:22 PM
Okay you need 2 simple things to make this happen. 1 9v battery and a package of very fine steel wool. The finest there is. I think it is like 0 or something. You need leather gloves and to be careful with it. Now you tear a piece of the wool off and loosely roll it. Then with gloves you scrape the wool with the 9v batter connectors that cause a chain reaction. This makes something like sparks.

Now how I imagine what you would do for this shot is position the camera low looking up at the anvil and actor with the hammer. Then you place the wool onto the anvil. You touch it with the 9v battery and then have the actor smash the ignited wool with the hammer. I imagine it will then scatter the reacting wool into the air like sparks. I have never done this but sounds right to me. Just be careful not to get the sparks on your hair or your camera. Cheap and easy. Hope that helps. Let me know if that works cause I think it would. It does in my mind. ;)

The steel wool can be found at Home Depot and is real cheap by the way.

David G. Smith
01-15-2010, 10:33 PM
You might want to try getting some "Zirc Hits". Which are the spark gun hits shot out of air guns to make the gun shot sparks in numerous films. I believe they are made with zirconium powder with a little bit of gravel to set them off. They seem to work well when fired from an air gun, and I would imagine they would do the same when hit by a hammer.

Paul Hudson
01-16-2010, 04:06 AM
Both great ideas and I suspect I will use both tricks. David, any idea on where to buy "Zirc Hits"?

01-16-2010, 06:51 AM
Another thing that could work is the contents of Pop Pop Snappers, those small paper wrapped (silver fulminate coated sand?) things you throw at the ground that make a small sparking explosion: http://www.amazon.com/Pop-Snappers-Box-Mini-Boxes/dp/B000S1ED7M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=miscellaneous&qid=1263653195&sr=8-1

01-16-2010, 09:13 AM
Those Zirc Hits and Pop Snappers work the same way by the way. ;)

David G. Smith
01-16-2010, 07:28 PM
Both great ideas and I suspect I will use both tricks. David, any idea on where to buy "Zirc Hits"?

Actually no I don't . The couple of times I was around them, an old school pyro guy I know brought them.

Paul Hudson
01-17-2010, 03:45 AM
Thanks David. I did a little research, it looks like you have to have a pyrotechnician license to buy these.

Paul Hudson
01-20-2010, 06:45 AM
I found if you take apart those little party poppers (tiny plastic champaign bottles) there is a tiny charge in them that when hit with a hammer works perfectly.

Sad Max
01-20-2010, 02:53 PM
Unless you are married to shooting this practical, this is something much more effectively and safely handled in post.

01-20-2010, 08:47 PM
I've smacked a book of ordinary paper-stick matches with a hammer - on both concrete and heavy metal, and they've ignited pretty easily with just one good, flat hit. Every time I've done it, it was always with an entire book of matches, and the cover was closed, but they all fired right up. Be aware that the sound is a loud bang, roughly equal to a firecracker. (Consider that for the audio).
Using just a couple/few match-heads might work, though I don't know if it would spread sparks, or simply ignite. If it ignites, perhaps you could put some small iron filings around/under the heads to get the sparks flying, or some "dust" from fine steel wool like Nitsuj suggests. If those peices are light enough, they might spread like I suspect you'd want them to, like hammering a red-hot ingot.
It's certainly worth a try and doesn't require a pyro guy to test or provide supplies.

Good luck.

PS: Let us know the method you decide to use.

01-26-2010, 08:36 AM
Post production with After Effects. Check out Video Copilot at:

01-27-2010, 11:10 PM
Whoa whoa whoa guys... Maybe I'm missing something here completely but why the h#ll are you getting so crazy. Flint and steel makes sparks and very pretty blue/purple/orange good for film sparks. Just tape some flint to the anvil in a position that allows you to hit it with a steel hammer in a downward scraping like motion and viola. 12 year old boy scouts as well as cave men have been doing this like its going out of style..

Safe, (eye protection) cheap, and easy.

On a more accurate note but more complicated, In real life when a blacksmith hits red hot metal, sparks shoot off. They're usually tiny tiny pieces of slag that wouldn't even burn if they landed on you but they ignite long enough to fly into the air. You can put the end of a piece of metal over a hot bbq and turn it red. Then whack over an anvil. Not very hollywood but as real as it gets. Use common sense on this one but options are good. (note - must have proper equipment for safety. Boots, chaps, arm/face/neck cover and gloves)

Not the safest but neither is whacking a primer with a hammer or shooting exploding paintballs next to someone.

Do the flint/steel or after effects.