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Reviews Found: 4
Practical Pyromaniac, The
Reviewed on November 16, 2011 by New York Times

The Practical Pyromaniac is featured in book critic Dwight Garner’s holiday gift guide in The New York Times. He says, Surely there’s someone in your life who’d be tickled that you thought of him or her when you caught sight of The Practical Pyromaniac: Build Fire Tornadoes, One-Candlepower Engines, Great Balls of Fire, and More Incendiary Devices, by William Gurstelle. I’ve been an admirer of Mr. Gurstelle’s books for years: his Backyard Ballistics is a DIY classic. There’s some Hunter S. Thompson in Mr. Gurstelle. But be assured that he takes safety seriously, and you are unlikely to be sued later for wrapping this up and putting it under your favorite pyromaniac’s Christmas tree.”

 Read the full New York Times holiday gift guide feature on

Practical Pyromaniac, The
Reviewed on July 17, 2011 by Wall Street Journal

"The Practical Pyromaniac is also not merely what it promises: In fact it's an excellent history of those who played with fire until they learned something from it...Mr. Gurstelle describes breakthrough experiments these men did, which helped to open up our understanding of the inner mechanics of the universe, and then he shows us how to perform these experiments in our kitchens, with some stuff from the hardware store. This, perhaps, is the part of the book that is closest to my heart, the lesson that most people need to know about science: how accessible it is. These men had access to a fraction of the tools that I have in my shop, yet they cracked open nature and took a look inside simply by asking smart questions and figuring out ways to answer them."—Adam Savage, Co-Host, Mythbusters

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Practical Pyromaniac, The
Reviewed on July 4, 2011 by Washington Post
"If you’re going to set stuff on fire, it’s best to be practical about it. That’s the idea behind The Practical Pyromaniac by engineer William Gurstelle. (Readers might recall his past DIY books, including Backyard Ballistics and The Art of the Catapult.) Gurstelle is apparently a fan of history, because he introduces his experiments with a few pages of relevant events from the past. For example, his portable camping stove project, “The Burning Ring of Fire,” begins with information about how American colonists kept warm in New England." Read the full Washington Post feature.
Practical Pyromaniac, The
Reviewed on June 15, 2011 by Kirkus Reviews

"Learn to play and build with fire—and not get burned.

Gurstelle (Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously, 2009, etc.), pyrotechnic aficionado and professional engineer, releases a powderkeg in this book, which blends history and science education with fire-inspired DIY projects...Safety is of the utmost importance to Gurstelle, who enumerates a myriad of thorough and clear stated warnings and precautions. The author overlooks nothing (there’s even a guide to the proper use of fire extinguishers), but a section on burns and their treatment would make a welcome addition. Readers are urged to proceed with caution and begin by designing a simple flame tube—candles that produce long-sustained musical tones—before moving on to more complicated projects like assembling a propane-fueled flamethrower. Instructions are woven through with pivotal moments in the history of fire, from its discovery by cavemen to the scientific stylings of 19th-century chemist and physicist Michael Faraday. Gurstelle's simply stated directions and easy-to-follow illustrations usher readers through more than 15 incendiary projects.

The author renders otherwise dense and complicated scientific explanations imminently understandable."