Friday, April 17, 2015

Comparing Thread Burners, Zappers & Sealers

Comparing Super Max Thread Burner or Pen, Ultra Thread Zap, Thread Zap II
Top - Super Max Burner/Pen. Middle - Ultra Zap. Bottom - Thread Zap II

Thread burners, zappers and sealers are great tools to have around when working with thread and cord. They can be used on synthetic cord & thread, such as nylon and some natural fibers such as silk. I use mine mainly for micro macrame, Cavandoli knotting, square knotting, Shambhala bracelets, kumihimo, bead crochet and various beading techniques, such as crown knotting, pearl knotting and peyote stitch, but it is certainly not limited to these techniques nor to jewelry making. 

When a thread burner is used to cut thread & cord, it cauterizes the cord and keep the ends from unravelling. When used for melting the end of cord right at the knot, it prevents the final knot from getting untied. It is important to melt the end of the cord into the knot rather than melting the actual knot as it would weaken its integrity. The precise tips of these thread burners makes this process a lot easier than a match or cigarette lighter. 

To test these thread burners, I put in all new alcalyne batteries, all from the same brand and quality level. The Super Max Burner has 2 AA batteries, the Thread Zap II, 1 AA, and the Ultra Thread Zap, 2 AAAs.

When compared for speed, or how quickly they get red hot, the Super Max Burner is the clear winner getting to red hot in less than a second with its full tip red hot. The Ultra Thread Zap takes twice as long to get to its maximum temperature, and only the little tip part gets red hot. The Thread Zap II takes 3-4 seconds to get to its maximum temperature, with about half of its tip red hot. 

The Super Max Burner reaches the highest temperature. The other two burners don't get as hot and take longer to get there. 

Comparing Tips for  Super Max Thread Burner or Pen, Ultra Thread Zap, Thread Zap II
Tips smaller to larger, top to bottom:  Ultra Thread Zap, Super Max, Thread Zap II

Comparing Replacement Tips for Super Max Thread Burner or Pen, Ultra Thread Zap, Thread Zap II
Replacement Tips - Notice that the replacement tip for the SuperMax is a bit smaller than the original tip
 Ergonomically, the most comfortable one is clearly the new Ultra Thread Zap. It fits comfortably in the hand. It does not need a cover to protect the tip as the tip retracts when off. It is turned on by pushing the orange knob forward. An orange plastic half ring prevents the knob from getting accidentally pushed. That part might get easily lost, but it is not essential.

The Super Max has a cover to protect the tip when not in use and to prevent the burner from getting accidentally turned on. The Thread Zap II is similar to the SuperMax, but the knob does not move a lot, making it difficult to feel when the tool is turned on.

Ultra Thread Zap
The Ultra Thread Burner comes with an extra tip housed inside the battery compartment
The SuperMax is the best for the busy designer. The new Ultra has some of the best features. The Thread Zap II is the easiest on the wallet, though with the extra tip, the Ultra might be the better choice.

The ultimate choice will also depend on what size/diameter cord you are working with. The Ultra Thread Zap is probably better for thinner cord and fine thread used for Peyote stitch and bead weaving whereas the SuperMax will be best with Chinese Knotting Cord of diameter upward of 1mm as it will take more heat to get a clean melt.

For safety, remove the battery or the tip when storing. Keep away from children.

These tools work well when finishing a limited number of thread as each individual thread,cord needs to melted one at a time. May leave discoloration especially with light colored thread or cord.

Change the batteries often and let the tip cut or melt without forcing to keep the tip from getting damaged.

And foremost be careful not to melt or burn your work!

Regardless of which of these tools you choose, any of these thread burners will be much better and more precise than a cigarette lighter or matches. I consider them a necessity for many techniques, especially for square knot slides and Shambhala bracelets.  >  Get a thread burner now! 

Cord Zap Extra Strong Thread Burner

March 2016: A new cord burner, the Cord Zap by BeadSmith was just released. The Cord Zap gets to the hottest temperature the fastest. It requires 2 AA batteries, not included, and uses the same tip as the Thread Zap II. 

I just used the Cord Zap on a set a bracelets made with C-Lon Tex 400 Bead Cord. The Cord Zap worked very well, it gets to red-hot super fast and was great for melting 3 Tex 400 cords at once into final overhand knots and single cords into square knot sliders. The batteries gets used up faster than with the other thread burners, so I had to switch batteries several times. The tip also had to be replaced after 10 bracelets. It burned off due to the high heat.

The Supermax Thread Burner is not quite a battery hog and tips last a lot longer, but it does not gets quite as hot as quickly, so yes next time I am in a production mode on a tight deadline, I will probably reach for the Cord Zap first. If you get a Cord Zap, get extra replacement tips! - Marion

No comments: