English inventor is the X-Man next door

  • Article by: LOREN GRUSH , New York Times
  • Updated: July 12, 2014 - 6:07 PM
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back yard superhero: Colin Furze — with his pulse jet engine, above, and then fitted to an old bicycle, below — is a record-setting back yard inventor and do-it-yourself daredevil in Stamford, England. He has harnessed the powers of X-Men superheroes, rocketing himself to YouTube stardom.

Photo: Photos by Simon Lee via New York Times,

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As the video begins, a cheerful young man in a rumpled shirt and tie lays down the challenge: “Can I make some fully automatic adamantium claws?”

It might seem an odd question to some — but not to fans of X-Men comic books and films. Soon, with rock guitars blaring, he is running around a workshop, equipped with a backpack and two homemade metal contraptions strapped to his arms. He holds up his fists to the camera, and sure enough, six sharp metal claws shoot from the tops of his hands: He is Wolverine!

This is perhaps one of the tamer scenes in a series of videos by Colin Furze, a garage inventor and do-it-yourself daredevil in Stamford, England. With more than 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, Furze, 34, has found an online following for his radical — and sometimes dangerous — inventions, which include the world’s longest motorbike and a scooter that shoots fire from its back end. (That one got him arrested.)

Furze is no certified engineer. In fact, he did not even finish school; he dropped out at 16 to become a plumber. While living with his parents, he said, he experimented with metalworking but did not have the resources to test the limits of his imagination. “While my dad had a massive shed, I wasn’t actually allowed in it, so everything I’d come up with I had to make in my bedroom,” he said. “I mean, I had a lathe in there at one point, which was a terrible idea, really.”

After his father died in 2007, Furze took over the shed — and the array of power tools it held. Since then, his inventions have helped him set five Guinness World Records, one for the world’s fastest mobility scooter (it houses the engine of a 1997 CR125 motocross bike and has a top speed of 82.5 mph).

But his most recent projects — harnessing the powers of the X-Men superheroes — made him a YouTube star.

“Sometimes, you’ll come out of a film and you think, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to have that thing or to do that thing?’” he said. “With ‘Back to the Future,’ it’s hover boards and time travel; with ‘X-Men,’ it’s obviously claws and superpowers.”

Along with Wolverine’s claws, he has also recreated the abilities of Pyro, designing cuffs that shoot flames with two flicks of his wrists. In his most recent project, Furze set out to make “Magneto shoes” — magnetic boots he used to walk on the ceiling of his workshop. He got old microwave ovens from a scrapyard and removed their magnetic coils, running a current through them to make electromagnets strong enough to hold his body weight. Then he strapped the magnets to a pair of old Vans shoes, and voilà — he was soon hanging upside down like a bat from a metal strip bolted to the ceiling.

Some critics have complained that his creations are too dangerous for the average person to attempt. But overall, he said, the response has been positive.

For Furze, the point is to inspire. “If you ask somebody, ‘Do you want to make a magnet?’ they’ll probably be like, ‘No I’m not really that interested. But if you ask someone, ‘Do you want to make some magnetic shoes and walk upside down?’ More people will be like, ‘Yeah, that sounds cool.’ ”

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  • An undated handout photo of Colin Furze with his homemade pulse jet engine fitted on to a rickety old bicycle. Furze, a record-setting backyard inventor, goes to great lengths to make himself a like comic book superhero and has a large following on YouTube. (Simon Lee via The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH STORY SLUGGED SCI-BACKYARD-INVENTOR BY LOREN GRUSH. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. -- ORG XMIT: XNYT37

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