Trending: Expedia cuts 3,000 jobs, including 500 at new Seattle HQ — read the internal email to employees
The Boring Company’s $500 flamethrower gets a demonstration. (Elon Musk via Instagram)

We thought Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, was kidding when he promised that his tunneling venture, the Boring Company, would follow up on its sale of 50,000 logo caps by selling flamethrowers.

We still thought he was kidding when it turned out there was a stealthy, password-protected page on the Boring Company website, offering flamethrowers for $600.

But Elon Musk is not kidding, folks — and the flamethrower is a steal at $500.

Musk touted the sale in a series of Instagram posts and tweets today, starting soon after his announcement that the maiden launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket was set for Feb. 6:

Say hello to my little friend …

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

Great for roasting nuts ? ?

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

Is that even legal? Is it safe? Musk has clearly researched those questions.

I’d be less scared of the steak knife, personally. Selling flamethrowers is permitted under federal regulations, and several companies do indeed sell them. One company even sells build-it-yourself flamethrower instructions. But state and local laws — for example, in California and Maryland — can be more restrictive. It’s best to check before you buy.

Some of Musk’s fans voiced qualms:

Musk himself demonstrated what not to do with a flamethrower:

But perhaps the big question hanging over all this is … why?

One answer is that Musk enjoys turning wild and crazy ideas into reality, whether it’s sending people to Mars, digging transit tunnels beneath Los Angeles or marketing logo items like hats and flamethrowers.

And when it comes to this particular wild and crazy idea, the source is most likely the 1987 movie “Spaceballs,” a Star Wars spoof that also inspired the “Ludicrous Mode” label for the top speed setting for Tesla’s Model S electric car.

In one scene, Yogurt (a Yoda-like, wisecracking guru played by Mel Brooks) declares that merchandising is “where the real money from the movie is made” — and shows off his wares.

“Spaceballs the T-shirt! Spaceballs the coloring book! Spaceballs the lunchbox! Spaceballs the breakfast cereal! Spaceballs the flamethrower!” Yogurt says. “The kids love this one.”

Will the kids love these flamethrowers, or is it a lawsuit in the making? Stay tuned for the sequel.

Update for 6 p.m. PT Jan. 28: A day after Musk began his flaunting his flamethrower, the tweetstream continues:

Meanwhile, the Bay Area News Group (which includes the San Jose Mercury News) reports that although it’s illegal to own or sell  flamethrowers in California without a permit, the regulations define flamethrowers as devices that are designed to “emit or propel a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid a distance of at least 10 feet.”

The devices being offered by the Boring Company aren’t meant to shoot flames that far. Therefore, they’re not technically flamethrowers, by the state of California’s definition, and not subject to state regulation. At least that’s the way the Boring Company sees it.

Update for 2:30 p.m. PT Jan. 29: Apparently the Boring Company won’t be making an unlimited supply of flamethrowers. Is the 20,000-item limit part of Musk’s merchandising strategy? For what it’s worth, if 20,000 flamethrowers are sold, that translates to $10 million in gross revenue — and another production-line challenge for Musk. About 3,000 fire extinguishers have also been sold, Musk says.

Subscribe to GeekWire's Space & Science weekly newsletter


Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.