Notes on Fireworks
Contact email for this site is: LadyKate

I am the pyro dummy, fusing, running, shooting... maneuvers calculated brilliantly

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER:  If you are underage, then consult with your parents or guardians before attempting any of this.  You are on your own - I'm not responsible for your actions or harm you may bring to others because of your actions.  Making the items described below  can result in injury or death to you or people in your vicinity. Some things mentioned here may be illegal to make in your city, county, state, or country so check the laws that apply to you before you attempt anything described here. These notes are not complete on purpose. If you are reading them and new to pyrotechnics, then you are making a mistake. Stop now - this page is not for you. Get a beginning book on fireworks (see Skylighter or American Fireworks News (very quick shipping)  for a start) and read up. You can't make any of this work without more information so read up or join a club or ask someone to help you.

Get all supplies through Skylighter, CannonFuse, Firefox, or similar. 

NOTE: This site is not a commercial site and nothing is for sale.  This site is a living notebook only and  is advertisement free.


SAFETY TIPS Click on the red letters and visit this link first

Safety Accident Analysis - How one of the most benign mixes we work with caused a fatality. There are additional comments from an email by Kurt Medlin. This was reposted by permission from the PGI bulletin and credit is given at the front of the article.

Stainless Steel Bowl Ignition. Never use stainless steel bowls when working in the sunlight. If you have a live composition in the bowl, it can ignite.  This link is to a short video by Blake Stoltz.  It shows an ignition of some BP after only 30 seconds in the sunlight.  In the test previous to this video, the ignition occurred approximately 5 seconds after setting the bowl in the sun.

Tool List An incomplete start to the tools you will need

Sources for Information  Here is a good place to browse next 

Charcoal as a variable

Be sure to read about charcoal as a variable - Your choice of charcoal is critical to the outcome of many of the experiments listed on this site.

Aluminums  A posting from rec.pyrotechnics in 2001 that describes the various old aluminums and gives details on aluminum in general.  This was authored by Mike Swisher.

Basic Pyrotechnic Devices  A short list from the rec.pyrotechnics FAQ

Benzolift  A way to make super-hot BP

Black Match The most common fuse for pyrotechnics - how to make it

Black Powder A discussion of the precursors and some techniques

Precipitation (CIA) Method  The CIA method is not my preferred method but is listed here in case no ball mill is available

Black Powder Tests (U.S. Army Ballistic Research Laboratory Tests)

A Comprehensive Review of Black Powder (1985)

The influence of Physical Properties on Black Powder Combustion (1981)

Charcoal - how to make it; there is also a discussion of charcoal in the Black Powder link

Charcoal Tests Ever wonder what different charcoals would do to the efficiency of BP?


Making a small Comet

Splitting Comets

Small crossettes using Wolter tools  Tough to get right!

Mandarin Shots (easier)

Split Comets (easier still)

Chemicals Common chemicals used in pyrotechnics

Clay - Comparing Hawthorne Fire Clay to Kitty Litter

Commercial Fireworks Fun

Compositions  This is a minimal list. There are all kinds of formulas out there so this isn't meant to be all-inclusive - just things that work for me or about which I'm currently obsessed

Cake - A Small Cake

Daylight Shells on a Budget - 4 inch fun shells that can be launched in the daytime

Dextrin What it is and how to make it.

Double Voice Crackers

Dragon's Eggs - this is really just a short collection of posts by Mike Swisher (a real expert). Used by permission

Electric Igniters

Flying Buckets (Cremora Fireballs, Milk Substitute Fireballs, etc)



Girandolas that are bucket bottoms  10" dolas made with 5 gallon bucket bottoms and that mystery ingredient 'X' ;-}

Girandolas that aren't bucket bottoms  8"-10"-12" versions that are easy to make and look like their big brothers -- sort of

24" Girandola lightweight frames are easy  An abbreviated guide

Picture essay on how to make a miniature girandola A very simple dola that has a lot going for it - simple, cheap, easy, nice effect, etc.

Things can go wrong   Troubleshooting the flight of a girandola

Glusatz (one way to make a time delay fuse)



KNO3 Dementia Scale

Jumping Crackers  by Steven. This link is to a word document conversion. Used by permission. I've read how to do this several times but this tutor seems the easiest to understand.. Thanks, Steven!


Blue Lift - diminishing the muzzle flash on mines


     Hummers, equipment, etc. These are for ideas only - no step-by-step instructions - all one big page of stuff

Ball Mill

    4" Quiet Mill - ideal for milling single chemicals in the shop

Bottle Rocket Stand


Drying Cabinet

32 Cue Firing Panel

6 Cue Firing Panel - Just right for backyard displays - but it requires a little work to make.


Rocket Motor Test Stand

Six Tube Rocket Loader

Star Board

Star Roller

End Plugs - making end plugs

Time Fuse Punch

Time Fuse Cutter



Mortars - small aerial shells

Shells for cakes

Making a small round paper shell

Pasting a medium sized ball shell with a tape shooter (movie)

Using Easter Eggs for shells

Film Cans (just like Easter Eggs!)

Quick Festival Ball Shells (aka Mouse Turd Stars - see bottom of the linked page)

Two inch plastic canister shells

How much BP for the mortar?

2 Break and Report 2" 'Italian' Shell Classic canister shell construction in miniature

Steel Mortar Pipe

Lampare - kerosene shells

Pasteless Shells - make and fire a 4" (or smaller or larger) shell on the same day

Rice Hulls - the universal burst mix. You will need this if you make many shells.

Rockets (click this link to get general information on how to build them)

Canister Headings for 3/4" motors:

Cap Plug Header

Five Times Report Header for 3/4" rocket motor

Color canister shell for 3/4" rocket motor

Aerolight shell for 3/4" rocket motor (in work)

Shave and a Haircut (brief notes only)

Different examples of rockets with videos and pictures

DJ's Nozzleless Motors

Extra information like reinforcing sleeves, toughening paper tubes, and making rocket sticks

Frequently asked questions about rockets (in work) (several common questions)

    Why is a 3/4" ID motor called a "one pound" motor? (explanation by Mike Swisher - by permission)

Magnalium Rockets

Passfire Quote about Making Whistle Rockets by permission from Steve La Duke

Preliminary Perchlorate Tests (aka: I need to get a life)

Ring Rocket (right!)

Rolling your own tubes

Strobes  (a file contributed by Steve La Duke and posted with his permission)

Shuttlecock Rockets

Stinger Missiles

Spindle Modification to Ease Motor Release

Tools for Pressing Rockets

Hydraulic Power Pack Rocket Press

Making a bench-top press

Calculating Pressures Exerted by a Hydraulic/Arbor Press

Putting a pressure gauge on a hydraulic jack (tap-a-jack)

Making a Pressure to Force Gauge for $36 - by cheating

See also:
Rocket Motor Test Stand (also linked above)

Whistle Tools and Techniques  - a couple of alternatives are explained. For how to make whistle mixes, see "Whistle Tests" (below)

Whistle Rocket Core Design A shortened version of a document contributed by Eric Hunkins. This document is about experimental core design. Don't go here unless you have a bit of experience. There is a basic core design diagram in the whistles.html page that is used by most. The full text of his document is here.

Whistle Tests A study of how catalysts affect whistle mixes - an explanation of how to make whistle is here


Making cut stars

Mouse turd stars

Tables  Information we often need

Black powder grain sizes
Safe display radius
Lift charge calculation
Mortar lengths
Rocket engine sizes
Shell burst heights
Shell altitude calculation
Sieve designations
Bursting cardboard rocket tubes