Fireworks for the Pyro Purist

  If you are a common-sense-challenged, not-the-sharpest-knife-in-the-drawer,
clumsy type person, please be aware that all the safety tips I could give you
regarding the activities described on this page will not do you a bit of good.
You would discover something I overlooked.  And so you will at best only get
badly burned, poison yourself, singe your eyebrows, barbecue your fingers, go
deaf, or maybe even blow your garage door off.  Space does not allow me to put
all the things you should never do.  You will be dealing with mixtures that
flash or explode at the first opportunity you give them, intentionally or not.
                          USE GOOD JUDGEMENT
  Never sell or give away any modified or homemade pieces.  Make only as much
as you will shoot and shoot them all off on the holiday you made them for.
Find a location where aerial fragments can land safely.  Be prepared for
fires.  Start with consumer pieces and shoot homemade pieces in between those.
                      GOOD CONSUMER SKYROCKETS
   Of three consumer fireworks stores here, Sky King, Phantom and TNT, Sky
King has the best.
Great Sky King skyrockets.
   From the right, Pulse Racer, Restricted Airspace and Air Supremacy have a
wide upper body section that is empty.  Remove it for less air drag.  The same
for Outer Limits, No Fly Zone and Vertical Takeoff.  Sky King's catalogs don't
show all the rockets that are actually in their stores.
   A report shell can be glued atop a quality consumer skyrocket such as Sky
King's Air Supremacy or Sky Defender.  Cut off the top inch where the plug is.
The Sky Defender's internal sections.
   The payload area is shown empty here, but there must at least be a burst
charge to light the fuse of a report shell.
This type skyrocket is easiest to use.
   Any ball-type rocket is easy to adapt.  Just remove the ball and tape or
glue the report shell on top.
Stars(balls), "flying fish"(fuses) & burst charge.
   This is the standard payload for skyrockets.  Some also include a report
shell and/or several small firecrackers.
Cross-section of an Estes B6-2 motor.
   The white part at the right is clay over the dark chute-ejection charge.
The grey is the chute delay.  The large dark area is the propellant. The white
at the bottom is the clay nozzle.
   The only pyrotechnic supplies source for the conscientious home hobbyist
left in the U.S. is   Loud report shells launched from
mortars or carried high aboard rockets on New Year's or the Fourth of July
are not mistaken for gunfire and will not alarm or annoy anyone unduly.
   Fuses vary in diameter and burn rate. TEST them all before you choose one!
Red pyro (safety, cannon, Bickford) end fire spit.
   Professional pyro fuse burns at 2 & 3/4 seconds per inch with very little
fire getting outside the fuse.
Thin green Phantom fuse end fire (fire "spit").
   This fuse burns at 1.8 to 1.9 seconds per inch.  A fatter green fuse sold
at Sky King burns at the same rate as pyro fuse but shoots out a WHOLE LOT of
side fire.  Cut into 1" lengths it's great for "buzzing bees" display.
Green TNT fuse end fire.
                         MORTAR SHELLS
   Mortars are the least expensive way to put loud booms high in the sky. Good
tubes to use are 3" long, 5/8" inside diameter, just under 3/4" outside,
spiral-wound.   Cut these in half.  Use 5/8" and 3/4" plug cutters to cut wood
disks from 1/8" model airplane ply.   A 1" fuse gives proper delay.  You MUST
put tape around the fuse so that the lift charge lights only the TIP of the
fuse.  Use a 3/8" x 1" length of duct tape.  Drill the hole through the bottom
disks to make a snug fit. Be sure that the end of the fuse is inside the
payload area.  Glue the fuse tape to the bottom (push) disk.
Sketch of the mortar shell.
Sketch of the base for the mortar tube.
  A length of 3/4" pipe or tubing is put onto the aluminum base.  The base is
seated on a 1/2" steel rod which is clamped into an iron Tiki torch stand.
  Put fuse into the fuse hole of the base.  Then use a 1/4 tsp measure to
scoop enough Goex or Gorski Gourmet black powder lift charge out so that it's
level and put that into the base.
Mortar and aluminum base on a 1/2" steel rod.
   Finally, put the mortar shell fuse into the black powder, put the mortar
tube over the shell and seat it onto the base.
   Copper pipe will corrode after use.  Push a wet steel wool pad up and down
with a dowel several times to clean it.  Steel tube needs the same cleaning.
                          REPORT MIX
        potassium perchlorate (NEVER chlorate!)  319 grains (20.67 gms)
        German Blackhead aluminum powder         137 grains (8.88 gms)
   Measure using a reloader's powder scale preferably.  With the rounded end
of a broom handle cut off to a convenient length, work raw perchlorate through
a tea strainer.  Then, if you want the very best results, ball mill the perc
for six hours.  Use the perc right after ball-milling or else it will clump
again. And if old milled perc is milled again before use, work it through a
tea strainer to break up the flecks.
   If you do not have a ball mill, use a blade-type coffee grinder to make the
powder as fine as possible.
   There is no need to ball-mill aluminum, just work it through a tea strainer
with an artist's bristle brush.  If anything won't go through, use the round
end of a broom handle to work it through.
   The two parts of the composition are perfectly safe UNTIL mixed!  But this
report mix is inherently safe. The original way of mixing is to put the
composition onto a 2 foot square of newspaper.  Raise each corner in rotation
so that the mix folds onto itself over and over until well mixed.  You can
make a "marionette cross" to simplify this procedure.
   But we mix using a plastic jar with a copper screen crosswise inside it
rolling around inside the rubber ball mill drum for a few minutes.  The mix
goes thru the screen twice on every drum rotation.
   For a SHARPER report, mix 320 grains of ball-milled and tea-strainered
perc, 135 grains of tea-strainered German Blackhead aluminum and 45 grains of
Chinese needle antimony trisulfide.
                         FLASH MIX APPLICATIONS
   For a report shell on top of a consumer rocket, glue the top disk inside a
mortar shell tube and let dry. Glue two more times.
   Prepare the bottom disk by drilling a fuse hole in it.  Cover the hold with
scotch tape.  Put flash mix in the tube and put the disk in with the tape
outside.  Put glue on the disk at the tube wall and let dry. Glue two more
times. Tape this on top of a TRUSTED consumer skyrocket in such a way that the
burst charge fire will burn through the tape.
                            FUSE PRIMER
  Weigh the black powder and put it in a mortar and pestle.  Weigh 6% of the
black powder in dextrin and add it in.  For instance, 9.4 grams of black
powder requires .6 grams of corn starch.  Mix it dry with an art brush. Grind
with the pestle.  Drip in drops of water and stir with a craft stick.  Keep
dripping water and stirring until it is the consistency of damp mud.  Dip the
ends of the fuses into the paste so that a small ball stays on.
                            SLOW MATCH
Making slow-match fuse delay.
  Cotton string is soaked in a solution of 1/2 tsp of potassium nitrate in 1/4
cup of warm water.  Let the string soak up the solution and then allow the
water to evaporate.  Slow match must hang freely, not touching anything.  It
burns at about 25 seconds per inch.  Use fuse primer to join it to visco fuse.
                        LIGHTING FIREWORKS
   Use a barbecue lighter to light fuses, but keep the end of the lighter out
of the fire spit.  The spark will not light the butane if the end gets coated
with white fuse-spark residue, especially after it rusts.
The Coleman Wind Resistant lighter.
   If it is VERY windy, use a propane or Mapp gas torch with a trigger.
                     MAKING GOOD PYRO CHARCOAL
  CHARCOAL made from "mixed hardwoods" is sold by pyro suppliers, but charcoal
made from balsa is better, cleaner and easy to make.
A propane camp stove and stainless flan mold.
  There is a 1/8" hole in the top where the smoke exits.  When the smoke
stops, the charcoal is ready.
Balsa charcoal made in the flan mold.
  Balsa releases the least tar.  The thinner the wood pieces, the faster they
will finish charring. Pine produces thick, black tar which will stink, bubble
out, drip down the side and may even catch fire.
Pine charcoal made from wide craft sticks.
  After the wood has charred completely, put it in a large freezer bag, work
all the air out, seal it and break up the sheets with your fingers or a
rolling pin into small pieces before milling.
                     BLACK POWDER CHEMICALS
  SULFUR can be found as sulfur flour or sublimed sulfur in drug and farm
stores.  Flowers of sulfur has acid and its use is discouraged.  POTASSIUM
NITRATE is found as SPECTRACIDE brand Tree Stump Remover.
Chemicals, mortar and pestle, rock tumbler, etc. 
  Red gum is not shown in photo.  The rock tumbler is a ball mill. The milling
media are 100 5/8" stainles or brass balls. Plastic cups are good for weighing
powders as well as for holding pulverized and weighed powders temporarily.
Ball-milling all three ingredients together for six hours makes the best black
powder.  After ball-milling it is only necessary to work the mix through a tea
strainer the next time it is needed.
Ball-milled potassium nitrate and a hair.
Other useful items.
  The stainless collander has 3/32" holes, ideal for "corning" the black
powder "mud" into rice size for proper drying.  Corning is important so that
the mix dries quickly.  Work the "mud" through with a plastic putty knife.
The deep-fryer basket is used to separate the ball mill media from the milled
powders. The measuring glass is marked in teaspoons tablespoons, milliliters
and ounces up to 4 oz. Powders that have clumped, like potassium nitrate,
percholorate, sulfur, etc. should be worked through a tea strainer using a
wooden pestle before milling.
Three ways to weigh chemicals.
  The reloader's scale is the most accurate.  The letter scale needs cups to
hold the powders and is not accurate. The digital scale is the easiest to use.
Square plastic jar modifed for tumble-mixing.
  Set the drill/screwdriver for screwdriver speed.
  The best black powder for the must-do-everything-myself perfectionist pyro.
Grains FFFFg and table salt.
  FFFFg size grains can be used for every application including mortar lift
charges, chute deployment charges in model rockets and in salute cannons.
                        ALUMINUM POWDER
Mohawk M380-4361 aluminum powder.
   Used for metalizing wooden furniture and picture frames.
The best pyro aluminum, German Blackhead.
   Photos are at the same 100X magnification in a microscope.
                        INTRUSION ALARMS
   A Booby Trap has two strings out the ends that when pulled create a bang.
To make the bang louder and unmistakable, they can be put inside a report
shell.  A full-size shell needs to be used, but it does not have to be full of
report mix.
Booby Traps and heavy button thread.
   One string is glued between the shell and an end plug and the other string
goes through a 1/16" hole in the other plug.
Inside the shell.
   To weatherproof the device, seal it by dipping it in melted candle wax.
Hide the trip thread or fishing line so an intruder is unlikely to spot it.
A better intrusion alarm.
   Booby Traps are unpredictable and in any pack several will not work.  You
could use three or four booby traps or you can use the similar firework
inside a party popper.  You do not have to take it out of the plastic handle.
                        OTHER GOOD BOOMS:
  Black powder alone does not make a loud boom in a shell casing.  But it will
if fired in a 1/2"-bore cannon.  The bore should be about 12" to 18" deep.
With Goex Or Gorski Gourmet FFFFG black powder, no paper wad is necessary.
Steel black powder cannon with 3/4" bore.
  This took a long drill bit and a long time to drill.  The barrel must be in
a lathe chuck and the drill bit must be in the tailstock so that the bit
follows the axis of rotation down dead center.
Galvanized pipe black powder mortar.
   This noisemaker has a barrel made of pipe and is ignited by a #11 cap made
for black powder rifles.  The cap fits on a 5/32" roll pin.  The hammer hits
the cap when the lanyard is pulled.
   A "carbide" (acetylene) cannon also makes a fair report.  Calcium carbide
creates acetylene when dropped into water.  The acetylene MUST mix with an
exact amount of air for a certain duration for the loudest report.
This makes a fascinating fireworks display.
   This needs to be done on a large patch of bare ground because red-hot blobs
of slag get tossed about!