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List of Pyro Chemicals and Terms


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I hope this list finds some use to the members here, as a small thanks for the info and advice I've received from the APC Forum family.


This list is not all-inclusive, nor a list of formulas. Add, modify, correct or edit as you see fit. Please advise if there are any glaring inaccuracies or omissions.


I made a concerted effort to remove any HE chemicals and references, those are available by PM.


EDIT- I am in the process of weeding out the munged symbols that happened when I copied/pasted this from Word, and bold-ing the subjects. I'll be done today, hopefully!


EDIT- ~ 8:30pm Done for the most part. Kinda hard to proof read your own document, so forgive me if I missed anything.





Accroid Resin (Red Gum Yacca Resin, Red Gum, Accaroid Resin, Accroides, Accroides Gum, Gum Accroides, Botany Bay Gum, Black Boy Gum)

CAS: 9000-20-8.

A natural plant extract used as a binder and/or a fuel in many pyrotechnic compositions. Accroides resin is an orange powder derived from the Xanthorrhoea trees that grow on Kangaroo Island off South Australia. The Resin has a complex chemical nature and contains various aromatic substances such as Coumaric Acid, Cinnamon Acid, Benzoic Acid and esters of Coumaric and Cinnamic Acids, Benzoresinotannols, Benzoresorcinol, etc.

Solutions with Alcohol, for example Spirit lacquers, dry fast and make a hard film. These solutions are excellent substitutes for Shellac and Copal varnishes.

Color: Orange; Odor: Distinctive, benzoin-like; Melting point: <100°C; Solvent: Alcohol, Alkali.


Acetone (CH3)2CO

MW: 58.09 g/mol; CAS: 67-64-1. Synonyms: Dimethyl ketone, methyl ketone, 2-propanone, beta-ketopropane, dimethylketal, pyroacetic acid, dimethylformaldehyde, pyroacetic ether.

A Polar solvent. Used to make Nitrocellulose Lacquer. Use nitrile gloves. Colorless liquid with a fragrant, sweet odor. Stable. Incompatible with halogen acids and halogen compounds, strong bases, strong oxidizing agents, caustics, amines and ammonia, chlorine and chlorine compounds, strong acids, nitrosyl compounds. Highly flammable. Readily forms explosive mixtures with air. May be harmful by inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption. Irritant. Liquid may cause permanent eye damage (corneal clouding). Contact with skin may cause defatting, leading to irritation. Long-term exposure may cause liver damage. Melting Point: -95° C; Boiling Point: 56° C; Vapor Density: 2.0; Vapor Pressure: 181 mm Hg at 20° C; Specific Gravity: 0.79; Flash Point: -18° C; Explosion Limits: 2.6% - 13.0%; Autoignition Temperature: 538° C; Typical TLV: 750 ppm; Typical OEL: 250 ppm.

Drying Acetone:

For an extra degree of safety, you could dry your acetone. CaCl2, CaSO4, or Na2SO4 would all be acceptable to dry it. There are more, but those are rather OTC items.



Any substance capable of giving up a proton, a substance that ionizes in solution to give the positive ion of the solvent, a solution having a pH measurement less than 7.


Aerial Shell

A firework that is usually shot aloft by means of a Black Powder charge from a Mortar.



This is a class of organic compounds with the general formula R-OH, where R is an alkyl group made up of carbon and hydrogen and -OH is one or more hydroxyl groups, each made up of one atom of oxygen and one of hydrogen. Generally, with fireworks, the term is applied to Ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH). Although the term Alcohol often refers to Ethanol, the alcohol in alcoholic beverages, the class of Alcohol also includes Methanol and the Amyl, Butyl, and Propyl alcohols, all with one hydroxyl group; the Glycols, with two hydroxyl groups; and Glycerol, with three. Many of the characteristic properties and reactions of alcohols are due to the polarity, or unequal distribution, of electric charges in the C-O-H portion of the molecule.


Alcohol, Denatured

Ethyl alcohol that has a small quantity of Methyl alcohol added, to render it poisonous.


Alcohol, Ethyl C2H5OH

MW: 46.07 g/mol; CAS: 64-17-5; EC: 200-578-6. Synonyms: Ethanol, grain alcohol, fermentation alcohol, alcohol, methylcarbinol, absolute alcohol, absolute ethanol, anhydrous alcohol, alcohol dehydrated, algrain, anhydrol, Cologne spirit, Duplicating Fluid 100 C, ethyl hydrate, ethyl hydroxide, Jaysol, Jaysol S, molasses alcohol, potato alcohol, sekundasprit, spirits of wine, spirit, Synasol, Tecsol.

It is a Polar Solvent. Stable. Substances to be avoided include strong oxidizing agents, peroxides, acids, acid chlorides, acid anhydrides, alkali metals, ammonia, moisture. Forms explosive mixtures with air. Hygroscopic. Appearance: Colorless liquid; Melting Point: -144° C; Boiling Point: 78° C; Specific Gravity: 0.789; Vapor Pressure: 1.59; Flash Point: 14° C (closed cup); Explosion Limits: 3.3% - 24.5%; Autoignition Temperature: 363° C; Water Solubility: Miscible in all proportions.


Alcohol, Methyl CH3OH

MW: 32.04 g/mol; CAS: 67-56-1; EC: 200-659-6. Synonyms: Methanol, carbinol, colonial spirit, Columbian spirit, methylol, methyl hydrate, wood alcohol, wood naphtha, wood spirit, methyl hydroxide, pyroxylic spirit, meths.

It is a Polar Solvent. Stable. May react violently with acids, acid chlorides, acid anhydrides, oxidizing agents, reducing agents and alkali metals. Protect from moisture. Highly flammable. Appearance: Colorless liquid with a characteristic odor. Risk of very serious, irreversible damage if swallowed. Exposure may cause eye, kidney, heart and liver damage. Chronic or substantial acute exposure may cause serious eye damage, including blindness. Irritant. Narcotic. Melting Point: -98° C; Boiling Point: 64.7° C; Vapor Density: 1.1; Vapor Pressure: 97.7 mm at 20° C. Specific Gravity: 0.791; Flash Point: 11° C; Explosion Limits: 6% - 36 %; Autoignition Temperature: 464° C.


Alcohol, Isopropyl CH3CHOHCH3

MW: 60.09; CAS: 67-63-0. Synonyms: 2-hydroxypropane, isopropanol, isopropyl alcohol, iso-propanol, iso-propyl alcohol, IPA, sec-propanol, sec-propyl alcohol, dimethylcarbinol, propan-2-ol, Avantin, rubbing alcohol, Spectrar, Sterisol, Takineocol, Virahol.

A Polar Solvent. Stable. Incompatible with strong acids, strong oxidizing agents, halogens, aluminum, active halogen compounds. Highly flammable. Vapor-air mixtures may be explosive. May react with oxygen in the air to form peroxides. Appearance: Colorless liquid with slight alcohol odor; Melting Point: -89° C; Boiling Point: 82° C; Vapor Density: 2.1; Vapor Pressure: 33 mm at 20° C; Specific Gravity: 0.79; Flash Point: 12° C; Explosion Limits: 2.0 % - 12 %; Autoignition Temperature: 425° C.


Alkali Metals

These are elements in Group Ia of the Periodic Table. In order of increasing atomic number, they are Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium, Cesium, and Francium. They are softer than other metals, and have lower melting points and densities. All react violently with water, releasing hydrogen and forming hydroxides. They tarnish rapidly, even in dry air. They never occur uncombined in nature.


Alkaline-Earth Metals

These are elements in Group IIa of the Periodic Table. In order of increasing atomic number, they are Beryllium, Magnesium, Calcium, Strontium, Barium, and Radium. They are softer than most other metals and react readily with water. Their properties are exceeded by the corresponding Alkali Metal.



A Chlorine Donor. See Parlon.


Alum Al2(SO4)3

Common name used to denote Aluminum Sulfate.


Aluminum Al

MW: 26.98; OB: -89; CAS: 7429-90-5.

An element used for brilliancy in the fine powder form. Used as a fuel in many pyro effects. It can be purchased as a fine silvery or gray powder. Stable. Powder is flammable. Reacts very exothermically with halogens. Moisture and air sensitive. Incompatible with strong acids, caustics, strong oxidizing agents, halogenated hydrocarbons.

Melting Point: 660° C; Boiling Point: 2327° C; Specific Gravity: 2.7.


Some Varietys of Aluminum and Their Uses:

1.) Aluminum, atomized spherical. 40-80 mesh uncoated. Used in Glitter formulations. Uses in explosive compositions limited to visual effect. Poor choice for explosive compositions in most cases. Exception is when Al is used to sensitize an explosive formulation such as ANFO. Then the presence of the Al is primary and the size of the particles is secondary.

2.) Aluminum, atomized spherical. 120-325 mesh, 20 micron average, uncoated. Used in Glitter compositions, Fountains Comets, and the like. Same as above regarding uses in explosive compositions.

3.) Alcan X-85, 325 mesh, 32 micron, uncoated. Aluminum, atomized spherical. Commonly used in Go-Getter, Fountain, Comet, Falls, Rains, and etc. formulations.

4.) Alcan X-70, 400 mesh, 14 micron. Aluminum, atomized spherical. Usage similar to #3 above and in composite rocket fuel.

5.) Valimet H-3, 4 micron. Aluminum, atomized spherical. More applications for pyro compositions as size is so small that shape is less of a factor. May be used in explosives with good results.

6.) Aluminum, atomized spherical. 80-325 mesh, uncoated. Commonly used in Go-Getter formulations and Glitter compositions.

7.) Ampal 631, uncoated. -325 mesh, 14-21 microns average. Aluminum, atomized spherical. Commonly used in Glitter and in rocket fuels.

8.) Aluminum, bright flake. -325 mesh, 36 micron flake, coated. Usefulness in explosive compositions fair to very good. Sometimes sold as "fine Flitter" Al.

9.) American Dark. -425 mesh, coated. Aluminum, dark flake. Probably the most widely used American flash aluminum. Usefulness in explosive compositions is very good.

10.) Indian Blackhead, 8 micron, coated. Aluminum, dark flake. A much darker Aluminum than German Blackhead. Reputedly made with the same process and equipment used to make Blackhead in Germany in the 1950s. Performance compares very favorably.

11.) Eckart H5413 Super, 3 micron, coated. Aluminum, dark flake. German Blackhead. The undisputed king of flash aluminum. Undisputed standard of explosive compositions. An important note is that Al powder at the 3 micron level, some of the substance may be sub-micron. In that instance, it may be pyrophoric (may ignite when exposed to air).

12.) Transmet K-102, 10-12 mesh, coated. Produces long hang-time "firefly" effect. Usefulness in explosive compositions is fair to good. Also sold as "Flitter, fine".

13.) Aluminum, flake, 50-80 mesh fine Firefly. Bright, rectangular "needles". Usefulness in explosive compositions is fair to good.

14.) Obron (German), -20 mesh, dark flake, coated. Aluminum, coarse flake, Flitters. Used in Glitter compositions. Usefulness in explosive compositions is poor to fair.

15.) US Aluminum #808, 100-325 mesh, coated. Aluminum, fine flake, Flitters. An Aluminum used for years by many professionals for making silver Flitter Stars And Comets. Usefulness in explosive compositions is fair to good. By strengthening the oxidizer, an explosive comp will function fairly well.

16.) US Aluminum #812, 16-326 mesh, coated. Aluminum, medium flake, Flitters. Usefulness in explosive compositions is fair to good. Fairly good duration of effects. Use in Comets, Fountains, Falls, Rains, etc.

17.) Aluminum, granular. 50-150 mesh. Usefulness in explosive comps is poor. Long hang time for pyro effects.

18.) Obron #10890. This is 6-12 micron medium-dark flake. Others site this as 'German Blue Head'. A good, but costly choice for explosive comps. Danger of pyrophoric combustion.

19.) Eckart 10890, 6 micron coated aluminum flake. German dark pyro aluminum powder. This is a brighter, slightly slower burning aluminum.

20.) "White aluminum was used for flash powder faute de mieux in the old days, but it isn't very sharp flash by comparison with that which can be made using German black or even #809." M Swisher


Alcoa 1641 Aluminum, Atomized 15 to 24 microns.

Alcoa 1620 Aluminum, Atomized 25 to 30 microns.

Reynolds 30-XD Uncoated Flake Aluminum 12.6 microns 325 mesh.

US Bronze No. 812 Use When "flitters" are specified.

US Bronze No. 813 Use When "flitters" are specified.


Aluminum Chloride AlCl3

CAS: 7446-70-0.

This chemical must not come in contact with the skin as severe burns can result. The yellowish-white crystals or powder is hygroscopic. Purchase only in the anhydrous grade.


Aluminum Oxide Al2O3

MW: 101.96 CAS: 1344-28-1.

Used in old end plug formulas and as a filler in some adhesive compounds.


Aluminum Sulfate Al2(SO4)3



Amber (Konroku)

Fossil vegetable origin and is yellowish-brown in color. It is used in fireworks as a fuel to a small extent. A source of Succinic Acid.


Ammonia NH3

A chemical compound, and a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent, penetrating odor. It is extremely soluble in water. Ammonia solutions are used to clean, bleach, and deodorize; to etch Aluminum; to saponify oils and fats; and in chemical manufacture. Ammonia and Ammonia vapors are irritating- prolonged exposure and inhalation causes serious injury and may be fatal. Water-free ammonia is used in refrigeration. The major use of ammonia and its compounds is as Fertilizers. Ammonia is usually produced by direct combination of nitrogen with hydrogen at high temperature and pressure in the presence of a catalyst.


Ammonium Chloride NH4Cl (Sal Ammoniac)

CAS: 12125-02-9.

Used in white smoke compositions, water ignitable comps, "Safety Explosives". White powder or colorless crystals. Absorbs heat of combustion, considered endothermic.


Ammonium Di(or Bi)chromate (NH4)Cr2O7

MW: 252.18; CAS: 7789-09-5.

Catalyst in Ammonium Nitrate formulas, used in “Volcanoes” as an oxidizer and in smoke comps. Strong oxidizer. Contact with flammable materials may cause fire. Reactions carried out in closed vessels may lead to explosion. Incompatible with organic materials, strong reducing agents. Appearance: Bright orange-red crystals. Melting Point: 170° C; Vapor Density: 8.7 (air = 1); Density (g cm-3): 2.15.


Ammonium Perchlorate ClH4NO4 (AP)

CAS: 7790-98-9.

Oxidizer used in red and blue formulas and in composite rocket propellants. 34% O2 content. Can be made to explode by either heat or shock.



A starch-like cellulose compound.


Aniline Dyes

These are used in smoke powder formulas. They are organic coal tar derivatives, available in many colors. Also suspected or proven carcinogens.


Anthracene C14H10.

CAS: 120-12-7. Synonyms: Anthracin, Paranaphthalene, Green Oil, Tetra Olive N2G.

Can be used for black smoke. A coal tar derivative used for colored smokes. Generally supplied as a green/yellow lumpy powder, but the pure form is a fine blue fluorescent color. Stable. Flammable. Substances to be avoided include strong oxidizing agents, hypochlorites, chromic acid, and fluorine. Appearance: Off-white to pale green crystals; Melting Point: 215°- 219° C; Boiling Point: 340° C; Specific Gravity: 1.25.


Anthraquinone C6H4(CO)2C6H4

Parent substance of the group of dyes that includes Alizarin. Also known as Diphenylene Diketone. Sublimes very easily. Yellow needle-like or prism crystals. Melting Point: 285° C; Boiling Point: 382° C.


Antimony Sb

CAS: 7440-36-0.

Used in ignition comps and white fire compositions, but mainly used in mixes containing Gunpowder and Aluminum to produce the "Glitter" effect. Antimony reacts less violently with oxygen than either Aluminum or Magnesium. Used in some Chlorate-based report comps. A dark gray powder usually about 240 mesh, melting point 630° C. It is also known as Antimony Regulus, found in nature as Stibnite.


Antimony(Tri)Sulfide Sb2S3

MW: 339.72; CAS: 1345-04-6.

There are two types:

1.) Chinese Needle used in colored star comps. ~200 mesh, dark with a definite crystal structure.

2.) Dark Pyro is used in Cracker Ball, Torpedo comps and flash comps, to sharpen the report of firecrackers, salutes, and report comps. 325 mesh, dark, dull, almost black.


AP See Ammonium Perchlorate


Arsenic(Tri)Sulfide As2S3

There are two types-

1.) Red: The common name is Realgar. It is also known as Red Arsenic. It is a poisonous orange-red powder. It has been used in fireworks to impart color to the flames or effects. Used in easily ignited white stars and some smoke compositions. Used with Lampblack to produce the wonderful golden spur like effect of the traditional Flower Pot.

2.) Yellow: The common name is Kings Gold. In some comps, Sb2S3 can be used instead.


Arcenious Oxide As2O3

CAS: 1327-53-3; Synonyms: Arsenic Trioxide, Arsenious Oxide and Arsenious Acid.

A white, highly poisonous powder formerly used in fireworks. Its uses are similar to Paris Green.



CAS: 12002-43-6.

Dark brown powdered carbon fuel, used in fire comps and as an accessory fuel in some star compositions. Has 10% - 15% fixed Carbon content. Toluene or Turpentine activated binder/sealer.


Atomic Mass - Unit (amu)

A unit of mass equal to 1/12 the mass of the carbon isotope with Mass Number 12, approximately 1.6604 x 10E-24 gram.


Atomic Number

Often represented by the symbol Z, the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom. Atoms with the same Atomic Number make up a chemical Element. The Elements are arranged in the Periodic Table in the order of their Atomic Numbers. Atomic Weight Mean (weighted average) of the masses of all the naturally occurring Isotopes of a chemical Element; the Atomic Mass is the mass of any individual isotope. Atomic Weight is usually expressed in Atomic Mass Units (amu); the Atomic Mass Unit is defined as exactly 1/12 the mass of a Carbon-12 atom. Each proton or neutron weighs about 1 amu, and thus the Atomic Mass is always very close to the Mass Number (total number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus). Because most naturally occurring Elements have one principal isotope and only insignificant amounts of other isotopes, most Atomic Weights are also very nearly whole numbers.


Atomic Weight

The average weight of an atom of an Element, usually expressed relative to one atom of the Carbon isotope taken to have a standard weight of 12.


Auramine Hydrochloride

It is used in smoke formulas. Yellow flakes or powder that readily dissolve in Alcohol. A certified Biological Stain.


Autoignition Temperature

This denotes the kindling point of a substance. This is the lowest temperature at which a chemical will spontaneously ignite in a normal atmosphere without an external source of ignition, such as a flame or spark. This temperature is required to supply the activation energy needed for combustion. The temperature at which a chemical will detonate decreases as the pressure increases or oxygen concentration increases. It is usually applied to a combustible fuel mixture.


Bag Mine

A type of Mine lacking a strong casing; consists of a lift charge and Stars contained within a bag. It has a Burst Charge in the middle of the stars. It is shot from a Mortar.


Ball Mill

It is a cylindrical device used to grind chemicals or mix compositions. Ball mills rotate around a horizontal axis, partially filled with the material to be ground (~25% volume) plus the grinding medium (~50% volume), ideally non- sparking milling media like Lead or Brass balls. An internal cascading effect reduces the material to a fine powder.


Bare Match See Black Match.


Barium Ba

Various Barium compounds are used in pyrotechnics. A metallic element. It is a soft, silver-white Alkaline-Earth Metal. Its principal ore is Barite.


Barium Carbonate BaCO3

MW: 197.35; CAS: 513-77-9.

Delay agent in glitter comps. Green color agent when the oxidizer is ammonium perchlorate with Chlorine Donor. Acid neutralizer in comps containing Potassium or Barium Chlorates. Used to reduce the burning rate of some compositions. Also used in Matrix Comet comps. White powder. Water Soluble. Melting Point: 1300° C; Density (g cm-3): 4.43.


Barium Chlorate Ba(ClO3)2*H2O (45% Ba)

MW: 304.27; CAS: 13477-00-4.

It is an oxidizer and intense green color agent. Due to the higher light output of chlorate-based comps, barium chlorate is regarded as the best known color agent for green.

It is a friction sensitive Chlorate used in some flash comps, with a melting point of 414° C.


Barium Chloride BaCl2 (66% Ba)

CAS: 10361-37-2. Synonyms: Barium Chloride, Barium Dichloride.

Relatively safe green colorant. Makes pinecones, campfires green. Is soluble in water. Melting Point: 963° C. Boiling Point: 1560° C.


Barium Chromate BaCrO4

MW: 253.37; CAS: 10294-40-3.

Green color agent, needs a Chlorine Donor. Yellow powder. Oxidizer used in delay compositions, primarily in rockets.


Barium Fluoride BaF2

White cubic crystals. Melts at ~1370° C.


Barium Nitrate Ba(N03)2 (36.7% O2)

MW: 261.39; CAS: 10022-31-8.

Can be used as a green color agent, silver effects, and oxidizer. Good greens with Magnesium fuel. Although its green colors are weak, it is often used in compositions with Barium Chlorate- to obtain a good green a clorine donor is needed. Also used in the production of Portfire and Lance compositions. It is also present in some flash formulations, especially in reports/salutes. It's an oxidizer in ''dirty flash'' type burst charges. Its use with Aluminum powder produces very bright effects at high temperature or silvery gold effects at lower temperatures. Boric acid should always be used in compositions containing Barium Nitrate and Aluminum. It melts at 500° C. Soluble in water, slightly soluble in Ethanol, slightly soluble in Acetone. The uses and precautions are the same as Potassium Nitrate.


Barium Oxalate BaC2O4

A white powder used as a green pyro colorant in comps containing Magnesium.


Barium Oxide BaO

MW: 153.34; CAS: 1304-28-5.

Used in some flash comps.


Barium Peroxide BaO2 (81% Ba)

MW: 169.33; CAS: 1304-29-6.

Used in some photoflash comps, as a catalyst in Thermite reactions and in some tracer comps. Due to its highly reactive nature, exothermally decomposes in moisture, therefore could heat up compositions containing Aluminum.


Barium Stearate Ba(C18H35O2)2

MW: 704.28; CAS: 6865-35-6.


Barium Sulfate BaSO4 (59% Ba)

MW: 233.39; CAS: 7727-43-7.

High temperature oxidizer used in chuffing rocket fuels. Used as a green color agent, a high temperature oxidizer in strobe mixtures, sometimes as a delay agent and in glitter and firefly formulations.



Any substance which contains Hydroxyl (OH) groups and furnishes Hydroxide ions in solution; a molecular or ionic substance capable of combining with a proton to form a new substance; a substance that provides a pair of electrons for a covalent bond with an acid; a solution with a pH over 7.


Bengal Fire

A pyrotechnic colored flare.


Bentonite (Sodium Aluminum Silicate)

Used to form Nozzles for Black Powder rockets, Fountains, Drivers, etc. See Clay.


Benzene C6H6

MW: 78, OB: -308.

A Non-Polar solvent. Used in some Perchlorate-based report comps. Colorless, flammable toxic liquid with a pleasant aromatic odor. Parent substance of the Aromatic Compounds. Derivative compounds include Toluene, Phenol, and Aniline. Obtained from coal tar and petroleum.


Benzene Hexachloride C6H6Cl6

MW: 290.828 g/mol; CAS: 58-89-9.

Originally the insecticide, 'Lindane'. Used in strobe and twinkling green stars. Is a Chlorine Donor.


Benzoic Acid C6H5COOH

CAS: 65-85-0. Synonyms: Benzene carboxylic acid, benzeneformic acid, benzenemethanoic acid, carboxybenzene, dracylic acid, phenyl carboxylic acid, phenylformic acid, Retarder BA, Retardex, Salvo liquid, Salvo powder, Tennplas.

Used to make metallic Benzoates. White powder or crystals. Melting Point: 122o C; Boiling Point: 249° C; Vapor Density: 4.2 (air = 1); Density (g cm-3): 1.32; Flash Point: 121° C (closed cup).


Beryllium Be

CAS: 7440-41-7.

A metallic element. The silver-gray, Alkaline Earth Metal is light, strong, high melting, and resistant to corrosion. It is used as a window material for X-ray tubes and as a shield and a moderator in nuclear reactors.


BHC See Benzene Hexachloride.

A Chlorine Donor.


Bickford Fuse

A slow burning fuse used either for preparation of internal shell delays, or for timing sequential firings.



Compositions that hold together a charge of finely divided particles and increase the mechanical strength of plugs or pellets of these particles when consolidated under pressure. Binders usually are resins, plastics, asphaltics or hard waxes used dry or in solution.


Bismuth Subcarbonate (BiO)2CO3

A safer substitute for Lead Tetraoxide in Crackling Stars (Dragons Eggs).


Bismuth Trioxide Bi2O3

Light yellow powder used as a safer alternative to Lead Tetraoxide in Crackling Microstars (Dragons Eggs).


Black Match

Usually, cotton string coated with Black Powder. Burn rate ~1inch/second. Black Match contained within a paper tube is usually referred to as Quick Match or Piped Match (burn rate as high as 50 feet/second).


Black Powder

A deflagrating or Low Explosive compound consisting of a mixture of Potassium Nitrate, Charcoal and Sulfur. Black Powder is usually pressed, granulated and classified into definite grain fractions. It is easily ignited, and produces dense smoke. Used as a propellant in fireworks and as the basis for compositions containing metal powders and/or salts. The advent of so-called Smokeless Powder has now reduced its role in commercial and military munitions; some remaining military uses are: Igniters, fuses to give a short delay, blank ammunition, small signaling rockets and as spotting charges. The standard composition is: 75% Potassium Nitrate, 15% Charcoal and 10 % Sulfur.


Blind Shell

A shell that fails to burst, having been successfully launched from its mortar. Potentially very dangerous. Sometimes referred to as a Black Shell.


Borax B4Na2O7

CAS: 1303-96-4. Synonyms: Antipyonin, boricin, disodium tetraborate decahydrate, Three Elephant, Tronabor, sodium pyroborate decahydrate, sodium tetraborate decahydrate, sodium borate 10-Hydrate, sodium borate decahydrate, sodium biborate decahydrate. Available OTC.

Green color agent. Flame retardant. Appearance: White crystals; Melting Point: 75o C; Boiling Point: 320° C; Density (g cm-3): 1.73; Water Solubility: Moderate.

Boric Acid H3BO3

CAS: 10043-35-3; EC: 233-139-2. Synonyms: Basilit B, boracic acid, orthoboric acid, boron trihydroxide, Borofax, Bortrac, Dia Flea-Mate, Flea Prufe, trihydroxyborane, trihydroxyborone, hydrogen orthoborate, NCI-C56417, sassolite, Acidum boricum.

Used to prevent runaway reactions in comps containing Aluminum or Magnesium and a Nitrate. Stable. Non-flammable. Reacts violently with Potassium, Acid Anhydrides. Incompatible with water, strong bases, alkali metals. Moisture sensitive. Hygroscopic. Found OTC as a home insecticide. Water Solubility: 63.5 g/l at 30° C; Appearance: Colorless or white odorless crystalline solid; Melting Point: 171° C; Boiling Point: ca. 300° C (decomposes); Specific Gravity: 1.44; Vapor Pressure: 2.6 mm Hg at 20° C; Water Solubility: 63.5 g/l at 30° C.


Boron B

MW: 10.81; CAS: 7440-42-8.

Used in some photoflash comps. The impure or 'amorphous' boron is a brownish-black powder, used in pyrotechnic stars and flares to provide a distinctive green color, and in rockets as an igniter.


Bottom Fused

The normal method of fusing of a shell, where the shell delay is ignited by the Lifting Charge of the shell. Most Cylindrical and almost all Round Shells are fused this way. Also, for Cakes where fusing is at the base of each tube.


Bottom Shot

Typically a Salute, it is the last shot of a multi-break shell.



A charge of Black Powder at the base of a Gerb - used to give a report at the end of the burning of the Gerb.


Brass Cu + Zn

This is an alloy of Copper and Zinc. May also contain a small percentage of Tin. Makes blue colors.



The bursting of an aerial effects shell. A normal shell is referred to as "Single Break". In a Multi Break shell there are many sequential bursts, each a separate entity.


Bridge Wire

A relatively fine resistance wire incorporated into an ignition element connecting the ends of the leg wires inside an electric detonator and is imbedded in the ignition charge of the detonator. Sometimes the Bridge Wire itself is the only element of an E-Match.



A long burning star similar to but brighter and shorter burning than a Kamuro Star. A spider-like shell burst pattern. Generally has silver tail effect, and is brighter than Willow or Tiger Tail-style bursts.



A solution meant to minimize changes in hydrogen ion concentration, which would otherwise occur as a result of a chemical reaction. A solution that can keep its pH, (i.e., its relative acidity or alkalinity) constant despite the addition of strong acids or bases. Buffer solutions contain either a weak acid or weak base or one of their salts.


Bursting Charge

The internal charge in a shell designed to break the shell at the predetermined time, spreading and igniting the contents of the shell. Bursting Charges are typically made of Black Powder (for effect shells), Flash Powder or Whistle Mix (for color shells). Often, a lightweight "carrier" (puffed rice, ground up corncob, grass seed, etc.) is coated with the burst comp. See H-3, KP, Whistle Mix and Flash Powder.


Butterfly Burst

A burst of a cylindrical tube from a central point, thus producing an effect akin to the wings of a butterfly. The term is also used for the more complicated burst pattern of a Butterfly Shell, although in many ways the theory of action is similar.


Cab-O-Sil SiO2

Used as an anti-caking agent. Mill .5% to 1% with chemicals to make free flowing. Sometimes used in flash to "fluff up" the comp. Four ounces fills a half gallon container.



Fireworks term for a multiple shot battery. It has many shots grouped together in short tubes connected by fuse to fire in sequence. It can have Comets, Crossettes, Whistles, Reports, Mines, Spinners and Flying Fish, etc.

It is also known as a Candle Barrage. This is a firework comprising a series of Roman Candles or single shot tubes connected together.

The internal fusing is set to fire each tube in series, or to fire several tubes at the same time, or a combination of these. Typically a Cake will resemble from the outside a simple cube or rectangular covered shape; after detonation, a large number of cardboard tubes (the candles) will be visible in the top of the firework (the paper cover having been blown off by the discharging stars). In a traditional Cake, all the candles point upwards; a variant is called the Fan or Angle Cake.


Calcium CaCO3

MW: 100.09; CAS: 1317-65-3.

Used in some photoflash comps.


Calcium Carbide CaC2

CAS: 75-20-7.

It is the fuel used in toy cannons. These grayish, irregular lumps are normally packed in waterproof and airtight metal containers. Mixed with water it forms Acetylene Gas. Incompatible with moisture, water, strong oxidizing agents, alcohols, hydrogen chloride, magnesium. Harmful if inhaled, swallowed and in contact with skin. Contact with skin may cause severe irritation or burns. Appearance: Gray or black solid with a garlic-like odor. Melting Point: 2300° C; Vapor Density: 2.2 (air = 1); Density (g cm-3): 2.22; Water Solubility: Decomposes. Reacts violently with water, liberating highly flammable Acetylene Gas.


Calcium Carbonate CaCO3

MW: 100.09; CAS: 1317-65-3. Synonyms: Limestone, marble, calcite, chalk, carbonic acid calcium salt, blackboard chalk.

It is used for Phosphorous Torpedoes, as an acid absorber in fireworks, as an orange coloring agent, and in some photoflash comps. Can be used as a filler when mixed with sodium silicate to create a fireproof adhesive. Stable. Incompatible with acids, Fluorine, Ammonium salts, Alum. This occurs as the mineral Calcite.


Calcium Fluoride CaF2

Use in smokeless firework mixtures and some photoflash comps. It is a white powder, also known as Fluorspar.


Calcium Hydride

Used in some photoflash comps.


Calcium Nitrate Ca(NO3)2*4H2O

MW: 236.13; CAS: 13477-34-4.


Calcium Oxalate CaC2O4+H2O

MW: 146.02; CAS: 5794-28-5.

Gives depth of color to mixtures of Sodium Nitrate and Magnesium. Sometimes used in "glitter effect" compositions and magnesium flares.


Calcium Phosphide Ca3P2

It is used in signal fires. This compound, which comes as gray lumps, must be kept dry. Upon contact with water it will form the toxic flammable gas, Phosphine.


Calcium Resinate

Used in some tracer comps.


Calcium Silicide CaSi2

MW: 96.25; CAS: 7440-70-2 and 7440-21-3.

A dark gray/black crystalline powder used in hot primes. Generates a molten slag for passing fire to compositions that do not ignite easily. Dangerous when wet. Used in smoke compositions and in self-heating compositions as a fuel to heat cans when camping.


Calcium Stearate Ca(C18H35O4)2

MW: 740.28; CAS: 1592-23-01.


Calcium Sulfate CaSO4 (Plaster of Paris)

High temperature oxidizer in orange color and strobe comps.


Calomel (Mercurous Chloride, Mercuric Monochloride)

Chlorine Donor. Used in some blue comps. This can brighten an otherwise dull colored mixture. Sometimes PVC or Hexachlorobenzene replaces it.


Camphor C10H16O

Used in explosives and fireworks. A Ketone found in the wood of the Camphor tree, native to Taiwan and a few of the Southern states of the US. An ingredient used in ping pong balls.


Cannon Fuse See Visco Fuse.



Usually a rolled Kraft paper tube used to connect several fuses together in a spark-proof sleeve.


Carbon Black See Lampblack.


Carbon C

EC: 231-153-3; CAS: 7440-44-0. Synonyms: Acticarbone, activated charcoal, AG3, AG5, Amoco PX21, Anthrasorb, AR 3, Art 2, decolorizing carbon, Grosafe, Acticarbone, XE 340, Columbia LCK, diamond, graphite, charcoal, Supersorbon S1, numerous other trade names.

Combustible. Highly flammable in powdered form. Carbon is a non-metallic element, known since ancient times. Pure carbon forms are Amorphous Carbon (found in Charcoal, Coal, Coke, Lignite,and Peat) and the crystals; graphite and diamond. Carbon has seven isotopes. Carbon-12 is the basis for Atomic Weights; Carbon-14, with a half-life of 5,730 years, is used to trace chemical reactions and to date geologic and archaeological specimens. Stable. Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents. Appearance: Gray solid; Melting Point: 3652° C; Vapor Pressure: Negligible at 20° C; Specific Gravity: Varies with physical form.


Cast Loading

Charging of rocket motors with KNSU-type comps while in a molten state.


Castor Oil

This is used in some compositions to reduce the sensitiveness and to waterproof the mixture. Yellow colored oil. Used as a protective coating for Magnesium in flare compositions. It also can act as a binder and lubricant in the hydraulic pressing of compositions.


Catherine Wheel

The traditional name for a type of spinning firework. As the Catherine wheel burns, its casing is

also consumed, similar to a Lance or Pill Box Star. This is different from a Wheel created with Drivers where the case of the Driver is not consumed. The Catherine wheel is named for Catherine of Alexandria, a 4th century saint ordered to be martyred on a "Breaking Wheel".


CATO (Catastrophe At Take Off)

This is a failure, generally explosive, where all the propellant is burned immediately causing over pressurization. This can be a nozzle or end-cap blowout (loud, but basically harmless), or where the pyrotechnic force causes a casing rupture that has unpredictable, usually devastating, effect.


Changing Relay

A low light emitting composition often used in Japanese shell manufacture, to accentuate and regulate the color change in stars of a Chrysanthemum or Peony shell.


Charcoal C

MW: 12.01; CAS: 1333-86-4.

A non-volatile residue obtained when organic matter, usually wood, is heated in the absence of air. A form of Carbon, it is used in fireworks and explosives as a reducing agent. Usually a black powder, which comes in a variety of different grades, although dark brown and white are possible. Its reactivity is dependent on the type of wood used.

Willow, Alder, White Maple and Dogwood are the traditional woods used but a mixture of hardwoods are also commonly used. Black Willow is popular for making "fast" Black Powder. Coarse hardwood Charcoal makes long lasting effects. Bark and Pine Charcoal are also used for their effects. It can be made as fine as dust (Air Float) up to a coarse powder. Charcoal yields more heat per volume than wood. Finely divided Charcoal, with its porous structure, efficiently filters the absorption of gases and of solids from solution (Activated Charcoal).


Charcoal, Air Float.

Extremely lightweight, fine gray/black powder used in Black Powder and many other pyro compositions.



A given quantity of explosive. Or, to fill a device with comp.


Charge/Weight Ratio

In rocket technology, the ratio of the weight of propellant to the total weight.



Usually the process of filling a tube with composition (e.g. a Gerb or Roman Candle).


Cherry Bomb

A small round red report device with length of fuse and containing Flash Powder. Now banned in the US.


Chlorine Cl2

CAS: 7782-50-5.

This is a color enhancing chemical that is supplied by Chlorine Donor chemicals in pyro comps.


Chlorine Donor

A color enhancing agent added to a color composition to increase the intensity of the color. The Chlorine forms metal-Cl species in the flame which emit strongly in the visible part of the spectrum. It is thought that Potassium Chlorate/Perchlorate as well as Ammonium Perchlorate may play a similar, though diminished, role. Needed to produce good color when using Barium, Strontium and Copper salts to color flames.

Some examples are:


Ammonium Chloride (66%)

Benzene Hydrochloride

Chlorowax (30%-70%)

Dechlorane (78%)

Hexachlorobenzene (75%)

Hexachloroethane (90%)

Lindane (73%)


Parlon (64%-68%)

Pergut, PVC (57%)

Saran (73%)

Sculpy Clay

Starpol, as well as other metallic Chlorides.


Chlorowax C24H43Cl 7

Cream colored powder used as a Chlorine Donor (70% Chlorine). Solvents are xylene, acetone and alcohol.



The narrowing of a tube, most often associated with Fountains and Rockets. Chokes may be made by physically distorting the tube, by means of an end piece, or by clay or other material.


Chrysanthemum Shell

A spherical break of colored stars, similar to a Peony, but with stars that leave a visible trail of sparks. A common composition to give the trails is a slow burning Gunpowder mixture. The addition of large amounts of Charcoal causes thousands of glowing sparks.



It is used in smoke formulas. An organic dye available as a red-brown powder.



Intermittent or irregular burning in a solid propellant rocket motor, smoke grenades or Gerbs with corresponding low frequency pressure oscillations. Usually a sign of instability but is sometimes done on purpose, for the effect.


Class B Explosives

Explosives which possess flammable hazard; such as, but not limited to, propellants, explosives, photographic flash powders and some special fireworks.


Class B Firework

The old US categorization for 1.3G Display Fireworks. Regulated by the BAFTE as Low Explosives.


Class C Explosives

Term for explosives which contain Class A or Class B explosives, or both, as components but in restricted quantities. A Secondary Explosive or Primary Explosive with two protective features


Class C Firework

The old US categorization for 1.4G Consumer Fireworks (sparklers, ground displays).



It can be purchased as kitty litter or in the powdered form. It is used dry for Chokes, Nozzles and plugs for sealing firework cases. It is usually rammed dry. Additives such as Grog may be used to improve the "grip" of the nozzle or plug to the inside of the tube.


CMC (Cellulose Gum) See Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose.

White powder used as a binder or thickening agent. Use 1% with other water soluble binder or 2-3% by itself.


Coconut Shell

Usually a shell containing large Comets (gold, silver or crackle) which produce a typical Coconut Palm- type effect on bursting. Typically the shell will also be fitted with a complementary color rising tail, called a 'Trunk'.



This is a solution of Nitrocellulose in Ether or Acetone, sometimes with the addition of Alcohols. Its generic name is Pyroxylin Solution. It is toxic and highly flammable. As the solvent evaporates, it dries to a celluloid-like film.


Colophonium C20O2H29

An Alcohol soluble resin used as a binder. It is expensive and doesn't have much adhesion capacity. Sources: Artist paint stores often sell colophonium. It is also used by violin players, for the treatment of wooden floors.


Colophony See Rosin.

Turpentine rosin.



Usually a solid cylinder or small, round ball of composition, manufactured in a mold, by hand or by machine. The effect is that of a large star rising. The Comet is completely self-consuming and thus particularly suitable for sites where falling debris is a problem. In general, stars are called Comets after they reach ~ 3/4- 1" in diameter. Comets have their use in shells such as a Palm Tree Shells, tracers, and as stars in larger shells (8" and up).



The generic, widely used term for all pyrotechnic mixtures. More specifically, 'Composition' is taken to mean the list of ingredients in a particular pyrotechnic mixture. All Compositions contain at least an oxidant and a fuel, usually with additional ingredients for production of color, effect and performance. Often, 'Comp' is used interchangeably.



In chemistry, a substance composed of Atoms of two or more Elements in chemical combination, occurring in fixed, definite proportion and arranged in fixed, definite structures. A Compound has unique properties that are distinct from the properties of its elemental constituents and of all other Compounds. A Compound differs from a Mixture in that the components of a Mixture retain their own properties and may be present in many different proportions. The components of a Mixture are not chemically combined; they can be separated by physical means. A molecular Compound, e.g. Water, is made up of electrically neutral molecules, each containing a fixed number of atoms. An Ionic Compound, e.g., Sodium Chloride, is made up of electrically charged Ions that are present in fixed proportions and are arranged in a regular, geometric pattern called crystalline structure but are not grouped into molecules.



A specialized type of Fountain, made in the shape of a Cone. The advantages of a Cone are predominantly ease of filling, and the fact that the burning area increases as the fireworks proceeds, thus compensating for the increase in diameter of the choke.



May be defined as an inert material of some strength and having a given wall thickness, situated in the immediate vicinity of an explosive. Priming or heating the explosive materials produces different results, according to whether they are located in a stronger or a weaker confinement. If confined by thick steel, almost any explosive will explode or detonate on being heated; on the other hand, they burn on contact with an open flame if unconfined. The destructive (fragmentation) effect of an explosion becomes stronger if the explosive is confined (stemmed) in an enclosure such as a borehole. In the absence of natural confinement, the explosive charge is often embedded in an inert material such as clay. The process by which some explosives, e.g. Black Powder, can change from extremely rapid burning to something approaching detonation. For instance, Black Powder confined in a tube will produce a loud report when lit, while Black Powder burned loose does not.


Confectioners Sugar (10X Sugar) See Sucrose.

Can be used with an oxidizer such as potassium nitrate to create smoke devices or rocket fuel. Sometimes used in blue color comps. Will slow the burn rate of comps that may be too fast/ hot for good color production.


Convolute Wound Tube

A tube wound from a piece of paper the same width as the tube is long. Convolute tubes tend to be stronger than Spiral Wound tubes, although they are also more expensive to produce. Also called Parallel Wound.


Copal Gum See Gums.


Copper Cu

MW: 63.546; CAS: 7440-50-8.

Fuel and blue color agent. When added to an Ammonium Perchlorate composition, will give a nice blue flame. ~5% in the formula should be enough. A reddish powder. Copper powder reacts with Ammonium Perchlorate in the presence of H2O. Stable. Incompatible with strong acids, active halogen compounds, chlorine, fluorine, iodine, bromine, and ammonia. May react explosively with strong oxidizing agents. When decomposition occurs it can generate heat and ammonia gas. Melting Point: 1083° C; Boiling Point: 2595° C; Specific Gravity: 8.92.



Copper Salt...........................Solubility....................%Cu

Copper Metal .........................Insoluble...................100.00%

Copper Oxide.........................Insoluble....................79.88%

Copper Oxychloride................Insoluble.....................59.51%

Copper Carbonate...................Insoluble.....................57.47%

Copper Acetoarsenite..............Insoluble.....................25.07%

Copper(I)Chloride...........Very Slightly Soluble............64.18%

Copper(II)Fluoride...............Slightly Soluble..............62.58%

Copper(II)Benzoate.............Slightly Soluble...............20.78%

Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate...Very Soluble.................39.81%


Copper Acetoarsenate (CuO)3.As2O3.Cu(C2H302)2 3CuO. -OR- As2O3+Cu(CH3CO2)2 -OR- [Cu3As2O3Cu(C2H3O2) 2]

(Paris Green, Spring Green, Imperial Green, Brilliant Green, Kings Green, Schweinfurt Green, Emerald Green, Parrot Green, Vienna Green, and Mitis Green).

The best blue color agent but rarely used because it is so poisonous. It comes as a mint green fine powder. Insoluble in water, soluble in acid and ammonia solutions. When used in a Potassium Chlorate formula with a clean-burning fuel such as Shellac, it produces the best blues and purples next to the Ammonium Perchlorate comps. Paris Green does not decompose Chlorates.


Copper Ammonium Chloride Cu(NH3)4Cl2

Used in blue fire comps. Complete solubility in H20.


Copper Ammonium Nitrate

Used in some blue comps.


Copper Ammonium Sulfate CuSO4 * 4NH3 * H2O

MW: 245.75.

Used in blue Bengal Fire. Very soluble in water with deep-blue color; almost insoluble in alcohol. Dark-blue, crystalline powder; ammonia odor; loses NH3 on exposure to air.


Copper Arsenate CuHAsO3 (Schloss or Schlees Green)

It produces a blue flame, but it is not as intense as Paris Green. As it also the problem of being somewhat hygroscopic; this can present ignition problems. Does not decompose Chlorates. Appearance: Lighter than Paris Green with a yellowish cast. Fine powder, insoluble in water, soluble in ammonia.


Copper Benzoate Cu(C6H5COO)2

Fuel and blue color agent for stars, comets and rocket propellant. Sources: Copper benzoate is easily prepared at home from a solution of sodium or potassium benzoate and a soluble copper salt. When these solutions are added together a green precipitate of copper benzoate forms. This is filtered, thoroughly rinsed with hot water and left to dry.


Copper(II)Carbonate CuCO3•Cu(OH)2 (Basic Copper Carbonate)

MW: 221.12; CAS: 12069-69-1. Occurs in two forms:

1.) Malachite CuCO3 Cu(OH)2

Appearance: Dark greenish powder, consisting of monoclinic crystals. This is usually made by precipitation. It is considered the safest for use in Ammonium Perchlorate blues, or where the composition produces a high temperature and HCl is produced in the flame (Shimizu). When used in Perchlorate compositions the addition of a Chlorine Donor will produce an acceptable blue. Malachite does not decompose Chlorates.

2.) Azurite 2CuCO3.Cu(OH)2

Appearance: Light to dark blue. This is not as a rule used in the fireworks trade. It is instead used in the paint industry. Azurite does not decompose Chlorates.


Copper Chlorate Cu(ClO3)2.6H2O (Cupric Chlorate)

Used as an oxidizer and blue colorant. A poison.


Copper(I)Chloride CuCl (Cuprous Chloride)

Greenish-blue powder used as a blue color agent. Also makes a relatively safe coloring agent for campfires, pinecones, and fireplace logs.


Copper(II)Chloride CuCl2

CAS No: 7447-39-4; EC No: 231-210-2. Synonyms: Cupric chloride, copper bichloride, copper (2+) chloride, copper dichloride, copper chloride, cupric dichloride.

The color made from this is a better blue then Copper Carbonate. An excess of Chlorine has to be present to ensure color production. Stars made from this can be hard to dry. If the flame is in the presence of too much oxygen, it will burn above 1200° C, in the 525-nanometer range, and slip from blue into the color green. Also used as a catalyst for Whistle Mix and other fuels. Appearance: Light yellowish green, small crystals like sugar. Reacts violently with Potassium and Sodium. Contact with Acetylene may form explosive Acetylides. Hygroscopic. Copper Chloride does decompose Chlorates. Stable. Melting Point: 620° C; Specific Gravity: 3.386.


Copper Chromite CuCr2O4

Catalyst for Whistle Mix and composite rocket fuels containing Ammonium Perchlorate. Also found in a white sparkler comp.


Copper(II)Fluoride CuF2 (Cupric Fluoride)

Bluish powder used as a blue color agent and halogen donor (flame color enhancer).


Copper Nitrate Cu NO3 (Cupric Nitrate)

CAS No: 3251-23-8.

Blue crystals. Blue colorant, oxidizer. Hygroscopic.


Copper(II)Oxide CuO (Black Copper Oxide, Cupric Oxide)

MW: 79.54; CAS: 1317-38-0.

Used in starter compositions, blue colors and ignition comps. It is used to produce a pleasing blue in Perchlorate formulas. Used in some flash comps. It is not hygroscopic, and it is relatively stable. Copper Oxide does not decompose Chlorates. Appearance: Black, fine powder. "Copper Oxide emits a series of bands in the red region, and this reddish emission is often seen at the top of the blue flame" (Conkling).

"We have used Copper Oxide in Potassium Perchlorate mixtures with Magnalium, and have had safe and reproducible blues that store well." (M. Swisher rec.pyro)


Copper Oxychloride CuCO3*Cu(OH)2

MW; 427.2; CAS; 1332-65-6. Dicopper Chloride Trihydroxide; Cupric oxide chloride; Copper(II)Oxychloride; Copper Oxychloride; Vitigran blue. Decomposes at 140° C.

Comes as a pale mint green powder. It makes a nice blue color but not noticeably better than Copper Oxide. It is the best catalyst for potassium benzoate whistle comp. Soluble in acids and Ammonium Hydroxide, but not in water, and does decompose Chlorates.


Copper Sulfate CuSO4 5H2O (if Hydrated) (Copper(II)Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Blue Vitroil).

CAS: 7758-99-8 (Pentahydrate) or 7758-98-7 (Anhydrous).

Used in blue Bengal Fire comps. This copper salt was used in older pyrotechnic chemistry. It has a tendency to oxidize and produce Sulfuric Acid. Stars made with this can be hard to light (Weingart). Appearance: Blue powder, dark blue crystals. Copper Sulfate does decompose Chlorates.


Copper(II)Sulfide CuS

Blue color agent. Requires drying to a chalky white color.



This is the process by which Meal Powder, or finely divided Black Powder, is compressed into cakes, crushed, and then screened by particle size into different size categories. This process alters the burn rate of Black Powder, giving it more flexibility for different applications.


Core Burner

A rocket grain that has a central hole or 'Core' that runs from the outer end partially through the core, stopping usually before the end plug. The Core produces more thrust due to the larger area exposed to the flame. Core Burners can be "Choked" (equipped with a Nozzle), or not, depending on such factors as weight, propellant composition, Nozzle size and design and desired performance.


An effect comprising many small sharp pops or bangs. Chemically, most Crackle compositions contain either Lead or Bismuth Oxides. Usually thought of as Dragons Eggs, this effect can be made with large mesh metals as well.


Cross Match

Typically a piece of Black Match used to facilitate ignition of a shell's internal Time Fuse. Generally made by either splitting or puncturing the Time Fuse. A Cross Match is a piece or pieces of Bare Match or Black Match which is threaded through a hole in the Time Fuse, so fire is transferred from the Black Match to the Black Powder core of the Time Fuse. It provides for more reliable fire transfer and is most commonly used in Aerial Shells.



A Crossette Star is a large pumped Star, usually made of a Streamer composition. It differs from normal stars in that it has a cavity in one end that penetrates rather deeply. It is wrapped in protective paper so that it burns progressively from one end. The overall effect from a Crossette Shell is to see a number of tailed Stars spreading from the break that then abruptly burst into fragments. The fragments themselves become tailed Stars. The aim is for the fragments to burst evenly, in a cross shape, thus the name 'Crossette'. When properly executed, the Crossette Shell is one of the most beautiful pyrotechnic effects. Unfortunately, the Crossette is a complicated and delicate pyrotechnic system that must be made exactly right to properly function. Another term for it is a 'Splitting Comet'.


Crossing Stars

Typically a pyrotechnic effect formed by fitting two stars together in a tube with a central bursting charge. Also known as 'French Splits'.


Crown Chrysanthemum

Typically a Chrysanthemum-like shell burst with long burning stars that continue to fall to the ground after the normal maximum burst diameter. Very often the stars have a color change at the end of their flight.


Crown Wheel See Flying Saucer.


Cryolite Na3AlF6 (Greenland Spar) See Sodium Aluminum Fluoride.

Also known as sodium fluoaluminate, this white or olive colored powder can be used to produce a very good yellow flame. Can sometimes be found in ceramic supply stores.


Cupric Ammonium Sulfate

Used in blue fire comps.


Cupric Oxide CuO See Copper (II) Oxide


Cuprous Chloride CuCl

Used in some blue comps.


Cuprous Oxide Cu2O (Copper I Oxide)

MW: 143.09; CAS: 1317-39-1.


Cut Star

These are usually prepared from a rolled sheet or loaf of damp star composition that is cut into squares.


Cylinder Shell

An aerial shell that is cylindrical in form. Very often a "stack" of Cylinder Shells is combined, with suitable modification, to produce a typical multi break shell. Cylinder Shells are usually "Spiked" to produce a harder burst.


Dahlia Shell

A spherical shell burst, similar to a Peony, but usually with fewer, but very bright stars (often containing Magnesium). These stars travel a longer-than-usual distance from the shell break before burning out. For instance, if a 3" Peony Shell is made with a star size designed for a 6" shell, it is then considered a Dahlia. Some Dahlia shells are cylindrical rather than spherical to allow for more large stars.


Dark Fire

In firework terminology, the low light-emitting composition that is applied to the surface of stars which can act as a sort of prime. The term has also been applied to the composition applied between colors in color changing stars.


Daylight Shell

A shell designed to be fired in daylight and thus incorporating one or more of the following effects: Noise (reports, whistles etc.), Smoke, Magnesium Stars.


Decaborane B10H14

This chemical is classed as a flammable solid and is used for rocket fuels. It will remain stable indefinitely at room temperature.


Dechlorane C10Cl12

CAS: 13560-89-9. Chlorine Donor (78%).



1.) The chemical decomposition (burning) of a material in which the reaction front advances into the reacted material at less than sonic velocity.

2.) Very rapid combustion sometimes accompanied by flame, parks and/or spattering of burning particles. Deflagration, although classed as an explosion, generally implies the burning of a substance with self-contained oxygen so that the reaction zone advances into the unreacted material at less than the velocity of sound in the material. In this case, heat is transferred from the reacted to the unreacted material by conduction and convection. Burning rate usually less than 2,000 meters/second.



A distinct pause of predetermined time between detonation or initiation impulses, to permit the firing of explosive charges separately. A Delay may be mechanical, pyrotechnic, electronic or an Explosive Train component that introduces a controlled time Delay in some element of the arming or functioning of a fuse mechanism.


Delay Fuse

A pyrotechnic composition designed to give a delay before igniting the next device in the explosive train. The most common use for a delay fuse is to provide a number of seconds for the operator to retire from the device before it functions. Also the internal delay within a shell used to ignite the bursting charge.


Delay Time

The lapse of time between the application of a firing signal and the ignition of the burst charge of an aerial shell.


Denatured Alcohol See Alcohol, Denatured.


Detonate or Detonation

To be changed by exothermic chemical reaction usually from a solid or liquid to a gas with such rapidity that the rate of advance of the reaction zone into the unreacted material exceeds the velocity of sound in the unreacted material. The advancing reaction zone is preceded by a Shock Wave.



A mixture of PVA and Dextrin. No exact formula exists; it is made by "eye" to suit the purpose.


Dextrin (C6H10O5)*nH2O -OR- [C6H10O5]

CAS: 9004-53-9.

Beige colored crystalline powder. Produced from the partial hydrolysis of starch. Generally used as a binder in fireworks and to make Pulverone, although sometimes used as a cooling agent. It has very good adhesive properties, although no more than about 5% should be added to a dry star mix as it does tend to be rather hydroscopic after mixing with water.



A silver or gold Chrysanthemum with large, brightly colored stars at the tips. The name comes from the Latin word for "jewel".


DI Water

Deionised water, having had all the ions removed.



Used in some Bengal Fire comps.


Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

Liquid plasticizer/elastomer. Used for composite rocket fuels.


Dioctyl Adipate (DOA)

Liquid Plasticizer/Elastomer. Used in composite rocket motor fuel.


Dioctyl Maleate (DOM)

Liquid Plasticizer/Elastomer. Used in composite rocket motor fuel.


Dioctyl Phthalate (DOP)

Liquid Plasticizer/Elastomer. Used in composite rocket motor fuel.


Dioctyl Sebacate (DOS)

Liquid Plasticizer/Elastomer. Used in composite rocket motor fuel.



A process used to separate the substances composing a mixture; it involves a change of state, e.g. liquid to gas, and subsequent condensation. The process of obtaining portions (or fractions) in this way is called Fractional Distillation.


Double-Based Propellant (Smokeless Powder)

A propellant whose principle active ingredients are Nitrocellulose and Nitroglycerin. Can be used to make nitrocellulose lacquer when dissolved in acetone.


Driven-In Moisture

This is when a star has moisture that is hard to dry due to the outer layers being non-porous, the inner layers wick the dampness inward where it may remain for a long time.



A specialized Gerb, used on a static Set Piece, whose primary purpose is in turning a Wheel or similar item or for lifting the item. In the past, the effects were invariably gold sparks, usually made with straight Black Powder with the addition of Charcoal, and produced very few sparks. Modern drivers often include Titanium for additional visual effect.



Dross is solid reaction by-products. For example the residue or ash left behind after a composition has burned. Dross can be a useful by-product in relation to Prime as the red-hot Dross particles have better ignition properties than hot gases. In other instances it can cause slag in nozzles and cause fireworks to either explode as the gases become trapped or it can reduce the fireworks performance.


DTBHQ Anti Oxidant (2,5-Ditertiary-Butylhydroquinone)

Fine powder added to polymer systems as an anti-oxidant. Used in some composite rocket motor fuels.



Organic products used in the production of Smokes.


Egyptian Lacquer

Protective coating to prevent oxidation. Used in Tracer manufacturing.



A device that ignites a pyrotechnic device by means of electricity. It usually contains a pyro comp, but sometimes just relies on the "bursting" of the Bridge Wire due to the strong charge applied. Some E-Matches use small resistors to supply the initiation. Some are 'Bridgeless'- requiring Conductive Lampblack as the conductor between the leg wires. These require a pyro comp to ignite.


End Burner Also see Core Burner

This is a rocket with out a Nozzle or restriction at the exhaust end of the motor. They are often given a 'Core' to help produce enough thrust to fly.


Epon 815 Resin/ Curing Agent "U"

Used in Ammonium Perchlorate-based composite rocket fuel.


Epoxy Resin DER-331 (Bisphenol A/Epichlorohydrin)

Mix 50/50 with Versamid 140 for a room temperature epoxy cure. Also used as a curative for PBAN, F17-80 and HCLB4 resins. Used in composite rocket motor fuel.


2-Ethylhexyl Acrylate

Acrylic Monomer/Plasticizer. Used in composite rocket motor fuel.


Ethanol C2H5OH (Ethyl Alcohol)

CAS: 64-17-5.

A Polar Solvent for organic fuels and Binders. Flammable.


Expansion Ratio

In rocketry, the ratio of Nozzle exit area to the Nozzle throat area.


Falling Leaf Fuse

This Fuse is most commonly used for various colored effects fireworks even though it can be used in place for regular Visco. It is a cord with a pyrotechnic composition core that burns green, red, purple, blue, yellow or white. It is typically cut into small sections and placed inside an Aerial Shell. When lit, they gradually fall towards the ground, thus the name.


Ferrotitanium Fe + Ti

Alloy of Iron and Titanium (typically 60/40), used to create bright yellow/white sparking displays in rocket fuels, Fountains, Stars and Comets. Different ratios of Fe/Ti are available, although generally all burn with a much more silver flame than Fe alone.


Fin Stabilization

Method of stabilizing a rocket during flight by the fitting of fins as opposed to a stick or Spin Stabilization.


First Fire

The igniter composition used with pyrotechnic devices that is loaded in direct contact with the main pyrotechnic charge. A pyrotechnic First Fire composition is compounded to produce a high temperature and hot slag. The composition must be readily ignitable and capable of igniting the underlying pyrotechnic charge.



A pyrotechnic device used to produce intense light for a relatively long duration.


Flash Paper

A form of Nitrocellulose, easily ignited and used to produce a puff of flame.


Flash Point

The lowest temperature at which vapors from a volatile combustible substance ignite in air when exposed to flame, as determined in an apparatus specifically designed for such testing.


Flash Powder

A powerful pyrotechnic composition, typically made from Potassium Perchlorate, Potassium Chlorate or other Oxidizers and powdered Aluminum, Magnalium or Magnesium. In fireworks, Flash Powder is often used for powerful report shells, and for bursting color shells.


'Flight' of Rockets

Usually, small caliber rockets fired in a large number simultaneously from a rocket cone, frame or rack.



A type of effect that consists of bright flashes left behind by a star. This spark effect (usually silver/gold) is produced by the incorporation of relatively coarse metal powders (usually Aluminum). The Glitter effect is similar but distinctly different, as is Fire Fly.


Flower Pot

A shell malfunction in which the shell bursts within the mortar propelling the shell contents upwards as if from a Mine. Also known as a Muzzle Break. Most commonly this is caused because the shell was loaded upside down in the mortar and the lift charge is on top or the mortar tube was too small and the shell got stuck. When a shell “Flower Pots”, it can damage the mortar tube or destroy the tube and mortar rack it was in.



Used in some flash comps and in some composite rocket motor fuels.


Flying Fish Fuse

This fuse is most commonly used for various colored effects fireworks even though it can be used in place for regular Visco fuse. It is a cord with a pyrotechnic composition core that burns gold, green, red, silver or purple. When ignited the small sections of fuse burn and quickly propel themselves in the air in erratic directions, hence the name ‘Flying Fish’.


Flying Saucer

An unusual firework device, usually constructed from a ring of plastic or wood, with turning Drivers and lifting Drivers. The functioning of the device usually involves rotation around a vertical axis, followed by ascent into the air. "Double acting" saucers fall and then re-ascend.



An expression of chemical composition, using symbols and figures.



A Fountain (also referred to as a Gerb) is a thick walled cardboard tube that is filled with pressed pyrotechnic composition. It has a solid clay plug at the base and usually a Nozzle or Choke at the exhaust end. When lit, the composition burns and the Choke generates intense pressure inside the tube. As the composition escapes it sprays sparks, flame and gasses high into the air. Without a Choke the effect would be a weak spray of sparks. The effect can be altered based on the composition. A Fountain functions much like a End Burning rocket and requires a composition that generates little to no Dross as this will cause slag in the Nozzle, limiting its performance or causing it to explode.


Formrez F17-80, Propellant Grade (CTPB)

Used in composite rocket motor fuel. Cures with DER-331 epoxy. Viscous liquid.


Fomrez Sul-4 (Dibutyltin Dilaurate)

Used in composite rocket motor fuel. High speed catalyst. Use one drop per pound of HTPB resin composite mixture to speed cure time.


Free-Standing Grain

A solid propellant grain which is molded or extruded prior to loading into a rocket case.



In a pyrotechnic composition, it is that which is oxidized. Common fuels include Charcoal, Sulfur, Aluminum Magnesium and Magnalium. All common pyrotechnic compositions contain at least one oxidant and a Fuel.


Funnel and Wire

One method of charging tubes with firework composition.



An igniting or explosive device in the form of a string or tube which contains a pyro mixture. The generic term for the means of transferring fire to a pyrotechnic device, or from one part of the device to another.


Fuse, Delay

Any fuse incorporating a means of delaying its action. Delay Fuses are classified according to the length of time of the delay.



A long duration Flare, usually red, which may be used as a warning device. Fusees may also be used to light fireworks. See Portfire.



Short for “Effects”.


Gabe Mort (Italian for Dead Head)

A (usually) massive Salute hung from a string to be about eye level to the viewer.


Gampi Tissue

Thin tissue used in Japanese fireworks as nosings and for Senko Hanabi sparklers.


Genchlor GC 700-200

Strobe compound used in composite stars.



Usually a relatively thick-walled tube filled with composition and having a Choke. A Gerb functions by throwing out a shower of sparks. Gerbs are often referred to as 'Fountains’ and visa-versa.


Gilsonite (Asphaltum)

Dark brown powder. A Carbon fuel.



This is a spinning horizontal Wheel that lifts off and flies, ending with reports and effects. See Flying Saucer; Wheel.


Glass Powder

Has been used in match head and friction ignition compositions.



A tail effect of bright flashes and small reports. An effect that produces drossy droplets of molten composition which reach with the air to produce a sparkling or glittering effect that is not as distinct as a strobe effect. Similar but distinct from Flitter.



These are self-propelled Stars that, when burst from an Aerial Shell, shot from a Mine or Mortar, fly around randomly.



Term used for the solid fuel charge of a rocket. A single mass of solid propellant regardless of size or shape of the final geometric configuration as used in a gas generator or rocket motor.


Graphite C (Plumbago)

MW: 12.01; CAS: 7782-42-5.

Used to opacify (blacken) rocket fuel grain. The Graphite prevents infrared energy from penetrating the grain causing it to explode. Also used in magnesium-based Flash Powder, tracer comp, ignition primes and photoflash comps. Stable. Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents, alkali metals. Combustible. A very fine black/gray powder, greasy and soft, with a metallic luster. It is a good conductor of electricity. Used mainly in compositions when pressing into various molds to ease their release. Also used as a polish on commercial gunpowder grains. Graphite, also known as Plumbago or Black Lead is a mineral.


Greek Alphabet

Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Upsilon, Iota, Phi, Kappa, Chi, Lambda, Psi, Mu, Omega.


Greek Fire

Used in ancient combat, Greek fire was an early use of Pyrotechnics. It comprised sticky long-burning composition usually fired from catapults.


Green Man

The symbol of the Pyrotechnics Guild International depicting the leaf covered man.


Green Mix

It is a rough mixture of Potassium Nitrate, Charcoal and Sulfur in the correct proportions for Black Powder, but is not milled, pressed or corned. It burns slower than Black Powder.



Used in nozzles and plugs to give a 'bite' so they stick to the wall of the rocket motor.


GRP Mortar

Glass Reinforced Plastic is a relatively recent addition to the design of mortars. GRP mortars, usually spirally wound, are light, cheap and extremely strong. However there is some doubts as to their suitability for cylinder shells, especially in the larger calibers.


Gum Arabic

CAS: 9000-01-5.

Water-soluble, dried, gummy resin from tropical trees. It is available as flakes, fragments and powder. It is used as a binder and adhesive in firework formulas.


Gum, Cellulose See CMC.


Gum Copal (K.D. Gum)

Light tan, tropical tree resin. Used as a fuel and binder. Solvent is alcohol.


Gum, Guar (Propyl Guar)

Water-soluble binder, slow drying. Skins over, increasing drying rate.


Gum, Red (Yacca Resin, Red Gum, Acaroid Resin, Accaroid Resin, Accroides, Accroides

Gum, Gum Accroides, Botany Bay Gum, Black Boy Gum)

CAS: 9000-20-8.

A natural plant extract used as a binder and/or a fuel in many pyrotechnic compositions. Accroides resin is an orange powder derived from the Xanthorrhoea trees that grow on Kangaroo Island off South Australia. The Resin has a complex chemical nature and contains various aromatic substances such as Coumaric Acid, Cinnamon Acid, Benzoic Acid and esters of Coumaric and Cinnamic Acids, Benzoresinotannols, Benzoresorcinol, etc.

Solutions with Alcohol, for example Spirit lacquers, dry fast and make a hard film. These solutions are excellent substitutes for Shellac and Copal varnishes.

Color: Orange; Odor: Distinctive, benzoin-like; Melting point: <100°C; Solvent: Alcohol, Alkali.


Gum, Tragacanth

CAS: 9000-65-1.

Water and Hydrogen Peroxide soluble binder and adhesive.



Nitrocellulose containing 13% to 17% of Nitrogen.



Fireworkers prefer the term Black Powder although chemically and physically the two are the same. Gunpowder upon combustion produces about 43% gas, 56% solids and 1% water vapor.


H-3 or H3 Comp

Used as a Burst Charge for aerial fireworks shells. It consists of:

Potassium Chlorate....77




Hammer Shell

A shell, typically multi-break, comprising color breaks and reports timed to break in alternation.



Japanese word for Fireworks, roughly translated as "Flowers of Fire".


Hang Fire

A fuse or pyrotechnic composition that continues to burn slowly, often almost invisibly, rather than at its design speeds. A Hang Fire presents a serious danger. Also includes the detonation of an explosive charge at some non-determined time after its normally designed firing time.


HC-434 Resin (CTPB, Carboxyl Terminated Polybutadiene)

Used in composite rocket fuel. Uses DER-331 epoxy to cure.


HC Mixture

Solid non-persistent screening smoke that, when burning, produces a grayish white smoke having a sharp, acrid odor; toxic if released in sufficient quantities in enclosed places; used in bombs, shells, grenades and smoke pots. The smoke is cool burning as contrasted with White Phosphorous and tends to cling to the earth. The military version is the M4A2 package (a 48 lb. Smoke Pot). Obscuring Smoke HC contains 41.9% Chlorine and 37.5% Zinc.


HDPE Mortar (High Density Polyethylene)

A useful material for Mortars. Belling rather than fragmentation of HDPE Mortars tends to occur with failure of normal (not Salute) shells.



In rocketry, a Header is an effect or Salute carried aloft by the rocket.


Heavy Metals

A general term given to the ions of metallic elements such as Copper, Zinc, Chromium, and Aluminum. Exposeure should be limited to avoid health issues.



The Buzz-Bomb or Helicopter are flying fireworks. Buzz Bombs differ from Black Powder rockets in that the exhaust from the nozzle is projected sideways, exerting a torque. When lit, hot gasses, sparks and flame shoot out the side of a small 1/8" vent hole located at the bottom of the device making it spin. The helicopter wings attached to the device cause it to lift off the ground into the air with great speed. See Tourbillion.


Hemp Coal

Fuel similar to Paulownia Coal used in some star comps.


Hexachlorobenzene C6Cl6 (HCB)

Used in green strobe formulations. Used as a chlorine donor in color mixtures, flares. Fine, white needles which melt at 229° C. Better than PVC (C. Wilson).


Hexachloroethane C2Cl6 (Carbon Hexachloride)

MW: 236.74 CAS: 67-72-1.

Used as a Chlorine Donor (89%) in firework compositions, also in white smokes, and sometimes used as a high temperature oxidizer. White crystalline powder, with slight camphor-like smell, very volatile at room temperature.


Hexamine C6H12N4 (Hexamethylenetetramine, Methenamine, Urotropin, Aminoform, Crystamin, Formin)

Used as an accessory fuel, often in blue star comps. Burns with a yellow/orange flame. Sometimes used in indoor firework formulas. Found OTC as a camping supply for cooking. The manufacturing process is based on the reaction of formaldehyde and ammonia in acqueous solution.


Hexane Dioladipate Pthalate

A saturated polyester used in composite rocket fuel.


Horsetail Shell

Named for the shape of its break, this shell features heavy long-burning tailed stars that only to travel a short distance from the shell burst before free-falling to the ground. Also known as a Waterfall Shell. Sometimes there is a glittering through the Waterfall.


HTPB (CH2-CH=CH-CH2)n(OH)2. See Polybutadiene R45 Resin.

Elastomeric resin used in composite rocket fuel. Hydroxy-Terminater Polybutadine, more commonly referred to as HTPB, is a yellowish flammable liquid most commonly used as a polymer binder in AP/AN solid rocket propellants. RT-45M or the non mil-spec R45HTLO type resin are often used, which requires a seperate curing component.

HTPB is also used commercialy to make adhesives, modify rubbers, sealants and other types of coatings.



A device that produces a humming sound, usually made from a thick walled tube filled with composition, sealed at both ends, and pierced tangentially to the inner diameter. The sound is made as the device spins rapidly in flight.


Hydroxyethyl Cellulose (HEC or Cellosize)

Used in some photoflash comps. Water soluble binder, partially soluble in ethanol or acetone.



The property of a material that causes it to absorb and retain moisture from the air. Hygroscopic compounds find only limited use in firework manufacture.


HX-878 Tepanol

Liquid bonding agent and curative. Cross links the polymer into the crystalline oxidizer in composite rocket propellants.



A two-component propellant system that is capable of spontaneous ignition upon contact.

Hypergolic substances ignite when they come into contact with each other.



Device containing a readily burning composition, used to amplify the ignition of a propelling charge by a Primer. Also sometimes used to amplify the initiation of a Primer in the functioning of certain types of Fuses and Bursting Charges.


Ignition Train

Step-by-step arrangement of charges in pyrotechnic shells, etc., by which the initial fire from the Primer is transmitted and intensified until it reaches and sets off the main charge. An Ignition Train might consist of the following:


Delay Fuse

Shell Leader

Lifting Charge

Shell Delay

Bursting Charge

Star Prime



Impact Fuse

Designed to function on impact.


Impulse, Specific

In rocketry, the product of average thrust (in pounds or kilograms) by the burning time (in seconds). Specific Impulse is "Isp". This represents the amount of thrust produced in pounds, per amount of fuel used by pounds, per second.



Is used for making smoke comps. A dark blue crystalline powder that is also a commercial dye.


Iron Fe

MW: 55.85; CAS: 7439-89-6.

Gray metallic powder used to create yellow non-branching sparks, mainly in Sparklers, Comets, Stars and Fountains. Treat with Tung or Linseed oil to prevent rust.


Iron(II)Oxide (ferrous oxide, FeO, also known as wüstite in its mineral form)

The black-colored powder in particular can cause explosions as it readily ignites.


Iron(II,III)Oxide, Black Fe3O4

A high-temperature oxidizer in Thermite or a catalyst for Whistle Mix. Iron(II,III)oxide or ferrous ferric oxide (Fe3O4): Better known as the black-colored mineral magnetite or lodestone also seen on Mars. Also a main source of iron, magnetite is an iron ore. This form of iron oxide tends to occur when iron corrodes underwater, and so is often found inside tanks or below the waterline of ships.


Iron(III)Oxide, Red Fe2O3 (Rust, rouge, hematite)

MW: 159.78; CAS: 1309-37; EC: 215-168-2.

Used as a burn rate catalyst in rocket fuel and as an oxidizer in Thermite, incendiary compositions and ignition comps. Iron(III)Oxide or Ferric Oxide (Fe2O3): Known in its natural state as rouge or hematite (also 'haematite'), but also purified for use as a coating in magnetic audio and computer media. In a dry or alkaline environment it can cause passivation and inhibits rust. It is a component of rust.

Melting Point: 1565° C; Specific Gravity: 5.24.


Iron Sulfide FeS2 (Marcasite, Pyrite)

When finely powdered, it is Pyrophoric.


Isobaric Flame Temperature

The temperature of a propellant flame under constant pressure conditions.


Isochoric Flame Temperature

The temperature of a propellant flame under constant volume conditions.


Isonate 143L (Diphenylmethane 4,4 Diisocyanate)

High speed HTPB room temperature curative used in some composite rocket motors.


Isophorone Diisocyanate

An Isocyanate and HTPB curative, generally requiring heat for quick cure. Used in some composite rocket motors.


Japanese Shell

Said by some to be the ultimate spherical burst shell. The Japanese strive to produce perfect symmetry and patters in their shells. Japanese Shells are also noted for the contrasting colored pistils that form part of the burst of many effects.



A type of clay, can be used for Nozzles.



A long burning star with a dense tail, usually silver or gold, that fall a substantial distance from the center of the shell burst, sometimes changing color towards the end of their flight. Similar to a Horse Tail Shell.


Kauri Powder

Used in red fire comps.


KP Comp

A composition originally developed by Shimizu. Used for aerial fireworks shell burst comp, and as a prime:

Potassium Perchlorate.......70




The dextrin is used to make it stick to the burst carrier, usually puffed rice or hulls. More "kick" than BP, helps when there is not enough room in the shell for enough BP to do the trick. Best for smaller shells. Can be used for up to 4" shells, and add 1g of flash for 3" ball shells, 1-1/2 g of whistle for 3" canisters.

NOTE: The preceeding is an estimation/generalization only!)


Kraft Paper

A strong paper used for pasting shells and for capping. The weights for Kraft are determined by a stack of 500, 24"x 36" sheets (61cm x 91.4cm). Weight in pounds X 1.645= GSM (grams per square meter).

Kraft paper is usually about the color of a super market grocery bag.


Another way to gauge the weight of your paper is with calipers. when measuring very small distances like your paper, fold the paper over a few times and measure the total thickness of the paper. Divide the measurement by the layers you've measured. 30 lb. paper will measure about .003 inches.


Recycled Kraft paper is great in the shop for keeping your work space clean but is inferior for use in fireworks mainly due to its inadequate strength. Using wetted recycled Kraft paper will often result in frequent tearing of the paper.


One way to tell if it's virgin is to tear off several feet of the paper outside, in the sun. You should be able to visually see the grain orientation and pulp fibers lined up lengthwise on the paper. It should be easy to see. If there is no pronounced grain then it's probably recycled. Additionally, virgin Kraft paper will hold up and not easily tear when wet as opposed to recycled paper.


30 through 70 pound Kraft has .001” per “pound”, i.e. 30# = .030” thickness.


70 lb. Virgin Kraft is the usually preferred weight for Italian style shells. 1 turn per inch of shell diameter i.e. 5 turns for a 5" shell, etc.


Kyanite 3Al2O3*3SiO2 (Aluminum Silicate, Cyanite, Disthene, Rhoetizite)

Tan powder. Mixed with clay like Bentonite, it strengthens rocket, fountain and driver nozzles.


Lactose C12H22O11•H2O (milk sugar)

MW: 360.32; CAS: 10039-26-6.

White powder used in smoke compositions, some blue comps and as a fuel.


Laminac 4116

Polyester resin binder for tracer comps. Used in Flare Candles, red metallic- fueled stars, composite rocket fuel. Laminac binding excludes moisture, which is corrosive to magnesium. It is also a secondary fuel. Its oxygen demand is high compared to the magnesium, so it serves to regulate the burning speed. Mono-saturated styrene resin is known as "fiberglass resin". 1-2% Lupersol DDM (methyl ethyl ketone peroxide in dimethyl phthalate) is used as the curing agent for Laminac 4116.



A shell containing a burst charge of Black Powder that sits under a container of liquid fuel, usually Alcohol, Diesel Fuel or Kerosene, to produce a fireball.


Lampblack C

MW: 12.01; CAS: 7782-42-5.

It is a finely-powdered, light-weight black dust, resulting from the burning of crude oils. Produces long lasting and finely dispersed sparks. Can blacken rocket grain. Very "dirty" to work with.


Lampblack, Conductive (Ethyne or Acetylene Black)

Used for Bridgeless E-Matches.



Usually a small, thin walled, tube containing colored composition used to make Lancework. Usually five inches long, that burns for one minute. Lances come in various colors are used in Set Pieces.



Usually a message, logo, or design made on a wooden latticework frame comprising many Lances fused together.



The fuse that transfers fire from the Igniter to the Lift Charge of a shell.


Lead Chloride PbCl2

It is a poor Chlorine Donor for blue and green comps. It is a white, crystalline, poisonous powder that melts at 501° C.


Lead Chromate PbCrO4

MW: 323.19; CAS: 7758-97-6.


Lead Dioxide PbO2 (Brown Lead Oxide)

MW: 239.2; CAS: 1309-60-0.

This dark brown powder is used as an oxidizer in matches and fireworks.


Lead Nitrate Pb(NO3)2

MW: 331.23; CAS: 10099-74-8.

The uses include friction ignition comps and matches. White or colorless crystals. Poisonous.


Lead Oxide Pb3O4 (Red Lead, Lead Tetraoxide, lat. Minium)

MW: 685.60; CAS: 1314-41-6.

Used to make Dragon's Eggs, Delays, Thermalite, Friction Sensitive Igniters and hot primes. Whistle catalyst. Red powder. Poisonous.



The initial fuse of a firework shell that transfers fire from the delay fuse (if any) to the Lifting Charge of the shell.



Propellant processing aid, viscosity reducer. 0.75- 1% added to composite propellants for mixing.


Lifting Charge

The charge beneath an aerial shell (or Roman Candle unit) which propels the unit into the air. The Lifting Charge almost universally used in firework manufacture is granulated BP.


Lignite (Brown Coal)

Carbon-containing fuel intermediate between Coal and Peat, brown or yellowish in color and woody in texture. Lignite contains more moisture than coal and tends to dry and crumble when exposed to air. It burns with a long, smoky flame but little heat.



Any of a family of chemicals consisting essentially of Calcium Hydroxide made from limestone (Calcite), which is composed mostly of Calcium Carbonate or a mixture of Calcium Carbonate and Magnesium Carbonate.


"Line" Rocket

A rocket designed to travel along a wire or rope.


Linseed Oil

Used to moisture proof-treat Magnalium, Magnesium and Iron.


Litharge PbO (Lead Monoxide, Lead Oxide, Plumbous Oxide)

Litharge is one of the natural mineral forms of lead(II)oxide, PbO. Fine brown powder used in friction sensitive ignition comps, match head compositions and smoke formulations. Also was used in Dragons Eggs- Shimizu has published some compositions that rely on litharge and aluminum alone (no Magnalium).


Lithium Carbonate Li2CO3

White crystalline powder that creates red flame color. It finds limited use in indoor fireworks. Used in some photoflash comps.


Lithium Chloride LiCl (LiClithium chloride anhydrous, hydrochloric acid lithium salt)

CAS: 7447-41-8; EC: 231-212-3.

Sometimes used for red color compositions as a Chlorine Donor. Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents, strong acids, bromine trichloride, and bromine trifluoride. Very hygroscopic. Protect from moisture. Stable. Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin. May cause congenital malformations. May cause reproductive disorders. May cause harm to breastfed babies. Severe skin irritant. Appearance: White odorless solid. Melting Point: 613° C; Boiling Point: 1360° C; Specific Gravity: 2.07.


Lithium Perchlorate LiClO4

Strong oxidizer. Used in photoflash comps.


Lithium Peroxide Li2O2



Low Explosives

Explosives that are characterized by deflagration or a low rate of reaction and the development of low pressure. Explosive which undergoes a relatively slow chemical transformation, thereby producing a Deflagration or an Explosion, the effect ranging from that of a rapid combustion to that of a Low Order Detonation. It is suitable for use in Igniter Trains and certain types of propellants. Low Explosives are mostly solid combustible materials that decompose rapidly, but do not normally explode. This action is known as Deflagration. Low Explosives do not usually propagate a Detonation. Under certain conditions, however they react in the same manner as High Explosives and they may Detonate.



A trade name for a catalyst for polyesters. Used in tracer comps and flares as a binder.


Lycopodium Powder (Lycopodium Clavatum L., Dragons Breath, vegetable sulfur)

CAS: 8023-70-9.

When propelled through an open flame, it produces a jet of orange flame. Used in stage effects. A fuel for pyro comps. Can substitute with Dextrin in some comps such as Flares. Pale yellow, light weight, fluffy powder.



A tubular, center-fused report device containing flash powder. Originally used by the military to simulate live fire. Now banned in the US.


Magnalium Al2Mg3 + Mg2Al3

The most commonly used alloy in firework making. It is usually a 1:1 mixture of Magnesium and Aluminum and is described chemically as a eutectic mixture of the two metals. It is easier to work with than Magnesium and easier to light than Aluminum but gives much of the same results of each.


Magnesium Mg

MW: 24.305; CAS: 7439-95-4; EC: 231-104-6.

Reactive and flammable metal with a very bright flame. High candle power, silver spark and noise effect. The metal is used in pyrotechnics as a fuel in many comps, including color and report comps. Can be treated when necessary with potassium dichromate in deionised water. Will burn under water. Appearance: silver or gray powder, turnings or ribbon. Stable. Reacts violently with halogens, chlorinated solvents, Chloromethane. Air and moisture sensitive. Incompatible with acids, acid chlorides, strong oxidizing agents. Highly flammable Harmful if swallowed or inhaled. Severe irritant.. Melting Point: 650° C; Boiling Point: 1107° C; Vapor Pressure: 1 mm at 621° C; Specific Gravity: 1.73; Flash Point: 634° C (closed cup) Autoignition Temperature: 510° C.



Granular powder, 50:50 mixture (not an alloy), used in fireworks to produce silver sparks with a crackling sound. Fuel for flash comps. Can be used in strobe comps. Reactive. If needed, Boric acid is used to neutralize against alkaline decomposition. If needed, Potassium dichromate is used to protect against reaction with Ammonium Perchlorate.


Magnesium Carbonate MgCO3

White powder used as a glitter delay agent; sometimes as a free-flow agent for Potassium Chlorate and Perchlorate mixes. It is also used in smoke compositions with ~2% - 3% of the weight of the oxidizer. Also has use as an acid neutralizer.


Magnesium Oxalate MgCO2O4• 2H2O

MW: 148.37; CAS: 547-66-0.


Magnesium Oxide MgO (Calcinated Magnesia, Magnesia, Calcined Magnesia)

MW: 40.30; CAS: 1309-48-4.

Used in some photoflash comps. Stabilizer. White powder.


Magnesium Peroxide MgO2

MW: 56.32; CAS: 14452-57-4.


Magnesium Stearate Mg(C18H35O2)2

MW: 591.21; CAS: 557-04-0.


Manganese Mn

Dark gray powder used as a fuel to control or delay burn rates.


Manganese Dioxide MnO2

MW: 86.94; CAS: 1313-13-9.

Used in pyrotechnic mixtures, matches and match box friction surfaces. This oxidizer decomposes at 535 degrees C. Used as a catalyst to aid in decomposition of oxidizers in Whistle Mixes, Torpedo comps, possibly in a rocket fuel. Increases the sensitivity of compositions containing Chlorates and Perchlorates by lowering the amount of energy required to ignite them.


Mannitol C9H18O

MW: 222.33.

Used in delays and as a fuel. A white crystalline powder, Melting Point: 84° C- 86° C.



An exploding report device or Salute that produces a loud bang. Aerial maroons are the most common, the composition being wither Black Powder or Flash Powder.


Matrix Comet/Star

These carry Microstars in a comp with a Rising Effect. The Matrix should be fast burning, the Microstars slow burning, and in a contrasting color.


Meal Powder

Finely divided Black Powder, available in several grades. Meal Powder is the fine dust left over when Black Powder is corned and screened to separate it into different grain sizes. It is used extensively in various pyrotechnic procedures and devices, usually to prime other compositions. See Black Powder.


MEK See Methyl Ethyl Ketone.


Mercuric Thiocyanate Hg(SCN)2

A poisonous, white, odorless powder used in the making of Pharaoh's Serpents.


Mercurous Chloride HgCl (Calomel, Mercuric Monochloride)

Chlorine Donor. Used in some blue comps. This can brighten an otherwise dull colored mixture. Sometimes PVC or Hexachlorobenzene replaces it.


Mesh Size

The designation of the number of wires of standard thickness per inch used to make a sieve. When a narrow range of particle size is required, it may be specified as in the following example: -100 mesh + 40 mesh, meaning that the material is too large to fit through a 100 mesh screen, but small enough to pass through a 40 mesh screen. The minus ( - ) and plus ( + ) signs mean that the particles of -200 mesh Aluminum would pass through a 200 mesh screen and +200 mesh Aluminum means that all the particles are retained on a 200 mesh screen. Generally anything smaller than 400 mesh is referred to as a Micron. A Micron is one-millionth of a meter or one twenty-five thousandth of an inch.


Screen Size..........Opening Size






14......0.056..........1.400...1400 Window Screen




28......0.0280........0.700.....700 Beach sand

40......0.0165........0.420.....420 Smallest with naked eye

60......0.0098........0.250.....250 Fine sand







200....0.0028........0.074.......74 Portland Cement


325....0.0017........0.044.......44 Silt

400....0.0015........0.037.......37 Pollen


1200..0.0005........0.012.......12 Red blood cells


4800..0.0001........0.002.........2 Cigarette smoke


80-mesh feels like popcorn salt (not table salt).

200 mesh is about the point at which a powder becomes "impalpable" to a sensitive touch- that is, you can no longer feel any sense at all of abrasiveness or roughness, just a silky-smooth feeling. Most chemicals Skylighter sells passes 200 mesh.

You probably won't be able to sense the difference between 200 mesh and 325, but you can feel the difference between 150 and 200.


Methanol CH3OH

CAS# 67-56-1.

Polar Solvent used to dissolve Red Gum and Shellac.


Methylene Blue C16H18N3SCl

This dark green powder is used for smokes.


Methylene Chloride CH2Cl2 (Dichloromethane)

Liquid solvent for PCV, bonding plastic shells.


Methyl Ethyl Ketone C4H8O (MEK)

A Polar Solvent for PVC.



A rocket fuel, Zn and S, 2:1 ratio.


Milk Sugar

Used in violet smoke stars. See Lactose.



A device similar to a shell that explodes from a Mortar, igniting effects like stars and launching them into the air.


Mineral Jelly (Vaseline, Petrolatum or Petroleum Jelly)

This acts as a stabilizer in fireworks, like Whistle Mix and in some explosives.


Mineral Oil

Protectant, stabilizer and binder. Used in whistle mix and fog/smokes.



Usually synonymous with "Composition", but may mean the list of ingredients of a Composition. Non-chemically bound composition, as opposed to a Compound.



A measure of solution concentration expressed in Moles of Solute per Liter of Solution.



A mole in chemistry is a quantity of particles of any type equal to Avogadro's Number (6.02252 + 1023). One gram-atomic weight (or one gram-molecular weight)-the amount of anatomic (or molecular) substance whose weight in grams is numerically equal to the Atomic Weight (or Molecular Weight) of that substance-contains exactly one Mole of atoms (or molecules). For example, one Mole, or 12.011 grams, of Carbon contains 6.02252 + 1023 Carbon atoms, and one Mole, or 180.16 grams, of glucose (C6H12O6) contains the same number of glucose molecules.


Molecular Weight (MW)

This is the weight of a Molecule of a substance expressed in Atomic Mass Units (amu). The Molecular Weight is the sum of the atomic weights of the atoms making up the molecule.



The tube used to fire an aerial shell, or Mine. Mortars can be constructed from paper (parallel wound), plastic, fiberglass, carbon fiber, HDPE, GRP or metal.



Another term for Splitting Comet or Crossette.


Multibreak Shell

An aerial shell comprising more than one section producing a separate effect in sequence and ignited by the bursting of the preceding section.


Multi-Shot Battery

The generic term for a collection of pyrotechnic pieces lit at a single ignition point, but often used exclusively for items referred to as "Cakes".


Muzzle Break

A malfunction of a shell where the bursting charge operates just as the shell leaves the mortar. This is a common point of shell failure as the pressure changes that act on the shell are great at this point.



Non-polar solvent suitable for dissolving Petroleum Jelly. See Petroleum Spirits.


Naphthalene C10H8 (Moth Flakes, Moth Balls)

Used in making black smoke comp and fireballs. This is a tar product. The melting point is ~100 degrees C. Dissolves in Benzene.


Nitrocellulose C6H7N3O11 (Gun Cotton, Pyroxylin, cellulose dinitrate, Pyrocellulose)

OB: -38.7%.

Nitrated cellulose. Used to make ping pong balls and Smokeless Propellant. Explosive substance formed by the nitration of cotton, or some other form of cellulose. Used as the base of most fire arm propellants. Specific grades of Nitrocellulose depend on the degree to which the cellulose is nitrated. Celluloid is much safer than Gun Cotton, but is still subject to detonation. Gun Cotton is one form of Nitrocellulose (Cellulose Trinitrate) and is highly sensitive to impact.

Nitrocellulose Lacquer C6H7N3O11

Fast drying flammable liquid used primarily as a binder, and as a water-resistant coating. Often ~25% solution. Solvent is usually Acetone.


Nitrocotton See Guncotton.


Non-Polar Solvent

Benzene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Ether, Gasoline, Hexane, Naphtha, Turpentine and are examples.



In rocketry, a Nozzle is the restriction at the exhaust end of a rocket motor that causes an increase in the speed of the exhaust. A rocket with out a Nozzle is called an "End Burning" rocket.


Oil of Spike

It is used in some fireworks. This is a volatile oil obtained from the leaves of certain trees. Keep this colorless or pale yellow liquid tightly closed and away from light.


Oil Orange

Used in red smoke stars.


Oil Yellow (Butter Yellow)

Used in green smoke stars.


Oxalic Acid C2H2O4

CAS: 144-62-7. Synonyms: ethanedionic acid; Ethane-1,2-dioic acid. MW: 90.035



In a broad sense Oxidation is the increase in positive valence of any element in a substance. On the basis of the electron theory, Oxidation is a process in which an element losses electrons. In a narrow sense, Oxidation means the chemical addition of Oxygen to a substance.



A substance, such as a Nitrate, that readily yields Oxygen or another oxidizing substance to stimulate the combustion of organic matter or other fuel.


Oxygen Balance (OB)

1) The percentage excess or deficiency of Oxygen as compared to that required to convert the Carbon in an explosive to CO and the Hydrogen to HO.

2) The theoretical percentage of Oxygen in an explosive material or ingredient that exceeds (+) or is less than (-) what is needed to produce ideal reaction products. The amount of Oxygen, expressed in weight percent, liberated as a result of the complete conversion of the explosive material to CO2, H2O, SO2, Al2O2, etc. ("Positive" OB). If the amount of Oxygen bound in the explosive is insufficient for the complete oxidation reaction ("Negative" OB), the deficient amount of the Oxygen needed to complete the reaction is reported with a negative sign. Commercial explosives must have an OB close to zero in order to minimize the amounts of toxic gases, particularly Carbon Monoxide and Nitrous gases, which are evolved in the fumes.


Palm Burst

A shell containing a relative few large Comet stars arranged in such a way as to burst with large arms or tendrils, producing a Palm tree-like effect. Proper Palm Shells feature a thick rising tail that displays as the shell ascends, thereby simulating the tree trunk to further enhance the "Palm tree" effect. One might also see a burst of color inside the Palm Burst (given by a small insert shell) to simulate coconuts.



Chlorine donor.


Paraffin Wax

A white, semi-translucent, odorless, tasteless, water insoluble, waxy solid. Though relatively inert, it burns readily in air. A mixture of Hydrocarbons obtained from Petroleum during refining, Paraffin Wax is used in candles and for coating paper. In pyrotechnics it is used to coat reactive metal powders, it also reduces the sensitivity of compositions and aids the pressing of powders.


Parallel Wound Tube

The strongest tube, as opposed to Spiral Wound tubing. These tubes are wound from paper that has the same width as the tube. The only type of paper tube that should be used as a rocket casing or Mortar.


Paranitroanaline (N2NC6H4)3COH (Aminophenyl)

A dye used in smoke formulas. It dissolves in alcohol and will melt at 139° C.


Paris Green See Copper Acetoarsenite.


Parlon C4H6Cl2 (chlorinated rubber, ParlonÖ, Chlor-RubÖ, SuperchlonÖ, chlorinated isoprene)

A Chlorine Donor (68%), fuel to enhance colored flames and as a binder. Solvents are Xylene and Acetone.



The most common usage is that referring to the pasting of aerial shells with as many as twenty layers of Kraft Paper to enhance the burst of the shells. This involves a lot of work, especially when Pasting Round Shells.


Pattern Shell

A shell, usually with many fewer stars than a Chrysanthemum Shell of the same caliber, whose construction and burst is such that a pattern rather than a sphere of stars is produced.


Paulownia Coal

Fuel similar to Hemp Coal or Lampblack used in some star comps.


PBAN (Polybutadiene/Acrylic Acid)

Composite polymer (CTPB) using DER-331 epoxy to cure. This is used as the Binder to make the Space Shuttle SRB propellant. Very popular and practically foolproof. It takes longer to cure than R-45.


Peony Shell

A style of shell in which the stars do not leave a trail of sparks. A spherical break of colored stars, the Peony is the most commonly seen shell type.


Percussion Cap (Primer)

This is a device that when hit, produces a reaction of noise and/or heat or flame. Also used to ignite Gunpowder in firearms. The Percussion Cap or Primer was the crucial invention that enabled firearms to fire in any weather. Before this development, firearms used igniters with flints or matches to set fire to a pan of gunpowder. A Primer is a small copper or brass cup, containing a precise amount of stable but shock-sensitive explosive mixture, with ingredients such as Lead Azide or Potassium Perchlorate. Primers are 4 to 6 mm in diameter (standard sizes are 0.175 inches and 0.210 inches for handgun and rifle cartridges).


Pergut See Parlon.


Petroleum Spirits Molecular formula: varies.

CAS: 8032-32-4. Synonyms: Amsco H-J, Amsco H-SB, Benzin B70, benzoline, hi-flash naphtha, hydrotreated naphtha, rubber solvent, Super VMP, pet ether, ligroine, petroleum naphtha, benzin, petroleum benzine, petroleum ether Used as a Non-Polar Solvent, particularly to dissolve petroleum jelly for use in comps such as Whistle Mix.



The "Pyrotechnics Guild International".


Phenolic Resin

Organic fuel.



This term is applied to an explosive that has had an agent added to stabilize or desensitize it. This can be desirable, to enable handling or to reduce the rate of combustion. Typical Phlegmatizing agents include water, Petroleum Jelly, and Paraffin. These agents are nearly always flammable themselves, or at least boil off easily. Normally, only explosives that may be cast are Phlegmatized. Dynamite is a Phlegmatized form of Nitroglycerine.


Phosphorus P

This element comes in three forms, with three different ways of reacting. They resemble each other in name only. Red Phosphorous is the only suitable form for fireworks and matches. It is a non-poisonous violet-red powder. It will ignite at 260° C. If making a formula with Phosphorous, work with it in a wet state. Oxidizers have been known to detonate violently without warning when mixed with Red Phosphorous.


Phosphorus Pentasulfide P4S10 (Phosphoric Sulfide)

These light yellow crystals are used in matches.


Phosphorus Trisulfide P2S3

It is used in making friction ignition comps and matches. This chemical can catch fire from the moisture that is present in air, therefore the container should be kept tightly capped. Forms a grayish-yellow mass.


Photoflash Comp

This is the composition once used by photographers to illuminate the subject of a photograph. The comps were often made from sensitive mixtures that could detonate if well confined.


Phthalocyanine Blue

Blue and green smoke, increases composite rocket fuel burn rate.



A specialized type of novelty firework in which a rocket motor is forced to run horizontally along a wire or rope, usually accompanied by a whistling effect. Often, the Pigeon will make the journey several times, first in one direction, then the other. See Rats.


Pillbox Star

A star made from pressing (usually by hand) composition into a small thin-walled cardboard tube with a fuse running through it. This is to allow the use of different compositions that might normally be blown out when the star is flying through the air at high speeds. Their effect can be dramatically different to round or pumped stars. Pill box stars usually have a longer burning duration that pumped or round stars. It burns from both ends and produces a larger flame envelope.


Piped Match (Quick Match)

Black Match loosely enclosed in a paper tube or tape, used for transferring fire from one firework to another. Piped Match also forms the leader of a shell.


Piranha Fluid

This is a mixture of concentrated H2SO4 and H2O2 (35%) at a ratio of 4:1. Will ignite and/or oxidize organic substances.



In typical Japanese shells a central core to the burst of a contrasting or complementary color to the main burst.



Hard Pitch is the residue from the distillation of coal tar. Sometimes used in the production of smokes and colored Lances, although possible impurities suggest its use with Chlorates should be avoided.


Plaster of Paris CaSO4*0.5H2OH

It is used for end plugs in fireworks and also in some yellow color formulas. This is a white powder, composed mostly of Calcium Sulfate. Mix 2:1 PP to water.


Plumbago See Graphite.


Poka Shell

A weak busting shell of Japanese design commonly used for deploying parachutes or tissue-paper flags.


Polar Solvent

Solvents such as Ethanol, Acetone, Acetic Acid, MEK, Xylene, Methylene Chloride, Lacquer Thinner (mostly) and Toluene.



A type of report device that is made by repeatedly folding a strip of paper containing a report comp and fuse. It is shaped in a triangular fashion. Common in Mexico.


Polybutadiene Acrylic Acidacrylonitrile

Rubber-based binder used in the Space Shuttle booster motors.


Polybutadiene R45-M Resin (HTPB)

Used in some composite rocket motor fuels. Room temp cures with Isonate 143-L or at 140° F with IPDI (Isocyanates).


Polyethylene (C2H4)n

Possibly used as a fuel or binder. White powder.


Polykarbenite-3 (Armex)

Used in some Matrix Comet comps.


Polypropylene P

Makes clear, elastomeric resin. Dissolves in Toluene. Used in some composite rocket fuels.


Polypropylene Resin

Elastomeric sealant/binder. Clear solution, self cures. Used in some composite rocket fuels.



Used in some composite rocket fuels.


Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA)

Adhesive. Dissolves in boiling water. Similar to Elmer's glue.



Binder for some Bengal Fire comps.


Polyvinyl Chloride (C2H3Cl)n (PVC)

CAS: 9002-86-2.

Color enhancer as a Chlorine Donor (57%), fuel, binder in some rocket fuels. Used in some flash comps. A white powder. Polyvinyl Chloride is a thermoplastic that is a Polymer of vinyl chloride. Solvents are Methylene Chloride, MEK, lacquer thinner, Cyclohexane.



Usually a thin-walled tube filled with slow burning composition used to ignite other fireworks. It is similar to a Fusee, but its flame is usually less fierce and usually burns white. A test for a good Portfire is that it should continue to burn after being dropped vertically onto its lit end at arm's length.


Potassium K

A soft silvery metal element. It will react vigorously with water and several acids. It is not used directly except for some experiments.


Potassium Benzoate C6H5COOK*(C6H5KO2)

Fuel for whistle compositions, rocket fuel and burst comps. Preferred "catalyst" is copper chromite, then copper oxychloride. Very lightweight white powder.


Potassium Bicarbonate KHCO3

MW: 100.11; CAS: 298-14-6.


Potassium Borohydride

Used in some photoflash comps.


Potassium Chlorate KClO3 (39.2% O2)

CAS No: 3811-04-9. Synonyms: Chloric acid potassium salt, Berthollet salt, chlorate of potash.

Strong oxidizer used for a range of comps, including colored stars, smokes and flash comps. Sensitized by acids, Copper, Ammonia, Sulfur and their salts. It is easier to ignite than Potassium Perchlorate. Never ram a mixture containing Potassium Chlorate. Do not store mixtures that contain it, as they may explode spontaneously. Contact with combustible material may cause fire. Mixtures with combustible material may be shock sensitive. Incompatible with organic combustible materials, strong reducing agents.


Potassium Chloride KCl

MW: 74.55; CAS: 7447-40-7; EC: 231-211-8. Synonyms: Potassium Monochloride, potassium muriate, monopotassium chloride, Kalitabs, Super K, Enseal, Kaochlor, Kaon-cl, K-Lor, Pfiklor, Potavescent, Rekawan, Slow K. Can be used like Ammonium Chloride for white smoke. Stable. Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents, strong acids. Protect from moisture. Hygroscopic. Appearance: white crystals or powder. Melting point: 776° C; Solubility: 34.7 g/ 100g at 20° C; Boiling Point: Sublimes at ca. 1500° C; Specific Gravity: 1.99 g cm-3.


Potassium Dichromate (Potassium Bichromate) K2CrO7

MW: 294.19; CAS: 7778-50-9.

Used to treat Magnesium so it is less reactive to Nitrates. Can also be used as a catalyst for comps containing Potassium Perchlorate. Used in primes. Also used in smokes and photoflash comps. Lowers ignition temp. Potassium Dichromate enables the oxidizer to part with its oxygen with a lower input of energy than would otherwise be needed. The bright orange crystals are poisonous. Carcinogenic. Strong oxidizer - contact with organic or other flammable material may cause fire. Incompatible with combustible materials, organic materials, strong reducing agents. Hexavalent Chromium compounds are generally more toxic than trivalent Chromium compounds. May be fatal if absorbed through the skin, swallowed or inhaled. Contains Chromium (VI), a known cancer hazard. Allergen. Corrosive. Skin eye and respiratory irritant. May act as a sensitizer. Melting Point: 398° C; Boiling Point: 500° C; Density (g cm-3): 2.676. Typical PEL 0.5 mg/m3.


Potassium Dinitrophenate

Used as a fuel in some whistle comps.


Potassium Ferrocyanide K4Fe(CN)6 3H2O

CAS: 14459-95-1 (trihydrate); 13943-58-3 (anhydrous product). Synonyms: Potassium hexacyanoferrate (II) trihydrate.

It can be used in the manufacture of primes, burst comps and explosives. Stable. Incompatible with oxidizing agents, strong acids (may generate very toxic HCN). Not combustible. Irritant (but highly toxic after hydrolysis). Appearance: Pale yellow solid.


Potassium Hydrogen Terephthalate

Used in tracer comps.


Potassium Iodide KI

Sometimes used for violet and purple flames.


Potassium Nitrate KNO3

MW: 101.10; OB: 39.6; CAS: 7757-79-1. Synonyms: Collo-Bo, niter, nitre, saltpetre, saltpeter, Vicknite, nitric acid potassium salt. It is a component in Gunpowder and is also used in many other firework pieces, like stars, fountains, etc. Fertilizer marked 13-0-44 is KNO3. Strong oxidizer - contact with combustible material may cause fire. Incompatible with combustible materials, strong reducing agents. Harmful if swallowed. May cause reproductive disorders. Melting Point: 334° C; Boiling Point: ca. 400° C (decomposes).


Potassium Nitrite KNO2

MW: 85.11 CAS: 7758-09-0.


Potassium Oxalate K2C2O4*H2O

MW: 184.24; CAS: 6487-48-5.


Potassium Perchlorate KClO4 (46.9% O2, 46.2% according to Shimizu)

MW: 138.55; CAS: 7778-74-7.

It can be used for rocket fuel, Whistle Mix and for flash and other compounds requiring strong oxidation. Its ignition temperature is higher than potassium chlorate. It can often substitute for Potassium Chlorate to make the formula safer. It will not yield its oxygen as easily, but it gives off more oxygen. Strong oxidizer. White or slightly pink powder.


Potassium Permanganate KMnO4

Synonyms: Chameleon mineral, CI 77755, Condy's crystals, permanganate of potash, Cairox.

Will ignite when in contact with Glycerin. Can be used in this manner to ignite Thermite and Thermate. Strong oxidizer. Stable, but contact with combustible material may cause fire. Substances to be avoided include reducing agents, strong acids, organic material, combustible materials, peroxides, alcohols and chemically active metals. Harmful if swallowed. Irritant. Readily absorbed through skin. Stains deep purple. If gloves are to be used, nitrile will provide some protection, but may degrade upon contact with solid or solution, so should be checked regularly and replaced if damage is apparent. Appearance: Dark purple to bronze crystals. Melting point: ca. 150° C (decomposes); Specific Gravity: 2.70. Solubility: 6.38;


Potassium Picrate C6H2KN3O7

Used for making Whistles Mixes. A salt of Picric Acid, this chemical comes in yellow, reddish or greenish crystals. As with all Picrates, it will explode when struck or heated. Decomposes at 300° C.


Potassium Sulfate K2SO4

MW: 174.26; CAS: 7778-80-5.

Used as a high temperature oxidizer in some white strobe compositions. White powder.


Potassium Sulfate K2SO4

High temperature oxidizer in some white strobe compositions.


Potassium Thiocyanate KCNS

Used to make Pharaoh's Serpents. Colorless or white crystals.


Potato Starch

Binder used in some Bengal Fire comps.



A machine used to fill composition into tubes. Using a press has many advantages over ramming with a mallet, including consistency of results and reducing any hazard from shock and impact. Necessary for making Whistle Mix rocket grain, color comps, comps containing metals, Chlorates and others.

Arbor press is a mechanical-type press, hydraulic presses are assisted by hydraulic pressure and generally have more power than an arbor press.



These are the small, round bead-like pellets of chemicals such as Ammonium Nitrate, Urea and others. The Prills are often coated with various substances that must be filtered out before use in Pyro or High Explosives.



A pyrotechnic composition is used to ensure the ignition of hard to ignite composition. This can either be due to short ignition time (i.e. stars in an aerial shell) or the composition itself requires more heat than a flame to ignite (i.e. Thermite). There are various substances that can be used as Prime like Meal Powder, Nitrocellulose Lacquer, Black Powder (dry or a slurry), Magnesium ribbon or Flash Powder. Silicon can be added to increase the burning temperature of some Primes.


Priming Mixture or Comp

A mixture used to coat firework elements, usually stars that may be difficult to ignite due to their hardness, smoothness or composition.


'Progressive' Burning

The burning of a propellant grain in which the reacting surface area increases during the combustion.


Propyl Guar

Used in some Sparkler comps.


n-Propyl Nitrate C3H7NC2

Is used as a propellant. Prepared from Silver Nitrate and n-Propyl Bromide.



This is ball milled black powder that has been slightly moistened so that it just clings together and pressed through a fine screen (a window screen will work), then dried. It decreases the dust problem and actually makes the powder hotter because of the air spaces between the grains. Used as lift and burst charges.


Pumped Star

A star produced by compressing composition in a mold. Pumped stars are usually cylindrical in form.


Punk Lighter

A punk is a bamboo stick with a brown coating that burns slowly. Punks look identical to incense sticks, but do not have a distinctive aromatic effect like incense does. They are used for lighting fireworks, and are safer than matches or a lighter because they allow a greater distance from the fuse and do not use a direct flame to light it.


PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate)

Known as "White Glue" or "Elmer's". A synthetic glue finding more and more use in pyrotechnics as opposed to the old fashioned starch-based and animal glues.


PVC (C2H3Cl)n; [CH2·CHCl_]n (Polyvinyl Chloride)

CAS: 9002-86-2.

Color enhancer as a Chlorine Donor (57%), fuel, binder in some rocket fuels. Used in some flash comps. A white powder. Polyvinyl Chloride is a thermoplastic that is a Polymer of vinyl chloride. Solvents are Methylene Chloride, MEK, lacquer thinner, Cyclohexane.


Pyrocellulose (Pyrocotton)

Nitrocellulose containing 12.6% Nitrogen.



A substance that is capable of producing an excess of heat as a byproduct of a chemical reaction. A rocket ignition system containing a solid propellant grain as its main ignition material.



A substance that can ignite spontaneously on contact with air, especially finely divided metals. When used in combination with oxidizers, it can be even more sensitive to static electricity and friction. It can be used in electrical igniters, and in situations where a hot spark is needed. Unusual care should be taken when using this particular material.



Pyrotechnics is, in general, divided into categories based on the main effect produced. The range of effects include: Light flashes of various color, intensity and duration. Sounds of many types and flames of different colors, sizes, shapes and duration. Smoke of any color or amount, ejected active pyrotechnics, like various short-lived sparks and Microstars, including glitter, strobe, color and tailed effects, even colored Matrix Comets (invented by Myke Stanbridge). The use of ejected passive effects is common, they include Confetti, streamers, tokens, toys, etc. 'Pyrotechnic' is the generic term for any item (or composition) which reacts in a self-sustaining chemical reaction and is generally produces an effect of light, smoke, noise or heat.


Pyrotechnics or Pyrotechnic Compositions

A mixture of materials consisting essentially of an oxidizing agent (oxidant) and a reducing agent (fuel), that is capable of producing an explosive self sustaining reaction when heated to its ignition temperature; such as, but not limited to, devices used to produce sound, colored lights or smokes.


Pyroxylin (Collodion)

Nitrocellulose containing 8-12 percent Nitrogen.


Quick Match

Black Match covered in a paper tube or Black Powder encased in tape that when lit, causes the flame speed of the match to dramatically increase. Burn rate ~ 50 feet/second.



The process of filling a firework case with composition. Ramming is usually applied to a mechanical process using various non-sparking tooling and a mallet.


Ramming Blocks

Tubes are often temporarily mounted on a wood or metal block to facilitate holding the tube in an upright position when ramming and to recess the composition a short distance up inside the tube. The block consists of nothing more than a round or square base on top of which is a low, flat, circular nipple. The diameter of the nipple corresponds to the I.D. of the tube being used and should be a close enough fit that the block will stay connected to the tube when handled. The tube is now temporarily closed on that end thus preventing the first scoop of clay or composition from falling through before it is rammed in place. The recess provided by the stepped nipple also helps to keep a clay plug from being blown out of the tube.



A rocket designed to fly along a line; often emitting sparks, smoke and whistles.


Raw Match (Black Match)

Black Powder coated thread used for linking fireworks.


Realgar See Arsenic Trisulfate.


Red Gum (Yacca Resin, Red Gum, Acaroid Resin, Accaroid Resin, Accroides, Accroides

Gum, Gum Accroides, Botany Bay Gum, Black Boy Gum)

CAS: 9000-20-8.

A natural plant extract used as a binder and/or a fuel in many pyrotechnic compositions. Accroides resin is an orange powder derived from the Xanthorrhoea trees that grow on Kangaroo Island off South Australia. The Resin has a complex chemical nature and contains various aromatic substances such as Coumaric Acid, Cinnamon Acid, Benzoic Acid and esters of Coumaric and Cinnamic Acids, Benzoresinotannols, Benzoresorcinol, etc.

Solutions with Alcohol, for example Spirit lacquers, dry fast and make a hard film. These solutions are excellent substitutes for Shellac and Copal varnishes.

Color: Orange; Odor: Distinctive, benzoin-like; Melting point: <100°C; Solvent: Alcohol.


Red Lead See Lead Oxide.



This is Fuel in a formula.


Regressive Burning

Burning of a propellant grain in such a manner that the surface area decreases as burning progresses.



Refers to any of a number of devices with compositions that have their main effect as a loud boom or crack. See Salute.


Restricted Burning Rate

A solid propellant grain in which certain surfaces are restricted or inhibited to provide particular burning characteristics.


Rhodamine B Concentrate

Used in red smoke star comps.


Rice Hulls

Often used coated with a burst comp (Black Powder, Whistle Mix, H3, etc.), to break an aerial shells' case. Creates a powerful burst due to the increased surface area of explosive to weight ratio.


Rice Starch

Used in some flash comps and as a binder.


Rising Effect

Often synonymous with "Tail Effect", but may also be applied to shells in which whistles, crackles or small shells have been attached and which function on the shell's ascent.



An aerial device propelled into the air by a pyrotechnic motor that usually explodes the separate "Header", containing colored stars, reports or various effects.


Rocket Spindle

The spike-like tool (usually metal) used to form rammed or pressed rocket motors with a central cavity for increased surface area and burning pressure.


Roman Candle

Roman Candles are a type of fireworks with long, thick paper tubes that contain layers of "Stars" and Lifting Charges. The device is ignited from the top. The Delay Comp is packed tightly in the tube, so that the flame cannot reach around the sides of the plug of Delay Composition. So it burns slowly; as it is consumed, the flame moves down through the tube. When the flame reaches the topmost Star, the Star is ignited. Because the Star fits loosely in the tube, the fire spreads all around it and ignites the Lift Charge. The Lift Charge burns quickly, propelling the Star out of the tube, like a bullet from a gun. In doing so it also ignites the layer of Delay Comp beneath it, and the process repeats. There are several variations on this: Many Chinese Roman Candles use Clay instead of Delay Comp and run a length of fuse down the inside of the candle to time the lifts. Larger Roman Candles will usually add more lift to the highest layers and less to the lower layers in order to cause the Stars to lift to the same altitude. Some really large candles will load Comets instead of Stars.


Rosin (Pine rosin, Colophony, Turpentine rosin)

Sometimes used as a fuel in blue colors and smokes. Solvents are Alcohol and Acetone. Used in Chlorate and Perchlorate-based report comps, some star comps. Tan to brown powder.


Round Shell

An aerial shell in the form of a sphere. Round Shells usually contain colored stars.


Round Star

A star prepared by rolling, thus applying layer upon layer of composition onto a central core.


Roundel Shell

An aerial shells comprising several Reports that burst in a ring pattern one after another


Phosphorus, Red (Red PP

MW: 30.97; CAS: 7723-14-0.

Used in friction sensitive comps, striker surface of book matches. Regulated, thanks to the meth makers.


Safety Fuse (Visco)

A flexible cord containing an internal burning medium by which fire or flame is conveyed at a continuous and uniform rate from the point of ignition to the point of use, designed for commercial blasting similar to Bickford Fuse.


Salicylic Acid C7H603 (Benzoic Acid)

Used in making Salicylates. White powder.


Saltpeter KNO3 See Potassium Nitrate.



A term for Firecracker, Maroon, M80, Cherry Bomb, etc. Report device used in an aerial shell or on the ground. Current laws restrict the size of consumer-type (Classification 1.4G, old Class C) salutes to 50 mg of comp per device.


Saran Resin [CH2·CHCl2_]n (Polyvinylidine Chloride)

Used as a Chlorine Donor (73%). Solvent is Xylene or Acetone. Off-white granular powder.



The Saxon is a rapidly spinning, ground-based firework that is basic in design and construction. There are slight variations but typically it consists of two tubes which are filled with composition and have a clay plug at the end. They are joined in the center by a wooden dowel and pivot at point in the middle. It is driven by exhaust vents located on the sides of the tube near the end plugs, which are at right angles to the tube axis. The Saxon is normally mounted on a post or structure about 10 feet from the ground.


Scratch Mix

A coarsely sieved mixture of Potassium Nitrate, Charcoal and Sulfur primarily used as a prime for stars. Similar to Green Mix.



A whistle with a hole through it, producing a much more "rasping" sound. In a Screecher the instability arising from the oscillations of burning can interfere with each other almost to the point of causing the firework to detonate.


Sculpy Clay

A modeling clay made with PVC. It is a Chlorine Donor and binder for some star comps that contain Ammonium Perchlorate. Oven cures. Can be mixed before curing, or cured, powdered, then mixed into the comp.


Senko Hanabi (Sparklers)

A delicate pyrotechnic sparking effect, commonly produced in Japan, produced from the burning of a sulfur-rich Black Powder composition. When burned, the droplets of molten composition that form react further with air to produce attractive branching sparks.



A physical characteristic of an explosive or flamable material classifying its ability to be initiated upon receiving an external impulse such as impact, shock, flame, friction, or other influences that can cause explosive decomposition. The ease of ignition of a firework composition.



Usually a small tube filled with composition and possible a report charge that is fired en masse from shells, mines or rarely Roman Candles. The Serpents fly about in a random fashion prior to bursting with a report or stars.


Set Piece

A generic term for a ground firework but usually distinguished from Lancework. The Set Piece may be static or revolving and is made up from Gerbs and/or noise and color units.



The most spectacular of fireworks, comprising a Lifting Charge (to propel the shell into the air) and a Bursting Charge to eject and ignite stars or sub assemblies in the air after a predetermined delay. Shells are fired from Mortars.


Shell of Shells

An aerial display shell that contains internal shells that are ignited when the main shell bursts, and subsequently produces many secondary bursts.


Shellac C16H26O4

Orange-yellow powdered organic resin. Considered a superior fuel for use in colored flame compositions. Solvents are Alcohol and Acetone. Clean burning fuel used in many star and photoflash comps.


Shock Sensitive

Shock sensitive refers to the susceptibility of the chemical to rapidly decompose or explode when struck, vibrated or otherwise physically agitated. Some chemicals become increasingly shock sensitive with age. Write the date received and date opened on all containers of shock sensitive chemicals.

Open containers of shock sensitive materials should be discarded within 6 months of opening. The label and MSDS will indicate if a chemical is shock sensitive. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment when handling shock sensitive chemicals.


Shock Wave

A large-amplitude compression wave, as that produced by an explosion or by supersonic motion of a body in a medium.


Siatene Shell

An aerial shell comprising several Salutes that burst in a ring pattern at the same time.


Silica Silica Quartz SiO

CAS: 14808-60-7.

Used in some photoflash comps. A compound of Silicon such as quartz sand.


Silica Gel SiO2 xH2O

CAS: 112926-00-8; EC: 231-545-4.

Silica Gel is used to absorb water from a gaseous environment; the water absorbing capacity is usually around 25% by weight. When used to absorb water, an indicator may be added which is blue in the dry state and pink when the gel is saturated with water. Such a gel is usually described as "self-indicating". The gel can be regenerated by heating in an oven to a temperature of around 150° C. Stable. Incompatible with strong acids.


Silicon Si

MW: 28.086; CAS: 7440-21-3.

Dark gray powder used to increase the effectiveness of ignition or priming compositions by raising the flame temperature and producing molten glass-like droplets, in the form of a hot slag. Used in some photoflash comps


Silicon Dioxide SiO2

Also known as Cab-O-Sil and Aero-Sil. Used as a free-flowing aid, also used as an aid in preventing electrostatic charges in powdered compositions and as a thickening product. Its has also be used as a coating on certain metal powders including iron and aluminum.


Single-Base Propellant

A propellant whose principal active ingredient is Nitrocellulose. Also see Smokeless Powder. Can be used to make NC lacquer by dissolving in acetone.



An air suspension of particles usually from incomplete combustion of a composition. Can also include the airborne suspension of solid particles from the products of detonation or deflagration.


Smoke Dye, Blue (Phthalocyanine Blue)

Light blue powder used typically with Potassium Chlorate and Lactose to produce blue colored smoke, often used in daytime aerial shells; also used as a burn rate enhancement in rockets.


Smoke Pot

A container used to hold a smoke-producing comp while it burns. Some are also used to hold Flash Powder.


Smoke Shell

Any projectile containing a smoke-producing chemical agent that is released on impact or burst. Also called Smoke Projectile. Smoke may be white or colored.


Smokeless Powder

A pyrotechnic mixture containing Nitrocellulose alone (Single-Based) or Nitrocellulose and Nitroglycerine (Double-Based), so called because unlike Black Powder, it does not produce much smoke on burning. In this way it found favor as a propellant in small arms devices and replaced Black Powder, for the most part. Its use in fireworks is limited. Can be used to make nitrocellulose lacquer when dissolved in acetone.


Sodium Aluminum Flouride Na3AlF6 (Cryolite)

It is used in fireworks as a yellow color agent.


Sodium Benzoate C7H5NaO2

MW: 144.11; CAS: 532-32-1. Synonyms: Benzoic acid sodium salt, benzoate of soda, sodium benzoic acid, benzoate sodium, antimol, sobenate.

Fuel for Whistle Mix. More hydroscopic than Potassium Benzoate. Preferred "catalyst" is copper oxychloride. Is water soluble. Not hazardous. Appearance: White crystalline powder; Melting Point: 300° C;

Density (g cm-3): 1.44.


Sodium Bicarbonate NaHCO3

MW: 84.01; CAS: 144-55-8. Synonyms: Bicarbonate of soda, baking soda, sodium hydrogen carbonate, bicarb, sodium acid carbonate, Col-evac, jusonin, NEUT, soda mint.

Used as a glitter effect enhancer, a delay agent, and sometimes as a yellow color agent. When a formula calls for this, use Baking Soda. Density (g cm-3): 2.16.

Appearance: White powder or crystals. Melting point: 50o C.


Sodium Borate See Borax.


Sodium Carbonate Na2CO3

CAS: 497-19-8. Synonyms: Sodium carbonate, soda ash, disodium carbonate, carbonic acid disodium salt.

This white powder is used in fireworks, but not to any great extent. Use anhydrous. Stable. Incompatible with powdered alkaline earth metals, Aluminum, organic nitro compounds, fluorine, alkali metals, nonmetallic oxides, concentrated Sulfuric Acid, oxides of phosphorus. Appearance: White odorless powder. Melting Point: 851o C;

Density (g cm-3): 2.53. Eye and respiratory irritant.


Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC)

Binder and thickening agent. Use 1% with other water soluble binder or 2-3% by itself.


Sodium Chlorate NaClO3

CAS: 7775-09-9; EC: 231-887-4.

Oxidizer used in some rocket propellants. Similar to Potassium Chlorate, although not as powerful and also with the disadvantage of absorbing water. Mixtures of this material with organic fibrous or absorbent material and with a variety of other materials are potentially explosive. Stable.


Sodium Chloride NaCl (Table Salt)

CAS: 7647-14-5; EC: 231-598-3. Synonyms: Salt, sea salt, common salt, dendritis, rock salt, saline, halite.

Stable. Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents. Appearance: colorless crystals or white powder; Melting Point: 804° C; Boiling Point: 1413° C; Vapor Pressure: 1 mm Hg at 865° C ;Specific Gravity: 2.16 g cm3; Solubility in Water: 35.7g/100g at 0° C.


Sodium 2-Ethylhexyl Sulfate

Used in some Photoflash Comps.


Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate See Sodium Bicarbonate

Used in some yellow comps.


Sodium Hydroxide NaOH (Lye)

MW: 40.01; CAS: 1310-73-2; EC: 215-185-5. Synonyms: Caustic soda, soda lye, lye, white caustic, Aetznatron, Ascarite, Collo-Grillrein, Collo-Tapetta, sodium hydrate, FotoFoil Etchant, NAOH, STCC 4935235, sodium hydroxide pellets, Lewis Red Devil Lye.

If you need gloves, neoprene, nitrile or natural rubber are suitable for handling solutions at concentrations of up to 70% . Very corrosive. Causes severe burns. May cause serious permanent eye damage. Very harmful if ingested. Harmful by skin contact or by inhalation of dust. Appearance: Odorless white solid (often sold as pellets); Melting Point: 318° C; Boiling Point: 1390° C; Vapor Pressure: 1 mm Hg at 739° C; Specific Gravity: 2.12; Water Solubility: High (Note: Dissolution in water is highly exothermic). Typical TLV 2 mg m-1.


Sodium Hypochlorite ClONa (Bleach)

CAS: 7681-52-9; EC: 231-668-3. Synonyms: Hypochlorous acid sodium salt, sodium hydrochlorite, Clorox (also sold as a solution under a variety of trade names for use as liquid bleach) Stable. Contact with acids releases poisonous gas (Chlorine). Light sensitive. Incompatible with strong acids, amines, ammonia, ammonium salts, reducing agents, metals, aziridine, methanol, formic acid, phenylacetonitrile. Corrosive, causes burns to skin and eyes. Harmful by ingestion, inhalation and through skin contact. Skin irritant. Appearance: Colorless liquid with strong odor; Boiling Point: Typically 40° C (decomposes); Specific Gravity: ca. 1.21.


Sodium Lignosulfonate

Used in some Photoflash Comps.


Sodium Nitrate NaNO3

MW: 85.01; OB: 47; CAS: 7631-99-4. Synonyms: Nitratine, soda niter, soda nitre, Chile saltpetre, cubic nitre, sodium saltpeter, nitric acid sodium salt.

Oxidizer used to make yellow flames. With Magnesium it aids in yellow flare illumination. Used in composite rocket fuels. Very similar to Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate). It is used where large amounts of a Nitrate Oxidizer are needed in fireworks and explosives. Strong oxidizer - may ignite flammable material. Can be found Over the Counter as ‘Solid OX’ Pellets used for outdoors cooking. It will absorb water as do other Sodium salts. Stable. Incompatible with cyanides, combustible material, strong reducing agents and Aluminum. Harmful if swallowed. Skin, eye and respiratory irritant. Appearance: Colorless crystals or white powder; Melting Point: 306° C; Vapor Density: 2.9 (air = 1); Density (g cm-3): 2.26; Water solubility: Soluble.


Sodium Nitrite NaNO2

MW: 69.01; CAS: 7632-00-0.


Sodium Oxalate NaC2O4

MW: 134.01; CAS: 62-76-0.

Yellow color agent, delay comps, flash powder, glitter effects with Aluminum and Antimony. Used in Tracer Comps. Melting Point: 250° C - 270° C (482° F - 518° F); Solubility:

3.7g/100g water @ 20° C (68° F). pH: Aqueous solution is neutral.


Sodium Perchlorate NaClO4

This chemical is used in some Photoflash Comps, fireworks and explosives. It is very similar to Potassium Perchlorate with the exception that it will absorb water.


Sodium Salicylate NaC7H5O3

MW: 168.10; CAS: 54-21-7.

Fuel for Whistle Comps. Somewhat more powerful than Sodium Benzoate. Red Iron Oxide is a preferred "catalyst". Somewhat hygroscopic.


Sodium Silicate Na2SiO3 (Water Glass)

MW: 122.06 g/mol; CAS: 6834-92-0.

This chemical is used as a fire proof glue. It is available in syrupy solution and can be thinned with water. When dry it resembles glass, hence the name. It can be thickened with Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Oxide, powdered Silica, or fiberglass (chopped) if extra strength is desired. Used in pyro adhesives for rolling cup sets in sawdust and for making paper tubes fire resistant.

Is found Over the Counter as ‘Red Devil’ TSP/90 Heavy Duty Cleaner, as a fine powder.


Sodium Sulfate Na2SO4

White powder used as a high temperature Oxidizer in some yellow strobe comps.

Solid Propellant

Specifically, a rocket propellant in solid form, usually containing both fuel and oxidizer combined or mixed and formed into a monolithic (not powdered or granulated) grain.


Soluble Glutinous Rice Starch (SGRS, Mizinko)

Sometimes used as a glue or to bind star compositions.



1.) Polar Solvents

Solvents such as Ethanol, Acetone, Acetic Acid, MEK, Xylene, Methylene Chloride, Lacquer Thinner (mostly) and Toluene.

2.) Non-Polar Solvents

Benzene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Ether, Gasoline, Hexane, Naphtha, Turpentine and are examples. Will dissolve Petroleum Jelly.


Sorbitol C6H14O6

Fuel, binder used in rocket motor grain.



Usually a wire coated with pyrotechnic composition that gives off small sparks when ignited. 'Senko Hanabi' is a beautiful, traditional effect that uses tissue instead of wire or sticks.


Spider Shell

An aerial shell having a small number of relatively large stars producing an asymmetric break. Spider shells having 24 large Comets are sometimes called Octopus Shells.

A shell containing a fast burning tailed or charcoal star that is burst very hard so that the stars travel in a straight and flat trajectory before burning out. This appears in the sky as a series of radial lines much like the legs of a spider. Also, in Cakes, a Spider (or often "Poisonous Spider") has effects that launch as a Spinner or Tourbillion and then burst as a Bombette of colored stars at apogee.


Spiking Horse

A device used to facilitate the Spiking, or Stringing, of shells.



Reinforcement of an aerial shell by wrapping with a strong twine. Aids in producing an even, symmetrical burst.


Spiral Wound Tube

A paper tube wound from a paper strip at an angle, like a paper towel tube. Weaker than Convolute wound tube.


Splitting Comet

A Comet in which there is an internal charge (usually of Flash Powder) which, when ignited, splits the Comet into several pieces. The effect is of a Comet that travels for some period and then fragments. Splitting Comet Stars are typically found in shells, mines, and Roman Candles. See Crossette.



A shell or Roman Candle delay fuse usually made from pressing Black Powder into a small bore tube.



These are pellets or simply pieces of pyrotechnic substance (usually cylinders, cubes or spheres) which may contain metal powders, salts or other compounds that, when ignited, burn a certain color or exude a spark effect. They are a part of all projectile type fireworks. The most common is the Aerial Shell. They are used in Mines, Shells, Roman Candles, Rockets and occasionally Gerbs. There are various methods in which stars can be made: Cut stars, Pillbox stars, Pressed stars, Pumped stars and Rolled stars.


Star Grain

A solid rocket propellant grain with an internal star-shaped cross section.


Star Gun

A Star Gun is a device used to test the performance of Stars when they are burning in the air. It can be anything from a mortar, paper tube or a custom made metal device. Typically most Star Guns are made from steel for the simple reason of reusability. The device is basically a steel plate with several different sized steel tubes welded vertically to the base. Each tube has a Visco Fuse hole drill at the base and enables testing various sized Stars. A small amount of Black Powder is added to the base of the tube and then a close fitting Star on top. Visco Fuse is then inserted into the hole. When lit, the Star is fired into the air demonstrating its performance.


Star Mine

A Mine in which the projection of colored Stars is the principle effect.


Star Plates

A tool used to make large amounts of cylindrical Stars. Each set of plates consists of a bottom plate (female) and a top plate (male). To use Star Plates, you set the female plate on a smooth, flat surface. Then fill the holes in the bottom plate with damp star composition. Then, lower the heavier male plate onto the bottom plate, pressing and compacting the star composition.


Star Pump

Tool for manufacturing pyrotechnic Stars. There are several devices that can be used to pump Stars, ranging from cheap home made devices like a plastic tube or modified syringe, to more expensive devices like commercial metal Star Pumps. Pumped stars have the advantage of consistent size so all the stars made burn out at the same time.


Starch (C6H10O5)n

A white hydroscopic powder, Starch dissolves in hot water to form a thick adhesive solution. Sometimes used in the manufacture of Quick Match and Stars. Can be used to reduce the burning rate of various compositions.


Starpol C6H10O5

Light yellow powder. A starch-based, water soluble binder with more adhesion than dextrin; use less of it than dextrin. It reduces water absorption in some formulas, such as those containing Strontium Nitrate.


Stearic Acid (See Stearin) CH3(CH2)16COOH

MW: 284.47; CAS: 57-11-4.

It can sometimes take the place of Sulfur and Charcoal. Used as a Phlegmatizing agent and as a low reactivity fuel. Used for blue flames. A high O2 demand fuel.


Stearin C21H42O4 (Stearine)

The tallow derived from beef is called stearin. A term for the glyceryl ester of Stearic Acid.

Used as an aid in producing metal powders and sometimes as a fuel. The name is sometimes also applied to a mixture of Stearic Acid and Palmitic Acid. Used in Chlorate-based flash comps.


Lancaster says (p.121, 3rd ed.):

"The material is probably a mixture of stearic and palmitic acids obtained by hydrolysis from their glyceryl esters. The powder used for firework making usually passes 80 mesh. The main use for this material is for adding it to some compositions which are somewhat sensitive to friction. It can also be used in those fireworks where it is desirable to have a long flame."


Quote from M. Swisher:

"I have never seen an analysis of the commercial product, but whatever it may be, in my experience it is consistent from bag to bag over many bags and many years.


"To Lancaster's comments I will add that it was the customary fuel in the US for use with Paris green and chlorate of potash to make blue. In Europe they tend to use colophony rosin for this purpose.


"Stearine is much easier to work with for pumped stars, since the rosin makes the pumps seize up quickly as they are used, but the stearine lubricates them and they work smoothly for a much longer time before needing to be washed. A little stearine added to any composition intended for pumping has this benefit.


"Stearine has very high oxygen demand so not very much is needed as a fuel." Mike Swisher @ rec.pyro


From Merk Index 9th Ed.:

9422. Stearin; Tristearin; glyceryl tristearate. C57H110O6; mol wt 891.45. C- 76.79%;

H- 12.44%; O- 10.77%. Present in many animal and vegetable fats, especially hard ones like cacao butter and tallow.

Prep'd. from stearic acid and glycerol in the presence of Al2O3: Ingram, Brit. pat. 633,566 (1951 to I.C.I); by catalytic hydrogenation of many oils: Bailey's Industrial Oil and Fat Products (Wiley, New York, 3rd ed., 1964) pp 881-882.

White powder. MP about 55° C; on further heating solidifies and melts again at 72° C. Insol. in water; sol. in benzene, chloroform, hot alchohol; almost insol. in cold alcohol, ether, petr. ether.


Steel Fe+C

Alloy used to make branching sparks in Stars and Fountains, etc.


Stinger Missile

The name refers to the class of rockets that are Spin Stabilized.


Stoichiometric (Stoich)

Relating to components involved in a burning process which are present in exactly the quantities needed for reaction, without an excess of any component.



The process of winding a strong string around the outer surface of a shell to produce a more regular bursting pattern. See Spiking.



The effect of a strobe is the regular pulsing "on-off-on-off" of light as a firework composition burns. There are several proposed explanations of this effect. Strobe effects are most often seen in ground fireworks (Strobe Pots) or as stars in an aerial shell or rocket. Strobe comps almost always contain Ammonium Perchlorate (some rely on Barium Nitrate as the oxidizer), Sulfur and Magnesium (sometimes Magnalium) ~ 60- 120 mesh.


Strobe Pot

A type of pyrotechnic device that produce bright flashes when lit. They are charged with a single composition, Strobe Mix, instead of layers of different compositions, and are simple to make.


Strontium Carbonate SrCO3

MW: 148.00; CAS: 1633-05-2.

Most common non-oxidizing red color agent, neutralizer. It comes as a white powder. Stable. Incompatible with strong acids. Boiling Point: 1700° C.


Strontium Chloride SrCl2

MW: 254.54; CAS: 10476-85-4.

Used in campfires and red burning pine cones. Hygroscopic.


Strontium Chromate SrCr2O3 ( 43% Sr)

Rocket propellant catalyst, oxidizer.


Strontium Nitrate Sr(NO3)2

MW: 211.65; CAS: 10042-76-9.

Most common chemical used to produce red. Often used with metal fuels. Used in some rocket fuels. An oxidizer that absorbs water. 45.4% O2, (37.7 according to Chemistry of Pyrotechnics by John A. Conkling). Sr content is 43%


Strontium Oxalate Anhydrous SrC2O4

MW: 175.65; CAS: 814-95-9.

Used for red flares and stars, tracer comps.


Strontium Perchlorate SrClO4



Strontium Peroxide SrO2 (73% Sr)

MW: 119.63; CAS: 1314-18-7.

Has some use as a red and orange color agent. White or yellowish powder.


Strontium Sulfate SrSO4 (48% Sr)

CAS: 14291-02-2.

High temperature oxidizer sometimes used in red color strobe compositions..


Strontium Tartrate

Used in Tracer Comps.


Sucrose C12H22O11 (Sugar)

MW: 342.30; CAS: 57-50-1; EC: 200-334-9. Synonyms: Sugar, cane sugar, saccharose, beta-d-fructofuranoside, beet sugar, Confectioner's Sugar, granulated sugar, NCI-C56597, icing sugar, rock candy, saccharum.

Used in some Photoflash Comps, a fuel for blue colors, rocket propellant fuel and for colored smoke with organic dyes. Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents. Hydrolyzed by dilute acids and by Invertase. Melting Point: 160°-180° C (decomposes); Density (g cm-3): 1.59.


Sulfur S

MW: 32.064; OB –100%; CAS: 7704-34-9. Synonyms: Sulfur, brimstone, flowers of sulfur, precipitated sulfur, sublimed sulfur, bensulfoid, flowers of sulfur, precipitated sulfur.

Used in many types of fireworks and explosives. Fuel and ignition temperature modifier. Used in Black Powder to aid in ignition and increase the burn rate. Good pyro grades are low in acid. Yellow powder or fused solid, or amber to yellow crystals Dust may form a flammable or explosive mixture with air. Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents, most common metals, hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine. Eye, skin and respiratory irritant. Burns at 250° C, giving off choking fumes. Stable. Melting Point: ca. 116° C (depending upon form); Boiling Point: 445° C; Vapor Density: 8.8 (air = 1); Density (g cm-3): 2.01; Flash Point: 188° C; Water Solubility: Negligible.


Tail Effect

Usually a term applied to a shell in which a Comet has been attached to the outside and which produces a rising column of sparks on the shell's ascent. "Tail" may also be applied to rockets, Roman Candle stars or even whistle units where persistent sparks follow the flight of the device.


Teflon (-CF2CF2-)n

CAS: 9002-84-0.

It can be used in flash comps. Used in rocket fuel and sometimes as an oxidizer, commonly in military compositions such as flares. Extremely reactive when mixed with fine metal powders.


Terephthalic Acid C6H4(COOH).

MW: 166.13; CAS: 100-21-0, 211863-90-0.

This is used for fuel and to make Terephthalates for colored comps and Whistle Mix.



This is a mixture of Thermite and pyrotechnic additives, which have been found to be superior to standard Thermite for incendiary purposes.

Its composition by weight is generally:



Barium Nitrate........29.0%





A high temperature producing mixture. Typical mix contains a mixture of Iron Oxide and Aluminum (3:1) and has been used for in situ welding of railway tracks.


Tiger Tail Shell

Usually a solid sphere of composition fired in exactly the same manner as a shell. The effect produced is of an extremely thick rising Comet. Optionally, there is a small shell burst at the apex of its flight.


Time Fuse

Thick, slow-burning fuse used for delays in Aerial Shells.


Time Rain

An effect created by large, slow-burning stars within a shell that leave a trail of large glittering sparks behind and make a very loud sizzling noise. The "time" refers to the fact that these stars burn away gradually, as opposed to the standard Brocade "Rain" effect where a large amount of glitter material is released at once.


Tissue, Gampi

Thin Japanese tissue used as nosings and for Senko Hanabi Sparklers. Used in book restoration/preservation.


Titanium Ti

MW: 47.98; CAS: 7440-32-6.

Metal used to produce bright white or silver sparks. Comes in sponge or flakes, may increase the friction sensitivity of a firework composition.


Titanium Dioxide TiO2

Used to decrease speed of Whistle Mix, or to modify whistle tone. Used in smoke comps.


Titanium Alloy Ti/Vn/Al

Aerospace alloy that consists of: 90% Titanium, 6% Vanadium, 4% Aluminum. Slightly brighter white sparks than the pure Ti. Works well in Salutes, Fountains, Gerbs, and Comets.


Titanium, Sponge Ti

Bright white sparks. An excellent form of the metal which works well in Salutes, Fountains, Gerbs, Comets and Stars.


Titanium Hydride TiH2

Used for Igniters, Primers.


Toluene C7H8 (Toluol)

CAS: 108-88-3; EC: 203-625-9.

Polar Solvent. If gloves are required, polyvinyl alcohol is recommended. Colorless liquid with a benzene-like odor (odor threshold 0.17 ppm). Stable. Substances to be avoided: oxidizing agents, oxygen, moisture. Highly flammable. Hygroscopic. Toxic by inhalation, ingestion or by absorption through skin. Serious irritant. Experimental teratogen. Melting Point: -93° C; Boiling Point: 110.6° C.


Top Fused

Usually an Aerial Shell in which the time fuse (shell delay) for the functioning of the bursting charge is physically at the top of the shell and lit independently to the Lifting Charge.


Tourbillion (Torbillion)

An aerial firework comprised of a single Driver having both spin and lift ports and a wing, designed to spin and rise into the air on ignition.



A Flying Squib or Throwdown. These devices contain sensitive comps that will ignite/ explode upon impact.



Tissue paper that has been soaked in a Potassium Nitrate solution. The Potassium Nitrate allows the tissue paper to burn a lot more easily without going out. Used for testing compositions, and for creating a fuse at times when an open ended tube is used, for example in smoke bombs.


Tracer Comp

A pyrotechnic flare material often made of phosphorus or magnesium or other bright burning chemicals. In US and NATO standard ammunition this is usually a mixture of Strontium salts and a metal fuel such as Magnesium. This yields a bright red light. Russian and Chinese tracer ammunition generates green light using Barium salts.


Tremalon (aka "flitter" to Americans and "glitter" to Englishmen)

Flitter, glitter, and tremalon all mean the same thing. Flitter is American and glitter is English usage. Winokur confused things tremendously by using flitter to denote a metallized-tailed star that did not exhibit the flitter/glitter/tremalon effect.


Triacetin C9H14O6 (Glyceryl Triacetate)

MW: 218.21 g/mol; CAS: 102-76-1.

Plasticizer/Elastomer for very rubbery cures. Used in composite rocket fuels.


Trichlorophenol C6H3Cl3O

CAS: 88-06-2.

Used in some Photoflash Comps.


Triple-Base Propellant

Propellant whose principal active ingredients are Nitrocellulose, Nitroglycerin and Nitroguanidine. Not suitable for using as NC lacquer.



The rising Comet star effect seen on Palm Shells, and various other shells.


Tung Oil

This is used to protect Iron Magnesium or Magnalium.


Tungsten Powder W

MW: 183.92; CAS: 7440-33-7.


Turpentine C10H16 (approximate)

MW: 136 g/mol; CAS: 8006-64-2. Synonyms: Oil of Turpentine, Terpene, Dipanol, Gum Spirits, Wood Turpentine, and turps.

Distilled resin of the pine tree used as a Non-Polar Solvent for Asphaltum. Widely used as a thinner, antiseptic, drug, pesticide, insecticide. Stable. Flammable. Incompatible with Chlorine, strong oxidizers. Colorless liquid with paint-like odor. Boiling Point:150°-180° C.


Turpentine Rosin See Rosin



Ultramarine Na3S2.3NaAlSiO4 (Sodium Disilicate)

Fine blue powder used to produce yellow flames. Unlike other Sodium-based yellow flame producers, Ultramarine stores well. Shimizu says it can be used with Ammonium Perchlorate.



Exfoliated mica, used in some Matrix Comet comps.


Versamid 140 (Polyamide Resin)

Epoxy curative, mix 50/50 with epoxy for room temp cures. Used in some composite rocket comps.


Vinsol Resin

A pine-derived synthetic resin used as a binder and as a one to one replacement for Red Gum. Solvents are Alcohol, Ketones and Hydrocarbons. Dark brown powder.


Visco Fuse

A Pyrotechnic Fuse, commonly used on fireworks as the Delay Fuse. It is usually made by wrapping a core of Black Powder with thread and lacquer. Also known as Safety Fuse and Cannon Fuse.



A term usually applied to a mass firing of rockets.


Voranol 220-530 Polyol

Chain linking agent used for some composite rocket motor fuels.


Warimono Shell

A Japanese term for the type of shell that produces a spherical burst of stars.



Usually an extended curtain of silver sparks form vertical or horizontally burning tubes filled with a composition containing Aluminum.

To successfully create this effect, the Waterfall tubes are placed close together (normally about 25 cm apart) in great numbers and high off the ground. All of the tubes must be ignited at the same time.

This is normally achieved by linking the tubes with Quick Match, which is an extremely fast burning fuse. If the Waterfall is hung with string, it allows the tubes to swing back and forth when burning. This enhances the effect and glamour of the Waterfall.

Waterfall Shells produce the same effect and are best fired en masse to produce a spectacle.


Water Gerb

Usually a Gerb or Fountain weighted at one end and attached to a piece of cork designed to function on the surface of water. A Water Gerb may be lit by hand and thrown onto the water's surface, or fired like a shell from a Mortar (in each case with a suitable Delay Fuse).


Waterglass See Sodium Silicate.


Wheat Paste

Cheap adhesive made with flour and water. Commercially found as wallpaper paste.


Wheel See Catherine Wheel

A Wheel is a pyrotechnic device that spins and gives of a spiral of sparks. The two main types of Wheels are the Catherine Wheel and the Driver Wheel. The force of Drivers that are attached tangentially to the Wheel turns the Driver Wheel. The Drivers or other Gerbs generate the sparks that spiral out from the spinning Wheel. The Catherine Wheel is, of itself, a spiral of thrust generating pyrotechnic composition.



Usually a tube containing a composition made using Potassium Benzoate, Potassium Salicylate, or rarely, Potassium Picrate as the fuel. On burning, the composition burns in a rapidly oscillating manner, and the resulting pressure waves are amplified by the tube in a manner similar to an organ pipe.


Whistle Mix

A general term to refer to any pyrotechnic composition that emits a whistling sound when pressed into a tube and ignited. Usually has Potassium or Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Picrate, Gallic Acid or Sodium Salicylate as fuel, Potassium Chlorate or Perchlorate or other Potassium salt as the Oxidizer. Whistle Mix tends to be very fast burning in a loose state therefore it is also used as Burst Charge in small shells. It is friction/impact sensitive and should not be rammed/compacted with a rammer and hammer, only pressed. To work correctly, it needs to be very fine, mixed thoroughly and solidly compressed into a thick walled tube and filled ~3/4 full. The remaining space in the tube acts as a resonating cavity, essentially amplifying the Whistle sound. There are several compositions that can be used to make Whistle Rockets, the more powerful being the Gallic Acid and Sodium Silicate mixes. Test the burning rate by packing and igniting a cardboard Spolette. It should burn at ~6.4- 6.6 mm/sec.


White Phosphorus

Yellow waxy solid that ignites spontaneously when exposed to air. It is used as a filling for various projectiles as a smoke-producing agent and has an incendiary effect. White phosphorous may be mixed with a Xylene-based solution of synthetic rubber to form plasticized white phosphorous.


Whizzer See Hummer.


Willow Shell

An extremely attractive shell comprising stars made with a high percentage of Charcoal. The effect is of long-burning golden stars that often (but undesirably) fall all the way to the ground producing a soft, dome-shaped weeping willow-like effect.. Similar to a Chrysanthemum Shell.


Wood Flour C6H10O5

Used in fireworks for a star prime enhancement and in explosives. Another name for Sawdust or Wood Meal. Extremely fine wood powder, much finer than sawdust. Used as a filler and thickener for glue, occasionally as a fuel in Lance and Flash Compositions.


Xylene C8H10

CAS: 1330-20-7.

Polar Solvent for PVC and binder for plastic shells.


Zinc Dust Zn

MW: 65.3; CAS: 7440-66-6. Synonyms: Zinc powder, blue powder, granular zinc, LS 2, LS 6, Merrillite.

Used for smoke comps, rocket fuel (Micro Grain), Spreader Stars, Granite Stars. Gives a greenish flame. Zinc powder is very flammable. Stable. Incompatible with amines, cadmium, sulfur, chlorinated solvents, strong acids, strong bases. Air and moisture sensitive. Melting Point: 420° C; Boiling Point: 908° C; Density (g cm-3): 7.14.


Zinc Borate 2ZnO.3B2O3.3.5H2O FORMULA

MW: 434.62; CAS: 1332-07-6, 138265-88-0, 149749-62-2.

A white amorphous powder used in making smoke comps.


Zinc Carbonate ZnCO3

A white Zinc compound used in some Chlorate-based report comps and smoke formulas.


Zinc Chromate ZnCrO4 (Chromium Zinc Oxide, Zinc Tetraoxychromate)

Bright yellow powder used as a rocket fuel catalyst.


Zinc Oxide ZnO

MW: 81.37; CAS: 1314-12-2.

Used to produce white smoke and as a stabilizer. This is a white or yellowish powder used in some firework formulas. It has also found use as a thickening agent in Water Glass when a stronger pyro paste is desired.


Zinc Stearate Zn(C18H35O2)2

MW: 632.3; CAS: 557-05-1.

Used to aid pressing of smoke compositions, slightly increases the burning rate. White powder, with a greasy feel.


Zircronium Z

Used in some flash comps. Incredibly bright white sparks. Excellent for igniters.


Zirconium Carbide ZrC

MW: 102.23; CAS: 12070-14-3.

Burn rate catalyst, produces sparks.


Zirconium Hydride ZrH2

MW: 93.23; CAS: 7704-99-6.

Used in smokeless flash powder.


Zirconium Silicate ZrSiO4

CAS: 14940-68-2.

Used in Matrix Comet comps.


Zirconium Wool

Super bright-burning material. Used in photo flash bulbs, non-lethal flash grenades.

Edited by xetap
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Very cool! Man, now that is extensive.


Hey, I have seen some descriptions of Indian Black Al as 8 micron like the description above, yet Firefox lists "Indian Black" as 2 micron. Firefox also claims the Indian is superior to the German 5413H Super in performance. I have both types, and from what I can tell, the german 5413H seems to be slightly hotter. I've seen descriptions ranging from 2 to 8 micron on the Indian, and 3 micron on the German. Skylighter describes the Indian as 8 micron, other sites as 3-4 micron...


Firefox's descriptions-


"Aluminum - India Black, ground flake (2 micron) HOT!! - The finest aluminum made for flash mixtures. High order."


"Aluminum - German black, flake - 5413H Super - Made in Germany and burns slightly slower than the Indian black above."



Is there more than one type of Indian Black?

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Wow, great resource. Admire you for the effort!


Didn't read through the whole thing (just kind of skimmed) but did catch this.


Potassium Hydrogen Terephthalate

Used in tracer comps.



Also used by the Chinese for whistling compositions. (and by some American hobbyists who shall remain anonymous of course :P )

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  • 2 years later...

I just wanted to bring this thread back to the top for all of the new guys to read....



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Done. Please feel free to make any corrections and I can edit them in. I saw a few when I was rolling through the list, mostly minor things.
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Thanks Mum! I got one thing right today :whistle:





you did good



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  • 1 month later...
Wow, that had to be a huge project to put together. Just wanted to say a big thank you for your work. Is there any way APC could make this a perm. link from the main page?
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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 5 months later...
When you say that certain copper compounds decompose chlorates, do you mean as catalysts when burning or also over time during storage?
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When you say that certain copper compounds decompose chlorates, do you mean as catalysts when burning or also over time during storage?


Psssst! He hasn't posted here for a long time...

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  • 6 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...
Good post. It is a usually a tube containing a composition made using Potassium Benzoate, Potassium Salicylate, or rarely, Potassium Picrate as the fuel. On burning, the composition burns in a rapidly oscillating manner, and the resulting pressure waves are amplified by the tube in a manner similar to an organ pipe. Edited by Mumbles
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So does that mean you can vary the pitch by varying the length of the tube, thus you could (with enough patience) make singing fireworks..?
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So does that mean you can vary the pitch by varying the length of the tube, thus you could (with enough patience) make singing fireworks..?


In my experience, the pitch does not change much with the tube length, it is more the oxidizer and catalyst choices and combinations that make the sound change. Using different combinations in the same rocket or tube may create the singing firework you are looking for.



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  • 2 months later...
Thanks nice to have all chems in one post. Going to copy them to print if o.k. just to have at ease.
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Barium Carbonate BaCO3

MW: 197.35; CAS: 513-77-9.

Delay agent in glitter comps. Green color agent when the oxidizer is ammonium perchlorate with Chlorine Donor. Acid neutralizer in comps containing Potassium or Barium Chlorates. Used to reduce the burning rate of some compositions. Also used in Matrix Comet comps. White powder. Water Soluble. Melting Point: 1300° C; Density (g cm-3): 4.43.



Could not be practically considered water soluble, almost insoluble in water.


This is just a kind remark in order to improve the info. But I admire the job you did, very good work for this, it will be useful for anyone! :)

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  • 1 month later...

I typed this also because i often compare oxidizers for different reasons so i thought sharing would be nice :P

_____________________Solid Oxidizers_________________________



Note : All oxidizer's information are in Anhydrous form.



KNO3 (Potassium nitrate) (White powder)
Melting point :334°C
Boiling point :400°C (Decomp)
O :47.47%
Specific gravity :2.109
Average FT: 800-1600°C
Performance: Low-Medium.
Solubility: slightly soluble in ethanol, soluble in glycerol, ammonia, water.
High availability

NaNO3 (Sodium nitrate) (White powder)
Melting point :308°C
Boiling point :380 °C (Decomp)
O :56.47%
Specific gravity :2.257
Average FT: >KNO3
Performance: Low-Medium.
Solubility: very soluble in ammonia, water, soluble in alcohol.
Very hygroscopic
High availability

LiNO3 (Lithium Nitrate)(White power crystals)(Anhydrous)
Melting point :255°C
Boiling point :873 °C (Decomp)
O :69.62%
Specific gravity :2.38
Average FT: >NaNOE
Performance: Medium.
Solubility: soluble in methanol, water, pyridine, ammonia
Extremely hygroscopic
Low availability

Cu(NO3)2 (Copper(II) nitrate)
Melting point :256 °C (anhydrous, decomp) 114.5 °C (trihydrate)
Boiling point :873 °C (Decomp)
O :51.1828 %(Anhydrous)
Specific gravity : 3.05 (anhydrous) 2.32 (trihydrate)
Average FT: =NaNO3
Performance: Medium.
Solubility: Soluble in ethanol, ammonia, water; insoluble in ethyl acetate
Low availability

Sr(NO3)2 (Strontium nitrate) (gray powder) (Anhydrous)
Melting point :570°C
Boiling point :645°C (Decomp)
O :45.36%
Specific gravity :2.986
Average FT: =KNO3
Performance: Low
Solubility: soluble in ammonia,water, very slightly soluble in ethanol, acetone, insoluble in nitric acid
Slightly hygroscopic
moderately available

Ba(NO3)2 (Barium nitrate)(Milky white powder)
Melting point :592 °C
Boiling point :~ Decompose at melting point.
O :36.73%
Specific gravity: 3.24
Average FT: <KNO3
Performance: >Low
Solubility: insoluble in alcohol
Slightly hygroscopic
moderately available
Note: Greenish flame

NH4NO3 (White powder)(White)
Melting point :169.6 °C
Boiling point : Decompose at around 210
O :59.9652 %
Specific gravity :1.725
Average FT: >LiNO3
Performance: Medium-High
Solubility: soluble in water
Note:(change volume at various temperature). Detonable !
moderately available


KClO3(Potassium chlorate)(White powder)
Melting point :356 °C
Boiling point :400(decomp)
O :39.17%
Specific gravity: 2.34
Average FT: =KNO3
Performance: Low
Solubility: Soluble in glycerol, water. Negligible in acetone, liquid ammonia
Note: Shock sensitive, detonable.
High availability


KClO4 (Potassium perchlorate) (White powder)
Melting point :525 °C
Boiling point :600(decomp)
O :46.19%
Specific gravity: 2.5239
Average FT: 1500(Sugar) - 2000°C(Asphalt) - 3000°C(GD-Al powder)
Performance: Medium-High
Solubility: very poor in water, negligible in alcohol, insoluble in ether
None Hygroscopic
High availability
Note: Pressure sensitive, burn rate exponent^n High, high combustion temperature with Al.

NH4ClO4 (Ammonium perchlorate)(White powder)
Melting point :Exothermic decomposition before melting at >200 °C
Boiling point :^
O :54.4710 %
Specific gravity: 1.95
Average FT: 3100°C(APCP)
Performance: High
Solubility: Solubility soluble in methanol, partially soluble in acetone, insoluble in ether
Moderately available and hygroscopic.

LiClO4(Lithium perchlorate)(White powder)
Melting point :236 °C
Boiling point :430(decomp)
O :60.1527 %
Specific gravity: 2.42
Average FT: ~ 3200°C with GD-Al powder(LPCP)
Performance: High
Solubility: Soluble in most organic substances.
Extremely Hygroscopic!
Note: It has both the highest oxygen to weight and oxygen to volume ratio of all perchlorates.

NaClO4(Sodium perchlorate)(White powder)(Anhydrate)
Melting point :468 °C
Boiling point

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I'm glad that was useful, I'll get right on all those #'s.....
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  • 4 weeks later...
Holy shit that's a lot... Thanks xetap.
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thanks for bringing this up dag and mumbles if it was lost in the heap of threads i probably would have never read this
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