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Which way do I go?


w4cbl

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Hi guys! (and any gals here :) )

 

First, let me tell you a little about myself so you can see where I’m coming from and where I want to go. I consider myself an “advanced consumer” fireworks enthusiast. I buy about $1000-$1500 per year worth of the best consumer-grade canister shells and rockets I can find, driving to a warehouse in a neighboring state to get the best “bang for my buck”, firing them at any opportunity/holiday. A few years ago, I started using various fusing methods for timing, and this year, for the 4th, I finally built a simple 20 cue panel and bought Talon II igniters.

 

I am VERY safety-oriented! I have been a high-volume ammunition reloader for more than 30 years, and have a very good understanding of the dangers of explosive chemicals/compounds. I am experienced with electronics and computers, but I am NO scientist/chemist – nor do I wish to be. ;) I research things carefully and weigh every risk to the point of paranoia.

 

This year, while building/testing my firing panel, it occurred to me that maybe I could learn to “make” some of my favorite holiday sky paint. Uh oh! Thus began the information quest…

 

My problem is there is just too darn much information out there on pyrotechnics for me to absorb!

 

I want to: 1) Make quality BP, 2) make my own blackmatch and quickmatch, 3) make my own e-matches, and 4) eventually make my own canister shells and rockets with a variety of effects (including standard reports), similar to or slightly better than consumer grade.

 

Can any of you long-time pyro-junkies point me in a starting direction? Tools/supplies/parts? Good places to buy materials? Lowest-sensitivity comps to do the job(s)? (don’t want to use flash unless I must) Obvious dumb-azz gotchas to watch out for? I really don’t want to have to learn everything about pyro in order to decide how to do the limited things I want to do.

 

Can you help a brother out?

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For the BP, you will need a mill. A mill consists of a motor, a mill jar, rollers for the jar to sit on, and milling media to do the grinding. It is critical that the media be made of a non sparking material. One of the rollers is driven by the motor. Here is an example of a ball mill from Skylighter. I will add that fireworks aren't something that you should rush in to. I hate to say it, but I think you started too late to make stuff for the fourth this year. http://www.skylighter.com/images/newsletter/91/Neds-Ball-Mill.jpg Edited by pyrokid
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Welcome to APC, w4cbl! The heart of most pyrotechnics is black powder so making this item #1 is appropriate. There are many ways to make good BP and just as many variations in formula and processes to achieve your desired result. Blackmatch and quickmatch will be easier to do once you are satisfied with your BP.

 

There are many good online resources for information and supplies with a couple of suppliers offering black powder kits to get you started. I recommend www.skylighter.com for complete beginner tutorials plus supplies for many other projects besides black powder. Skylighters TurboPyro kit is geared towards novices in pyrotechnics and includes everything you need for at least 10 different pyro projects.

 

edit - just noticed the TurboPyro kit is out of stock. It was half price a couple days ago.

Edited by Bobosan
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Thanks for the replies! :D

 

For the BP, you will need a mill. A mill consists of a motor, a mill jar, rollers for the jar to sit on, and milling media to do the grinding. It is critical that the media be made of a non sparking material. One of the rollers is driven by the motor. Here is an example of a ball mill from Skylighter. I will add that fireworks aren't something that you should rush in to. I hate to say it, but I think you started too late to make stuff for the fourth this year.

 

I'm using consumer shells for the 4th. I made a simple firing panel, and am using some visco and homemade stickymatch (tape and smokeless gunpowder) for fast fuse to take care of timing. I also bought 48 1.91" fiberglas tubes and built several racks. That'll have to do for this holiday. New Years Eve, though, is a whole different story! :P

 

I'll be buying the 6lb ball mill from Harbor Freight and I am planning to use ceramic media.

 

Any tips for a good, consistent BP? Dou you granulate, or use rice hiulls/puff? I'm looking for as simple and safe yet effective as I can get.

 

Welcome to APC, w4cbl! The heart of most pyrotechnics is black powder so making this item #1 is appropriate. There are many ways to make good BP and just as many variations in formula and processes to achieve your desired result. Blackmatch and quickmatch will be easier to do once you are satisfied with your BP.

 

There are many good online resources for information and supplies with a couple of suppliers offering black powder kits to get you started. I recommend www.skylighter.com for complete beginner tutorials plus supplies for many other projects besides black powder. Skylighters TurboPyro kit is geared towards novices in pyrotechnics and includes everything you need for at least 10 different pyro projects.

 

edit - just noticed the TurboPyro kit is out of stock. It was half price a couple days ago.

 

Thanks for the info Bobosan. I have spent extensive time at Skylighter... but my investigations show them to be a bit overpriced. The ball mill is MUCH cheaper at harbor freight, and chems are higher too compared to some places I have seen. Comments?

 

I have the turbopyro.pdf and have read it several times. Any thoughts as to pumped vs. cut stars? Favorite effects?

 

Also, if I decide to do this full tilt, I'll get the ATF Manufacturer's License. Like to stay legal as well as safe! :unsure:

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In case you haven't seen it http://pyrosource.wikia.com is a great site (not sure how much he has back up yet)

yes bp is the first thing to do. Corning is said to be the most consistent type of bp for

obvious reasons, however I think that polveron (meaning mill dust that has been wetted and then screened) should be good enough. A cheese grater might be a good one to start out on as it is easer.

I would just get a piece of copper pipe and some wood rod to make a simple star pump and make some of the bp stars (that is once you have your bp working ok) and then make a 1.75 inch mine with the stars and if you can some flying fish fuse, it's sold at skylighter pyroplainet (well it was but they are down now) and several other places.

I don't like the idea of using smokless Powder for sticky match I just can't see it working very well at all. and make sure that the C media is spark free, I belive not all ceramic media is.

And as for skylighter check this out for what many people think of them

Why does Skylighters free shipping always have a BS catch

 

 

bob

Edited by bob
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In case you haven't seen it http://pyrosource.wikia.com is a great site (not sure how much he has back up yet)

yes bp is the first thing to do. Corning is said to be the most consistent type of bp for

obvious reasons, however I think that polveron (meaning mill dust that has been wetted and then screened) should be good enough. A cheese grater might be a good one to start out on as it is easer.

I would just get a piece of copper pipe and some wood rod to make a simple star pump and make some of the bp stars (that is once you have your bp working ok) and then make a 1.75 inch mine with the stars and if you can some flying fish fuse, it's sold at skylighter pyroplainet (well it was but they are down now) and several other places.

I don't like the idea of using smokless Powder for sticky match I just can't see it working very well at all. and make sure that the C media is spark free, I belive not all ceramic media is.

And as for skylighter check this out for what many people think of them

Why does Skylighters free shipping always have a BS catch

 

 

bob

 

Thanks for the reply, Bob. I may end of trying several BP granulation methods to see what works for me. I tried to make some QM with slow visco (all I had) 3 strands in a craft pipe. Went from 25 sec/foot for visco to 7 sec per foot for improvised QM. Pretty good but my stickymatch is made with surplus russian GP - pretty hot stuff and fires visco pretty well - and burns at 3 sec/foot. Not optimum but will work for this year.

 

I'll look into those links... Thanks again! :)

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Basically the couple of things you're talking about doing is pretty much everything there is lol.

Everyone that has commented so far is right about starting with BP. The harbor freight ball mill is good for small batches but if you're wanting to do anything more then you're gonna want a bigger mill.

For the black match and quickmatch as others on here stated once you get your bp forumla down all it is as am sure you know for the most part is cotton string ran through the meal powder and boom, there's your black match, wrap that in gummed paper and boom, there's your quickmatch.

As far as making e-matches I wouldn't worry about that. If you're just wanting to step up from Talon ignitors you can get real squibs/shrouded e-mathes with pyrogen super cheap from

http://happinessfireworks.en.alibaba.com/productgrouplist-210110090-3/Fireworks_igniters.html?isGallery=Y

Something like 2000 1meter length for $200 or you can get them from clubs and display companies.

As for making shells/rockets and the like you basically need to learn to make stars and need the tools to do them. One of the best places for that imo is http://www.wolterpyrotools.com/?page=linx

 

All that said you're on the right track, asking questions, doing research and the next logical step to me would be joining a club and also to check out http://passfire.com/Home/tabid/41/Default.aspx

 

It's one of the best resources for the manufacturing of pyro and they often do group buys for chemicals where you can get them far cheaper then just purchasing yourself.

 

Good luck and let us know how it all goes!

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I'll be buying the 6lb ball mill from Harbor Freight and I am planning to use ceramic media.

 

These are a good buy. Ceramic is used by many people for black powder. Verify it is good quality and non-sparking. I prefer hardened lead since I can cast my own.

 

Any tips for a good, consistent BP? Dou you granulate, or use rice hiulls/puff? I'm looking for as simple and safe yet effective as I can get.

 

Your HF ball mill is a good start. Make your BP batches with the ideal charge ratios (see Skylighter) for the 6lb mill jar and keep run times consistent. Charcoal type makes a BIG difference in BP performance.

 

Thanks for the info Bobosan. I have spent extensive time at Skylighter... but my investigations show them to be a bit overpriced. The ball mill is MUCH cheaper at harbor freight, and chems are higher too compared to some places I have seen. Comments?

 

Yup, they are pricey and shipping can be higher than the order sometimes. Skylighter has a lot of information and tips for novices and they are not the only game in town...shop around. Sometimes they have chems (usually because of price) where other shops are sold out.

 

I have the turbopyro.pdf and have read it several times. Any thoughts as to pumped vs. cut stars? Favorite effects?

 

Some stars could require certain method of creation depending on composition and/or what an individual might find easiest to do ie. pumped vs. cut vs. rolled.

 

Also, if I decide to do this full tilt, I'll get the ATF Manufacturer's License. Like to stay legal as well as safe! :unsure:

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Pastimepyrochemicals.com is a good source for chemicals.

Firesmithtools.com makes a nice line of pyro tools and has some good tutorials on the website.

http://wichitabuggywhip.com/fireworks/index.html is a good site for tutorials on black powder and pyro.

Danny Creagan has built the website, he is the current president of the Pyrotechnic Guild International.

There is a lot of good information on the site for making black powder and many other pyro projects.

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I'll second to use of kitchen grater to make Black powder in to rough grains. Using screens you size the granules formed after in to other grades. This powder is less dense, but generally faster burning than typical pressed and corned, and other than being easier to manufacture, its often superior performing. Add a binder (I use 2% Gum Arabic, but dextrin is standard)

 

Charcoal is the key to your black powder, other than effective ball milling. Good species include Willow, Paulownia, Alder, and most fast growing, soft, light wooded trees are quite good.

 

While you are making BP, I suggest you look in to making Tigertail stars. The formula is cheap, forgiving, very pretty and uses the same chemicals as Black Powder. While I encourage you to explore all the other star effects in your own time, for the shorter term this will give you something which, with string, paper, flour, clay and black powder (both the powdered form for rockets, fountains, inserts and for other mixes, and granulated for lift and burst) you can make Starmines, Fountains, Roman candles, Rockets, Wheels and shells, if you want.

 

Tigertail

 

44% KNO3

44% Charcoal

6% Sulfur

6% SGRS (you can replace this with dextrin)

 

I like to mill it for a short period of time (30 minutes) to get a lush tail of sparks.

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Thanks for the help Guys! I really appreciate it.

 

Wildcard, can I order those squibs prior to ATF licensing?

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Wildcard, can I order those squibs prior to ATF licensing?

 

That I would definitely check on before ordering. I will say I requested price quotes from them and they never asked for BATF license but I never actually made a purchase since I can just get them from local sources. I do know that if you are licensed they are required to be stored in a mag like any other pyro and records kept but from everyone I've asked I never really got a straight answer so I guess the next step would be to contact your local BATF agent and find out for sure. From what I've been told it's a grey area where they aren't supposed to be sold to anyone that doesn't have a BATF license but it's not illegal to possess them if you don't have a license. Again, DO NOT take my word on this as this is info that I've been told but I can't back it up. I guess like any info you get that's not straight from the horses mouth is to find out for sure. Maybe someone here can give you a better answer.

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If you make some screens and you buy finely powdered KNO3 you can make BP hot enough for some things like rockets and charcoal stars and probably even hot enough for black match/quick match. Might not be the fastest in the world but should be better than what you are using now. You can also use it to make BP rockets.

 

You can buy wood shavings that are used for pet bedding and using a couple new and empty paint cans and the TLUD method, you can make much better charcoal than you can buy at most places. This will help with your BP. You can also make good spark producing charcoal for stars.

 

You can make your own tooling for small BP rockets. You can easily make 3/8" rockets that will blow away anything commercial you buy. The bigger you get, the higher they go, and it is probably easier to buy your own tooling for 8 oz (5/8") and bigger. But smaller you just need some BP, cat litter for a nozzle, and you can even roll your own tubes from paper bags from the grocery store and wheat paste or dextrine which you can easily make from flour and corn starch.

 

Cut stars are also easy to make. You need a piece of pipe to roll the mixed chems into a patty and a thin 'knife' to cut them.

 

Basically, you can do a lot without a ton of tools. You just need to read up on the particular project and collect a few things and you can be making it by the weekend. You don't need a bunch of fancy tools to get started. And if you stick to BP and charcoal stars there isn't a lot to get in trouble with safety wise if you take a few precautions. Basically always wear a resperator and don't do anything where a spark can happen. If you work on a picnic table out in the yard, in the shade, you should be good on the last one if no electricity. Even a fan set up 10 feet away is OK.

 

You can find all the info you need for all these things, but if you want, ask about each project and we will walk you through it. This is basically how I got started. I also think rockets are a good place to start after you get some BP made. But black match is even easier. E matches can use some sensitive comps. If you don't feel like buying the chemicals, you can buy kits from FireFox and some other places. Good luck.

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Learn how to make BP probably by the kitchen grater method buy your own don't borrow one!

 

Don't make flash for the first year -til you become more competent.

Don't use chlorates, -ever if you can avoid it, -too many incompatibilities

 

Keep within the safe items for the show space that you have.

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Thanks FMB and Arthur for the advice.

 

I have a picnic table under a shade tree with no electricity nearby. I bought a grater <_< . I have various size screens on order.

 

I will avoid chlorates like the plague! :o

 

Does anybody have a non-flash ematch pyrogen recipe? I really hate to spend the money for a tiny amount of pyrogen in a kit, and I would just as soon avoid flash altogether if possible. I'm not afraid of it per se, I just like to err on the side of caution: The least-sensitive the comp, the better I like it!

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Bought igniters are more reliable.

 

Work in proper overalls. Cover your legs body and arms. Have a face shield if you can.

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Bought igniters are more reliable.

 

Work in proper overalls. Cover your legs body and arms. Have a face shield if you can.

 

I've got the proper garments covered... :)

 

Bought igniters are expensive.... they are more reliable that what? Non-flash pyrogens? Flash pyrogens?

 

My whole overall goal is to spend per year what I am spending now, yet have more/slightly bigger fireworks.

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You may get bigger fireworks, you will not get fireworks cheaper than from China.

 

I can buy a 3" shell for £2 as part of a box full but I cannot get the ingredients for that money, then there is the cost of hemis and tape, fuse etc and the time taken.

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Rolling your own is a labor of love! :D
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True, I want to learn how so that I can make slightly bigger than I can buy. However cheap the Chinese fireworks are, I hate paying retail markup.
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True, I want to learn how so that I can make slightly bigger than I can buy. However cheap the Chinese fireworks are, I hate paying retail markup.

 

I can tell you right now, just like brewing beer and many other DIY ventures, it will cost you much more to make your own fireworks than simply purchasing them (if you consider your time worth anything). From a cost standpoint, you're better off splitting an order with a few friends, and ordering by the wholesale case.

 

Another issue to think about is that bigger fireworks will require large mortars, more safety distance between your audience and the launch equipment, and will definitely get more attention.

Edited by FrankRizzo
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