My fireworks adventures. Most recent at the top.
A blog about the fireworks I do each year. If the pictures will not load, it is probably because your work computer has a firewall blocking file share sites. I am using a Microsoft Live One Drive site for storing the pictures. My free web host wants monthly payments to host the pictures. One Drive is free. Sorry if they do not show up. Go home and look at it from there! The videos are YouTube, so that should work for most people, but they may be blocked too if you have a very strict work environment. If so, you should not be surfing the web to begin with.
July Fireworks 2020 | 2020 Fun B4 the 4th | Experimenting with Fireballs | Pittsville Fireworks 2018 & 2019 | A Water Canon | Dominator 1.4 Pro Test Fire | Using a P1200 Electronic Firing System | Creamora Fireballs
Mark Smeiska took about 870 pictures of the fireworks show. This is all of those pictures in order in just 30 seconds.
Same pictures but a little slower. This is about 5 pictures per second for a 3 minute video.
Setting things up. I did not have pictures after it was all out. Just a few during the setup.
The fork life is not something we want to do again. Next year I have a different plan for getting stuff 8 feet in the air.
The new 24 capacity mortar racks. My brother built these for me. I sent him a couple of pictures of some others and samples of the tubes. They are a great balance between size and function. They are heavy enough to keep from tipping, yet light enough that one strong person can carry them. 24 is a magical number since most shells come in boxes of 12 or 24. The angles are set so if there is one rack on either side of a field and they are about 40 feet apart, the inside row will cross each other in the sky, the next row will meet, the third row will spread a bit, and the last row will finish filling the sky with fireworks displays! 4 rows is also a magical number. The modules I use for electronically firing have 4 queues on each. By wiring one shell from each row each time, I use exactly one module and can move on to the next module.
The ones with no wires, they were already removed before the photo was taken, are HDPE 11 tubes, about 2 1/2" OD. The other rack is sized for 1.4Pro Dominator shell mortars. Those come preloaded and are 2 3/4" OD.
The new gas fireball mortars. My nephew made them for me. He used some scrap his dad had laying around. They all have about a 1 gallon capacity. The 6" is much more stable, but you use what you can get! The 4" ones will need a larger base added for next year. They are too unstable without digging a little hole to put them in so they don't tip over. From a usability point, the fireball looks the same from both sizes. The 4" ones are harder to load! The 3 1/2" weight is to zip tie the charge to so it doesn't float up. I made a long hook from an old wire hanger. I use it to lower the plate in place. Just have to dump it upside down to get it back out. I need to do something like that with the 6" also since it does not have anything on the bottom to hold the charge in place. For this year, I used silicon seal. I let it set for about 10 minutes and then loaded the water and gasoline. It not only stayed, but the cap is still glued in place. I will need to scrape it out and then maybe make a 4" plate to zip tie the charge like I do with the other mortars. 5 1/2" would be ideal, but why add that extra weight if I don't need to.
One more fireball test after arriving on site. This is one of the 4" x 19" mortar tubes. After that are a few mortar shell shots using the new racks and testing the angles. They are not perfect, but pretty good for a first run! It is a test, so ignore the comments about a loose wire and using the wrong queue numbers. The shells are Epic The Stache and Epic Thunder. I think the Thunder shells are better.
Next is the 30+ minute fireworks show except the finale. The camera was knocked off of the tripod at one point and then someone else recorded it. They flipped the phone sideways to try and get more in the frame. That makes it look weird. There were fires started down range on cakes that already fired. You will see a long pause as the first one gets put out.
The finale! The very last 30 seconds. The final fireballs are in this one. I think a portion of the finale is missing. My guess is the camera recording got stopped and this is when it was restarted.
More gasoline fireball experiments.
Prep work for the latest tests. This time I am using different bottles and using zip ties instead of duct tape. These bottles will fit a 4" mortar much better. Also made something heavy enough and stable enough to hold the bottles at the bottom of 4" mortars. I mixed half Fg and half FFg and then added just a tiny bit of titanium this time. I then filled bottles with 1.25 ounces of powder for 1 gallon of gasoline.
The first of 4 fireballs using the 10' mortar and only 1 gallon of gas. These are also the shorter and wider 2 ounce bottles. They are held in place with zip ties instead of duct tape.
The last 3 fireballs.
Pre-show set up.
Part 1 of the fireworks. I started in landscape mode. But, it was missing a lot so I stopped and changed over to portrait. Part 2 has most of the show.
Part 2 of the show.
I am hoping to have a couple of 4" tubes and a 6" tube for the 4th of July. Today was experiment day to see for myself how they work and try to learn from mistakes before the show. We did have one big mistake!
I used a 10" fiberglass water softener tank. I cut the bottom off about 18" up. It was buried in the ground because I did not know if it would handle the pressure or not. If there was catastrophic failure, it would go into the ground instead of all over the place. I added an 8" round 1/4" think steel plate at the bottom to help resist blowing the bottom out. In the end, it came out completely intact. It is still usable.
I had some 2 ounce and 4 ounce PET bottles. I epoxied an electronic igniter into the caps.
There were 3 experiments. I wasn't looking for a 10" tube in the long run, so only wanted to have 1 or 2 gallons of gas. Because of the larger diameter, I added more black powder since I was thinking more diameter would need a little more.
It is likely that we will do 4 more next weekend to make sure we know for sure what went wrong this time so it does not happen again. When I did cremora fireballs, a mistake was just a mess. This time it was ground covered in gasoline. That is bit more dangerous.
This video is the pieces used before anything was ignited.
Very short video of digging the hole. I wish I was better at these things so I could marge this with the next 3 videos into one.
About 1.5 ounces of FFg black powder and 1 gallon of gas. I think we had more than 1 gallon though.
About 3 ounces of FFg black powder and 2 gallons of gas. Major failure. After a lot of thought and some testing of the PET bottles, caps, epoxy, and duct tape soaking in gasoline, we determined the cap must not have been screwed on tight enough and the powder got too wet to create enough of an ignition source. I still expected the fire to be on the ground since there was some explosion, but instead we just had gas everywhere.
About 3 ounces of Fg black powder and 2 gallons of gas. 1Fg is a bigger grain and is supposed to give more lift. Unfortunately, we did not get to see how well Experiment 2 went to compare with.
These are the 2018 and 2019 City of Pittsville fireworks shows. Really well done. Not so much competition since they have a lot of 1.3 (professional) fireworks that I do not have access to. However, this year there will sadly not be a show. Some really cool fireballs in both. More in 2019 near the beginning. Both have fireballs in the last AC/DC song when ever they say "Fire!"
A water fire extinguisher, aka water canon. It will be perfect for putting out smoldering cakes before they turn into a fire. Yeah, I broke my own rule about portrait videos! But it seemed appropriate since this it taller than it wide.
May 2020 Last of my 2019 cakes.
This is Clustering Cicada, Breakthrough, and Thirsty Thursday. The start is a bit funny since I forgot to turn the transmitter on. All of these are cakes that had failures lighting last year. The second one is a Breakthrough that had fired off all but the last 5 tubes. I added new fuse to light the rest of the tubes, so it is a short fire. I rotated the camera in the middle to try and do portrait mode since they were going higher than landscape could handle. That ended up being sideways. It looks kind of weird!
One each of RED PEONY, BLUE PEONY, WHITE PEONY, GREEN PEONY, RED STROBE PEONY, WILLOW TO COLOR TIPS, BROCADE TO RED TIPS, RED RING, and BLUE BOWTIE. They went higher than we expected. The first one gets out of frame because of that.
Some pictures of the Mortars and Shells.
Here are some pictures of the electronic firing system.
This first one was using a single talon igniter and some sticky match to light 2 things at once.
The 2nd one is putting 2 fuses in a single talon. It failed. The talon style igniters are easily broken and do not like having 2 things at once.
The 3rd test is the same as 2. I was more careful putting the 2 fuses in and it worked. I still don't recommend doing that as it does add risk of failure.
I have decided that I like the cheaper ematches available direct from china on ebay. They are more reliable and easier to use. The talons also had a problem with the resistance being too high sometimes. That made them fail to light. I got in the habit of measuring resistance after clipping the talons. About 1 out of 20 were to high and I tossed them out concerned they would not light.
The first year using the P1200 electronic firing system.
We used what we had! I had a lot of sticky match so we used it. It works most of the time. I would not recommend it as there is much more reliable fuse material. Part of the fun is trying things and seeing how they work.
Pictures of each cluster of fireworks.
I did not have a roller, and just pressed it through a screen and then dried it.
I used a method I found online that involved mixing the ingredients and then using spirit of gum, or something like that. It's been a few years and the exact recipe is lost to time. I made a paste and pressed it through some 1/2" screen. I made a dryer for the moist powder using pizza boxes. I cut a large hole in the top and bottom of each and duct taped nylon screen in the bottom of each. I put the wet powder "cubes" on the screens and taped 5 boxes on top of each other. I taped those to a larger square box on the bottom. I cut a hole in the side of the box and put a ceramic heater in the hole to blow warm air into the box. That rose through the pizza boxes and dried the powder. I left that to run overnight outside. The tree nearby ended up with yellow "sulfur" powder all over it. The yard smelled like sulfur for a week after that! It kind of worked, but the powder crumbled too much to easily. A roller would do a much better job. I wasn't planning to do a lot of this, so wasn't investing in the hardware. Just wanted to know what was involved and see if I could make black powder. Besides, I wanted lift powder most of all, and that requires a lighter charcoal than what I was able to find.
We used it to make cremora Fireballs. I added some regular gun black powder (FFg) since I did not have enough for the last big one.
This is a video adding some cremora over the top of the powder in the first test.
Test number 1.
Put some black powder in the bottom of the coffee can.
Poke a hole in the side and insert a fuse. The fuse in the first picture is not what I ended up using. That one was too short.
Bury in the ground. Put some toilet paper over the powder.
Add some cremora. I added some stars and powder from a failed shell. Add more cremora.
Here are the videos of the lighting of a couple of tests using the coffee can.
The first can test. It was just FFg to set as a baseline. We had some shells that were duds and added a couple of stars to it.
Cremora Fireball Test 1.
This is the second test. I used the home made black powder and double the amount of the test one. Also had some more stars from duds mixed in.
Fireball with Homemade Powder Double With Stars.
A 3rd test. This one used the lift powder from commercial shells. I salvaged it and wanted to see if it was any better. This is a smaller amount. It was not as good. It needed more powder.
Salvaged lift powder from shells that did not light.
This is the field for the larger show the year I did the fireball finale.
A short sample of the fireworks show. We were still hand lighting things back then.
Setting up the big 5 gallon pail for a fireball.
Here is a video of that 5 gallon fireball. It is more like a torch, but still impressive. The fuse is really long, so there is a lot of darkness in the clip. This is the finale. A 5 gallon pail with a couple of inches of black powder, a mix of home made and FFg. Then about 8 inches of goat milk powder since cremora was a bit more expensive.
I also ride a motorcycle.
One year our HOG chapter was in a 4th of July parade. When others were tossing candy around we were tossing small boxes of snap-pops. The kids love them!