A Basic Guide.
The fuel in a pyrotechnic composition is what is actually burning. Typical fuels include charcoal, aluminum powder,
magnesium powder, sulfur, and many other chemicals. As you learnt when
you were a kid; fire needs oxygen to burn, which brings us to
These are the chemicals that provide Oxygen for the fuels to burn. Typical oxidizers include potassium perchlorate. and potassium chlorate, potassium nitrate, ammonium perchlorate, barium nitrate (for green colors), and so on.
Here is a description of the various devices that are available and their
relative dangers. These are not the only effects available but they are the most
commonly used. Although they are also available as component powders these are
far too hazardous for general use. Never use home made pyrotechnics, only use
the ready-made devices.
More spectacular effects can be achieved by using combinations of the
different devices available. If you want two or more effects to be fired at the
same time, they should be wired up in parallel. You will probably need a bigger
power supply to fire them as well.
Rockets are typically made by ramming a clay nozzle into
a cardboard tube, then filling the tube with a propellant (typically
black powder), and further ramming that down to compact it. finally a
small bit of clay is rammed ontop of everything to prevent it from
burning in reverse.
As the name suggests these devices are small pots (normally made from
cardboard) partially filled with a powder of some type which is ignited to
produce the effect. Due to the fact that these pots are only partially filled,
there is a chance that the igniter may not be in contact with the powder which
may cause the pot not to function correctly. Where possible these pots should be
angled away from people to prevent injury and fired on a slight incline with the
igniter towards the bottom of the slope. A quick shake of the pot will make sure
that the powder is in contact with the igniter as shown below.
These are by far the most dangerous of the stage pyrotechnics. They launch a
powder as they are ignited causing bright flash and a puff of
smoke. Coloured flash pots are available in a number of different sizes.
Almost the same as a flash pot except they produce a rolling puff of smoke.
Once again they can be obtained in a number different colours. As a general rule
coloured smoke should be avoided however the coloureds smoke from these pots is
soon blown away and can be considered safe.
These look like a flash pot but when they are ignited they burn intense heat
and a choice of different coloured flare. They also produce white smoke which at
the time of use reflects the colour of the flare.
For the sake of a better description, these devices are "Bangers". They are
normally a black powder charge, encased in a cardboard tube. When fired will
produce a very loud bang. A number of different types and sizes are available.
Used in theatres all around the world these devices are relatively safe. It
is recommended that they are fired from inside a metal bin. This has two
effects. One is to amplify the sound and the other is to stop any flying
fragments from causing injuries. A number of sizes are available.
These are the big brother of the stage maroon and are used as bomb simulators
for battlefield effects. They must only be used outside with a safety radius of
at least 20m. Sizes 1 to 5 are normally available.
Used to simulate cannon fire such as for the 1812 Overture. These are black
powder charges bound in string and encased in glue to produce an ear splitting
'Boom!'. Once again, only for outdoor use.
These look similar to stage maroons but instead of a
bang they produce a high pitched whistle as the gas expands and
vibrates. Whistles are relatively safe and a great effect when used as
a trap or alarm. whistle mix is typically composed of potasisum
perchlorate and a benzoate or saylicate (both fuels).
Aerial shells are launched out of a mortar, being
propelled by a charge of black powder. The black powder burning ignites
a fuse on the shell, which then after a few seconds in the air ignites
a charge inside of the shell, which makes the shell explode, and also
ignites many small stars, which you see as the bright colored burning
pellets moving across the sky.
These are generally metal cylinders, that contain a smoke compound and an
igniter. When fired they produce a dense smoke screen and the metal body gets
very hot. They normally come as coloured smoke units. Coloured smoke is normally
poisonous and thus should be avoided. White smoke generators on the whole are no
more dangerous than normal wood smoke and thus can be used in large quantities.
If you want to use coloured smoke make sure the party will not be effected by
it, (place it downwind of them so that they do not have to enter the smoke and
keep an eye on the wind direction).