Spectacular Fireworks (Aug, 1936)

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Spectacular Fireworks

By STANLEY STEWART

IN making fireworks, if the experimenter will always remember that he is dealing with explosives that may pop off at any moment, and therefore exercises constant caution, the various spectacular night displays outlined in the accompanying article are not any more dangerous than playing with matches. At all times, care must be exercised in grinding the ingredients. Always use a clean mortar; always powder each chemical separately; when mixing, dump the required portions on a sheet of dry paper and use a wooden spatula, or gently rock the contents of the paper back and forth. Although the author is only fifteen years old he has been making fireworks for years and has not yet had one of them go off accidentally. The formulas contained in this article have all been tried and tested, and will be found to work perfectly.

Aerial Maroon To make a mortar, fill a 5″ by 1″ cardboard tube at least 1/8″ thick and to the depth of 1/2″ with plaster of Paris. When dry, punch a hole in the tube large enough to accommodate a salute fuse, just above the plaster.

Two kinds of propellant may be used—either flashlight powder or rifle powder. (See note at end.) To make a shell, use a tube 2″ high with a diameter slightly less than that of the mortar. Seal to the depth of 1/2″ with plaster of Paris, leaving through the plaster a hole large enough to accommodate the type of fuse used in roman candles. When dry, place 1/2″ of flashlight powder in the shell.

To make the flashlight powder: 2 parts potassium perchlorate (NOT potassium chlorate) and 1 part red phosphorus. Fill rest of the shell with plaster of Paris; when this is dry, place it, fuse-end down, on a spoonful of flashlight powder in the mortar. Pack a wadding of paper on the top of the shell.

If you do not wish to prop up the mortar with bricks, paste a cardboard disc on the bottom of the mortar.

American Beauty Bomb Use an 8″ by 1-1/2″ mortar and 5 spoonfuls of flashlight powder propellant.

To make the shell, use a cardboard tube 3-1/2″ high, the diameter slightly less than that of the mortar. Paste a cardboard disc on one end of the shell. Fill the shell with this compound: one part sulphur, 2 parts powdered charcoal, 3 parts strontium chlorate, mixed with shellac to form a paste.

Place the shell in the mortar, sealed end up. Add paper wadding.

Aurora Rocket Fasten with wire an 8″ x 1″ cardboard tube to a wooden stick 48″ long, and fill the tube with plaster of Paris to the depth of 1″; leaving in the plaster of Paris a hole 3/4″ in diameter. Run a fuse through this hole; and pack paper around it to secure the fuse. On top of the plaster of Paris, place the following compound to the depth of 4″: 2 parts of potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 3 parts powdered charcoal, 2 parts powdered emery. Then add plaster of Paris to the depth of 1″ leaving through the middle a fuse hole in which to run a black-powder fuse. Add 1/2″ flashlight powder, then 6 “Star-balls.”

To make the star-balls, mix with shellac, to form small balls, 2 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 1-1/2 parts powdered moth-balls, 1 part powdered iron.

Add 1″ plaster of Paris.

Battle In the Clouds Put flashlight powder propellant to the depth of 1″ in any size mortar. Place on top two rolled-up strings of Chinese firecrackers, and add paper wadding.

Cannonade Shell Into a mortar 18″ x 2″, put 2″ of rifle powder. Use a cardboard tube shell, 8″ high and slightly less in diameter than the mortar. Run a 9″ black powder fuse through the shell, leaving 1″ outside. Put a 1″ plug of plaster of Paris in the bottom of the shell. Add 1″ of flashlight powder; then a 1″ plug of plaster of Paris; another inch of flashlight powder, and so on to the end of the shell. Place the shell, fuse-end down, in the mortar. Fill to the top with paper wadding.

Combination Chainlight Shell Make three cardboard tubes, 2″ long and Y2″ wide. Put a cork in the end of each. Tie them on a string so that they will be twelve inches apart. Fill the first tube with 2 parts of strontium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered charcoal. Fill the second tube with powdered charcoal (2 parts), 2 parts barium chlorate, 1 part powdered sulphur. Fill the third tube with 4 parts potassium chlorate, 2 parts sulphur, 2 parts powdered copper, 1-1/2″ parts copper sulphide, 3 parts black copper oxide. Mix each filler with shellac and press into its tube. When they harden, group the tubes in your hand, with the string end up. Place them in a mortar just large enough to accommodate them; pack parachute and string on top of the tubes, and add paper wadding. Use black-powder propellant.

Dragon Rocket Use a mortar with diameter slightly larger than that of a large spool, and a flashlight powder propellant. Paste cardboard over one end of a large spool. Mix 2 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 1 part powdered emery, 2 parts powdered iron with shellac, and press into the spool hole. When dry, place in mortar over 2 spoonfuls of flashlight powder, with the cardboard end up. Add 2″ of paper wadding.

Emerald Bomb Make this like the American Beauty Bomb, but substitute barium chlorate for strontium chlorate.

Flitter Bomb Make like the American Beauty Bomb, except for powdered iron instead of powdered charcoal, and potassium chlorate for strontium chlorate.

Fiery Tail Salutes Make like the American Beauty Bomb, but substitute potassium chlorate for strontium chlorate. Before putting the compound in the shell, place three firecrackers in the bottom of the shell.

Golden-Star Mine Candle Effect As golden-star roman candles are not sold, you will have to make such candles. Use two old roman candle tubes 12″ long, and be sure the interiors of the tubes are clean; fill each tube to the depth of 1/2″ with plaster of Paris. When dry, punch a hole in the side of each tube, just above the plaster of Paris, and insert a salute fuse in each hole. Put 1/2″ of rifle powder in the bottom of each tube, and one golden star on top; pack 1/2″ of filler powder on top of the star. On top of this, pack 1/2″ of rifle powder, add one golden star; then put in another 1/2″ of filler powder, and continue in this manner until you have reached the top of the tubes.

Make the stars in cylinder shape, 1/2″ long, the diameters should be slightly less than the inside of the tubes. Mix the following compound with shellac to form a very thick paste: 2 parts sodium chloride, 1 part napthalene, 4 parts powdered charcoal, 4 parts potassium chlorate.

Filler Powder Mix lightly the following on a sheet of paper: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 2 parts iron (reduced by hydrogen), 1 part sulphur.

(Before filling the tubes burn small samples of the filler powder on an iron plate, to make sure that no residue is left after burning. If there is, vary the quantities of the chemicals in the filler powder until no residue is left.) For mortar, use a cardboard tube 12″ high, 2″ wide. Cut a disc of wood 1/2″ thick, to fit snugly in the bottom of the mortar. Drive 8 tacks through the cardboard tube into the wooden disc, and punch 2 holes opposite each other in the mortar just above the disc. Use strong glue to fasten the roman candles on the outside of the mortar, so that the two fuses will protrude through the two holes in the mortar. Put 2″ of black powder in the mortar, next, 15 golden stars; pack 6″ of paper wadding on this. Cut a piece of film 4-1/2″ long and 1/2″ wide. Glue, with shellac, each end of the film strip over the top of each roman candle.

Bury this mortar half-way in the ground. Light the strip of film exactly in the middle. After the candles have quit shooting, do not approach until the mortar has fired. Do not shoot under a tree or overhead obstruction.

Jewel Mine Make two roman candles as described for the Golden Star Mine, only using the following 12 stars in each candle. To make all the stars, mix the compound with gum arabic in water to form a paste.

First Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 3-1/2 parts powdered charcoal.

Second Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 3 parts powdered iron.

Third Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered antimony, 2 parts powdered arsenic.

Four Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts sodium chloride, 1 part sodium nitrate.

Fifth Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered indigo.

Sixth Star: 3 parts strontium chlorate, 1 part Sulphur, 2 parts powdered charcoal.

Seventh Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 1 part barium nitrate, 1 part barium hydroxide.

Eighth Star: 3 parts barium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered charcoal.

Ninth Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts black copper oxide.

Tenth Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered copper.

Eleventh Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 1-1/2 parts powdered copper, 1-1/2 parts copper sulphide.

Twelfth Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts lime.

Substitute one of each of these stars in the mortar, in place of the Golden Stars.

Iris Bomb Obtain a mortar 12″ high and 1-1/2″ wide. Put 1-1/2″ of rifle powder in the bottom, and on this 12 stars, 6 of Composition A and 6 of Composition B. Composition A: Mix with shellac to form a paste, 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered copper. Composition B: Mix with shellac to form a paste, 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered aluminum. On top of the stars, pack 5″ of paper wadding.

Magnesium Bomb Use a mortar 12″ high and 2″ wide. Fill to the depth of 11/2″ with flashlight powder. On this place the following shell: Fill a cardboard tube size 1″ x 3″ with the following: 1 part sulphur, 3 parts potassium chlorate, 2 parts magnesium (size of confetti), 2 parts gum arabic. Moisten with water and press into the tube. Paint, with ordinary house paint, over one end of the tube; and place the painted end up in the mortar. Pack in 3″ of paper wadding.

National Color Bomb Drill three holes, 1″ in depth and 1″ in diameter, in a “two by four” 12″ long. One hole should be 2″ from one end; another 2″ from the other end, and the third hole in the middle. Fill to the depth of 1″, with plaster of Paris, three cardboard tubes 12″ high and 1″ wide. When dry place tubes, plaster of Paris-end down, in the three holes. Punch two holes opposite each other, just above the plaster of Paris in each tube. Run a continuous black powder fuse through all holes except the last, and plug this with a match stem. Put 1/2″ of rifle powder in the bottom of each tube. In tube 1, place a red star, in tube 2 a white star, and in the other tube place a blue star. On top of each star place 1″ of paper wadding. (Directions for making stars under Jewel Mine.) Parachute Bomb (Apple Green) Make a mortar 12″ high with a diameter slightly larger than a 1-ounce pill can, remove lid and tie a small green parachute to the bottom of the can. Fill the can with this compound: 4 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 3 parts barium hydroxide, 2 parts barium nitrate, 2 parts gum arabic. Moisten with water and press into can. When dry, place can, open end down in mortar. Pack parachute on top of can. Pack 3″ of paper wadding on top of this. Be sure to fire this in open country.

Sapphire Bomb Like Magnesium Bomb, but substituting lycopodium for chips of magnesium.

Serpent Mine Use 24 empty .22 caliber cartridges, long-rifle. Moisten black powder and gum Arabic and press into the cartridges. Substitute the cartridges for the stars in the Golden Star Mine.

Serpent Shell Like Aerial Maroon, but substitute the cartridges, as in Serpent Mine, for half the powder in the Aerial Maroon shell.

Shooting Star Rocket Like Aurora Rocket, but substitute varied colored stars as described for Jewel Mine in place of the fire balls of Aurora.

Geysers Make a sharp-pointed wooden cone, with a base 1-1/2″ in diameter. Obtain a very thick-walled cardboard tube, 2″ in diameter and 1 foot long, and cut 4 cardboard discs that will fit over the end of the tube. Glue 2 of these discs together, and glue this on one end of the tube; then glue the wooden cone on this. Stick the pointed wooden cone in the ground. Put a firecracker in the bottom of the tube, and cover with 1″ of rifle powder. On top of this put 1-1/2″ of the following compound: 2 parts potassium chlorate,1-1/2 parts lithium nitrate, 1 part sulphur, 1-1/2 parts powdered charcoal. Then fill the rest of the geyser with the following compound: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 2 parts iron (reduced by hydrogen), 1 part sulphur. Glue together the other two cardboard discs; punch a hole 1/2″ in diameter in the center and glue this on the end of the geyser. Be sure the powder comes right up to the hole. Cut a piece of friction tape, 1″ square, and stick this over the hole. To fire, pull off the tape, light the powder at long range, and step back quickly.

Hanging Chain Rocket Make a rocket as described in the Aurora Rocket; but leave out the “Star-balls” and substitute parachute and lights as described for the Combination Chain Light Shell. In order to fire all the rockets, bury a narrow bottle up to its neck in the ground and place the end of the rocket stick in this. Never shoot the rockets described in this article at an angle.

Parachute Bomb (Silver Flare) Make like above, but with this compound: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 2 parts powdered magnesium, 1 part sulphur.

Parachute Rocket (Red Star) Same as Aurora Rocket but substitute for the golden star-balls the following: 3 parts strontium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered charcoal.

Parachute Rocket Special Effect Make exactly like Aurora Rocket except for star-balls. In place of them, use a cardboard tube 3″ long and 3/4″ wide. Fill to the depth of 1/2″ with plaster of Paris. Punch a hole 1/4″ in diameter just above the plaster of Paris, and fill the hole with a mixture of black powder and shellac. When this is dry, fill the tube to the depth of 2″ with the following compound: 3 parts powdered iron, 2 parts sulphur, 5 parts potassium chlorate. Fill the rest of the tube with plaster of Paris. Tie a string around the middle of the tube. Attach string to a small parachute. Place tube, hole-end down, in rocket, pack parachute on top of tube, and put a cork in the end of the rocket.

Ruby Bomb Like as Magnesium Bomb but with strontium chlorate instead of potassium chlorate.

Reporting Star Mine Use a heavy cardboard tube, 1″ wide and 48″ long. Fill to the depth of 1-1/2″ with plaster of Paris. When dry, put 1″ of rifle powder in the tube. Place one reporting star (see below), with open end down on this. Add 1-1/2″ of filler powder. Place 1″ of rifle powder on this and one reporting star and 1-1/2″” of filler powder. Continue in this manner to the top of the tube.

How To Make Reporting Stars Use a cardboard tube 1/2″ in diameter and 2″ long. Cover a baby Chinese firecracker with glue, and place fuse-end down in tube. Fill the space around the firecracker with plaster of Paris. Fill the space above the firecracker with a mixture of black powder and gum arabic, slightly moistened with water.

(NOTE—Since the above was put in type, Mr. Stewart has added other information, as follows: “The ‘rifle’ powder I use is taken from 16-gauge shotgun shells; it is smokeless and burns rapidly. The pasteboard tubes are about 0.2″ thick, but exactness is not important. They come from packages, etc.; the best are those upon which oilcloth comes rolled. Reduce the quantity of potassium chlorate in the filler powder if it leaves a gummy residue; too much iron may do so also. I do not advise shooting up more than a 1-1/2″ snuff can full of powder; a larger can may be still burning when it lands. I find that gum arabic and water is better than shellac for stars, etc. A good quick burning fuse is made by dissolving 2 oz. of potassium chlorate in 150 cc. of boiling water, and soaking 1/2″ strips of blotting paper in this; then dry. For the apple-green parachute bomb, use ‘rifle’ powder or this; 3 parts potassium chlorate, 2 parts charcoal, 1 part sulphur”)

3 comments
  1. FFagal says: July 5, 20083:31 am

    I wonder if the author is still alive ?? Stanley Stewart was only 15 years old when he wrote this ! Amazing….

  2. Eliyahu says: July 5, 200811:07 am

    If anyone tried this today, he’d end up with the State Patrol bomb squad emptying his workshop while he tried to make bail…

  3. Jim Devlin says: July 5, 20081:46 pm

    “Third Star: 3 parts potassium chlorate, 1 part sulphur, 2 parts powdered antimony, 2 parts powdered arsenic”

    And we worry about kids these days experimenting with substances…

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