I can't even count how many people
have told me stories of how they loaded a shell into the mortar incorrectly,
only to have it explode and blow burning stars and debris all over the place and
into the spectators. I've also witnessed many cases where a firework that
wasn't braced properly tipped over, shooting its effects at people and starting
things on fire. The tips here outline how to properly use each type of
firework, including how to brace the more powerful items to prevent them from
For safety, always
place tall repeaters within a concrete cinder block or surround it with bricks
so there's no chance of it tipping over. Shorter, fat repeaters are pretty
stable themselves, but they should still be braced just in case. The fuse
is always located somewhere on the side of the device.
All artillery shell kits come with
one or more mortar tubes, which should always be braced before launching
shells.. You can do this several ways: bury it in dirt, stack
rocks/bricks around the mortar, or build
a mortar rack.
Shells are packaged with their
fuses wound up over the top. To fire one, carefully unwind the fuse, and
lower the flat end of the shell into the mortar. This is the lift charge -
it needs to be facing down so the explosion it creates will lift the shell out
of its tube. NEVER STAND OVER OR LOOK INTO THE TUBE.
Shells shoot up at several hundred feet per second - not something you want to
get hit in the face with should it accidentally ignite. Fuses on aerial
shells burn more than two times faster than regular visco, so light the fuse and
run away quickly. Before firing another one, wait about 30 seconds, then
turn the tube upside down and kick it or hit it against the ground to empty out
any burning debris (if there was something still burning in the tube, there's a
chance of it immediately igniting the lift charge of the next shell you load
in!). The shell should fit into the tube with no more than 1/8 inch or so
between it and the tubing. If there is too much space, the gas will escape
and the shell will not go as high. When a shell bursts, everything inside
burns up. The only "fallout" that comes back to earth are
harmless little strips of the paper casing
Firecrackers come in long strings
that are made of braided gray fuses, but law requires them to have a
slow-burning piece of visco fuse on one end - this is the fuse that you light,
because it gives you time to run away. Don't light the gray fuses.
For best effect, tie them up or use them together with strobes.
light and throw firecrackers from your hand. The
fuse sometimes burns more quickly than usual, which can turn into a real nasty
experience when it burns your hand or fingers. A great deal of
fireworks related injuries result from this. Don't risk it.
These type devices also require a
very flat surface to launch from. It needs to spin around freely just long
enough to create lift and take off. Most of the time
they can take off if placed on asphalt, but it's better to use a flat
plywood "launch pad". It's also crucial that you position such devices
correctly so they actually become airborne instead of flopping around randomly
on the ground. Usually they have "this side up" written
somewhere on them, but if they don't, just look for the fuse hole. Follow
the fuse and find where it enters the tube of the device, and make sure that
hole is facing towards the ground. This assures that when it starts
thrusting, it will spin in the right direction.
seem tame, they should still be either glued down to a piece of wood or braced
The fuse can
always be found on the very top (you might have to dig under sever layers of
tissue paper), as opposed to on the side like a repeater.
All ground spinners need a flat
surface to move around on. Tube type devices such as "Ground Bloom
Flowers" can easily spin around on asphalt or even compacted dirt, but
circular type devices need a flat surface such as a piece of plywood or a metal
Since there are
hundreds of types of novelties, the fuse is never in any certain spot, but it's
not hard to find. Moving novelties have tiny, sensitive wheels that can
easily get caught in the indentations found in asphalt - it's best to use them
on a piece of plywood so they have the freedom to move.
tubes contain a powerful lift charge and therefore need to braced with rocks or
bricks to prevent them from tipping over. The fuse is always located at
the bottom of the tube near the base.
usually have a wooden base with enough surface area and weight to prevent it
from falling over, but it's still a good idea to put a few bricks on the base
anyways. The fuse can be found at the bottom of the tube near the base.
Both bottle rockets and
skyrockets should be launched from a plastic or metal pipe aimed at no more than
20 degrees from vertical. Set the rocket at the end of the pipe so that
the stick goes in but the body and fuse stays out. Never launch rockets by
sticking them in the ground - most of the time they will tip over an shoot off
horizontally, or remain stuck in the ground and blow up.
Missiles much be launched with
extreme care. In the first few milliseconds of lift-off, the device is
aerodynamically unstable because it is not yet traveling fast enough for the
fins to stabilize its flight. Since it is during this time that the
missile is most likely to tip over, it must be launched from a very flat, level
surface. Even so, you need to be prepared to run once you light the
fuses of one of these.
The fuses on these devices can
be found at the end up the tube opposite the nose cone. Sometimes they're
buried under layers of tissue paper or a plastic cone that must be removed.
Don't just light the tissue paper on fire - the flame may ignite the fuse too
close to the nozzle, giving you almost no time to retreat.
Roman candles can be stabilized by
sticking sticking them in the ground, in piles of rocks, propping them up with
bricks, taping them to something secure, or putting them in a short pipe (like
one that is used to launch rockets).
candles are another firework that people think are safe to hold. DO
NOT hold them. Roman candles have a very
complex and fragile construction. Even a slight bend or malfunction with
the tube could cause a star to get jammed, igniting the rest of the composition
and causing a blowout through the side, which could severely burn your hand.
The fuse can be pretty difficult
to find because it's usually very short and is buried under the wrapper at one
of the ends. Tear the wrapper off at each end until you find it.
Sparklers are the only type of
firework that are meant to be held. There are two types - metal rod and
stick. The stick type is much safer because it burns away harmlessly,
whereas the metal rod type leave behind a glowing red-hot piece of metal.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT,
give sparklers to young children! Parents often give sparklers to their
toddlers under the impression that they're "safe". But the tips
can burn at up to 1000º. They can cause horrible 3rd degree burns, and
are responsible for a large number of fireworks-related injuries. Small
children will often try to cup their hand over the burning end.
Candle" sparklers are safe to hold, but reader Joe Zastrow warns that they
can emit quite a powerful spray of sparks, and can sometimes burn all the way
down to the very end, which could scorch the fingers of a distracted pyro - so
don't hold them too long!
should always be lit on the ground, never in the hand. They seem harmless,
but if the pressure inside of a burning smoke bomb got too high, it can explode
with quite a bit of force. This hasn't been known to happen very often,
but there's always a chance that something could go wrong during manufacture.
Also, be sure to use them in an area free of flammables. If something gets
in the way of the jet hole, it will create a torch-like flame instead of smoke,
which can start things on fire.
fuses are easily found sticking out of the top (like on the background of this
page), and canister smoke grenades always have their fuses on one of the ends.
The best advice for
snakes: don't eat the pellets. A kid did this a few years back after
buying snakes from a store, and ended up getting quite sick..
usually look like little cupcakes with a stiff fuse sticking out of the top.
They produce intense bursts of heat which can actually dry out and ignite wet
flammable materials. Keep them away from anything that could burn.
Never look directly at the bright flashes of light because of risk of possible
Make sure wheels
are securely attached to their supports so they don't fly off when you ignite
them. Sometimes they come with a nail taped to the packaging. Put
the nail through the center hole and hammer it as far as you can into a piece of
wood without restricting the devices ability to move. The fuse can be
found at the end of one of the drivers. Never ignite a fuse that runs
between two drivers - their thrusts may cancel each other out and prevent it