Learning more about fireworks
July 6, 2011 9:46 AM   Subscribe

How do I learn more about building and using fireworks?

My Independence Day was awesome! I am interested in possibly making my own fireworks, and also more about creating shows. How do I learn more about building them, short if driving up to the Zambell place? Is there a course I can take? What kind of safety regulations are there? Where do I buy the chemicals? Someone has to do this kind of thing professionally, how can that person be me?

Also, I don't want to be one of those jackasses who buys a bunch of stuff at the fireworks stand and just brings it to the neighborhood and shoots it off right in the middle of a bunch of houses. I'd like to do it right.
posted by I am the Walrus to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A location would be helpful, as pyro laws vary wildly by state.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:57 AM on July 6, 2011

The Pyrotechnics Guild International might be a good place to start - consider contacting them or joining.

Here's a link to their safety guidelines.
posted by dubold at 9:58 AM on July 6, 2011

Many years ago, back when USENET was popular, rec.pyrotechnics was a great place to hang out and ask questions. There was a canonical "how to build/create fireworks" book by some guy in Northern Virginia (Chantilly, maybe?) that was the bible for doing so.

But that's what covers making them as an amateur, and I was reading it pre-9/11, so no idea how laws have changed concerning acquiring chemicals etc.

As someone who's set off my own shows, you can be engineer like or artistry like - color themes, burst style/type, crackle/no-crackle, etc. The descriptions are fairly clear for what the burst is, the color, size, height etc,. So then it's a matter of stringing things together for the effect you want.

Or you can buy some of the larger repeaters that do most of the above (so you just sequence the repeaters as you want).

Everything else involves permits, insurance, local regs (distance from people, fire suppression on site, etc) possibly licensure..
posted by k5.user at 10:04 AM on July 6, 2011

Dirty Jobs did an episode on a Fireworks Technician. It looks awful, and you might blow yourself up as a bonus.

ATF has a page on fireworks.
posted by smackfu at 10:06 AM on July 6, 2011

Response by poster: mollymayhem: "A location would be helpful, as pyro laws vary wildly by state."

Orlando, FL
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:06 AM on July 6, 2011

The Skylighter blog is really amazing. Very detail-oriented discussion of fireworks. Here is the post that got me hooked, and is also an easy-to-understand and achievable beginner's project that can be modest or spectacular.
posted by gilrain at 11:09 AM on July 6, 2011

Unless you're talking about emptying the contents of a few Black Cats onto the pavement and lighting it, be careful.
posted by resurrexit at 11:18 AM on July 6, 2011

Absolutely, safety first in this hobby. However, it's actually less likely someone who has made a hobby of it and educated themselves well will hurt themselves than someone underestimating the danger of commercial fireworks they bought on a whim for the 4th.

It's a dangerous hobby, for sure. I'm not sure it's any more dangerous than skiing, though, or any other explicitly risky activity. As always, if you want to enjoy a dangerous hobby into your old age, you'd best become a safety freak.

As to your question of where to buy the chemicals, Skylighter, in addition to the blog I mentioned, also sells quite a few of the base components.
posted by gilrain at 11:37 AM on July 6, 2011

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