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The Westech Fireworks Manual.

Bill Schmidt has "re-created" a book called the Westech Fireworks Manual that I think ranks among the most useful fireworks craft manuals ever done. Here is what he has to say about it:

"This work came into being as the result of my desire to preserve the information contained in the original Westech pyrotechnic course. I first became aware of the Westech literature while scanning the ads in the back of Popular Science in the early 1970's and similar magazines for fireworks, chemicals, and fireworks related literature. I’m sure that many of you also did this, and remember companies named Ecco Products, Caseco, and Bilton Products that dealt in chemicals, casings, and other pyrotechnic supplies.

One company's ad in particular caught my eye, and that was Westech’s run by Ralph Degn. Ralph had a way with words, and his descriptions of the literature he had for constructing various pyrotechnic components and devices were just what I was looking for. I remember reading the description from Ralph’s L-101 Basic Pyrotechnic Manipulations - "Contains essential and preliminary information needed in order to construct all types of fireworks. Contents include types of paper used in casings; how to make wet-rolled, dry-rolled, and other types of casings; pyrotechnic quality paste; various formulas for priming, and how to apply it correctly; how to make black match, quick match, and meal powder; important operations such as mixing, nosing, charging, ramming, driving, etc., are fully explained, plus a completed list of safety precautions. Absolutely essential for beginners, and highly informative to professionals. $1.50 Postpaid!"

Wow! How could anyone with even a passing interest in fireworks let this go by? And this was only the beginning. There were treatises on exploding fireworks, wheels and revolving pieces, ground displays, and aerial shells. The list was seemingly endless. And needless to say, I was sold. I bought most of the literature in the series back in the early 70s. And though by today’s standards, the hand drawn illustrations and small type made these reports seem rather crude. However the information contained in them was very good and informative. As you may well imagine, over the past 30 years the originals I bought began to deteriorate. I tried in vain to contact Ralph Degn and buy another set but no luck. I ran ads on the internet, asked old timers, but no one knew where he was. Since it appeared that the only way to preserve this information was to use a computer and retype the text and redraw the graphics, I undertook the project in 1997.

It took me a little over two years to redo the entire set of Westech Literature. I retyped each article in Microsoft Word and redrew the original hand-drawn graphics in Adobe Illustrator. Many of the graphics I drew in full color, which really sets this book apart from the current pyrotechnic literature.

This is the complete unabridged collection of work originally created by Degn. Where the original reports were sold individually, I have compiled all of them into a book of about 180 pages complete with a table of contents and list of figures and tables. It contains all literature in the L-101 through L-106D series. Additionally, all the extra technical reports (TRs) LTR1 through LTR9, are included as well as the complete Japanese shell series L601 through L604. As I am sure Ralph would say "all are profusely illustrated." Other enhancements to the original literature include corrections, tables, and figure numbers, call-outs and isometric rendering in some figures

As luck would have it shortly after completing this work, I mentioned to Harry Gilliam what I had done with the Westech literature and Harry, who must know everyone in the trade, somehow managed to locate Ralph Degn. I have worked out an agreement with Ralph to allow the sale and distribution of this work. I believe that this is probably one of the best books on pyrotechnic construction available today, and certainly the only one printed in color using modern desktop publishing tools. For those who have never seen the Westech material, this would certainly be a valuable addition to their pyrotechnic library. For those who saw or have the original material I think you will find this to be a delightful revisit to an old friend." —Bill Schmidt

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