Multi-Color & Effect Go-Getters
Achieving Various Colors and Effects

By Ned Gorski

In the "How to Make Go-Getter Fireworks Stars" project, I introduced the elementary principles and construction techniques for go-getter star inserts. I also discussed the variety of devices in which go-getters can be used. Charcoal-titanium go-getters were demonstrated as a good place to start when making these nifty self-propelled stars.

Charcoal go getter fireworks being used in mines, shells and as rockets.

In this project I will extend our palette of go-getter colors and effects. Brilliant and multi-colored, self-propelled go-getters are always a hit in bottle rockets, cakes, aerial shells, mines and other devices.

Note: Your success with this project depends significantly on your knowledge and understanding of the basic manipulations and techniques related to go-getter building. These were described in detail in the earlier "How to Make Go-Getter Fireworks Stars" tutorial. If you have not completed the How to Make Go-Getter Fireworks Stars project yet, I strongly suggest you do so before going further with this project.

Advanced Go-Getters

Look at the cross-section of the simple go-getter star insert below. It is basically a small, unguided, nozzle-less rocket motor burning an energetic star composition for fuel.

It's seems likely to me that any star composition with a relatively fast burn rate could be successful in these devices. Quick-burning fuel is necessary for it to have enough thrust to propel go-getters through the air.

Go getter cross section diagram
Cross-Section of a Go-Getter

Of course, glitter effects come quickly to mind. Gold glitter is always a pretty, eye-catching effect. It also works well as an attractive accent or contrast to colored stars.

In go-getter shells, a variety of bright colored go-getter stars are often used to create a "variegated" shell burst like the one in the photo below. Brilliant colored fuels also look like a promising avenue to explore for additional go-getter effects.

Variegated Fireworks Shell
Variegated Go-Getters in a Shell Burst
Photo by Tom Handel

Note: Fireproofing your tubes is absolutely necessary with any of the go-getter fuels given here. That process is shown in How to Make Go-Getter Fireworks Stars. Unless they are fireproofed, any paper tube will be ignited by these fuels.

Gold Glitter Go-Getters

The simplest and cheapest formula for gold glitter I can think of is called "D1." The formula for it is given in this Gold Glitter Comets project.

I decided to try that basic D1 formula, using slightly less dextrin.

The batch size in the table below is enough to make 20-21 go-getters.

D1 Gold Glitter Go-Getter Fuel

Component Percent Factor 5.6 oz 160 g
Potassium nitrate 54% 0.54 3 oz 86.4 g
Sulfur 19% 0.19 1.1 oz 30.4 g
Charcoal, airfloat 11% 0.11 0.6 oz 17.6 g
Aluminum, atomized 7% 0.07 0.4 oz 11.2 g
Sodium bicarbonate 7% 0.07 0.4 oz 11.2 g
Dextrin 2% 0.02 0.1 oz 3.2g

Note: Skylighter CH0116 +100-325 atomized aluminum was used in this project. Any atomized aluminum in the -325 mesh-size range should work just fine in this formula.

Note: All of the safety, fuel-compounding, and go-getter construction details from the How to Make Go-Getter Fireworks Stars tutorial apply to this glitter fuel.

Note: Never blade mill or ball mill any metals (nor compositions containing any metals) such as the aluminum in this formula.

Note: The added +5% water used to dampen the batch of fuel will amount to 0.3 ounces (8 grams).

Go-getters made with this D1 gold-glitter fuel provide a beautiful display, creating a pretty tail of glittering gold droplets.

This fuel is not as energetic as the charcoal-titanium one used in the basic go-getter making project. At the end of that article, I mentioned ways to "speed up" a go-getter if it doesn't have enough oomph. Those methods come in handy for this gold-glitter fuel. Here are some options you can try.
  • Make the fuel as hot as possible. Ball mill all of the ingredients, except the aluminum, together.
  • Provide more burning surface area. Deepen the hollow core to 1-3/8-inch, which will leave only 1/8-inch between the tip of the awl and the bottom of the tube. To do this, put the masking tape marker on the awl 1-3/8-inches from its tip.
These two modifications will make these gold glitter go-getters as energetic as they can be, and will get them to self-propel nicely.

D1-glitter go getter fireworks stars being used as rockets and fired from a homemade firework cake.

Brilliant Red, Green, Yellow, and Orange Go-Getters

An earlier project I wrote on making Red Rubber Stars describes how to make simple, brilliant red screen-sliced stars.

The basic red formula is the following. This size batch will make approximately 21 go-getters:

Brilliant Red Star Formula

Component Percent Factor 5.6 oz 160 g
Strontium nitrate 53% 0.53 3 oz 84.8 g
Magnalium 19% 0.19 1.05 oz 30.4 g
Parlon 17% 0.17 0.95 oz 27.2 g
Red gum 11% 0.11 0.6 oz 17.6 g

Note: For these go-getters, the finer the magnalium the better, down to an ideal 325-mesh. That will maximize the thrust from them.

Note: An added +5-10% spherical titanium will create a nice titanium tail behind the brilliantly colored go-getters.

That tutorial also notes that if you replace the strontium nitrate oxidizer/color donor with barium nitrate, you can produce a deep emerald green star color.

And, if you mix barium nitrate and strontium nitrate, you can make a range of yellows:
  • 75% barium nitrate/25% strontium nitrate: light lemon yellow
  • 67% barium nitrate/33% strontium nitrate: golden amber yellow
  • 55% barium nitrate/45%strontium nitrate: orange yellow
These compositions also work very well in go-getters, producing brilliantly colored self-propelling stars.

Here's a table of variations of the original red formula which produce green, yellow, and orange colors.

Brilliant Rubber Star Colors

Component Red Green Lemon Yellow Gold Yellow Orange
Strontium nitrate 0.53 0.0 0.13 0.18 0.24
Barium nitrate 0.0 0.53 0.40 0.35 0.29
Magnalium 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.19
Parlon 0.17 0.17 0.17 0.17 0.17
Red gum 0.11 0.11 0.11 0.11 0.11

Use this table this way. First decide how many finished pounds of a color you want. Then multiply the factors in each color's formula times the desired total batch size in ounces or grams to get the weight of each chemical to be used.

Of course, you can experiment with other proportions of the strontium nitrate and barium nitrate to produce still more color blends.

To make go-getters with these compositions, first follow the steps in the Red Rubber Stars tutorial to prepare the dry star composition:
  • Dry and mill the oxidizer - strontium nitrate and /or barium nitrate
  • Screen any coarse turnings out that may be in your magnalium
  • Screen the Parlon to remove coarse particles
  • Mix the dry composition

In this go-getter formula, the Parlon does not act as the binder as it does for screen-sliced stars. Therefore, do NOT dampen the go-getter composition with acetone as is done in the screen sliced stars method.

Instead, add +5% by weight denatured alcohol to dampen the composition in the same way charcoal-titanium and glitter compositions are dampened with +5% water. The added weight of the alcohol will be 0.3 ounces (8 grams) per 5.6 ounce (160 grams) batch size. The denatured alcohol will soften the red gum, which will act as the binder. The softened red gum will make the dried go-getter fuel grains nice and solid and hard.

Use the same process for mixing the denatured alcohol solvent into the composition described in How to Make Go-Getter Fireworks Stars.

Once you dampen the go-getter composition with the alcohol, make the go-getters exactly the same way as described in that project.

No star primes are needed for these go-getters (unlike screen-sliced stars).

Red and green go getter firework stars being used as rockets and as stars in a shell.

Blue Go-Getters

Blue go-getters will fill out our color palette. Blue is probably the trickiest effect to achieve. Many formulas produce nice blue colors, but most of them burn too slowly and don't produce enough thrust to make go-getters.

However, this modification of a formula found in Joel Baechle's "Pyrocolor Harmony" works very nicely. It produces a nice blue color and good go-getter thrust. This batch size, once again, will make 20-21 go-getters.

Blue Go-Getters

Component Percent Factor 5.6 oz 160 g
Ammonium perchlorate 50% 0.50 2.8 oz 80 g
Parlon 20% 0.20 1.1 oz 32 g
Copper oxychloride 15% 0.15 0.85 oz 24 g
Aluminum, atomized 10% 0.10 0.55 oz 16 g
Red gum 5% 0.05 0.3 oz 8 g

The ammonium perchlorate should be a fine powder, all passing through a 40-mesh screen. If it is too coarse, mill it by itself in a blade-mill coffee-grinder or single-serving blender until it will easily pass that 40-mesh screen.

The atomized aluminum should also be fine, in the 325-mesh range. For this project, Skylighter CH0116 was used. That aluminum has a few larger particles in it, so it leaves a pleasing, short, silver-spark tail behind the go-getters.

Process this composition the same way as the colored go-getters in the preceding section. The same +5% amount of denatured alcohol is used.

This blue formula does produce go-getters with a lot of thrust. The hollow core should be at most 1-1/8-inch deep. You may want to reduce it even more, to perhaps 1-inch deep, depending on your testing and dialing-in.

One important note on using ammonium perchlorate: No compositions containing potassium nitrate are ever placed in contact, for any length of time, with a composition containing ammonium perchlorate. Because of a double-replacement reaction, potassium nitrate and ammonium perchlorate in physical contact with each other react to form ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is very hygroscopic (attracts water), and any mixture containing it quickly becomes damp and un-ignitable.

This raises the problem of using black match fuse. Most black match is made with standard black powder, which contains potassium nitrate. Hence this fuse is unsuitable for our blue go-getters, which contain ammonium perchlorate.

So, unless these blue go-getters are to be used and fired immediately after being fused, no black match containing that potassium nitrate should be used to fuse them. Fortunately, the thin match from the three-strand paper-wrapped fast-fuse is perchlorate-based, and you can safely use it to fuse these blue go-getters.

Bottle rocket made with a blue go getter firework star.

Homemade 8-inch firework shell using multi-colored go getter stars.

Hopefully, this rich palette of glitter and multi-colored go-getter variations will serve as an inspiration to encourage you in your own personal go-getter explorations.

There's nothing prettier than a multi-colored go-getter shell with red, green, yellow and blue "gitters" in it, perhaps accented with some glitter-gitters, too.

Remember that, you'll probably need to dial your formulas in a bit in order to achieve the amount of thrust (go-getter action) you want--depending on the fuel composition you're are using.

This is common in order to get the "gitters" scooting just right. Some formulas burn faster than others. Adjusting the depth of the hollow core in the getters will ensure they fly with enough thrust, without being so "hot" they blow up after ignition.

I highly recommend making a small experimental batch--say just a few ounces--to try when you make a new color or effect. That will allow you to experiment and dial your new comp in. Then, when you scale up to a large batch of the go-getters for a shell or something, you can be confident that it will work well.

Now, "Gitter done!"

... And enjoy!
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