Pyrotechnic Formulas and Techniques For Making A Fireworks Waterfall Effect

Gary Christ made this great looking pyrotechnic waterfall and sent us the instructions for making it. Thanks, Gary.

fireworks waterfall /img
Gary Christ's Waterfall

Gary writes: "I guess I'll fess-up! When it comes to the firework tubes, I took a hint from Dan Williams' page. As my wife is a schoolteacher, we have an over abundance of used 8 1/2 by 11 computer paper. We take a sheet of paper and loosely roll it around a 5/8-inch diameter form. Or, if you don't want to roll your own, you can use Skylighter's TU2040 spiral fireworks waterfall firework tubes. This project takes 50 firework tubes."

"The tedious part is in the loading! Once more we took a hint from Dan's page. A length of 3/4 inch CPVC tubing (the tan stuff) about 8 1/2 inches long will serve as a holder or reinforcing sleeve. Add a coupler to the top of the tube to serve as a crude funnel. A stand for this whole contraption was fashioned from a 2 X 4 and a one-inch long 5/8-inch diameter wooden dowel. Sand down half of the dowel to loosely fit into the paper firework tube. Drill a 5/8-inch diameter hole, 1/2 inch deep into the 2 X 4. Smack home the dowel and viola, a stand is born."
"Next, mix up a batch of fireworks waterfall composition. Here's the recipe. (All ingredients are measured in percentages by weight)

Fireworks Waterfall Composition
Ingredient Percentage
Potassium perchlorate 49
Aluminum flake, flitters, fine 34
Aluminum flake, firefly mixed 8
Aluminum flake, flitters medium 8
Dextrin 2

"The fireworks waterfall composition is moistened with a mix of 25% alcohol and 75% water until it is slightly damp (we mix about 500 grams at a time). This will activate the dextrin to make the firework waterfall composition pretty hard when dry. Ram about a teaspoon of fireworks waterfall composition at a time with your dowel until the firework tube is almost full, say about 3/4 inch to 1/2 inch from the top. Leave this much head space for the starter portion."

"After the firework tubes have dried (a few days), a starter fireworks waterfall mixture is needed. Once more the formula was taken from Dan Williams and is as follows. By the way, when the starter fireworks waterfall composition lights, it will burn RED." (All ingredients are measured in percentages by weight)

Starter Composition for Fireworks Waterfalls
Ingredient Percentage
Strontium Nitrate 50
Parlon 18
Potassium Perchlorate 8
Magnalium, 200 mesh 12
Charcoal, Air Float 5
Sulfur 5
Red Gum 2

"Mix with acetone into a gooey, stringy mess. Dab a good bit in and insert a length of visco fuse, let dry, and this baby is ready."

"As for stringing the firework tubes together, cut a length of wire and pass it through the bottom of the firework tube and twist into a loop for suspending it above the ground (visco fuse will be pointing down). Quick match the firework tubes together about a foot apart (takes about 75 feet). Tape the firework tubes together top and bottom a foot apart with masking tape. This will stabilize this monster when you loft it up into the air about 15 to 20 feet. String about 60 feet of wire through the loops of the firework tubes. Tie the ends of the wires to the poles and loft it all into the air."

Light and enjoy. This fireworks waterfall lasts about 70 to 90 seconds."

--Gary Christ

Notes on fireworks waterfalls: Lancaster's text (Fireworks Principles and Practice) on fireworks waterfalls points out some important considerations in making fireworks waterfalls. First, he included fireworks waterfalls in his chapter on "Colored Fires, Bengals, Lances, Portfires, and Torches" because fireworks waterfalls are closely related to these devices. He states that fireworks waterfall formulations contain "an excess of aluminum in order that the burning materials will fall to the ground with the appropriate sparks." When you look at the formulas he provides, and at other fireworks waterfall formulas, you will often see a mix of aluminum particle sizes. This ensures that the fireworks waterfall has a rich spray of sparks, which are burning all the way from the nose of each firework tube down to the ground. The smaller particles will burn up early; the medium sized ones part way down; and the largest all the way to the ground. If you are improvising your own fireworks waterfall formula, try to find a mix of aluminum particle sizes for your composition.

Another consideration is the use of thin-walled firework tubes, so they can be consumed by the burning fireworks waterfall composition. Using thicker walled firework tubes, such as sky rocket tubes, can leave you with remnants of the fireworks waterfall burning a distracting orange long after the fireworks waterfall effect has finished.

Other fireworks waterfall effects can be made using titanium or iron/steel fountains, and attaching them to a long rope or mounted horizontally on a board.

--Harry Gilliam
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