How Are Fireworks Made?

It is believed that fireworks were first made in China thousands of years ago and China still remains the biggest manufacturer of fireworks in the world. There are many different types of fireworks, each with its own unique formula and construction.


Sparklers are hand-held fireworks that burn slowly, creating a wand of bright sparks. Sparklers are composed of a fuel (such as pyrotechnic compounds), an oxidizer (such as potassium nitrate), iron or steel powder and a binder (such as sugar or starch). These chemicals are mixed together with water. This slurry is then used to coat to a wire or wooden stick (by dipping) to create hand held sparklers. A lit sparkler can reach temperatures of 1000-1600° C. These temperatures are significantly hotter, as a general rule, than the flame from a lighter or even a stovetop. This is why it is so important to practice fireworks safety and to have adult supervision at all times.


Fountains are ground-based display fireworks that when lit will unleash a shower of sparks from ground level in a variety of patterns and colors. A mixture of pyrotechnic compounds can be poured into tubes singly or arranged with other tubes to make a bigger, longer lasting fountain with a greater variety of effects. Metal salts and other chemicals can be added to add color, whistling, crackling and other varying effects.


Aerial fireworks are slightly more complex than hand held and ground based fireworks. Instead of a slow burn, the desired effect is actually composed of two separate blasts. The first blast, also referred to as a lifting charge, will ignite in a tube and lift the shell into the air. The second blast, also referred to as bursting charge, will occur at a pre-determined height to create a burst of color and sound in the sky.

Mortar Kits  (also called re-loadables or artillery shells) consist of a launching tube and shells with long fuses. Shells are loaded into the launching tube and fired one at a time.  Cakes (also called aerial repeaters) consist of multiple pre-loaded tubes that are connected with a common fuse in one convenient package. These multi-shot cakes can produce a display of aerial bursts in sequence that can provide a broad spectrum of colors and effects. A cake is basically a pre-loaded fireworks display in a small, user friendly package that allows the user to simply light the fuse, stand back, and enjoy the show.

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