How Fireworks Work - part 2

mike teaching fireworks finale


What is Quick match?
Quick match is a cotton string impregnated with black powder, which is encased in a craft paper tube. The impregnated string burns about a second per inch. However, when the string is encased in the paper tubing, the pressure is increased, and the fire and sparks produced by the burning powder are tunneled down the tube accelerating the burn rate tremendously. Quick match will burn between 10 and 100 feet per second. This is how aerial shells are fired so fast in the finale. This picture on the right is a finale rack loaded with 30 shots quick matched together.
What is a Fireworks Strobe?
Everyone has a strobe light at one point in time or another. A Pyrotechnic strobe is a similar device which flashes "on" and "off" to give a strobing effect. They are usually very bright and come in all colors. How they work is fairly complex. They have a composition that produces a "slag" of shall we say "smoldering" composition that re-ignites itself on a certain interval. This of course is the layman's explanation of a strobe, but you get the basic idea.
fireworks gerbes Gerbes (a.k.a. Fountains)
A device in which sparks, flame, or other effects, are shot continuously upward from a tube. A gerbe resembles an upside down rocket engine. These devices are common among the "safe and sane" fireworks sold at your local fireworks stand on the 4th of July. The only difference between the consumer ones and those used in the professional fireworks industry, is the size and power.
line rockets and concussion hits

Line Rockets
A small rocket which is only allowed to move along a string from point A to point B. This type of rocket gives the operator greater control over it's effect, by allowing him to choose where it starts and finishes. The picture on the left consists of line rockets in the upper left and a concussion hit (see next description) on the lower right.

Concussion Hits
A theatrical device (sometimes used in public displays) which produces a loud boom. They are typically small and utilize flash powder confined in a reinforced material (ex: string tape), which will not produce any shrapnel or other flying debris (since it is usually closer to the audience) when set off.

fireworks z cake

fireworks mine cake

What is a Fireworks Cake?
A multishot device in which multiple effects are chained together to fire back to back. The speed at which these effects fire vary depending on the type of fireworks cake.

There are many different types of effects and sizes of cakes. You can have mine cakes, shell cakes, comet cakes, etc. The top photo to the left is known as a "Z" cake. It fires comets or stars back and forth at a rapid pace. The bottom photo on the left is a mine cake. It rapidly fires a mine, one right after another, from each of it's tubes in the same direction (strait up). Another cake which is not shown, is the "W" cake, which fires a row of the same type of effect simultaneously, then has a short pause, and fires another entire row. It repeats this process until all of it's row's have been fired. This allows for a complete filling of the sky when each row is fired. Some cakes might have rows of only 3 angled shots, and others might have as many as 20.

Check out how some of the other types of fireworks work!
Want to learn how professionals set up these devices? Then Check out our Fireworks Training pages!
Be sure to check out our Fireworks Videos!