Fireworks Season Is Almost Here
What You Need To Be Ready
By: Matthew Kleinmann
The days are starting to get longer and soon we will be in for another great summer of fireworks! It might be too early to start worrying about backyard BBQ and graduation shows, but this is a great time to look over your equipment and get it ready for the nice weather to come.
If you are a casual shooter you might be asking, what equipment? If you want to graduate up to the next level you will need, at a minimum, a shooters toolbox. This is where I keep the tools I will need for a show, outside of the product itself, and the racks and set pieces required to use them.
As your fireworks shows start to graduate from simple and casual affairs to larger and more choreographed affairs, you will want to build up a stash of things you will use out in the field.
Here is what I keep in my shooters box.
First and foremost, shooting safety gear. Shooters headphones, a hard hat, safety glasses, leather gloves, and a light, long sleeved cotton shirt for shooting in. Give your safety gear a good looking over and replace anything that is not functional. Safety equipment is all detailed in another blog post.
Next, I have the tools that I need to use in the field. This includes a claw hammer, A pry bar, surveyors nails, a few long nails, a few T spikes, scissors, a Leatherman type multi tool, black, masking, and duct tape, a measuring tape, a few flashlights, a head lamp, some extra scab wire for e firing shells, and my e firing system.
The claw hammer, pry bar, surveyor’s nails, and a few long nails are used for tacking racks together. Occasionally you will need to work with 2x4’s or something heavy and having a few long nails can be helpful. The pry bar is for pulling things apart when you are done. Leverage is your friend after a show. You can use a hammer to pull things apart but why fight when a pry bar works so much better. The T spikes are useful for holding things down. If racks have screw eyes on their sides they can be secured down with the T spikes, and cakes can be duct taped to the T spikes. The Scissors and Leatherman type multi tool are used for chaining fuses together and opening boxes. I have also used the saw on my multi tool for cutting tacking pieces, and stripping wires etc. The black tape is for scabbing electric matches together or extending runs to them, and the masking tape is used for fuse chaining. Duct tape is used for holding cakes to spikes and holding things onto set pieces. Flashlights are handy for seeing around as it gets dark, and inspecting in places that are hard to see. After dark and for cleanup a good headlamp is invaluable.
I also keep a few personal care items in my box. These include a can of insect repellent. The bugs will come out at dusk and eat you alive in some fields. I keep a tube of high SPF sun block, as I know I will be in the field all day in the sun. I keep a tube of “dry” hand cleaning soap, and a roll of toilet paper. This has both it's obvious use in case of a dire emergency but also covers for Kleenex, napkins, and paper towels, but takes up half the space. It is nice to be able to eat lunch with clean hands.
You will probably want to tote a cooler with lots of cold water and some lunch out to the field with you as well. It is important to stay hydrated if you are working out in the sun for an extended amount of time.
Once you have rounded all of your equipment up, this is a good time to go through all of the electrics and put new batteries and check for proper operation of your flashlights, headlights, headphones and firing system. Some firing systems use odd batteries in the remote that can be challenging to find locally. Best to get one to put in it and a spare now. I keep a pack of AA and AAA batteries in reserve as well.
Now you have all the gear you need for setting up a shoot in one place. I have an open top toolbox that I built for myself and painted bright yellow so it is easy to see in the dark. One of my friends has a great system that I like a lot. He uses a 5 gallon bucket and he put some foam and cloth over the lid so his fireworks bucket doubles as a nice comfortable seat. I have to drag along a camping chair.
This is also a good time to inspect your racks and tubes. Check racks for any broken wood pieces and repair or replace as needed. If you are using individual craft paper mortar tubes make sure they are not bulging and the plugs are still firmly installed in the bottoms. The best material for tubes is HDPE tubing. As long as the tubes have not mushroomed out, you are good to go. Never build or use tubes that are made out of PVC or ABS. These will fracture and pieces will fly and someone will get hurt. The only acceptable materials for mortar tubes are HDPE (preferred), fiberglass, metal, and craft paper. You will probably not see racks for sale using anything but HDPE.
If you have set pieces you may want to dust them off and verify they have no splits or cracks in them that would make them unusable. If any of your racks or set pieces uses special hardware, such as screw eyes and spikes to hold racks down, or star drive deck screws for holding set pieces together, verify you have both the hardware and the proper drivers for it. My set pieces currently use star drive deck screws to hold them together, but I am planning on switching over to using screw eyes so I will not need to worry about toting along the special hardware, driver bit, and electric driver. You can get the screw eyes in most of the way with just finger pressure and if you want to tighten them down more you can put any screwdriver or even a stake through the hole in the screw eye for leverage.
This is also the time of the year to start thinking about buying or building new racks and set pieces for the upcoming season. Hit up your local fireworks emporium and see what’s new. Every year they bring in a lot of cool, different products and they just love talking shop. Stop by and say hi and let them show you around and point out all of the interesting “just in” items. Then you can start figuring them all into your upcoming shows!
Matthew Kleinmann Is a professional, licensed pyrotechnician and a staff writer for Mess’s Fireworks.