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#1 Jellycopter


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Posted 16 September 2016 - 11:18 AM

Hi all.  I'm a new member of the forum, and pretty much researching pyrotechnics for the first time.  .

My field of education is mainly in music/audio/programming/game development, although recently I've been working with electronics as a hobby.  
I was working on a particular project this week which involved discharging a large capacitor, causing a huge spark.  I became interested in designing the same sort of spark in a device triggered by a button, which inevitably lead to me raising a discussion on the electronics forum I use about how to create such a device safely, how to control what the spark looks like etc.  
One particular member said I was describing a weapon, however I had a video reference to a device used on one of my favourite TV shows to use as an example of what I really meant, which is a sort of theatrical prop.  See this video at 12:00 

Long story short I have been redirected to pyrotechnics!   
So with my background in mind, I'd like to ask a few questions...

1)  Is it legal in the UK for me to build a device like the one shown in the video?  Does it qualify as an explosive?
2) There seems to be some distinction between theatrical/cinematic effects and fireworks regarding laws on explosives.  Do I need a license or certificate to start dabbling in theatrical props such as a handheld device that projects a short flame burst for e.g?
3)  What sort of professions exist in this field?  I know of stage technicians and firework 'firers' so far.  
4) What I'm really interested in is designing things; what would I have to study in order to understand the inner workings of these effects, to the level where I can be creative with their design?  
5)  Kind of the same as question 4, but outside of this forum, how/where is one supposed to find learning resources?  This whole subject is shrouded in mystery...
6) What sort of educational background would you require to be taken on as an apprentice by a fireworks company?

I have tried to find these answers myself, but have found the results quite ambiguous.  I'm really interested in learning more about about pyrotechnics though, and I'd just like to make sure I go about this the correct way.  To clarify, I'm interested in building my own small scale effects simply to educate myself in their design.  I'd also like to experiment using my own electronics controllers to trigger/ignite these effects.  I don't have any particular agenda other that to learn how it all works at this point, but perhaps some day I'd be interested in a career involving the design/manufacture of pyrotechnics. (Triggering systems and musical synchronization might be a way into this industry for me, given my background).

Edited by Jellycopter, 16 September 2016 - 11:22 AM.

#2 JamesB



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Posted 16 September 2016 - 02:11 PM

Looks like some kind of short circuit special effect, Wells, amongst others make / sell these:



I'm not an expert on this, but:


1) Yes you could, assuming it was based on something other than black poweder, you would need an acquire only explosives certificate and wouldn't be able to store it, it would be for experimentation only. Manufacture for actual use would be a whole different kettle of fish. That said you could certainly obtain the effect and use it safely with some training.

2) Probably depends on the supplier, they might request you had undertaken some training in order to purchase the product, and if you were to use it in a public setting, you would certainly want appropriate insurance, which again, would probably require appropriate training. I think someone posted a review recently of the Just FX stage pyro course which is supposed to be a lot of fun. 

3) Not really my area, I do almost entirely fireworks, though I have a friend who has worked in special effects for a while, I gather it can be quite a tricky industry to get into, with a few hoops to jump through in order to get to higher grades with reasonable salaries. 

4) In terms of stage pyro, I'm not sure of a specific resource, I would guess most of the stuff is moderately guarded trade secrets, whereas with fireworks, there are quite a few good books out there describing how various effects work. 

5) Books and forums, I'll try and have a look through some of my books to see if there is anything particularly relevant. 

6) For professional fireworks, almost anything provided you're keen and hard working, stage pyro; perhaps start with some relevant training, and anything involving construction / engineering with perhaps some chemistry is never a bad thing.


Forgive those not being particularly brilliant answers, hopefully they'll be a bit useful. 

Edited by JamesB, 16 September 2016 - 02:22 PM.

#3 Jellycopter


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Posted 16 September 2016 - 02:39 PM


I'm not interested in doing anything in public.  It's more that I'm wondering what I'm allowed to build i .e what technically qualifies as an illegal explosive (or similar dangerous device) and what doesn't.  
Can you do anything at all without an explosives certificate?  I was interested in making my own electric matches and triggering system, but with no target explosives - like this  

I don't have any proper training, and it seems pretty difficult to get on a course without some kind of professional justification, unless the course is just about basic safety rather than designing pyrotechnics. 

I'd be interested in the firework books you mentioned?  

#4 JamesB



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Posted 16 September 2016 - 02:49 PM

I honestly don't know, considering you can buy electronic igniters, that shouldn't be too much of a stretch; Cooperman's shop might be a good place to start: 



Some cat 4 pyro courses and the odd stage pyro course are just pay to attend, and will cover rigging and firing. In terms of courses to actually design pyrotechnic articles, I would assume that that particular subject is a bit too niche for a course, unless you count the ones at Cranfield, which look fantastic, but are, alas, very expensive:



#5 Arthur Brown

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 08:11 PM

If you've bought it as an "article pyrotechnic" properly then using it safely as instructed/intended is OK.


Keep mannequins and watermelons away from fireworks..they always get hurt..

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