Skylighter Skylighter Fireworks Tips #126 March 2, 2009 Pyrotechnics

How to Make a Roman Candle, A Skylighter Fireworks Making Project
11/24/09 4:40 PM
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Skylighter Fireworks Tips #126 March 2, 2009
Gary Smith's Secret to Making Roman Candles
Making roman candles that perform consistently takes something.
This time, Ned shows you a way to do it without having to make
hollow stars, a tall candle press, or any of the other fancy-dancy
tools that pyros use to make these repeaters. It’s a new method that
he stole from Gary Smith. So thanks to Gary and to Ned for
presenting it here.
Click Fireworks to
Watch Video
Thank You.
I'll be sending you a separate email very shortly as a way of
thanking you for subscribing and reading this newsletter. Watch for
it, because it's date sensitive, and I doubt if I will ever do it again.
Wreckreation Nation PGI Fireworks Segment
Dave Mordal featured the Pyrotechnics Guild International's
convention last summer in his most recent episode of Wreckreation
Nation. I watched it last Tuesday on the Discovery Channel. If you
missed it, look for a rerun. If you have never been to a fireworks
club event, this is as good a taste as you'll get without actually being
there. To go to PGI events you must either be a member, a family
member, or a main squeeze. PGI's annual convention the second
week in August every year is the most fun week I ever have
vertically. Join PGI at and come see me in
Mason City, Iowa this summer. And watch the show to see why the
calm, cool, collected President of the PGI yells for everyone to
"RUN for your life!" --Harry Gilliam
Gary Smith's Secret To Making Roman Candles
By Ned Gorski
What's All the Mystery about Making Roman Candle
I really like Roman candles. But even though Roman candles appear
to be the simplest of fireworks devices, they are a real challenge to
make so that they perform consistently. Especially if you use the
traditional methods you'll find in all the books.
I'm going to show you a secret method for making Roman candles
that you haven't seen before. I promise you absolutely will not find
Roman candles made like these in any of the books (at least, not
yet!). Best of all, you can use this new method to overcome all the
Roman candle problems that traditional candle-making methods
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Roman candle problems that traditional candle-making methods
Look. Where rubber hits the road is how well your fire works in a
fireworks display, right? Well, read on and learn how Roman
candles work, what goes wrong, and how to make Roman candles
like nobody you know has ever seen.
Here's a video of one of the first successful Roman candles I made
using the method I'm about to teach you.
Video of an 8-Shot Silver
Streamer Star Roman Candle
Notice now consistent the timing is between the shots. One star is
coming down and going out, quickly followed by the next shot. That
kind of consistency and effect is what I was going for. And that's
what is hardest to achieve using traditional Roman candle fireworksmaking techniques.
With all the candles I've made using this new method, the timing
between shots has been within one second of each other. If you talk
with pyrotechnics folks who have made their own Roman candles,
they'll tell you how remarkable that is.
You see, anyone can learn how to make a Roman candle, but
making them so that the timing and height of the shots is consistent,
well that's what you don't see very often. Of course, Roman candle
fireworks are a great way to test the color, burn time, effect and
ignitability of your new star compositions. And a single candle is
just fun to light, sit back, and enjoy. You can gang multiple candles
together, say 7 of them in a bundle, or set them up in a fanned rack
to fill the sky from left to right with Roman candles' shots.
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So Why is a Roman Candle Firework Called Roman?
Despite the fact that we Gorskis prefer to call these devices "Polish
Candles," for some reason that name has not caught on yet. So, why
were these devices called "Roman candles" to begin with?
It seems that as far back as the early 1800's, both French and Italian
authors were using the term "Roman candles" to describe such
devices. Since Italy was one of the countries which greatly
influenced the development of fireworks, it is not very surprising
that one of its most prominent fireworks devices would have its
name associated with its greatest city, and the name of its oncesprawling empire.
Exactly What Is a Roman Candle?
Traditionally, a Roman candle has been thought of as a single-tube
fireworks device which fires multiple, consecutive shots of
projectiles skyward, and which emits a fountain-like spray of sparks
between shots.
Those projectiles can be individual firework stars, comets with
various colors and effects, single crossette comets, mine-shots of
multiple stars, combination star-and-report devices, or small aerial
star shells.
A Four-Pack of Consumer-Fireworks Roman Candles
But one comet fired skyward from a mortar is sometimes
considered to be a single-shot Roman candle. And indeed, singleshot candles, arranged in fan-shaped mortar racks, have become
common in many modern displays.
Consumer-firework Roman candles can be as small as 1/2-inch
inside-diameter tubes, and large professional-display candles can be
found with a tube ID as large as 3 inches.
I'd suppose if you asked someone, "What are the most common
types of fireworks you can think of," the response would be
something like, "Firecrackers, sparklers, bottle-rockets, and Roman
Certainly Roman candles play a part in many of our childhood
fireworks memories. Often they were held in our hands as they
fired, but there have been so many mishaps resulting from
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fired, but there have been so many mishaps resulting from
malfunctioning candles that hand-held Roman candles are now
I once made the mistake of thinking I could hold a one-inch display
candle in my hand as it fired. The first shot propelled a star
skyward, and the rest of the candle backward out of my hand to
who-knew-where. I had to quickly find it and stabilize it with my
foot as it finished firing. I still haven't lived that down in my local
fireworks guild. I don't recommend you try any similar stunts.
With these larger Roman candles, it's best to tape them to a stake
and firmly secure them to the ground before ignition.
How Is a Roman Candle Constructed?
The most common, and traditional method of Roman-candle
construction involves alternating layers of black-powder lift charge,
cylindrical stars, and a slow-burning candle/delay composition, with
the bottom of the tube plugged with a clay bulkhead.
Roman Candle Cross-Section
If you imagine lighting the candle's fuse, it will burn down until it
ignites the first increment of the delay composition. That rammed
increment burns slowly like a gerb (fountain), spraying sparks out of
the end of the tube, which would normally be pointing skyward. Of
course, when I say "normally be pointing skyward," this "dog and
Roman candle" video from YouTube pops into my mind: That one shot
just about takes out the kid and the old man at the same time!
When the last part of that first increment of delay composition burns
through to the first star, the prime on the star burns quickly and
ignites its whole surface. That, in turn, lights the first layer of blackpowder lift charge, which propels the star out of the tube. At the
same time, the top of the second increment of candle composition is
ignited, which begins a repeat of the whole process.
The Roman candle in the sketch is called a "four-ball" Roman
candle, since it will sequentially shoot four stars out of the tube.
"Ball" refers to the ascending ball of flame each star will produce.
Typically candles are made with pumped, cylindrical stars, which
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Typically candles are made with pumped, cylindrical stars, which
have flat bottoms and tops. The flat bottom holds the black-powder
lift charge in place, and the flat top supports the delay composition
Why Do I Make Roman Candles?
In the past 20 years or so in this hobby, I've only tried to make
Roman candles a few times, although they are among the most
elementary of devices. Quite honestly, in those attempts I was never
completely satisfied with the results.
And you know what's funny? Even though I'd made 16-inch aerial
fireworks shells and 36-inch diameter girandolas, I felt like I
couldn't make a consistently performing Roman candle that would
live up to my expectations.
One reason I wanted to get good at producing nice little Roman
candles is that they can be fired in any location suitable for the
discharge of consumer fireworks. Big fireworks devices like big
shells and girandolas require a big display site and a display permit.
But it's nice now and then to make a little rocket or Roman candle
and be able to take it outside to shoot and see how it performs.
In his 1947 book "Pyrotechnics," George Weingart has a section on
rolling cases (tubes), for Roman candles. He also has instructions for
making an individual, 3/8-inch ID, eight-ball Roman candle.
Weingart describes a simple machine for mass-producing consumerfireworks candles. I have seen the remains of a similar machine at
the Rozzi's Famous Fireworks plant near Cincinnati, Ohio. My
understanding is that the machine I saw was the very one Weingart
based his sketches and descriptions on.
Weingart's Sketch of a Roman
Candle Making Machine
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How to Make a Roman Candle
I've seen traditional Roman-candle-making instructions elsewhere,
and they seldom differ significantly from the ones in Weingart.
A parallel tube is plugged at the bottom with a rammed increment of
clay or with a glued-in section of wooden dowel. A scoop of blackpowder lift charge is loosely put into the tube, followed by a star,
which fits nicely into the tube. This is capped off with an increment
of the candle-composition delay powder, which is rammed "with
about six light blows of a small mallet" according to Weingart.
And this is where Roman-candle construction gets tricky. That
increment of delay composition must be rammed solidly enough to
get it really consolidated and locked into the tube. That is necessary
in order to prevent fire from being prematurely blown down the tube
past it when the star above that increment is shot out of the tube.
The delay charge must also be in the tube tightly enough that fire
cannot creep between it and the inner tube wall as it burns, which
would also prematurely ignite the star below it.
If you've ever rammed fountain composition in a paper tube, you
know it takes a fair amount of force to solidly compact the powder,
in order to produce the right effect when the fountain is lit.
But, when one is ramming Roman-candle delay composition, that
increment sits on top of a loose star sitting on loosely granulated
black-powder lift charge. This is an inherent conflict: not an ideal
situation for getting a solidly compacted increment of delay
And here's what you see as a result--the most commonly seen
Roman-candle failures--stars which fire from the tube in a rapidfire, unevenly-paced manner; sometimes more than one star fires at
once; or the paper tube ruptures because of the amount of
pyrotechnic material, which ignites everything at once prematurely.
All of this results from not having a solid base on which to ram
each increment of candle composition. That makes the construction
of these simple devices a real challenge, especially in candles larger
than about a half-inch ID. Larger diameter delay increments are
harder to solidly compact sufficiently than smaller diameter ones.
There must be a better way.
Enter my pyro buddy, Gary Smith. Recently on Gary
posted a video of a fairly complex Roman candle he'd made. The
individual shots were color-to-report inserts, which are harder to
make than simple stars.
But, what I noticed immediately was that his shots were very evenly
spaced apart, and that there was a nice fountain of fire-dust spewing
from the mouth of the tube between shots.
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from the mouth of the tube between shots.
This was a very nicely constructed, consistently-performing Roman
candle, that I knew from personal experience was hard to achieve. I
simply had to know more. Gary was kind enough to share with you
and me the unique method he developed of achieving nicely
compacted, traditional delay increments between the shots. And that
is what produced the consistent effects, which so impressed me
when I first saw his video.
Using Multiple Tubes to Make One Roman Candle
Huh? Say what?
I thought we'd already defined a Roman candle as a "single-tube
fireworks device which fires multiple, consecutive shots of
projectiles skyward."
How can we use more than one tube to make a Roman candle?
Well, therein lies Gary's trick, which hopefully will forever be
known as the "Smith Method" of constructing candles.
Looking at the sketch of the Roman candle above once again, you'll
notice there is a recessed, empty space below the clay bulkhead in
the paper tube. Putting the tube on a base, which has a ramming
nipple, and then dropping loose clay into the tube and ramming it
with a drift and mallet creates that void.
Materials and Tools Ready to Ram
Clay Plug in Paper Tube
Way back in Skylighter Newsletter #89, I gave directions for mixing
clay nozzle and bulkhead mixes. I also showed how to ram nozzles
and bulkheads, and a photograph of a cutaway tube with a nozzle
rammed in it.
Either of those clay mixes is usable for the clay plug at the bottom
of a Roman candle. And the photo shows how a clay nozzle or
bulkhead locks into a paper tube by slightly expanding the tube in
that area.
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Cutaway Paper Tube Showing Locked-In Clay Bulkhead
I can just imagine Gary thinking, "How can I get each delay
increment solidly locked into the paper tube the same way the clay
plug is?"
And then the light went on in his head: "Cut the tube into sections,
ram each delay increment solidly into its section, and then
reassemble the tube sections into one solid case."
I imagine a picture popping into his mind something like the sketch
The Tube Sections of a Smith Method Roman Candle
Although the sketch shows a 4-ball candle, additional 2-inch middle
sections can be added or removed to increase or decrease the
number of shots.
Note: The top, 3-inch or longer tube section creates the first
"mortar" out of which the first star is shot. Within certain limits, the
length of a mortar determines how high the projectile goes.
Technically, 3 inches is the shortest practical tube from which to
shoot the first star. But with a tube that short, the first shot will not
go as high as the shots that follow it. So, I actually prefer to use a
top tube section that's 5-inches long.
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I have arrived at the specific dimensions for this particular Roman
candle based on my particular stars and delay composition. To the
left of each increment of the delay (candle) comp there is a 1/2-inch
void just like the one to the left of the clay plug.
The nipple on the ramming base creates this 1/2-inch recess in each
section. A tube section is slipped onto the ramming base. The proper
amount of delay composition is loaded into the tube and then
rammed with a drift and mallet.
This creates a very solid, securely positioned increment of delay
composition, which prevents most types of Roman candle failures.
There it is, simple as that: the Smith secret to Roman candle
Now, here's how to make a Roman candle using this method to
show all the steps involved.
Now, How to Make a Roman Candle
For this Roman candle, I'm going to alternate shots of D1 glitter
stars with shots of Willow Diadem silver-streamer stars. First a
glitter shot, then a silver streamer, then glitter, silver streamer, etc.
The candle in the video at the beginning had only silver-streamer
For the willow diadem stars, I'm still using the total amount of metal
that is specified in the formula. But rather than using three different
types of metal, I'm only using fine, spherical titanium, Skylighter
#CH3010. This long-burning star leaves a nice, long silver tail
behind it that "pops" as the bits of titanium catch fire and burn.
The dimensions in the sketch above are based on my primed 5/8inch diameter, 5/8-inch long pumped stars, which I made the same
way I made the gold-glitter comets in Fireworks Tips #111.
I prime the ends and sides of the stars so that fire is transferred as
quickly as possible from the top to the bottom of the star. The final
primed stars end up being a little under 3/4-inch diameter and about
3/4-inch long.
The star dimensions dictate that I use 3/4-inch ID parallel tubes for
this project. Either the extra-strong, 1/8-inch wall Skylighter
TU1066 tubes, or the standard, 1/4-inch wall Skylighter TU1065
tubes will work well in this project.
These long tubes work well because they can be marked, and all the
Roman candle sections can be cut out of one length of tube. This
makes it easy to reassemble the sections later on.
I want to make an 8-shot candle, so I mark and cut a tube as shown
below. I write a number on each section, starting with #1 at the
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below. I write a number on each section, starting with #1 at the
bottom of the tube.
Roman Candle Tube Marked into Numbered Sections before
The markings will enable me to reassemble the tube sections exactly
as they came apart, which will increase the potential for me to arrive
at a nice straight finished candle. I allow about 1/16-inch for each of
the saw cuts.
In the drawing above, notice that there will be a star at each of the
cuts. So I mark 8 cuts, plus the cut at the top of the candle. The
bottom section will be 1.5-inches long and the top one will be 3inches long.
Then I cut the tube into sections.
Cutting Paper Tube into Sections
Roman Candle Tube Cut into Sections
I use a little sandpaper to smooth the inside and outside edges of
each end of the tube sections. Smooth ends make for smooth
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each end of the tube sections. Smooth ends make for smooth
reassembly later on.
Sanding Ends of Roman Candle Tube Sections
Now I put section #1 on the nipple of the ramming block with the
bottom of the tube down.
I made the ramming base and nipple by drilling halfway through a
piece of 3/4-inch thick plywood, and epoxying a length of 3/4-inch
diameter aluminum rod into the hole. I got the rod from Home
Depot (in the nuts-and-bolts aisle where they have a rack of metal
rods and angles), and cut it with a hack saw just long enough that
1/2-inch of it projects from the plywood. I used a file to smooth the
top end and edges.
Ramming Base with Aluminum Nipple and Section #1
I load 10 grams (one flat 1/2-tablespoon) of bulkhead-clay mix
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through a funnel into the tube. When loading the clay into the short
tube through the funnel, I use a 1/2-inch wooden dowel to push the
clay through the funnel and slightly compact it into the tube. This
helps get all the clay through the funnel and down into the short
tube, so it doesn't spill out over the top.
I ram the clay plug with a 3/4-inch rammer from one of my sets of
rocket tooling, and 8 moderate blows with the rawhide mallet. This
results in a 1/2-inch thick plug in the tube section. A section of 3/4inch wooden dowel could certainly be used as a rammer in this
project, as shown in the article on making gerbs.
Ramming Clay Plug into Roman Candle Bottom Section
Note: I want to fully consolidate the clay and lock it into the tube
without damaging or splitting the tube. This takes a bit of practice.
With the softer, standard tubes, a slight bulge will form in the tube,
which can be felt if one runs their fingers up and down the tube.
Now it's time to ram the delay-composition increments into the
other sections of the tube. I have played with a variety of delay
compositions, from relatively fast-burning ones to those that are
slower burning. I like to keep the delay increments about 1-inch
long between the stars. This provides a nice, solid plug, which does
not allow fire to pass prematurely around it.
So, the burning speed of those 1-inch increments determines how
much time there is between shots of the Roman candle. With the
stars I am using, I prefer the timing I get using the following candle
delay composition (This is a classic star formula which can be
found in various books).
Chrysanthemum 8 (from Shimizu) Delay Composition
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Potassium nitrate
Charcoal (airfloat)
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79-gram batch
35 grams
29 grams
4 grams
4 grams
7 grams
79 grams
Note: The weights have been rounded off, and this size batch will
make enough composition for the 8-shot Roman candle I'm making.
I grind the potassium nitrate in a blade-type coffee mill fine enough
to pass a 100-mesh screen. I do the same with the sulfur. The
charcoal and dextrin are already that fine.
Grinding Potassium Nitrate in a Coffee Mill
25-50% of the airfloat charcoal can be replaced with 80-mesh or
even coarser charcoal for longer hanging sparks in the fountain
plume between candle shots.
The chemicals are put in a sealed plastic tub and shaken to mix
them. Then they are worked through a 20-mesh screen or kitchen
colander 3 times to thoroughly mix them and break up any
remaining clumps of chemical.
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Sifting Powder through Screen
Using a spray bottle, I spritz the composition with water as it sits in
a plastic tub on a scale, until 7 grams of water has been added.
Between every couple of spritzes, I swirl the comp in the tub to
spread the water around.
I work the water into the powder with gloved hands and then push
the damp composition through the 20-mesh colander twice to really
integrate the water.
Working Water into Delay Composition
Then, just as I did with the increment of the clay in tube section #1,
I ram increments of the still-damp delay composition into the
remaining tube sections. I always place each section with its bottom
down on the ramming nipple. This creates that 1/2-inch void in the
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down on the ramming nipple. This creates that 1/2-inch void in the
bottom of each section as shown in the sketch.
Sections #2 through #8 now get 10 grams of the composition
rammed into them. Ramming that amount of comp yields delay
increments that are 1-inch long in each section. Finally, I ram 5
grams of the composition in tube section #9, which produces a 1/2inch long delay increment.
Then I allow the delay increments to dry overnight, using my drying
box. They would dry in a few days if they were put in a warm
location of the storage area.
Note: Often, directions for making candles specify ramming dry,
granulated delay composition. At first I wondered if I should
granulate and dry the comp, and I discussed this with Gary. His
theory is that damp composition slightly wets the adhesive layer
inside a paper tube, and when it dries it really glues the delay
increment in place. Makes sense to me, and ramming it damp really
creates a dense, hard plug of composition.
Once the tube sections and delay increments are dry, it's time to
assemble the sections of the Roman candle, with lift charges and
stars installed as I go along.
One homemade jig really helps at this stage, and ensures the
assembled Roman candle ends up perfectly straight. I took this tip
from one of the photos of Gary's process, and expanded upon it for
my own purposes.
Homemade Jig for Assembling Roman Candle Sections
The jig is made up of two, 36-inch long pieces of 1-inch by 1-inch
aluminum angle channel from the same section of Home Depot
mentioned above. One of the pieces has two 1/4-inch diameter, 2inch long carriage bolts and nuts installed in each end to act as feet
to stabilize the channel during use.
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I lay out the now-dry candle tube sections in numerical order on the
jig. I also lay out my stars in the order in which I want them fired,
along with a cup of FFg sporting-grade black powder from a gun
Of course, with a bit of dialing in, I could also use my homemade
black powder for the lift.
I'll be using Elmer's glue to assemble the candle and a 1/4-teaspoon
kitchen scoop to measure the black powder lift charges.
Assembling Roman Candle Tube Sections
I have cut out little disks of tissue paper the same diameter as the
tube OD to go between the stars and the lift powder. The tissue
prevents the black powder from migrating up past the star between
the star and the inner wall of the tube. I want to keep all the lift
powder down below the star to maximize the star's propulsion out of
the tube.
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Roman Candle Parts--Ready to Assemble
To assemble section #1, I stand it, bottom down, on my workbench,
and drop 1/4-teaspoonful of the black powder into the top of that
section through a little funnel. I place a tissue paper disk over the
top of the tube and push a star and the tissue down into the tube,
seating it firmly against the black powder. Then I apply a thin ring
of Elmer's glue around the top edge of that section.
First Roman Candle Section-Loaded with Lift Powder,
Tissue Paper Disk and Star,
Elmer's Glue Applied
I then push section #2, bottom down, onto the glued section #1, and
wipe any excess glue off with a paper towel. Then, while I'm
pressing those sections together, I pick them up and lay them into
the trough of the alignment jig. Pushing them down on the jig
ensures that they are perfectly aligned, and I push them together
end-to-end to make sure the glue joint holds tight.
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Tube Sections 1 and 2 Glued
Together and Aligned on the Jig
Then I carefully pick them up, continuing to press the sections
together, and stand the assembly upright.
Again I load lift powder, tissue, and star, and run a ring of glue
around the top of the tube. Then, I assemble section #3 in the same
manner as #2.
I repeat this process until all nine sections have been assembled and
I have the whole shebang resting in the jig.
All Sections of Roman Candle
Glued Together and Aligned
I could just press the sections together end-to-end, make sure they're
sitting nice and straight on the jig, and let the glue dry. But, nooo,
not me. I'm a bit more of a perfectionist than that.
Note: That's kind of a funny revelation. When I was a kid, my Dad
was always hollerin' at me for not cleaning up his shop after using
his tools, or for not finishing up a project I'd started. Now, with my
pyro avocation, I've gotten very particular about cleanliness in my
shop in order to prevent serious accidents. And I've also come to
know that meticulous work habits are a sure way to achieve
consistency with my artistic fireworks devices. We live and learn.
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consistency with my artistic fireworks devices. We live and learn.
Sorry, Dad, and thanks; I finally got it!
So, I go one more step to really clamp the candle sections tightly,
end-to-end as the glue dries, and to ensure my candle ends up
perfectly straight when it's dry.
I lay another piece of the aluminum angle channel on top of the
glued-up candle. (You were wondering what that extra piece was for
in the pictures above, right?)
Roman Candle Sandwiched Between
Two Aluminum-Angle Sections
Then I take 12-inch pieces of masking tape and put bands of the
tape, stretched tightly with the sticky-side-out, around the aluminum
and candle sandwich. This really holds the glued tube sections nice
and straight.
Masking Tape, Sticky-Side-Out,
Holding Tube Sections Straight
To really pull the tube sections tightly together as the glue dries, I
install two 1/2-inch square, 4-inch long, pieces of steel bar, and two
tightened strap clamps. Gently tightening the clamps snugs the tube
sections together, but I don't tighten them so much that the ends of
the tubes are damaged.
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Of course, long rubber bands or elastic bungee cords could be used
in place of the strap clamps. Pieces of wood could also be used
instead of the steel crossbars.
Pulling the Tube Sections Together with
Steel Bars and Strap Clamps
It takes 2-3 hours for the glue to dry sufficiently to allow the
assembled candle to be removed from the jig. I remove the strap
clamps and steel bars, tear the bands of masking tape, which remove
easily because they were applied, sticky-side-out. Et voilà! A
sturdy, straight Roman candle emerges.
A little 100-grit sandpaper quickly knocks any rough spots off the
outside of the tube joints.
Dry and Sanded Roman
Candle Removed from Jig
Well, let's stick a piece of Visco fuse into this puppy, take 'er
outside, and fire it up. Right?
Hold on there, podnah. Not so quick. The candle tube, as it currently
is, really is not that strong yet. End-to-end glue joints don't have
much structural integrity. If this particular Roman candle is going to
survive the pressures when it fires, those joints will have to be
reinforced a teensy bit.
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How to Make a Roman Candle, A Skylighter Fireworks Making Project
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Reinforcing and Finishing the Roman Candle
Enter fiber-reinforced, gummed, kraft-paper tape. One of my
favorite supplies is a tape that I get from Staples: 2.8-inch wide,
fiberglass reinforced, paper packaging tape, Staples #468231. This
stuff is light, thin, and really molds well to the tube once it's wet.
Although I usually cut the tape to length with scissors because of the
fiber-reinforcement, I use my manual tape dispenser as a wetting
station to wet the tape. A sponge could also serve this purpose.
Fiber-Reinforced, Gummed
Kraft Tape, and Manual Tape Dispenser
The glued-together candle is 18.5-inches long. I cut four 18-inch
strips of the kraft tape to use to reinforce the tube. Each strip will
run lengthwise on the tube, and will wrap around to cover about 3/4
of the tube circumference. Therefore, the four strips, staggered as
they are applied, will create 3 complete layers of tape on the candle.
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How to Make a Roman Candle, A Skylighter Fireworks Making Project
11/24/09 4:40 PM
Four 18-Inch Strips of
Tape for Reinforcing Candle Tube
I run a strip of tape through the dispenser's wetting station, and
carefully apply it lengthwise on the Roman candle tube. Each strip
has to be kept straight; the long edge of the tape needs to be parallel
to the length of the tube. I get the first strip pasted down tight. Then,
I butt the long edge of a new strip right up against the edge of the
first piece of tape. Since each strip only wraps around 3/4 of the
tube's circumference, once it is pasted down, the second piece of
tape will overlap the first one some. I repeat this process for all 4
pieces of tape. That way the gaps in the tape get staggered around
the circumference of the tube.
In between each strip application, I burnish the previous strip down
nice and smooth with a scrap of paper tube. When all the strips are
on, I give the whole tube a nice hard burnishing to produce a flat,
smooth application of all the tape.
Kraft Tape Applied to Tube
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How to Make a Roman Candle, A Skylighter Fireworks Making Project
11/24/09 4:40 PM
and Burnished Smooth
with Paper Tube Section
Oh, yeah, that baby's looking nice, and feeling strong now. After
inserting a hooked piece of Visco fuse as shown in the candle crosssection sketch, I put on a wrapping of colorful paper, and tie the
paper snug around the fuse. Now she's ready to take out, tape to a
stake in the ground, and light.
Completed Roman
Candle Ready to Fire
3 Finished Roman Candles
You might be thinking, "That was a lot of work to produce one,
simple fireworks device, wasn't it?"
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How to Make a Roman Candle, A Skylighter Fireworks Making Project
11/24/09 4:40 PM
Naah. Not really. There was probably about an hour's worth of work
in the construction of that one candle, all told. It may sound like a
lot of time and effort, but once you get going on the project, it's
really not that complicated.
This new Smith Method of making Roman candles is such an
improvement and can produce such nice consistent results for the
hobbyist, that I just can't help but be excited about it, especially
after my past, less satisfying results.
When I carefully look at the videos of all the Roman candles I made
using this new method, every initial delay after ignition was just
about exactly 4 seconds, and every intermediate delay was within
one second of 8-seconds long. It don't get no better than that.
On top of that, I'm already imagining creative variations on the
above theme: mine-shot candles, crossette-comet candles, color-toreport-insert candles, married-comet ones, matrix-comet projectiles,
and crackling-microstar-comet varieties.
I hope to tackle those projects in the coming months.
Additionally, the Roman-candle competition at the PGI
(Pyrotechnics Guild International) convention allows candles up to
2-inches ID. I do have some nice, stout 1.5-inch ID tubes, so I just
may have to come up with some larger versions of these babies to
take to Mason City, Iowa in August.
Have fun and Stay Green,
[email protected]
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How to Make a Roman Candle, A Skylighter Fireworks Making Project
11/24/09 4:40 PM
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