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SUNBURST SPARKLER SEMINAR

by Laverne E. Niksch

This publica/ion contains descriptions and depiction ofAdult Sparklers. The inj'ormlltion
contained herein is based on the aulhor's experiences using specific tools under specific
conditions no/necessarily described in this article. Readers are cautioned that they must/orm
their own opinion as to the application o[ any in/oTntillion contained hereilL

The author assumes no responsibility/or the use or misuse of this in/ormation.

What is a Sunburst Sparkler Effect?

This effect is created when hot molten white dross or slag falls or shoots out from the sparkJer
and explodes on the way to the ground. The effect looks like a waterfall with an attitude.

History of this effect.

I started out making titanium sparklers using the following formula:

Potassium Perchlorate 40
Titanium sponge 100 mesh 20
Aluminum medium flitter 4
Dextrin 16

This is a great sparkler. It bums hot and bright. The sponge Titanium produces branching
sparks. The Aluminum produces molten dross or slag drops. It took about four dips to make a
114" thick sparkler and about three days between dips to dry. The Dextrin swelled when wet,
shrunk when dry and tended to warp the sparkler. This was a good effect but took a lot of effon
to make.

My second attempt started with a modified Spirit ofAmerica sparkler fonnuJa from The
WiilJrd's PyrOiechnic Formulary:

Potassium Perchlorate 40
Titanium sponge 100 mesh 40
Dextrin 18
GuarGum 2

This mix also made an excellent sparkler. The bwn was fast, hot and bright with lots of
branching sparks. Guar Gum thickened the mix so that not so much dripped otfwhile drying.
Now two dips made a good 114" thick sparkler. There were no molten dross drops from this
sparkler.

My third attempt used the same Spirit ofAmerica fonnula with the addition of four parts
Aluminum medium flitter. Now 1 had a super sparlder with bright molten dross drops.

The most expensive ingredient was the 100 mesh sponge Titanium. 1 figured if I could use 100

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mesh spherical Titanium J could cut my Titanium cost in half or Jess.
My new fonnula was: ,-

Potassium Perchlorate 40
Titanium spherical 100 mesh 40
Aluminum medium flitter 4
Dextrin 18
GuarGum 2

Sparklers made from this mix did not bum very well but did produce exploding dross. This was
a very neat effect.

The final formula using Potassium Perchlorate follows. I used half Titanium sponge and half
Titanium spherical:

Potass ium Perchlorate 40


Titanium spherical 100 mesh 20
Titanium sponge 100 mesh 20
Aluminum medium flitter 4
Dextrin 18
Guar Gum 2

This sparkler had it all . The bum was clean, even, hot and bright with branching sparks at the
bum and exploding dross drops. It took at least two dips and about three days to dry between
dips. I made these sparklers for two years. I used them as waterfall effects. Because of the
molten dross, these were adult sparklers, as the molten drops could bum feet or dry grass (and
did).

In 2001, I wanted to improve th is sparkler fonnula. I wanted a better binder. One that did not
shrink like Dextrin and Guar Gum, warp the sparkler and dried much quicker. I didn' t want
much, eh? In The WiZard's Pyrotechnic Formulary, there were many fonnulas using Poly Vinyl
Acetate (PVA) as the binder. This binder was stated as being water based, providing protection
for metal s and non shrinking.

1 did a web search and found a very interesting Archeological hit. Poly Vinyl Acetate was used
to repair broken artifacts and the product EImers Glue All was a Poly Vinyl Acetate emulsion. I
went out and bought some Eimers Glue All and made a sparkler without the Dextrin and Guar
Gum. I needed to dilute the Eimers Glue All with an equal amount of distilled water. The
sparkJer bum effect was comparable to that using Dextrin and Guar Gum.

Most of the sparkler fonnulas in The WiZard 's Pyrotechnic Formulary that used Poly Vinyl
Acetate used Ammonium Perchlorate as the oxidizer. So, I tried out the following formula:

Ammonium Perchlorate 25
Titanium sponge ]00 mesh 10
Titanium spherical J 00 mesh J0
Aluminum medium flitter 3

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The bum rate on this sparkler was very fast, too fast to be useful. The molten dross did explode.

I decided to leave out the Titanium sponge and repeated the fannula.

Ammonium Perchlorate 25
Titanium spherical 100 mesh 10
Aluminum medium flitter 3

This sparkler burned very well. Bum rate for a 10" sparkler was about 30 seconds. There were
many small exploding molten dross drops. This was the effect I was looking for. The dross
drops were propelled off the front of the sparkler and exploded two to six feet from the sparkler.

I also tried 20-60 mesh spherical Titanium and 60- I00 mesh spherical Titanium. The 60- I 00
mesh spherical Titanium produced the best effect. This is the size of the spherical Titanium that
I now use in this sparkler.

Sparkler Substrate

The conventional sparkler is made by dipping a wire or stick in a slurry mix and hanging it up
until dry. An alternate method fills a paper straw using funnel and wire. I wanted a substrate
that would be consumed while burning. I considered string, aluminum wire and a paper drinking
straw. I chose a six~ply cotton string. I use a 10" long length of string glued to a 4" skewer stick
as a handle. The string is consumed and aids in keeping the sparkler burning. .

Making the Mix


I use Ammonium Perchlorate that is screened to 40 mesh. A finer mesh does not improve the
bum rate or quality of the effect. I use a granular Ammonium Perchlorate and screen it to 40
mesh using a stainless screen and a wooden pestle.

The Aluminum mediwn flitter is a mixed coated flake that I obtained from Firefox. The old
product number was CI02. A fine mesh dark Aluminum will not produce the same effect.

The 60- 100 mesh spherical Titanium was obtained from Iowa Pyro for $6.00/lb. and screened to
this mesh size. A coarser mesh size spherical Tianium produces too few exploding drops of
dross. A finer mesh spherical Titanium produces a good visual effect but smaller exploding
drops of dross.

I mix no more than a double batch in grams using the following formula:

Ammonium Perchlorate 25
Titanium spherical 60- 100 mesh 10
Aluminum medium flitter 3

I weigh up and put the three ingredients in a smaJl Rubbermaid food container with a lid and
shake for about ten seconds. Wear a quality dust mask. I then screen the mix using a 3" Echo
stainless strainer. Do not use a pestle of any sort in the strainer. If your Ammonium Perchlorate
has already been screened to 40 mesh, it will all pass through the 3" Echo strainer with out

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trouble. Now put the mix in the food container, put the lid on and set this aside.

Preparing the Sparkler Stick and String

One batch of 38 grams will make about eight sparklers. Prepare ten sticks and striniS for each
batch of mix. Start small and only make one batch at a time.

I buy 10" wooden skewer sticks at the grocery store in quantity of 100 for ahout $2.00. Cut these
with a metal scissors into two 4" lengths. I throwaway tbe 2" pointed end. So, cut five skewer
sticks into ten 4" sticks.

The string that I use is a non waxed six+ply cotton string that comes on an industrial size cone
(ahout 10" tall). Any multiple ply non wax coated cotton string will work. Cut ten 10" lengths
of string.

1 sl:cure the string to the skewer stick using full strength Eimers Glue All and a !/z" x I" strip of
shoe box tissue paper. Cut out ten W' xl" strips of tissue paper. Coat W' of the stick end with
glue. Stick a string on the glue. Using your fingers, wrap the tissue paper around the stick and
string. Use a damp towel to wipe excess glue from your fingers. Set down to dry for ten
minutes before using.

preparine the Glue Mix

What you need is a clear squeeze container like an empty squeeze plastic ketchup bottle with a
lid. You do not want a spray type hottle like a Windex bottle. The glue will plug this type of
sprayer.

You should start out using a 50150 mixture of Eimers Glue All and distilled water. Shake until
the glue and water are well mixed and cap the bottle.

HanJ:im: up the Dipped Sparklers

Plan for this job before you make the sparklers. I use 1/4" dowel rods four feet long that are
hanging horizontal from a shelf I use a· 6" single ply cotton string with a ~lip knot to mount the
string to the dowel rod. J make a second slip knot at the bottom of the string to hold the
sparkler. I insert the skewer stick in about 1" and draw up the slip knot This method works
well for me. Put a newspaper underneath these rods to catch any drips. There will be drips!

MakinK the Wet Mix

You do not want a large container to dip your string in. You want a plastic container about 2" in
diameter. I use the HOPE containers ITOm Pillsbury caramel and orange breakfast rolls. I also
use small Rubbermaid containers with lids so you can keep the mix for another usage.

J put about two tablespoons of the dry sparkler fonnula mix in the container. I squirt in a small
about of glue/water mix (about one teaspoon) and stir. I squirt in smaller amounts of the gluel
water mix and stir with a small spoon until I get a slurry that is the consistency of oauneal or a

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little thinner.

Hold the prepared skewer stick and dip the string in the mix. Stir with a spoon. Lift out and put
back in the mix again and stir again. Hang up the stick. Plan for a little dripping. If the mix
gets too dry, add a little water and stir. If you add more dry sparkler formula mix, add more
glue/water mix.

Dryim: Time
Normal drying time is about two days in a dry, no sunlight room. I let my sparklers dry hanging
from the dowel rods for eight hours and then put them on an aluminum cookie tray to dry in the
sun for four hours. This dries your sparkler to 90% or more.

LilWtin~ your Sparkler

These sparklers are hard to light. I do not recommend using a match or lighter. They bum hot
and eject molten dross. You can bum your hand very easily if you try using a match. J use a
torch. This gives you a little distance. You can safely light one sparkler with another. The
sunbursts are ej ected from the end. They do not normally come off the side.

J coat all my sparkler tips with a hot igniter and dust the ends in Goex 3FG or 4FG. See the next
section for how I did this.

Hot Igniter Mix


These sparkJers contain the oxidizer Ammonium Perchlorate and conventional pyro wisdom
says, "You do not use a nitrate prime on top of an Ammonium Perchlorate star. You will fonn
an Ammonium Nitrate barrier and the star will not light." EImers Glue All forms a protective
barrier around the sparkler. The nitrate prime does not compromise the ignition of the sparkler.

I use the following hot igniter mix fonnula:

Potassium Nitrate 37.2


Charcoal airflow 11.4
Sulfur 11.4
Aluminum German black 5.7
Silicon 11.4

I mix trus into Nitrocellulose to make a thick sluny.

If you are going to put a hot igniter mix on your sparkler, you need to prepare your sparkler.
Here is how I do it. I cut out ten pieces of 3/4" x I '12" Krafi paper. I gl ue these onto the sparkler
using straight EImers Glue All so that about 1/4" of the paper cup extends past the sparkler.

1 put about 1/4 teaspoon of Goex 3FG or 4FG on my paper-<:overed work table. 1 use a clean
skewer stick to put a dab of the bot igniter mix with Nitrocellulose in the paper cup. 1 theD dab
the still sticky sparkJer end in Goex 3FG or 4FG. You must let these dry standing upright. I

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have made a small wood stand with drilled holes to take the skewer sticks. Use proper
ventilation when using Nitrocellulose.

Why use Kraft paper on the sparkler tips? I like to chain many sparklers together using sticky
match. Sticky match sticks very well to Kraft paper. Sticky match sticks poorly to a oaked
sparkler.

Ouestions and Answers


o. What jftbe sparkler doeso't burn well?
A. Try burning some sparkler powder outside. Ifit doesn't bum well, then one of your
ingredients may be bad.

A. Did you use a substitute for EImers Glue Aln Not all white glues are the same.

A. Is the sparkler dry? Under non ideal conditions (or iftbe sparkler is more than 1/4" thick) it
may take three to four days to dl)'.

A. Is the sparkJer 114" thick? You may need a thicker mix.

Q. I eet moiten drops of dross but no Sunburst explosions. Wby?

A. Are you using spherical Titanium? Sponge or flake Titanium will not produce the sunburst
effect

0, 1 do not i:et molten drops ofdross. Why?

A. Are you using the correct kind of Aluminum? You need a coated flake Aluminum of varying
stze. CI02 Aluminum from Fire/ox works very well .

Other Sparkler Formulas

The following formulas have been tested using Eimers Glue All as a binder. The effects
produced are all great. If you are not comfortable working with Potassium or Barium Chlorate,
do not try to make the Ruby Red or Emerald Green Fire Sticks.

Gold Steel Sparkler Sky Blue Fire Stick


Ammonium Perchlorate 25 Ammonium Perchlorate 25
Steel sparkler powder 10 Copper Carbonate 5
Aluminum medium fliner 3 Copper benzoate 3
Aluminum medium flitter 2
Ruby Red Fire Stjck
Potassium Chlorate 25 Emerald Green Fire Stick
Strontium Carbonate 5 Barium Chlorate 24
Aluminum medium flitter 3 Barium Carbonate 2
CharcoaJ air float I Aluminum medium flitter 3
Charcoal air float 1

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Briehl While Sparkler
Potassium Perchlorate 10
Aluminum dark 10

Notes & Warnines;

Do not dry any chlorate tire stick in the sun. The sun can dangerously sensitize any chlorate
device. Don 'I lake the chance.

Can I use nitrates? I have never got any Potassium Nitrate sparkJer effect to work. with Eimers
Glue All. It doesn ' t liquefy very well and takes forever to dry. Strontium Nitrate does not work
well either. A small amount of Strontium Nitrate used with Strontium Carbonate does not
improve your red color and takes much longer to dry. Barium Nitrate can be used. It doesn ' t
produce a very green effect with Aluminum and Potassium Perchlorate or Ammonium
Perchlorate.

Can I use Parlon or PVC as a chlorine donor to get bener color? Neither Parlon nor PVC in
small amounts has improved perchlorate colors for me. Larger amounts make a fluffy too light
sparkler.

Can I use Magnesium or Magnalium in my sparklers? I have not tested Magnesium in these
sparklers. 100 and 200 mesh Magnalium can increase your flame temperature, your bum rate
and improve your color.

Are aoy toxic gases produced while burning these sparklers? Per Shidlovsldy in Principles
of Pyrotechnics: "Free Chiorilll! and Hydrogen Chloride arefonm!d by the combustion of
compositions containing A mmonium Perchlorate." Avoid prolonged breathing of the smoke.
This smoke will irritate the eyes, nose, throat aDd lungs. Burning or testing of the sparklen
and the powder mix should be done outside.

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