14 Great Cut Star Formulas

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

Back in 1995 I bought the assets of KSI, Ken and Bonnie Kosanke’s company in Grand Junction Colorado. There was quite a bit of inventory, all stashed in the KSI warehouse in the “Stinking Desert” outside of Grand Junction. I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into. But my ex-wife and I thought it was a good idea at the time, so I dived in. Blindly.

I actually ran the operation out of the Stinking Desert warehouse for a few months. The Kosankes taught me the business, kept me from getting in trouble with the ATF and CPSC, and patiently taught me what I needed to know.

KSI had been around for about 20 years before I bought it, so there was quite a bit of collateral material that came with the deal. One little item was a list of cut star formulas my predecessors had put together. It fits perfectly with the theme of the last blog post, so I figure it’s time to make it available to a larger audience and to immortalize it.

by K.L and B.J. Kosanke

At one time, we were engaged in the commercial manufacture of firework stars. During that time we assembled (developed, borrowed or modified) a series of star formulas. It was felt that the formulas were reasonably safe and cost effective, while at the same time, performed well (relatively easy ignition and fairly good color or comet effects). Over the years, when asked for advise concerning useful star formulas, we frequently supplied copies of “these” star formulas. In the thought that there are others that might wish to have access to them, this short article has been assembled.

Below are the star formulas, given in parts by weight. Unless otherwise noted, water was the solvent used to activate the binder. Normally round stars were manufactured in a star rolling machine. However, the formulas should work equally well to make cut or pressed stars. Where needed, notes have been included for clarity.

Chemical Red Blue Purple Green Red
Strobe
White
Strobe
Green
Strobe
Potassium Perchlorate 68 61 61 - - - -
Ammonium Perchlorate - - - - 34 - -
Barium Nitrate - - - 56 - 53 49
Copper Carbonate - 12 5 - - - -
Strontium Carbonate 13 - 8 - 15 - -
Sulfur - - - 9 24 23 18
Parlon - 13 12 14 - - -
Hexachlorobenzene - - - - 5 - 6
Red Gum 14 9 9 3 - - -
Mg/Al (-60 mesh) - - - - 12 12 11
Mg/Al (-200 mesh) - - - 4 - 6 9
Aluminum (12mic., atom.) - - - 9 - - -
Dextrin 5 5 5 4 5 5 5
Boric Acid - - - 1 - 0.5 0.5
Potassium Dichromate 0.5 - - - 5 2 2
Notes:         (A) (B & C) (B & C)
References:   (1) (1)     (2) (2)

(A) Do not prime with meal prime, use only red strobe prime.
(B) Adjust strobe rate by using greater or lesser amounts of Mg/Al (200 mesh).
(C) Priming consisted of a very heavy application of meal prime (30-50% of total star weight).

Chemical Meal
Prime
Red
Strobe
Prime
Willow Gold
Glitter
Soft
Silver
Bright
Silver
Pearl
Potassium Perchlorate - 68 - - - - -
Potassium Nitrate 75 - 64 55 50 64 35
Barium Nitrate - - - - 10 - -
Charcoal (air float) 15 18 13 11 10 13 15
Charcoal (80 mesh) - - 9 - - - -
Zinc Dust - - - - - - 40
Aluminum (12mic., atom.) - - - 5 - - -
Aluminum (50-120 mesh) - - - - 10 - -
Titanium (20-40 mesh) - - - - - 9 -
Red Gum - 9 - - - - -
Sulfur 10 - 9 17 15 9 5
Dextrin 5 4 5 5 5 5 5
Potassium Dichromate - 1 - - - - -
Sodium Bicarbonate - - - 7 - - -
Notes: (D) (D)         3
Notes:       (3) (4)   3

(D) Can also be mixed with nitrocellulose lacquer for use as a quick drying slurry prime.

References

(1) T. Shimizu, “Studies on Blue and Purple Flame Compositions Made with Potassium Perchlorate” Pyrotechnica VI, (1980).

(2) R. Winokur, Private communication.

(3) T. Fisher, “Glitter Stars without Antimony”. PGI Bulletin No. 24 (1981).

(4) R. Sheard and others, Private communication.

4 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Danny says:

    I can’t get the green strobe to ignite easily. I made 5/16 inch pressed stars coated in a ton of meal. All that happens is the meal prime ignites and leaves the star behind unburned. If I hold a butane torch to the star for about 5 seconds it will finally ignite. No way this will work in a shell as is. I don’t want to waste these pretty stars. What can I do? Do I need a layer of hot prime on first then meal?

  2. Dave Morris says:

    Bill,

    These are weights. I found a percentage calculator on-line and just tyuped in the values in ounces that I was looking for.

    Say two pounds or 32 ounces of the “Willow Formula”

    75% of 32 = 24
    13% of 32 = 4.16
    9% on 32 = 2.88
    on so on

  3. bill smith says:

    would like to get instructions on cut star forumlias by weight ,can anyone help?

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