Two separate events have led me to explore this subject.
Harry emailed me and said that Skylighter had received a shipment of functional, but ugly, star testing guns. He said that he was willing to make folks a great deal on them if I could find a way to illustrate the need for them and how to put them to good use.
I said that I could easily do that, and that I had in mind a bonus, creative way to put them to use.
Additionally, a fellow pyro on Passfire.com was recently mentioning that he was having problems with some stars he had made. He related that he had ignited some of them while they were sitting on the ground, and although they had burnt all the way through, there was not much effect from them and they had left a large ash on the ground ounce they had gone out.
So, all of that came together, and this little article is the result.
Well, technically it’s not.
I’ve lit and thrown many stars to test-burn them in the air, and usually could do so without burning my fingers if I licked them first. Sometimes I’d grab the leather glove, but then sometimes I was too lazy for that move.
I have made Super Bottle-Rockets using Steve Majdali’s tooling, available in the ads in the back of the PGI Bulletin. Taping a test-star atop one of these nifty little rockets is a great way to get the star way up in the air where it is ignited. But, making a rocket to test each star can become a bit too much work.
Way back when, I got the bright idea of getting a slingshot, taping a piece of visco fuse to a star, loading it all into the slingshot, firing up the visco, pulling back on the rubbers, waiting until the star just ignited, and letting ‘er fly. I just knew I’d invented a new useful pyro device. Even called it my “Kentucky star gun.”
I posted my “unique” invention on a pyro discussion list, and a well known fireworker responded that he’d been doing just that for years, and that he had some good welder’s gloves (which covered the arm in addition to the hand), which he could sell me, and which were handy for that operation.
Darn. I’d reinvented the wheel once again. That happens a lot in hobbyist fireworking.
But, with all these devices, the idea is to test-burn a star or comet flying through the air at some distance from us.
Often color stars don’t show their true colors if we are too close to them while they are burning. They’ll look quite different at a distance of 100 feet. And they burn differently when flying through the air than they do sitting still.
For instance, willow stars and glitter stars won’t create their unique effects at all if they are just sitting on the ground burning. But put them up flying through the air, and we can begin to appreciate their effects and visualize what hundreds of them flying out of a shell-burst will look like.
And, honestly, a slingshot or hand-tossing will not get the star very far from me nor very high in the air. They will often burn me. If half of my attention is on not getting burnt. I won’t really focus on noticing how the star performs.
Enter the tried and true star gun.