Making Gerbs (Firework Fountains)

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

After talking for the past few weeks about all the interesting things we can do with commercially-made consumer fireworks, let’s now make some simple, easy-to-make display items of our own.

In a past article I wrote about making nozzles and bulkheads. We’ll be putting those lessons to work in this article.

In Making Your Own Firework Tubes I explored cutting, treating, and rolling paper fireworks tubes. These tubes will also be used in this project.

Homemade fountains, called gerbs by pyro-folks-in-the-know, are very versatile devices. They can be used as stand-alone fountains shooting sprays of sparks skyward, as drivers on wheels, as downward spraying tubes in a homemade waterfall, or as line rockets.

I’ll be demonstrating those line rockets, sometimes called rats or pigeons, in the post following this one, so stay tuned. I’ll also be using these fountains as drivers on a fireworks wheel. I described using commercial cone-fountains to drive one of these unique Chromatrope double-wheels in Mortar Racks, Fusing Techniques, and a Firework Wheel.

Devices very similar to these fountains, employing a slightly faster-burning fuel and a somewhat different nozzle configuration, were what I described in the How to Make End-Burner Rocket Motors. In that article I showed how gerbs can be used to create a design, called a gerb set-piece.

Gerb Set-Piece

Gerb Set-Piece (Photo by Nancy Stewart)

From Wikipedia: A gerb is a type of firework which produces a jet of sparks, usually from 15 to 60 seconds. It is a thick-walled tube filled with pyrotechnic composition and possessing a choke, which is a narrowing in the tube. Gerbs are often referred to as “fountains.”

I don’t know what the origin of the word “gerb” is, but I learned, while trying to find out, that there is a Star Wars race of the same name. Interesting.

The word is pronounced the same as “germ” but with a “b” instead of the “m.” I wouldn’t want to saunter up to a group of pyros, trying to appear experienced in the ways of fireworks, and say “gerb” as in “Gerber” baby food, now would I?

Gerbs are one of the most simple of fireworks, but they offer the opportunity to learn some basic fireworking skills, and also to get in the habit of practicing basic safety precautions.

Cross-Section of a Homemade Gerb/Fountain

Cross-Section of a Homemade Gerb/Fountain

Click here to learn how to make gerbs (firework fountains)

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