Using Homemade Gerbs Creatively

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

Last post, Making Gerbs (Firework Fountains), I made some homemade gerbs, also called fountains, using either a gold glitter composition or a silver titanium one. These fountains create nice effects, either fired one at a time, or in a “front” with the gerbs in a line, spaced 8-10 feet apart.

Homemade Silver Titanium Gerb

Homemade Silver Titanium Gerb

One of the things I really love about handmade gerbs is their versatility. In this article I will show you how to incorporate these fountains in some other creative devices:

  • I’ll mount some gerbs on a frame to create a waterfall.
  • I’m going to show how to make a very simple, beautiful, color-changing spark wheel.
  • I’ll recreate the Chromatrope wheel that was described in Mortar Racks, Fusing Techniques, and a Firework Wheel, using homemade fountains to drive it.
  • I’ll show how to make a simple set-piece in the shape of a star, using two different types of titanium in the silver formula.
  • And a simple line rocket will be assembled.

I totaled up the number of the glitter gerbs and the titanium fountains I need for all the projects I have planned, and I rammed them as described in Making Gerbs (Fireworks Fountains).

I drilled 1/4-inch nozzle holes in all of them except the four titanium gerbs that I have planned for the sample waterfall. I made 3/8-inch apertures in those nozzles so that they spray the silver sparks out more gently.

Also, the glitter gerbs are going to be used in pairs with the titanium ones. The glitter gerbs will burn, and then they will passfire from their bulkhead ends to the nozzle end of the Ti ones. So, I’ve drilled 1/4-inch passfire holes through the bulkheads of the glitter fountains.

When they are going to be used individually, I fuse the gerbs with Visco as shown in the photo above. But when they will be used in devices such as the ones I have planned for this project, I fuse them differently.

I cut some 4-inch lengths of thin blackmatch from Quickmatch or Super-Fast Paper Fuse. This match is doubled and inserted into the nozzle holes of the gerbs.

Lengths of Thin Blackmatch, Cut, Doubled, and Inserted into Gerb Nozzles

Lengths of Thin Blackmatch, Cut, Doubled, and Inserted into Gerb Nozzles

I screen together, through a 40 mesh screen, a black powder prime composition, consisting of:

Component Ounces
Potassium nitrate 1.5
Air float charcoal 0.3
Sulfur 0.2
Dextrin 0.1

In a paper cup, I add enough water to the prime powder to create a slurry with the consistency of jam. This slurry is put in a plastic baggie, the top of the baggie is twist-tied closed, and the excess plastic is cut off. I clip a very small corner off of the baggie, and pump the prime into the nozzle holes until they are full.

I finish this priming/fusing off with a dusting of fine black powder granules, and the prime is allowed to dry for a couple of days.

Priming  the Gerbs with Black Powder Slurry

Priming the Gerbs with Black Powder Slurry

This combination of blackmatch and black powder prime ensures a very positive ignition when the flame from quickmatch fusing reaches the ends of the gerbs.

Now I install paper buckets on the fused ends of all the gerbs, and on the passfire ends of the glitter gerbs. These buckets consist of 4-inch by 9-inch pieces of 40-pound kraft paper glued and rolled onto the ends of the paper tubes, resulting in a double walled bucket.

Installing Paper Buckets on Gerbs

Installing Paper Buckets on Gerbs

Click here to learn how to use homemade gerbs creatively.

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