Star Warts

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

I was in pig heaven when I got my new star rolling machine from John Smith.

But the very first batch of stars came out looking like they had contracted a king-hell case of warts. Looked like raspberries – all bumpy all around. Actually, there was an easy fix, but I didn’t have a clue about it at the time.

Over the next couple of days, I’d like to find out about YOUR problems in making stars.

Please take a few minutes and tell us all what sort of problems you have or had making stars. Or what has stopped you from being able to make stars. What kind of stars were you making? What went wrong? How was the process difficult or unsatisfactory for you? It’s star problems I’m especially looking for. How come?

I want to see if the problems you’re having can be solved by a radical new star making method that Ned came up with. And Monday, I have a great new article on stars for you from Ned.

Just add your comments on star making problems down below.



PS: The cure for star warts is to dampen them and keep rolling ‘em. Don’t add any more dry powder just yet—just spray them with water or water and alcohol. As you spritz ‘em, the warts soften, and they get rolled out flat. Once they’re perfectly round again, you can resume building them up with powder and water. The warts are caused by using too little water.

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

  1. Jacob says:

    Hello every one,
    I just have to agree Florida is a not great place to be for pyrotechnics i would love to be in a club, even more so have a job and be surrouded by fireworks but I can’t find any one or group down here and the ones that I have found were like iompossible to get into, and as an outsider they dont want to let me in lol its poohness imho

  2. robert thompson says:

    this is the first visit outstanding. know of any clubs in north east bradford county pa.

  3. Lonny says:

    i use 1.25oz to 1.35oz goex FFF black powder to lift my 4 inch shells. I’m getting ready to build my first 6 inch shell, any ball park ideas on how much FFF bp i need to use to lift this sucker?

    • ned says:

      I’ll typically use 1.5 to 2 ounces of 2FA under a 4″ shell.
      Because of the finer FFFg powder you are using, you are getting away with a little less powder since fine BP burns more powerfully than the more coarse granulations.
      I would use 3.5 to 4 ounces of the 2FA under a 6″ shell, so, similarly, you could probably use 2.75 to 3 ounces of your FFFg powder.
      But, that fine powder is typically used under smaller shells, and when you start making larger shells, larger granulations of BP are most often used.
      Larger granulations burn more slowly, and kick the shell more gently.
      You can probably get by with FFFg under the 6, but it’s probably pushing it as far as the kick you’ll be giving he shell.
      If you want to stick with sporting grade BP, it’d probably be best if you move to Fg if and when you can for the 6′s.

      • Lonny says:

        Thanks ned,
        I’m pretty exited about it, I have access to FFg also but I’ll try it with the FFFg that i have. I’m not sure but a licsense is required for the FA powders is’nt it? if so guess I’ll have to look into it. I need to really focus on my home made bp and start playing the baseball trick to see how much more of it I would need per shell. See wich one is more economical. Thanks again!

        • ned says:

          From what I know, Lonny, a license is not required for the purchase of the A blasting BP’s, but many sellers require one it it is to be bought in bulk quantities. There are also shipping restrictions on it.
          But sporting grade Cannon powder, available from online suppliers who will ship it to adults, Hazmat shipping, is very close in granulation to 2FA.
          If you are making good homemade BP, with good,hot charcoal, you should need the same amount or Less of it than you would commercial BP.
          It would certainly be more economical to use, and the satisfaction of being able to make your own,,,priceless… :)

        • Lightningrod says:

          All I can say is that after trying almost everything else, ball milling, pressing, and corning is the only way to get something like what you buy as commercial BP. The performance of non-pressed powders can be excellent, but with pressing and corning comes the other factor – mechanical durability. Pressed & corned grains dont crunch back down to dust. I corn the presscakes while still damp, over a sizing screen which lets the grains fall through once they are small enough to be about 2 f size. Further screenings give me 4f and 7f from the same process. It may not be the hottest stuff on earth, but it’s consistent, cheap, and MINE! Free yourself from the price of real BP, and the lackluster (pyro) performance of Pyrodex!

          • ned says:

            In my own experience, and in my practice, Lightn’n, I’d have to slightly disagree with you.
            Whereas pressed and corned BP grains are probably the Most durable, I”ve been able to get good, durable and serviceable BP, that is as powerful or more so than commercial BP, using alcohol granulation, water/dextrin screen granulation, or even coating on rice hulls. See my “Making and Testing BP” article in the Skylighter Newsletter Archives for some details.
            I find pressing and corning pucks into grains a pain in the butt..
            Whereas, coating on rice hulls, or screen granulation is a breeze.
            Good hot charcoal, combined with efficient ballmilling, can be easily turned into BP as hot as Goex by adding 2% dex and hot-water screen granulating.
            I just find that if a process is too hard and time consuming, no matter how good the end results, I start to resist doing it, and I found that to be the case with presssing and corning pucks.
            In the end, if I could only make one BP, it’d be BP coated on rice hulls, which is very serviceable as lift and burst power..
            But,,,as each their own,,and not trying to be argumentative.

            • Lonny says:

              Ned, Lightning,
              good advice, I do make my own bp and coat rice hulls with it. However I’m still using standard airfloat charcoal. I’ve got both pine and willow wood at my fingertips I just have’nt made any charcoal yet. I’m kinda like a kid in a candy store with way to many options to choose from. I want to try both woods I’ve read they’re both pretty good choices.

  4. Jon Williams says:

    I’ve rolled a few stars in my time and the problem that seems to crop up again and again is with the comp sticking to the sides of the roller rather than the stars. Very frustrating! Also I’d love to know how to roll stars so that they grow at the same rate. Whenever fire up the roller I get 10% of the stars that seem to be greedy little buggers and eat up all the comp.

    • HEGilliam says:


      In a star roller, the larger stars will hog the comp. If you’re using a machine, you’ll need to either dip your hand into the pile to keep them mixed up, or use some form of a vibration mechanism on the star rolling machine. Vibrating the rolling drum can keep the pile mixed up, so the big stars don’t float on top and hog the comp.


    • tab says:

      Jon, another way to keep those greedy buggers form using up all of your comp is to size your stars(*) more often during rolling. It is time consuming, but well worth it if you want consistent stars that all change color and/or go out at the same time.

      (*) Stop your star roller, dump everything out, and sift them through sizing screens or plates into 2 or more batches, depending on how much your sizes vary and how precise you want your finished stars to be. Pick out the (hopefully) few stars that are much larger or smaller than the rest and dispose of them. Put the smallest batch back in the roller and bring the stars up to the size of the next larger batch (you can repeat the sizing process to check), then combine all of the now-same-size stars and continue rolling. Repeat the whole process as necessary, and you’ll not only eliminate the comp hogs, but your finished stars will be easier to work with and look better in the sky!

    • fireram67 says:

      hey jon as for the size not being the same, if you scrape the side of the roller machine to get the comp off while you are rolling them, you will end up with a bunch bigger than the others. it is best to wait until you are done rolling what you got, then scrape the machine, run it through a screen, then roll it in to the batch. bob

    • ned says:

      Joh, the material that the roller drum is made of, and, as Harry says, having a slightly ‘eccentric’ drive shaft on the roller to vibrate the drum as it turns, can help a lot.
      The shape of the rolling drum, and the angle the stars sit in it as they roll, can also affect the size-consistency as the stars grow.
      Probably the Largest single tip when rolling stars is to be paitient, to very lightly mist Only the stars (some guys get very-fine-mist atomizers for the initial stages), add small increments of comp and allow the stars to roll long enough to pick all the comp up,,,and to let the process proceed slowly.
      Of course all of that takes a lot of practice and experience.
      Of all the star-making methods, cutting/screen-slicing/pumping/etc, star-rolling is probably the most demanding of practice and patience.

      • Paul says:

        I agree with Ned, the shape of the rolling drum has to be , round bottom, so the inner stars, starts falling on the outer stars , and the process continue over and over again. That’s one thing how one can get nearly uniform stars. Try also to correct the angle of the drum so you can see this movement occur.
        My first rolling drum, 30 years ago, was constructed from an old water heater drum, which is a round bottom. It served me for many years. It takes some time to master this art, but once you got it , you can roll 30 kilos of stars in an hour. I know it is not easy,because this week I tried to teach a friend of mine, and the results were not that good. But from his mistakes he will learn. I tried to roll stars In America in a common plastic bucket, no round bottom, it was not easy for me. Practice makes perfect .


        • ned says:

          Over the years I tried:
          HobbyFireworks star roller with poly-drum,
          same roller with drum replaced with a stainless steel stockpot,
          different roller with a stockpot,
          poly-drum concrete/plaster/mortar mixer,
          all with varying degrees of success and confidence,

          But it was only when I made a Nascar Tire Star Roller, ala Kyle’s instructions in the Passfire archives, that star rolling became a pleasurable process in which I had confidence.
          Size consistency with the tire is very close, and the process is a little more forgiving of lower levels of experience, in my opinion.

          Now, I use the tire exclusively for star rolling, and the stockpot-roller for coating BP on rice-hulls, or slurry priming pumped comets.
          The tire is probably not ideal for professional, production-size star batches, but for hobbyist quantities, I think it works very well.

  5. lefty says:

    I have experimented with practically every kind of star you’ll see in the pyro literature, ranging from traditional round stars and cut chlorate stars to the AP/PBD stars that seem more like composite rocket fuel than stars. I’ve made small (25 g) batches using experimental mixes and large (>200 lb) batches using commercial equipment. I’ve also encountered and learned to deal with most of the problems I’ve seen mentioned in various books and articles. From a practical standpoint, I think the only way to learn how to make stars is to make a lot of them and to learn from your mistakes. It doesn’t take long to gravitate toward compositions and methods that work. Think of your early failures as tuition you have to pay to become an accomplished starmaker. Nevertheless, there is one thing I’d absolutely love to have: the equivalent of an ice-cube tray method for making color stars. I’ve seen various methods using the grates commonly used for fluorescent lights, but the all of the grates I’ve ever seen are more suitable for charcoal or glitter comps for med-large shells than color comps for cores or smaller shells. I’d love to see a method for making 1/4″ or small cubes from strobe or color comps using an inexpensive grating. I’ll bet Ned can do it! Think about it this way, Harry. I’d love to be able to buy the equipment and 1-5 lb lots of every chemical needed to make good 1/4-3/8″ cube stars without a license. I’d like to purchase an inexpensive plastic or metal grating that can be used to make these stars much like I make ice cubes at home. It’s a no-brainer to make ice cubes. First you fill the tray. Then you wait a reasonable amount of time. Then without much effort, you twist the mold to release the goodies in perfect form and start the process again. It would be great if a similar method could be developed to make stars that don’t require priming.

    • HEGilliam says:


      Why do you want that particular kinda star?


    • Ed says:


      I made a small gang mold for my green, blue & red stars using a sheet of 7″ X 9″ X 3/8″ thick white plastic left over from a previous project. I ripped three 2 1/4″ X 9″ sections from the 7X9 sheet. For the first section I used my drill press to create a 3 X 10 matrix of 3/8″ Dia holes spaced 1/2″ in the short axis and 3/4″ in the long axis. The other two (non-drilled) sections serve as the mold’s top and bottom pieces.

      This 30 hole mold uses exactly 600gn of composition + binder. After filling the mold, place all three sections together and add a little weight. (I use a couple 1lb lead ingots). Let this configuration set to partially dry for 24 hrs. The following day separate the mold and poke out the tiny little stars with the non-business end of your 3/8″ drill bit. [I again use my drill press, but this time to "press" out the moist stars]. Spritz and prime and let air dry for a few more days. [I think I'll try a food dehydrator on my next batch].

      This was probably an overkill answer to your question, but suffice it to say, a mold works just fine for little colored stars. I like your idea of the ice cube tray “twisting” to remove the stars. Now if only I can find a sheet of 3/8″ thk flexible plastic, hummm…

      QUESTION FOR THOSE INTERESTED: Apparently acetone can be used quite liberally as a binding agent in compositions using Red Gum, Parlon, and Dextrin (almost to the point of being a wet slurry). Is that the experience of others?

    • ned says:

      I’ve made charcoal-comp stars in the plastic light-grids years ago, but that method, as you indicate, really only works well for charcoal comps which shrink as they dry, and release from the grid somewhat.
      Any color comp which doesn’t shrink as it dries, or doesn’t dry quickly and easily, or has a solvent which affects the light grid material, won’t work well with that system.

      I do think you might find the upcoming release of this screen-sliced, parlon-bound star making method interesting, in light of your wishes.
      The comp can be quickly made, sliced in consistent sizes through a screen, primed at the same time, and the stars can be dry and usable in just a few hours.
      All of those details seem to be pretty much in line with your wishes….
      We’ll see,,

    • Robert says:

      I can see sieving (in fact I’ve done so) to make micro-stars, but why would you want to use a grating to make cubic stars 1/4″, when they’re easily made as cut stars?

  6. handymanherb says:

    My brother have been asking for 4 years now, I emailed them , I left messages on their answering machine a few years back and never heard anything from the club.

    I could just jump in and do it on my own, but would like to learn the safety stuff I might find out the bad way on my own.

    We do a good show with commerical stuff we sale to keep our price down, but would like to work up to a bigger finish with a few big shells.

    • Lonny says:

      your very wise to be concernd about safety. anyway i started with Tom Perigrin’s book, Introductory practical pyrotechnics. you can get at skylighter or just about any other pyro site out there. all the projects are fun and fundimental, by the time you’ve done all of them you’ll be making ball shells. the best thing about it is everything revolves around safety. the book is meant to get you started with the knowledge of how to procede safely. if you do what it says you will develop some very good, safe, habbits. it has several formulas none of which contane magnesium or require a solvent other than water and alchohol. I still use the book for refference. get the book and see if your comfortable with the projects, if so get started and have fun! if not keep learning as much as you can through reading and asking questions till you do. let me know how it goes.

  7. Alex says:

    Every time I try to roll stars my mixdoesnt want to coat on the cores(I use binders) and it’s getting really annoying because verytime I try I just waste mix. I am not using lead shot because I don’t want the little lead balls in my fireworks. And the first time I tried to roll stars it was easy and enjoyable but now I just end up coating my pan or roller with mix. Can any body help me please, and thank you.

    • ned says:

      Alex, what kind of cores are you using?
      Sometimes it helps to wet the cores in a separate bowl, dump them in a kitchen strainer to remove excess water, then put them in a dry bowl and sprinkle on comp to get the coating started, Once the cores are coated this way, they can be put in the star roller, very-slightly misted, and have more comp added to them.
      At this beginning stage, much patience is required, very light misting,,and very small doses of comp are added, minimizing the amount of solvent which gets on the sides of the roller.
      Once the star size increased a bit, the process gets much easier.

      • Alex says:

        Hmmm, very good idea. I have tried using Accini de Peppe cores(i think its spelled right) which are small somewhat round noodles that worked very well my first time rolling, then i tried a few types of seeds. And for some reason (probably just a better comp. for rolling) the first time i rolled stars i had no problem making them. thank you for the idea on wetting the cores in a different bowl, I’ll have to try it this weekend

  8. Jerry Bohnert says:

    star making was fine. they are a little powdery after dry coating them. is that nornel? I picked then up with pop sickel sticks like chop sticks. to keep a light touch on them. is this ok? keeps hands cleaner too.

  9. Lonny says:

    I never joined any clubs, nor have i looked to join. what i did to learn was read till my eyes bled everything i could on skylighters website and ordered a few books and a dvd on shell buildig. after that i proceeded to waste money on failed projects till the light bulb came on. i love making fireworks and my kids think I’m some kind of magician which feels great and makes my wife more on board with my addiction. As for warts ya its pretty easy to cure unless your rolling glitter stars, i have comepletly ruined a two pound batch of glitter stars before by using to much water so be mindfull of the type of comp your using.

    • ROBBY says:


      • ned says:

        Pyro Baseball is a great way to dial in lift charges, and time the flight of a ‘shell’ from lift to apogee, Robby..
        I’m glad you’re enjoying the tutorials, and the fireworking..
        Stay safe, and have fun,

  10. Paul says:

    Green stars

    I am in need of a formulation for Green stars USING the chemicals available from Harry by mail order. I have used the Veline system with great results, but that requires Ba nitrate which I can not order.
    Any help would be apprecaited. Paul

    • Lonny says:

      potassium perchlorate/ 30%

      red gum/ 4%

      parlon/ 12%

      magnalium 50/50 100 mesh/ 30%

      boric acid/ 0.5%

      dextrin/ 4%

      barium carbonate/ 19.5%

      I roll these stars using water with 25% alchohol. makes a really nice chartruse green

      • ned says:

        that’s very close to the carbonate-green formula we’ll be discussing in one of the upcoming screen-sliced, parlon-bound star tutorials.
        One of my goals in that project was to come up with a green which meets Paul’s needs, works with the screen-slicing parlon-star method, and still makes a nice, vibrant green star color.
        The parlon-bound star will not use dextrin or boric acid, since no water is used in that star-making system.

  11. Twotails says:

    I like to roll my stars by hand. In a heavy duty plastic coated salad bowl.takes quite a bit of pracice, but the rotating action is similer to gold panning.I use small glass beads(switched over to lead now, getting expensive) they come pitted and ready for sandblasting(Harbor freight I think has them)and pick up comp real easy.just picked up some extruited plastic bb’s, probably will be rolling round comets or large strobe stars.

    Never had much trouble, but I sure as heck wished that the GE Silicone(II) comp could be used in a star roller.

  12. Cain says:

    I wish I could find a club here in Montana. I’ve been sitting on thousands worth of pyro chems, scales, star presses, etc., and I have a lathe and such so I can always make more molds/forming tools, but I have no idea on the legality here or if there’s even a club in the state. It’s quite frustrating.

    That aside, I used to have issues with rolling stars until I just went to making them with a press and using cut stars from then on. Worked like a charm for the little mines I love.

    • Homebrewed says:

      Well, I’m here in Montana as well as one other I know of in this state..Maybe we
      should start a club?? I live in the middle of no where lol..So no problem testing and playing..Montana need’s a club!

  13. Timothy says:

    I’ve had the most success with making symmetrical stars by pumping. But pumping a pound of comp using a single 3/8″ pump is extremely tedious. I’ve never had success with cut stars. I’ve tried altering my solvent ratio from too dry to too wet and everything in between. I always end up having stars that crumble or start out the right size and end up flattening out like little pancakes. They stick to the cutting board or stick to each other. Its usually a big mess. I cant afford a dedicated rolling machine so the only experience I have with rolling stars is priming my finished pumped or cut stars in a pan. I’ve never had the raspberry effect when hand priming, although I have had a few issues with stars sticking to the pan or to each other when priming with allot of solvent. More agressive bumping will keep the stars from sticking to each other and a greater number of stars in the batch will help keep them from sticking to the pan.

    • ROBBY says:


  14. Aaron Links says:

    I have made those “raspberry stars” before. I actually found a way to use my Harbor Tool & Freight rock tumbler (I use it for my ball milling) to make stars. Yeah, you just put some books under one end to tilt it up and leave the top open. It’s a mini-star rolling machine! The key is to be patient with it when rolling stars over number 7 lead shot. A little water, a little powder…eaaasy does it.

    Now, I can make pretty stars that still don’t light! How frustrating. I prime them with meal powder, stick them in my 1.75″ aerials, and sometimes I’ll get 2 stars to light out of the 20 or so I stick in the shell.

    Making pretty 1/4″ stars is easy, but getting them to perform is a pain. I need some serious pyro tutoring. I stick with small shells because I like using them in my back yard here in the city. As long as I’m respectful of the time I set them off, the neighbors don’t call the cops. Never had the cops called on me yet, and I’ve been doing this on and off for 3 years now.

    But I still stink at getting these small shells to look like their mass produced chinese counterparts that I can buy on the indian reservations.

    My stars suck! Please help!

    • Paul says:

      Make this your Rule. In Black Powder, more Charcoal in the prime and more Pottasium Nitrate in the burst. Or try this sulferless powder. Pottasium Nitrate 32, Charcoal 12 , Dextrin 2. I ball meal in a big wheel mill, but I think that 6 hrs in a small tumbler will do. I use this for for nearly any kind of star. You want slow burning powder which leaves slag on the stars, so, wind velocity want stop the burning. Hope this helps.

      • Aaron Links says:

        Thank you so much for the advice! Paul and James, I will try your suggestions!

        Again, you advice seems very probable for fixing my problem.

        I also had a brainstorm for using the rice hulls as ‘stars’ in the small shells I’m making. I figure I could coat them by shaking them in whatever star mix, let them dry, and then coat them in your prime suggestions!

        For small shells, this may work! If you have thoughts on this, please share them!

      • Scott says:

        Hi all—regarding this sulfurless powder described as pot nitrate 32—charcoal 12—-dextrin 2——-this adds up to 46—-i am confused —-is this grams or something? thanks scott

    • James says:

      There could be a few things causing your stars not to light. In your shell. I would use a booster of slow flash along with my bust charge if your using 75/15/10 for your burst.. I would also add 10% silicon to my prime to add more heat to the prime. Also how much pasting are you doing on your shells. The small shells need to build up the gasses to get a good burst and light the stars. Hope this helps.

    • Lonny says:

      sometimes its just a matter of not using enough prime. I’ve heard people say the prime layer should be half the diameter of the star. I usually go with about a third of the diameter. when i started doing that i had a massive increase in the amount of stars that lit. also if your stars are heavy with metal or potassium perchlorate ect. you mite want to put a thick layer of igniter on before the prime. some stars are just hard to lite and bp prime wont get hot enough to do the job but it will light the igniter layer. hope this helps, if you want i can share the formulas i use with you

  15. Paul says:

    Regarding rolling stars , I use a modified concrete mixture, because I make kilos of stars at a time. You can invest in a small rolling machine. I used rape seed, onoin seeds etc.etc, but the best I found is plastic granules, they are 1/8″ by 1/8″. I find them from factories who manufacture Plastic pipes etc. When starting to roll the stars I wet the granules with 50/50 alchohol , water so the granules will be a bit soft and the composition will stick to the granules more. When they are coated with a thin layer , I change to water only. Hope this will help.

  16. Youbetcha says:

    handyman there is a club now. TurboPyro will teach you everything you need to know to make the same legal off the shelf stuff you can get at ph***** without the crazy markups and misdirection of buy one get one free. I didnt get the turbopyro kit but i got the pdf and its top notch info.

  17. Lightningrod says:

    I made my own rolling machine, and had some turn out nice and some turn out all bumpy. The advice for the rasberries is helpful. I’ev actually had better luck dampening the stars or cores in a big screen-scoop, the quickly dumpin ‘em intoa baking pan with dry comp in it and rolling them around manually. I can usually use pumped stars, so a gang plate is next for me. Skylighter should consider offering smaller star pumps and plates. Some of us shoot a lot of suburban (uh, “proximal”) fireworks. I have had a lot of fun with 1/8 microstars in all sorts of devices. The roller is great for priming these little devils. Can’t wait to see ned’s new technique.

    I’m sorry to hear of your experience – I live in the peoples republic of Kalifornia, where there seem to be no clubs. Nonetheless, I have learned a lot, especially from Harry and Ned. I can now make a variety of devices, and they work well almost all of the time. It just takes practice, patience, and determination. Buying off the rack is quick and easy, but it pales in comparison to shooting something you made with your own hands and heart.

    • fireram67 says:

      Lightningrod, what part of the People’s Republic of Kalifornia do you live in. I too live in California and LOVE this hobby. Have had great success at rolling stars and the star rolling machine that I have made out of stuff I’ve bought out of Harbor Freight and Home Depot. Yes, there are definitely NO clubs in CA cuz I’ve looked, but there is a lot of good information out there on the web, and a lot of people who want to share their experiences. You can write me at hydronicman at and maybe we can help each other. What I found out about star rolling is it takes practice and technique. Too much water and your stars become mush, not enough water and they look like balls with warts.

    • Robert says:

      Lightningrod, I don’t know if blog-and-comment is such a good format to discuss this in, as opposed to Usenet (rec.pyrotechnics) or e-mail list or Web board, or even a dial-in BBS, but I’m very interested in your 1/8″ micro stars, for frankly urban, not just suburban, conditions. I’ve found it easy enough to use micro stars of all kinds in gerbs, but I’m more interested in mini-shells or micro-mines, where ignition is more difficult. In those I’ve found anything less than 4-5 mm dia. hardly ever shows up. Have you had success with 1/8″ stars in suitably small shells & mines? If so, what fabrication methods and what kind of compositions?

      And if you see this and want to start a thread on it at rec.pyrotechnics, so much the better.

      • ned says:

        this novel screen-slicing, parlon-bound star-making process we’re about to discuss in a couple projects, lends itself very nicely to small micro-stars.
        Simply using a smaller-mesh slicing screen, like a 8×8 instead of the 3×3 or 4×4 will produce nice, primed vibrant-color micro-stars which are dry and ready to use in an hour or two.
        Pumping really small stars can be tedious, and standard-cutting of them takes a bit of precision, but the screen-slicing rubber-bound stars all come through the screen pretty darn consistently sized.
        I also save the small scraps from slicing larger stars, and this collection will end up in small shells or matrix comets someday.

        • Lonny says:

          good to read your words again! i used to get skylighters newsletter and looked forward to the projects you layed out for us. I’m new to this forum, you spoke of projects coming up, cant wait to hear about them! again its great to see your still out there i thought you dropped off the map.

          • ned says:

            Thanks, Lonny…
            Still alive and kickin’..
            We’ve been working on a series of projects, will be released in the upcoming months…sort of a follow-up series to TurboPyro, which serves as a good foundation of skills and projects for newcomers.
            But, these upcoming projects are not dependent on having worked on TurboPyro, so they can stand on their own, too.
            We’re also working on updating some of the ‘old’ projects, with more photos and videos.
            I hope you find them valuable.
            Seeya’ ’round,

      • Lightningrod says:

        I’m not curently “hooked up” to any forum. If you can suggest one, I’d be very interested. As to the small scale stuff, I have been using both cut and pumped micro-stars. For the cut ones, I use any formula which is suitable for cut stars, meaning you can get the dough fairly wet. I use two cutting boards, two shims, and wax paper to make a flat cake about 1/8 thick (Neds idea). Then I use a wide piece of stainless sheet to guide my razor blade. It floats on the loaf, and doesnt mess it up. The pumped ones I make with either a small .250 X .200 pump I made myself, or for really small ones I use a tool made for pushing pins out of electrical connectors. It’s made by AMP, and is their part number 305183. Mouser electronics sells them for about 17 bucks. It looks like a little star pump, except the plunger is not removable. (Clean and WD-40 before putting it away). I make a flat loaf about 1/8 thick by pressing the dough as outlined above, and then just push the nose of the extractor down into it. Point it at a tray of primer and give the plunger a tap. The star pops out and flies into the primer. I can make about 50 a minute this way. The diameter is jusr over 0.100. I prime them with Veline primer, and once dried, they light well in shells, mines. These little guys are also the cores of rolled color-changing stars. I’m just starting to play around with those…
        Formulas used: Kosanke blue, Buell red, my own green formula, charcoal with Ti, Davis white.
        Now for my question:
        I’ve put these in gerbs, and seen nothing.. Wahh!
        Any suggestions?


        • ned says:

          Rod, I can’t recommend the discussion Forum on highly enough. Many, many pyro enthusiasts, newcomers and experienced old-timers.
          You can check it out with a free guest subscription.
          And a subscription lasts for years, since it’s duration is based on new articles being published, and they are few and far between nowadays.

          As far as the gerbs go, I’ve not played with micro-star gerbs yet. They are on my plate. I would ‘guess’ that your microstars are either burning up before being ejected from the gerb, or are not being ignited well. I would think that if they are being ejected without being lit, you’d find them laying around the gerb firing site.

          I wish I could offer more suggestions.. I guess I’ll have to work on these someday soon.

  18. handymanherb says:

    NO clubs to help me learn so I gave up on making fireworks, seems in Florida you have to be great at it before your asked to join a club to learn.

    I’ll stick to buy off the rack

    • Paul says:

      If you are from Florida, you can join Florida Pyrotechnics Arts Guild. There is no need to be an expert in nothing, they teach you Safety First and then the Technics of Fireworks.

      • scott says:

        Unfortunately they don’t respond to outsiders and apparently it is a closed group with participation by invite only. BS in my book

    • Pyroguy says:

      Florida has a great club. None of us were any good at it when we joined and most us didn’t have a clue. The way you get in is to have someone sponser you. If you don’t know how to join and want to become a member really bad just start asking. Skylighter is a great place to start. Passfire is another place to sign up and join in the forum to learn about fireworks not to mention all the articles on how to of pyro. The Passfire forum has boatloads of people who will answer questions on anything.


      • Paul says:

        I fully agree with PYROGUY. Florida has a great club, From Skylighter you can learn plenty of things and also if you join Passfire you can have answer from newbies and professinal members and very interesting articles.

  19. Jralph says:

    They’re available from

  20. ned says:

    Hobbyfireworks has gone out of business several years ago, Jess, even though the website is still up and running.
    Some folks make their own Pot-Rollers, some folks use modified cement-mixers, and some folks make Rubber-Tire rollers per the plans on
    I like a pot roller for coating BP on ricehulls, and for priming pumped/cut stars, and the tire roller for actually rolling stars.

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