Charlie’s Secret Green Stars

Charlie’s Secret Green Stars

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

Charley stored all the fireworks he made in a big chest-type magazine.

Right out in the middle of his backyard.

It was the middle of a nice July afternoon in 1996. And Charlie was in the mood to tell some secrets…

And I was a fireworks newbie itching to find out whatever I could from this old fireworks pro.

“I hate working with chlorate,” he said.

“I know people say it’s impossible to get a good green star without barium chlorate. Been hearin’ it all my life.

“You bleeve ‘em?”

“Of course,” I said, pretend-falling into his trap.

I watched over his shoulder as he lifted up the wooden cover of that big cinderblock chest, and started rustling around in a stack of old Goex boxes, marked with shorthand for different stars… “R/G,” Gr–>Sil,” B/R,” etc.

“That’s it…” he said, as he opened up a box, and reached inside.”

This really isn’t really about Charlie, by the way. Although I think you might wanna know the secrets he gave me that day.

It’s actually about Charlie’s connection to green stars. And what a HUGE problem green star colors have been for Skylighter.

See, we have not been able to ship green color oxidizers during this century!

But last night my ace warehouse detective, Lori, figured out a way to ship ‘em to you again. Hooo-ray!

So, I figgered you might put this green little tidbit I’m passing along to you to some good use.

Charlie held a little black square in his hand, “Now, I know it’s the middle of the afternoon but look at this green even in daylight. I call it the Emerald Green Illuminating Star.”

He lit the star and tossed it into the air by hand.

Damn! Even in daylight it really was the deepest, brightest green I had ever seen! I was impressed.

“Now, you know what, Harry? That’s a barium nitrate green, NOT barium chlorate.”

And the rest is history. Charlie shared his green formula and some others with me that afternoon. I carefully chicken-scrawled his formulas down on this piece of 30# virgin kraft, which I have carefully preserved.

Don’t worry if you can’t make ‘em out. We couldn’t either. But here they are as best we can make ‘em out, 15 years later.

Chemical Emerald Green Illum. Star
(parts by weight)
Yellow Star (degn)
(parts by weight)
Excellent Blue*
(parts by weight)
Silver Glitter
(% by weight)
Potassium Perchlorate 15 35 50 (or 35?) 55
Barium Nitrate 65 40
Aluminum
Flake Dark
10
Aluminum
Flake Bright
7 8
Parlon 16
Red Gum 5 10 10
Airfloat Charcoal 2 3 8
Dextrin 5 5 4 6
Boric Acid 2 2 4
Potassium Chlorate 25 20
Cryolite 15
Copper Carbonate 8
Sulfur 8
Antimony Trisulfide 12
Totals: 120 142 92 (or 77?) 101

 

I have only made the green, so beware of the others. In particular, the yellow and blue formulas look funny to me.

I have made the green many, many times and love it. It’s my standard green.

My favorite green star is to roll the Emerald Green on top of 1/8″ “silver spin” cores (but that’s another secret that I can’t let you have yet).

Tell me what you think of the blue and yellow formulas. The blue perchlorate parts may be 50 or 35-it’s not clear. And the yellow Cryolite is either 15 or 1.5-my bet’s 15.

Charlie’s green is so good, that I think, despite these questions, the other colors oughta be given a try, too. (And, oh yeah, ALL of the ingredients are available at the fireworks chemical page at Skylighter.com and can be shipped to you anytime you need ‘em.)

I’m sure they can be cut, rolled, or pumped.

What do you think, star makers? Please give me your comments below.

Harry Gilliam

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

  1. ozan says:

    Not in turkey potassium perchlorate. What can I use? Potassium chlorate?

  2. cameron says:

    for the green mix can you skip out on the dark al because im new to you’re sight and i cant buy the stuff

  3. Alexander says:

    How about those silver spin cores Harry? Ready to share them already..

    You know what they say…. sharing is caring ;-)

    Regards,

    Alexander

    • Shemuwel says:

      Well, take a gander at what has become my most favorite Hall of Fame fireworks star formulation of all time!

      It uses Charley’s Secret Green rolled on top of 1/4″ Silver Cores. The stars come out of the shell a beautiful emerald green. Then, as they come down, they trail down to a silver flitter.

      But hold on there. They aren’t done yet.

      These babies finish up with a spectacular surprise. The silver cores actually take off! If you’re close to them, you can hear them whizzing away with a little “vffttt” sound.

      Here’s how I make them:

      The Silver Cores formula

      Potassium Perchlorate – 70
      Bright Aluminum Flake – 30
      Dextrin – 5
      These are parts by weight and do not add up to 100. Make sure the perc will pass thru a 40-mesh Skylighter wooden framed screen. If not, grind it finer. Then screen mix all chemicals together 3 times using the same screen. Set aside at least 20% of the dry mix for priming.

      Roll these stars on top of your favorite star cores–asini di pepe, molecular sieves, round seeds, or whatever.

      In rolling these stars, I use 25% alcohol and water. Roll them the usual way you make your stars. But I want to warn you, these cores take forever. The very small flakes of aluminum roll up very slowly. Don’t rush the process. Just take your time.

      When your cores have reached their desired size, let them air dry for at least a week (less if you use a drying chamber). Make sure they are super dry before rolling on the next color. Test dryness by weighing.

      Potassium perchlorate stars are notoriously hard to light, and this one’s no different. So I roll a 3-step prime onto the dried silver cores. Since I really like a green-to-silver transition, here’s how my steps would work. I make 3 batches of prime using Silver Core composition mixed in 3 different proportions with Charley’s Secret Green comp.

      Pre-weigh and mix each priming step using the proportions below. Label them and keep them in different containers before use.

      This is the order in which I roll them onto the Silver Cores:

      Step Prime 1: 66% Silver Core mixed with 34% Charley’s Secret Green
      Step Prime 2: 50:50 Silver mixed with Green
      Step Prime 3: 34% Silver, 66% Green
      I air dry each prime for one day (less in a drying chamber).

      Finally, I roll on Charley’s Secret Green to the desired size.

      These stars are worth the extra work. And your pyro pals will all wanna know what you did and how you did it.

  4. jeff evans says:

    well I decided to make some and WOW can we say throw out all those recipes for green only need this one.have to my mates on APC forum they can wait to see a rocket with a green header ontop,me to!

    • Hey, Jeff,

      Thanks for the note, man. How about making a little video of that greenhead rocket, and sending it to us so we can post it on our YouTube Channel and Facebook pages for everybody to see?

  5. knox says:

    I just tried Charlies new green he posted…. Its well above what I expected! This is an excellent green I’ll pass down to my kids. Again, thankyou guys!

  6. knox says:

    harry, first off, thank you for all the info you have contributed to the pyro world! I had a thought…. you know those dragon eggs? how would those work for a star core? And more important…. could I press a crossette half way, add a dragon egg in the center of each breakaway, then finish filling and pressing the crossette? I think it might work and give a nice crackle finish to a crossette! I can buy a bunch of crackling balls very cheap around the 4th and save the time of making dragon eggs. a buck would give me about 500 star cores!!! what are your thoughts? thanks…. w.b. knox

  7. Burton says:

    At first glance that green comp had me wondering. I’d never seen 65% barium nitrate in a green comp. Then noticed it totals 120 parts rather than 100. The best green comp I’ve found is Klumac green. This is a deep green star that’s very bright too. This or majdali purple has to be my favorite colored star comps. Here’s the comp for anyone intrested.
    50% barium nitrate
    15% potassium perchlorate
    12% parlon
    8% red gum
    10% magnalium (I use the cheap 200-325mesh)
    5% dextrin
    2% boric acid

    • Gary moore says:

      What is Majdali Purple Star formula, please!

      • Burton says:

        The Majdali purple comp is actually a blue comp. It’s the deepest blue I’ve seen without using chlorate. The comp is
        50% potassium perchlorate
        8%strontium nitrate
        13% copper oxide black
        15% parlon
        3% magnalium (200-325mesh)
        7% red gum
        4% dextrin

        • JJ says:

          What are the solvents?? 75% water 25% alcohol?? Can this be rolled? Please reply, thanks!

          • Burton says:

            75% water 25% alcohol will work, or just plain water is what I usually use. Yes it can be rolled, just about any star I make is rolled, and I’ve never had a problem rolling this. I have tried making 1.5″ comets out of this and it don’t take the lift to well. Might want to try substituting sgrs for the dextrin if making fairly large comets with it.

    • For them what don’t know, “Klumac” is Al, an old pyro pal who I don’t see much of any more, but is out there somewhere. “Majdali” is first-named Steve, a king-hell left coast pyro and toolmaker. These are mainstream, actual living pyros who know their stuff, so their stars are most likely pretty damned good.

      Harry

      • Burton says:

        Steve Majdale can be found on passfire, which also is where his comp is listed. I had to ask him about this purple comp after seeing it, because it sure looked blue to me. This is one of those things that depends on an individual persons perception of it. Steve happens to like a purple that’s more on the blue side of the color spectrum than red. So what looks blue to me might be purple to others.

        As for that green comp of Al Klumac’s, that can’t really be mistaken for anything but green. For an equally great red star, just swap the barium nitrate for strontium nitrate.

        I have noticed in posts above questions and answers about binders. In most cases if the comp has 4% or more dextrin binding with water or water with alcohol is best. Adding alcohol will make it dry faster and in the case of comps containing red gum it might even help it bind alittle better, also when it comes to high in charcoal stars like tiger tail it’ll help the water actually penatrate and wet the comp. For stars containing red gum with no dextrin, or sgrs I have best luck using strait denatured alcohol. For strobe stars and others containing magnesium or ammonium perchlorate I use 1.5 ounces of cellulose acetate desolved in a quart of acetone.

        Burt

    • JJ says:

      for klumac comp? what prime should i use? other question? for those comp, it has magnalium. i was told dnt use water bec it attack the maganalium but it has dextrin so water alc is ok? please reply i really need this information. thank u aloha

      • Burton says:

        Water is fine to use with magnalium. It’s magnesium you can’t use water with and have to coat it. These days magnesium isn’t used nearly as much. Strobe stars are about the only thing I use magnesium in. Magnalium has replaced magnesium in quite a few star comps because it doesn’t oxide really easy the way magnesium does.

        The way I prime this comp is using a hot prime, then black powder over that. The hot prime I use denatured alcohol to roll it with since it contains red gum and no dextrin. The prime comp is:
        potassium perchlorate 65%
        barium nitrate 10%
        red gum 8 %
        aluminum ground 40-100 mesh 7% (sold by firefox use whatever similar you have)
        airfloat 6%
        red iron oxide 4%
        boric acid 1%

        This is the way I’ve been priming them and have had no ignition problems. I haven’t tried priming with just plain bp and no hot prime, but that could work only one way to find out. All my burst is bp on rice hulls coated 5:1 in shells from 3″ to 6″ with just a touch of 70/30 flash added. For 8″ and 10″ shells I use bp coated on cotton seed 1:1 no flash added. These stars primes like this with these burst charges have worked great for me, hope they do well for you too. Let me know if you need to know something else.

        Burt

        • jj says:

          hey burt thanks for yur reply and yur information. gona try these star comp soon waititng on some chemicals come in. here how i do my 3-4” plastic shell. 3-1 bp to rice hull with 5-6 grams whistle mix. got huge breaks. never did 6” shells yet but gona try it for new years. well thank u again iam sure u will hear from me soon with more question if u dont mind. thank u aloha

          • Burton says:

            I’ve never tried using whistle mix as a boster. Once I got the 70/30 flash dialed in I pretty much stuck with that. I have tried whistle mix coated 5: 1 on hulls in a 6″ shell. It really broke the shell too hard and alot of the stars didn’t light. I find 6″ plastic shells to be about the easiest shell to make and have perform great everytime. It seems I can throw about any tipe of star in a 6″ shell, fill it up with 5:1 bp coated rice hulls and it’ll work perfect everytime. If I want a harder break I add alittle flash, but the 6″ shells hold enough burst so I don’t really have to add flash unless I want a really hard break. Another thing great about 6s is that there big enough to use a 3″ shell to make a pretty good inner petal.

            I’m pretty sure you’ll like those stars if you like real deep bright colors. It always sucks when having to wait on supplies. I was at a stand still for about 3 weeks while waiting for my drum of perchlorate, bag of airfloat, bag of dextrin, 22# of parlon, and copper oxide. It might be alot cheaper to buy in bulk, but it has the disadvantage of taking longer to get to you alot of times. For something that’s a hobby for me it’s kinda gotten out of control.

            Burt

    • angelluis says:

      I also love to roll my stars,can the klumac formula be pumped and cut ? I am going to make some cavity stars with gold flitter or d-1,can I add this comp to the cavity?
      Thank you .

  8. Paul Cloyd says:

    looks good without chlorate but my best and easiest to produce green so far is
    Barium Chlorate 75
    Red Gum 10
    Dextrin 3
    Water bound cut stars
    but once again it is Chlorate

  9. Ben Gibbs says:

    I willl certainly give it a try, What is the solvent?
    I love the rubber stars that use acetone. I made a set of tools
    on the lathe for the rubber stars that I use to pump rocket headings
    out with. The headings are just big stars or comets with pointed tips
    and are fitted with a small piece of yellow visco in the bottom.
    All the colors are great to good but the green being my least favorite.
    Wife says its green to her but seems more yellow to me.

    Thanks
    Ben

    • Ben,

      Altho Charlie never gave me the solvent, any time you see dextrin in a formula, you can count on it being water bound. Water and alcohol will work, too. I like your pumped rubber star. Watch for a new project using rubber star mix to make a rocket in a very similar fashion to what you are doing.

      Harry

  10. Dennis says:

    For the green, is the solvent 75% alcohol 25% water?

  11. charley wilson says:

    Not so different but better ‘kick ass green’:

    Barium nitrate 42
    Potassium Perchlorate 20
    Magnalium 12
    Parlon (or Saran*) 18
    Red Gum 8
    SGRS 3

    deeper green with magnalium

    • Charley, Charley, Charley,

      You sit out there silent for years, and then wake up from the dead to one up me! (I would say something nasty about Charley one-upping me, but he is usually right on the money, except his occasional choices in mixing bowls. But I won’t say anything about that here… unless Charley wants to share his experiences.)

      Seriously, thanks, Charley. I was hoping we’d see some good greens emerge from this conversation.

      Harry

    • Mike says:

      Should this formula be primed? with what?

    • joe says:

      Whats SGRS?

  12. Gary Diana says:

    ia the yellow out of the Westech Manual? If so I can look and make sure if it is 15 or 1.5 for you. That is one of my favorite books on fireworks and it just so happens it is also available at Skylighter… :) Maybe you can reply with a link to the book here Harry.

    I have been looking for a decent blue, I am always trying new greens as it is my favorite color (not because of money either : p). So I am sure to give those two a try out before Spring… not fond of using Potassium Chlorate though. Prefer to use Perchlorate but you do what you must now and then…

  13. Gary Diana says:

    well, you know I will give these a try Harry. I will let you know how I do too.

    • Gary moore says:

      What mesh is Aluminum Flake,please?

      • Lonny says:

        Don’t know, I have a pound of bright aluminum flake and it’s 325 mesh. Otherwise known as “TIN MAN” stuff is horrid to work with no matter what you do you will have a shiney chrome coat on you before your done.

        • Lonny says:

          hey Harry,

          ever make any smoke stars?

          • bob says:

            I don’t no if this would work for smoke stars but I think it would
            50 grams salt peter and 50 grams sugar put it on the stove at about mediam stiring all the time until it is like thin honey then ad 10cc of baking soda stir it well and push it through a 4 mesh screen let dry 1 hour
            this will make a small amount of flame and a tone of smoke
            hope this works bob

            • cameron says:

              i have made smoke stars before and i used this comp i got passed down from a distant uncle.
              for the cores:
              47 parts antimony metal
              48 parts ammonium perchlorate
              5 parts dextrin

              warning: I havent seen this used in a while since burning ammonia is extreamly toxic but it works extremely well and fast!You can skip cores or use a different core but i’ve found that strobe mixes work great at knight because it lights up the cloud of smoke.

              As for the rest of the mix:
              55 parts pottasium nitrate
              30 parts sugar
              10 parts light corn syrup
              1 part red iron oxide
              4 parts sodium bicarbonate(baking soda)

            • pat says:

              what is 10 cc of baking soda

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