Lots of people used Skylighter’s free project to make Cremora Fireballs for the July 4th fireworks displays. But one of our customers, Jon M., really took the fireball project and ran with it. And ran with it. And ran with it…
After creating over 100 fireballs of his own, Jon offered to share some of his tips and tricks to share with us all. Here’s what he says:
I have contributed to discussions in the past, but I was just browsing over some old articles I hadn ‘t read in a while and felt I should comment on this if it’s of any use.
I guess I’m still considered a youngster among most of the Grand Masters and so forth. But I’ve been a member of PGI, WPAG and worked professionally in fireworks for about 14 years now, so hopefully my 2 cents is helpful to someone.
Finding the Perfect Fireball Fuel
Here are a few pointers/ideas for anyone looking for the best “Cremora” fireballs possible, or a more inexpensive way to make them.
As you already stated in your article, some of these creamers or other “flammable powders” can get to be very expensive (ie. $180 for a 50 lb. bag!)
Like you we have tried just about everything, and I think we finally found not only the BEST powder for a very nice, large and hot fireball – but also the cheapest!
I get my supply from a crew member I work with. He buys 55 gallon drums of “Powdered Milk Fat” from a nearby dairy farm/producer which is in the range of 95-98% fat content (higher fat content = better fuel = better fireball!)
Similar to the “Floor-Sweepings” mentioned in the article, this is a mix of what I can only assume is the same, because we have to filter the “scraps and dirt” out of it first with a simple window screen.
From a 55 gallon drum, we end up with about 1/2 to 3/4 of a full 55 gallon drum left over.
Here’s the kicker… a full 55 gallon drum only costs $20!
Using Empty Propane Tanks as Containers
This may contradict what you’ve heard about using metal containers, but I use old charcoal grill sized propane tanks that have been decommissioned.
They don’t hold up to the stringent standards to hold propane any more. But done right these work absolutely wonderfully, and the metal is MUCH thicker and stronger than something like a coffee can!
Simply cut off the top and you have a perfect container with a “bowl like” bottom and stand to keep it off of the ground. Again I saved the best for last…you can pick these up from local propane dealers for FREE!
Building Better Lift Powder
with Scrap Quickmatch
Anyone who’s been making/shooting fireworks long enough has probably had a bag full of scrap black match and/or quickmatch left over after a show.
As we’re all aware, 2FA, 4FA, etc. is like gold to many pyros! It isn’t always the easiest to make – especially for beginners without fancy equipment – and it can cost a fortune ($10-$20/lb. – if you can find a place to buy it!). Well guess what? All that “junk” black match just became your best friend!
We have done a lot of testing of different combinations, but the best we have found is a 2:1 ratio of “stripped” black/quickmatch to 2FA.
Our “Propane Tank Cremoras” for example use approximately the same amount of lift as a 5 gallon bucket — 8 ounces of 2FA.
Well one day, my 2FA was at a short supply, So someone got the idea to find other sources of BP (other than cutting open aerial shells’ lift bags! LOL). So he took a bunch of what would normally be “junk” or “scrap” quickmatch left over from leaders, finale chains, etc.
He took a pair of non-sparking electrician scissors and cut the ends off and pulled the BP coated string out of the surrounding paper. It turns out that it works exactly the same as the harder-to-get and expensive 2FA/4FA!
* Because of the weight of the string however, you must use twice as much black match as you would 2FA. For example, our Cremoras use 8 ounces of 2FA, so we would need to use 16 ounces of scrap quickmatch.
** While using 100% scrap quickmatch will work, I advise against it. After extensive testing (we probably tried over 100 Cremoras – although I’m not sure if this was all for testing purposes or just for fun LOL!), we found that using 2 parts scrap quickmatch to 1 part 2FA still worked better. And actually was better than 100% 2FA!
So, using the same example of our “Propane Tank Cremoras,” it would require the following:
8 Ounces – 2FA Black Powder
16 Ounces – Scrap Quick Match
Scrap Quickmatch and 2FA in a 2:1 Ratio
(4 Oz 2FA x 2 = 8 Oz Quickmatch)
8 Ounces Scrap Quickmatch + 4 Ounces 2FA
I cannot for the life of me explain why, maybe one of the experts here can chime in on this, but using a mix of 2FA + Scrap QM actually works *Better* than using 100% pure 2FA!
Transporting Your Cremora Fireball
Finally, while the method for making a Cremora Fireball listed in this article works great – anyone who has ever had one not work for whatever reason (bad e-match, visco, firing module/battery, etc.) knows what an absolute mess it is to try to clean up, and how it’s nearly impossible to recover your BP unless you sift it right there on site.
For easy and safe transportation, setup, ATF and DOT Reg’s, etc. you can try what we do. Use a very thin and Seal-able plastic bag and weigh out your BP ahead of time (whether you use the scrap quickmatch method I described, or pure 2FA or 4FA).
Press as much air out of the bag as possible and seal it. When you arrive at the site try to spread out and flatten the bag as much as possible. Then, poke a tiny hole in it and and insert your e-match. While pressing down to keep as much air as possible out of the bag – cover the hole with masking tape.
Being sure to use a few pieces of tape to hold the wire to the bag, press it gently around the edges and sides of your container covering as much of the bottom as possible. You want the black powder lift charge to be as thin and evenly distributed on the bottom of the container. Then, simply pour your creamer/milk-fat/sawdust or whatever fuel on top of it. If you have a bad e-match or field module, or it doesn’t ignite for whatever reason, you can simply (and safely) pull the bag of BP out of the container and dump the creamer! Or put a top on it and take it back home to be used another day.
Thanks again for everything you provide on Skylighter, I have found great resources there over the years, and I’m sure your site and “how-to’s” have helped a LOT of other hobbyists (and pro’s) as well! Hopefully you or other enthusiasts find some of this information helpful!
PS: Don’t Use Flash Powder, Use Black Powder!
One thing made me feel a bit uneasy regarding safety was something that is not mentioned.
I know of a man (who shall remain nameless), who is now out of jail(!) that sent 4 people to the hospital making a “small” cremora out of a metal coffee can!
After attending his first PGI Convention many years ago, he quickly ran to the supply building and bought what he *thought* he needed to make a Cremora fireball…
He wasn’t savvy enough yet to create his own BP, so he figured he would use a small amount of FLASH POWDER instead!
I was getting ready to head over to my friend’s house for a Memorial Day BBQ when I heard an explosion like I had never heard before. I started driving toward my friend’s house when I realized that about 20 emergency vehicles were all rushing in the same direction.
The Explosion I Heard Was 5 Miles Away!
His “Cremora” exploded so violently that it literally broke the neighbor’s glass storm door and sent shrapnel into the siding of 2 different homes, and 3 of the people at the barbeque, and burned one other! Luckily, no one was severely injured or killed. But had the shrapnel hit a friend of mine 1″ further to the right, he would not be here today.
If you don’t have Black Powder, or are unsure of yourself please DO NOT attempt to make Cremoras using some different propelling charge!
Even using BP instead of Flash, I have still seen some of the weaker metal cans explode and I highly advise against using anything metal unless you know exactly what you are doing!