Proceedings of the Biannual Symposium on The Study of Things That Blow Up Real Good, including a brief history of pyrotechnics, notes toward preliminary aesthetics, comparative analysis of the pyrotechnics included in this year’s symposium, and a summation.
Fireworks are fun, so we blew lots of stuff up. Here’s a report on the stuff we blew up.
Test Material Used in the Symposium
See Exhibit A for a visual breakdown of test material.
Something something something: A History of Pyrotechnic Appeal
Ancient China, blah blah blah (boilerplate paragraph omitted due to researcher boredom)
Preliminary Groundwork for a “Bang for Buck” Scale of Firework Aesthetics
The research team preferred impressive aerial displays to loud noises, so we looled for things that explode high overhead rather than big firecrackers or strings of smaller ones.
Data Gathered at the Symposium: A Breakdown
- “Helicopter” type spinners (the ones with the green plastic helicopter-type blades): At six for just a few dollars, this is probably the best bang for the buck item on the list. Getting any spinners smaller then this and you’re likely to be disappointed.
- Paper airplane type spinners: These were less effective than the helicopter-type spinners; they didn’t go as high, and were more likely to be duds.
- “Suppositories With Fan Blades” (well, that’s what they look like, anyway): Testing inconclusive. In the dark we didn’t get the orientation on any of them right. We’ll try to retest come New Year’s Eve.
- Blue Lagoon: Fountain type firework. A decent bang for buck item.
- Finned Rockets: New this year, and much more effective than the stick-mounted kind we had bought in previous years.
- Branding Iron: 20 shot aerial barrage type. This offers a good display, and a decent bang for the buck.
- Stars and Stripes: 20 shot aerial barrage type, pretty much identical with Branding Iron. Buy whichever is cheaper.
- Warrior in Fire: A long multi-shot array. This is definitely an excellent “bang for buck” item, and next time we’ll probably pick up two or three.
- Crackling Colored Palms: This used to be one of my favorites, and I used it as the climatic piece
- Gamma Glow: A big, 16-shot. climatic “crowd pleaser” finale piece. It was pretty impressive, but maybe not $45 impressive. Come New Years, I think I’m going to try a different finale piece.
Important Safety Tip
Don’t try lighting Thermite without your welder’s gloves.
Summation: How To Buy Fireworks
A few pointers:
- In Texas, Fireworks are only available from June 24-July 4, and from December 20-January 1, and only in municipalities that don’t ban them.
- It’s always best to buy early rather than late; usually they’ll put things on sale near the beginning of the sales period, and come July 4th or New Year’s Eve, they’re pretty picked over.
- If possible, buy from one of the dedicated fireworks buildings (such as the ones near Elgin and Bastrop) rather than the portable stands, as the selection is much more extensive.
- Do pick up some sparklers; they’re a lot more effective than punks or lights and lighting fuses, especially in high winds. (And, in our experience, there are always high winds.)
- Don’t buy one of the assortment packs; they’re mostly low-yield crap.