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The Traditional American "Gold Flitter" Cone Fountain Firework


I'd rather be
Midas Member
Mar 31, 2010
This post is for informational purposes only. If you choose to do this you do so at your own risk, I am not responsible for any actions you may take, or their consequences. Mods, if you find this post inappropriate, please delete it.

Being as I live in Cali where one can't make their own fireworks, I joined a fireworks club, the Western Pyrotechnic Association, and learned to make and fire these at their events held in Lake Havasu, Arizona.

These are the traditional "gold flitter" cone fountains that were common when I was a kid but are very hard if not impossible to find nowadays, since most of our fireworks have been replaced by Chinese ones. :-(

Here is how I make these beautiful traditional firework fountains at the pyro event:

First, you need to get some paper textile cones, like the ones used to store twine. These come in several sizes, the ones to look for are 6-8 inches in height and have a approx. 1/8" hole at the top small end. If they have a heavy wall so much the better, but if they are fairly thin they may be made more flame resistant by closing the small end, then filling the inverted cone with sodium silicate solution, waiting a few moments, then draining the excess back into the original container. Let the treated cones dry thoroughly before use.

Next, you need chemicals:

Potassium nitrate (KNO3), the horticultural greenhouse grade powder works fine, or if you can still find some at the drugstore, so much the better.

Sulfur (S), plain powdered sulfur.

Charcoal, powdered (do NOT use ground up charcoal briquets).

Cast iron filings, the kind you find at brake service shops where they have to turn down the cast iron drums and rotors, you may have to run them through a sieve to get rid of the bigger bits. You will have to treat the filings against corrosion by melting some paraffin wax into them, enough to coat them without excess.

These chemicals can be purchased from suppliers such as Skylighter and Firefox if you cannot find them locally.

The formula for the fountain composition (the "comp") is:

6 KNO3
1 Sulfur
1 Charcoal
2.5 Cast iron filings

The proportions are by weight, not volume, you may use grams, ounces, etc., as long as you use the same unit throughout.

You will also need a fuse of some kind, good visco fuse can be purchased from Cannonfuse.com

It's best to do the next part outdoors.

Measure the saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal into a paper cup and stir with a 3/4" wooden dowel until mixed. Add the iron filings and mix by turning the cup different ways.
This mixture is one of the safer ones as far as pyro things go, you do want to avoid unnecessary friction but the chances of it igniting absent a spark are actually very small.

Now, cut a piece of fuse about 2" long and insert it about 3/4" into the small opening of the cone, securing it securely with a piece of masking tape.

Using a teaspoon, scoop two or three spoonfuls of comp into the inverted cone. Using the dowel, pack the comp into the cone firmly. Add more comp and pack firmly, repeating the process until you have filled the top third of the cone.

Now look into the cone and note the diameter of the packed comp. Cut a piece of cardboard into a circle a bit bigger than the comp diameter. Smear the edges of this "plug" with a good carpenter's glue, and press it firmly into place onto the comp with the dowel. Apply some more glue and smear it to make a nice fillet around the edge of the plug. This plug keeps the comp in place. You could also use powdered clay for this if it's handy. Let the cone dry thoroughly before use, several hours at least.

Cone fountains have an advantage over cylindrical ones in that the display gradually increases as the comp burns due to the increasing burning surface area.

The charcoal in the formula produces a bushy spray of orange sparks.
The iron filings produce beautiful brighter gold feathery sparks.
Coarse titanium filings may be substituted for the iron for white sparks.

After everything is dry and it gets dark outside you can go light your cone fountain, in an open place well away from dry grass, etc. Enjoy safely! Have a Happy Fourth!

This post is for informational purposes only. If you choose to do this you do so at your own risk, I am not responsible for any actions you may take, or their consequences.

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