Monday, June 2, 2008

Fireworks Racks

Independence Day is steadily approaching, and I am busier than a two peckered goat trying to get ready for it! :)

My big project for this year is creating racks of guns to shoot artillery shells with. Anyone who is familiar with consumer fireworks shells knows they usually come with one gun to shoot the 6-12 shells that come in a box. For years this was enough for me. We would have a few boxes to shoot, and would light them one at a time.

Last year, I ordered my first wholesale fireworks. I bought a case of shells. There was 144 shells in this case, and I knew that lighting them one at a time would get old pretty quick. Combining a few of the guns that came in the case allowed me to fuse and light four at a time. This was pretty neat, but I knew that more could be done this year.

This year's order included about 800 shells, so I decided to build racks to shoot them out of.

The racks are made of wood, and the guns are HDPE(High Denstity Polyethelene) pipe. HDPE is the ideal material to use for shooting these shells. It is tough, fairly cheap, and not dangerous in a catostraphic failure. Materials such as PVC are not suitable. If a shell explodes inside a PVC gun, the PVC will break apart and create very dangerous pieces of flying shrapnel. HDPE will burst open in this scenario, but it will not create shrapnel.

Each of the tubes is cut to 12" and plugged with a 1.5" thick wooden plug. The plug is hammered into one end of the tube, and stapled through the sidewall of the tube into the plug with 1.5" long staples.

The rack's frame consists of 2x3 lumber. The two end pieces are fastened to the bottom rail with 3" screws. The 2x3 is the perfect width for the HDPE tubes. The bottom side supports of the rack are OSB, and are stapled to the 2x3 frame. These pieces are used to strengthen the frame, hold the tubes in the rack, and supply a place to fasten the spacers in the bottom of the rack. Additionally the OSB will give way in the case of a gun failuer. Only the portion around the exploding gun will break off, leaving the rest of the support intact, and the rest of the guns pointed up.

The top side supports are 3/4" plywood. In between each gun is a piece of 1x2 stock. These are used as spacers. The spacers should allow any released gases from a failed gun to dissipate without harming the guns around it. The spacers also provide a lot of support to the top and bottom rails.

The racks are very solid, and have been designed to keep all the tubes pointed up in case of a failure. That is the most important aspect of the design of these racks in my opinion. Having a rack that fails to accomplish this could be disasterous to say the least. Imagine 8 or so guns pointed every direction with lit shells in them. That could get ugly quick.

So, I should end up with about 20 of these. Four of five of them will be joined together with plywood end pieces. This will make them self-supporting, and allow me to fuse quite a few shells together.

Here are a few pics I took of one of the racks.