With the fourth of July just recently behind us I’m sure we’re all still obsessing about the most important aspect of the holiday—Fireworks! Who doesn’t like loud, explosive objects that throw colored sparks into the air?

Ancient-Chinese-fireworks-1They like them so much, in fact, that inventing them seemed to be the obvious thing to do in China shortly after the invention of gunpowder in the 7th century. Fireworks made their appearance in England sometime during the 14th century, arriving via the crusaders and predating the arrival of tea by almost three hundred years.

While Fireworks are most commonly seen in the US on July 4th, in the UK (where they tend not to celebrate the loss of profitable colonies) they’re most commonly seen on November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day. This is good news if you’re a part of both worlds, because you get to set off fireworks twice a year.

Toilet-Paper-Leaf-Tree-rolls-3567So what are fireworks and how are they made? Not surprisingly for something invented fifteen hundred years ago, they’re not as high tech as you might think. Although we’ve made significant advancements in modern times the basic idea remains the same. Take a cardboard tube, stuff some explosives in the bottom of it, add in some chemicals that burn in pretty colors in the top, run a fuse through all of it, stand a good ways back to light it, and see what happens!

It’s basically playing with fire mixed with a bit of chemistry and a side dish of explosions, which is an irresistible temptation to any eccentric inventor or mad scientist. To this day the appeal remains so great that they host fireworks competitions around the world.

FireworksIf you take it into your head to make your own fireworks there is currently an instructable up that will guide you through the process of constructing an aerial shell, also known as a mortar. Of course, as we all know from watching You Can’t Take it With You it may or may not be entirely legal to construct your own explosives without a license, so any such undertaking will be at your own risk.

That said, if you do decide to build a fireworks factory, and survive the attempt, you may decide that “Fireworks builder” is too shabby a title for such an epic profession. In that case you will be glad to know that the proper title is the ancient greek “Pyrotechnician” and fireworks are referred to by the snobbish as “pyrotechnics.”

So there you have it. Everything you ever wanted to know about fireworks, except for the actually useful stuff.


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