Tools

As with many hobbies, pyrotechnics requires some tools. For what I do, it's usually all pretty simple stuff. When you get into real pyrotechnics, you need things like ball mills, presses, and star rollers. For some info on those things, click here and here.


Scales:

A good scale is an absolute must for real pyrotechnics. When measuring compositions, all measurements are done by weight, so you need an accurate scale. Postal scales that use a spring are crap and are not suitable for accurate measurements. You need either a digital scale or a tripe beam balance.

My digital scale:

A triple beam balance: (image from www.uvprocess.com)

I didn't shop around when I bought my scale, so I got ripped off! I bought the "MX-200 Pyro Scale" for $90 and later found it on eBay for much less. There are many different places that sell scales, and you should get one with 0.1g accuracy.

A few sites that sell scales (there are many more):

Cyberscale
eBay is definitely worth a look, you can get great deals sometimes!
eXactaDigital
Balances.com
Pyrotek has scales, along with a lot of other stuff.


Ball mills:

Ball mills are very important to the serious pyrotechnician because they are needed to make good blackpowder at home and to mill powders finely. You can either buy one or make one and rock tumblers often work just as well (some ball mills are just rock tumblers with a different name).

Lortone rock tumbler sold by United Nuclear as a ball mill:

UN ball mills and milling media.

The "ball mills" UN sells are Lortone rock/jewelry tumblers, but from what I've heard, they work very well. The Lortone website has them listed much cheaper than UN sells them, so you should check it out. eBay is also a place to find them, but after shipping it might not be any cheaper.

Making a bal mill can be a good project if you like building things, and it will be a lot cheaper than buying one. A few pages on making your own:

Dan Williams ball mill
Wouter Visser's ball mill


Mortar & Pestle:

A mortar and pestle are very useful for grinding up chemicals into powder. For larger amounts or for making black powder you will obviously want a ball mill, but for small amounts a mortar and pestle can be very useful. They can be purchased at cooking stores and chemistry supply stores/websites.

Mortar and Pestle:


Coffee Grinder:

Coffee grinders are somewhere between a mortal and pestle and a ball mill. I find some of the best things to use them for is to grind prilled KNO3 and NH4NO3. Some people also use them to grind Al foil before they ball mill it to make rather large flake Al powder. I got mine for $11.

Coffee grinder:


Glassware:

Glassware is used more often to make HE's than to be used for LE's. The basics are shown here, flasks, graduated cylinders and thermometers.

Assorted glassware:


Electric Hotplate:

Hotplates can be used for a number of things related to pyrotechnics/explosives. You could use it for melting KNO3/sucrose, boiling 3% H2O2 to concentrate, or any other procedure like TNP that requires heating. You could get a fancy one specifically for lab use that will get hotter and do it faster, or you can buy one intended for home use. I bought a "Toastmaster" hotplate for $20 at a large hardware/appliance store.

Hotplate:


There are plenty of basic tools that will often come in handy, that are a lot cheaper also!

Ignition supplies:

You will definitely need something to light your devices (unless you are using electrical ignition) so these are some of the most basic things. A lighter and matches are both good, but are not ideal for directly lighting fuses. A better choice is a punk. Punks are pretty much just a stick with sawdust or something on them. They look and burn like incense, but without the smell. Because you have a constant coal, they work very well for lighting fuses. Just be sure not to light your device and then toss your lit punk into a pile of dry grass! There are two general sizes, incense size and much larger ones that I like better.
See also the Fuse/ignition page and the Homemade fuse/ignition page.

Protection:

Safety is a very important part of pyro, as it can be a fairly dangerous hobby. Your eyes are very vulnerable, so you should were eye protection while working with devices and setting them off. There are several different choices of protection, either eye or full face. Choose what to wear depending on what you are doing. It would of course be best to have full face protection at all times, but it isn't always essential.

Hand protection should be used whenever you are working with something that has the potential to ignite. Leather gloves should be worn for best protection. While working with powders, you should were a dust mask to keep particles out of your nose, mouth, throat and lungs. Check MSDS sheets for specific precautions for different chemicals. A respirator is a good thing to have sometimes, Ill probably buy one myself before too long.

Knives:

Knives have all kinds of uses, and can often be used for things such as cutting open firework casings. There are millions of things to do with a knife, not just pyro related. Buy a good one and it should last you a long time.

Light:

You will probably set off some of your devices at night, and it's a good idea to be able to see where you are going! This is very basic, so it can sometimes be forgotten. Maglites are good, but I really like a lightweight LED headlamp because you don't need your hands and it is very bright.

Pliers/cutters:

Pliers can both be useful for things like peeling casings or crushing powder. I use wire cutters for things like cutting the sticks off bottle rockets for making a Can o Rockets.

If you think of any other tools I forgot, feel free to email me and I'll add them.

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