Firework ignitors and controllers roundup

fireworks ignitor

With the 4th of July around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to give a controller wrap up and show you how to make some ignitors. Last year we covered a microcontroller based fireworks launcher. If you like the idea of a controller but don’t want to run all the wire, we have the wireless fireworks controller. Adding a little twist to the wireless scene are cell phone triggered fireworks. Maybe controllers are not your cup of tea, you could try to microwave your fireworks. After the break we show you how to make ignitors from a diode and a match.

Using a 1N914 diode, match, and 4 ohm ballast you can make your own ignitors. Using the leads for support, the diode is attached to the match. A current is passed through the device to cause rapid heating. The match head and component must touch one another, in order to ignite. In the video embedded below we show you exactly how.

29 thoughts on “Firework ignitors and controllers roundup

  1. I tried all these various methods nicrome, wool, matchdip etc. Some work better than others but take too much time. I can build this ignitor in about 5 seconds off camera and they are pretty easy to hook up(unlike the wool and nicrome). If anyone has a faster method other than buying em, please share.

  2. I agree with smartchild, the use of a low-power resistor seems like a more ideal solution. For example, a 15-ohm, 1/4-watt carbon film resistor directly across the 12-volt battery will result in about 800mA through the resistor and 10 Watts of power dissipation… which will get the resistor very hot. And if you want more heat quicker, just use a lower value resistor… As a bonus you won’t need a bulky “ballast” resistor either.

  3. i had trouble controlling resistors. when they heat the resistance changes with temperature, so the current curve drops. I tried lower ohm resitors hoping to cheat the curve but they peaked and burned out before heating the match enough to ignite.

    I don’t have many metal film resistors or i would have tried those.

  4. colin c,

    I just tried the 10ohm, it does work if you are patient enough. But it takes about 8 seconds depending on the lead resistance. The diode will burn in about 3 seconds with the same leads. There is another thing to keep in mind and that is if you are using a length of wire the series resistance will impeded the operation of these crudes devices. I tested a 500′ spool of copper 18/2. The total series resistance was 7.5 ohm. Neither the diode nor the resistor will work with such a run.

    Since i used a stainless ballast i was able to adjust the ballast to match the series resistance of the copper run to make the diode work. This didnt work with the resistor, even with no ballast it took nearly 15 seconds using the same 25’18/2 run. Maybe someone can find an ideal run length vs ignition time on 10ohm carbon films.

    It is good to know that the resistor will work if we are patient enough. Now we have two good methods. Thanks.

    After looking at the resistance for copper wire I knew something was bogus with my results. Turns out that a 25 foot run of 18/2 should have a total series resistance of .3255 ohm. This should not affect the ignition times as i had previously found. Further testing showed my experiments were done with a dead battery.

    With a good battery i was able to make the 10 ohm 1/4 watt carbon film resistor ignite in 3 seconds on a 25 foot run of 18/2 copper. 10 ohm = fast, cheap, and easy. Good enough for me.

  5. I’ve done extensive testing with electrical igniters, and I’ve come to the following conclusion:

    The best igniter for low order pyrotechnics is a short, thin, low resistance filament with a high melting point. Low resistance maximizes the wattage dissipated, and the small filament prevents most of the heat from being absorbed by the filament itself, increasing the temperature rapidly. The high melting point allows the filament to heat up significantly before melting and breaking the circuit.

    See more on my website:

    I also have my own password protected wireless ignition system:

  6. this approach need a lot of current,thin wire winded in coil on matchstick works better and need much less current so portable battery can be used instead of 12V accumulator

  7. I did this when I was 14 with an RC car battery and some low gauge wire with a switch attached..
    Only I was setting off french bangers in cow shit.
    I made a shit mushroom cloud once lol.

  8. A cool idea, indeed, but I would have to agree, Estes solid rocket starters are cheap and fairly reliable when used with a good power source.

    They do not, however, produce an open flame. (Not usually anyway)

  9. Simplest solution is nichrome wire with a power supply strong enough to heat it up. A 9 volt is good with a short distance of wire but it destroys the battery quickly. So we used a constant power supply. Through our switch we just used a 12 volt supply. We stepped it down from a 120v outlet using (a crude but effective method) a car battery charger. The wires are connected using a 20 pin molex adapter into the power supply. Lots of switches to make lots of things go boom. 20 ft of wire to the the fireworks. 12 volts going through the switches and the wire, the end of the wire produces 7.25 volts. Easily enough to heat nichrome.

  10. Regarding model rocket igniters, they’re fairly expensive compared to this solution, and they’re significantly less durable (even slight force can render them useless if the legs spread and break the ignition material)

    Proper pyrotechnic igniters are of higher quality but have become much harder to obtain.

  11. Alright. Something that no one is looking at. Everyone here is trying to burn these items up with nothing more than extremely large currents. That is fine and dandy, HOWEVER, you can transfer “power” through 2 methods. Due to ohm’s law, V=I*R. Therefore, if you can’t get any more current to it through a particular wire (or your source can’t handle it), up the voltage.

    Power is V*I. If you have 12v running through a 4 ohm load, you get a maximum (if your source can supply it) of 3 amps. 3*12 = 36 watts. If you have a 24v battery, running through 4 ohms, max current would be 6 amps. 24*6= 144 watts by doubling the voltage. If you want to smoke resistors, transistors, or diodes quick, double the voltage!

  12. 1-5 ohm resistors work well as igniters with a 12V supply, but you might have to play around with brands, wattages, and exact values to get something that works al the time. I have some 1/6 or 1/8W 5.1 ohm resistors from Mouser that burst into flames nicely at 12V, but I have some 1.8 ohm ones that won’t flame at any voltage. Too high and they open like a fuse; too low and they just make a lot of acrid smoke.

  13. It’s been a while, but I’ve used photographic flashbulbs as igniters for on-stage flashbombs (black powder in duct tape).

    I removed the peanut sized bulbs from flashcubes, peeled off the protective plastic layer (*after* soldering the leads – they sometimes go off), and simply placed it in the middle of the powder and folded up the tape. Low power and instant response.

  14. cheap and reliable:

    * take a foot of multicore insulated wire e.g. 1mm squared, strip ends.
    * strip half a matchhead’s length of the insulation (use craftknife or heat) from the centre of the length of wire
    * twist tie the wire around the matchhead so that the bared wire is flush against the head, and so the fireworks fuse is tied against head on opposite side from bare wire
    * twist the rest of the wire around the matchstick to keep everything in place.
    * use clippers to cut nearly every strand near the head.
    * optionally hot-melt glue the wire/head/fuse for strength (slows down ignition though).

    When power is applied, the remaining strands of wire heat up and ignite the match.

    That is the variation that I have just discovered, thanks to the above comments.

    * only requires wire.
    * already has leads.
    * should be faster and lower power than resistor/diode.

  15. I used old xmas tree light bulbs they take some prep but wow perfectly! Heat tip of bulb dip in water tap the tip off glass to brake it crush a match head put the crushed match head into the bulb seal hole in bulb with sticky tape then just tape it to your fuse and supply power!!

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