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> How we spent our summer vacation, OR: What did you do on the 4th?
CrashTestDummy
post Jul 6 2016, 08:51 PM
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As some may know, my wife and I are part of a crew that puts on a commercial fireworks display at a local country club. We have been doing it for about 15 years, or so, and are both Pyrotechnical Technician license holders. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/2thumbs.gif) We started back in the late 1990's when one of the members of an Impala SS club we belonged to revealed that he did that kind of work, and if anyone wanted to help, it's about the most fun you can have with your pants on. Back then, the show was 'manual'. We'd start the afternoon with augering holes in the ground to set some steel pipes of several different diameters (usually 3" to 6"). Once that was done, and it got dark, we'd load the shells into the tubes, and light them off with a road flare. TONs of fun when you're standing beside a 6" steel pipe sitting in the ground, and the shell launches into the air, then exploding about (hopefully) 600 feet directly over your head! Crazy, fun stuff, although we have come home with holes burned in our clothes, but still fun.

At that site, a county park, we'd make a club event of it. There'd be 20-30 Impala SSs, we'd bring grills and have a club picnic while we set up the event. Then, since the cars were too close, would 'caravan' the cars out to a safe distance and get to the show (probably 500' away). We ended up with just about the entire crew from the local fire station join us for food, and support. Great fun!

Anyway, the shows are now 'electronic'. That is, we have a trailer that has ABS tubes mounted in a bed of sand. We load ALL of the tubes, wire them to a circuit bar, then run cables from each circuit bar to the controller panel. When it gets dark, we roll the trailer out into a field, cable it up, cable any extra 'cakes' they have purchased, and set them off with the touch of a little battery power to the right contact on the control board. You're still nearly under the shells when they go off, but we're probably 100' away from the tubes. It's safer, and the work is different, and while fun, the big adrenaline rush is not quite there..... unless one goes off short, or flies overhead, which we've had before.

Anyway, pictures are worth 1000 words, so here's some pictures of the setup and the event:

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwfttbtrsfsgfkxgddbwddrbddf,vi/bsbfrdbrrxbrqggwgwsxbsgbrssfg/5/1331095/14009024/Trailerloaded-vi.jpg)

The trailer, loaded, wired and rolling out to the site. Since we do this at a country club, we usually load and wire the trailer under the cover where the greenskeepers are and roll the trailer out to one of the fairways, or green. Yes, all the quotes from the movie 'Caddyshack' are said as we get ready.

BTW: 10,000#+ trailer, V10 turbodiesel Tuareg FTW!!

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwfttbtrkrqfdgxgddbwddrbddf,vi/brqggwgwsxbsgrftrgkxbrqsqrkst/5/1331095/14009024/akesreadytotaketothelaunchsite-vi.jpg)

Our truck loaded up with the 'cakes', which are pre-packaged shells that will go off serially at one time. This year they used mostly 3" and 4" cakes. the 3" cakes had 25 shells in each pack, and the 4" shells held 9. They don't seem to be as strong as the individual shells, but, again, we're probably 100' away, so the whole thing seems tame now.

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftdsrwgdqkktxgddbwddrbddf,vi/rsrfbgrqqxbsfsskdbqxbrqggwgws/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6348-vi.jpg)

The cakes set up on the fairway, wired and ready to go.

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftddfgrgrkgfxgddbwddrbddf,vi/bsgbrssfgxbsfsskdbqxbsgrftrgk/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6354-vi.jpg)

The control console in the foreground, trailer and cakes connected and ready to go. The console only has about 20 ports on it, and we typically have 35-40 cables, so we're shuttling cables back and forth during the show.

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftddktbgktfwxgddbwddrbddf,vi/brqggwgwsxbsgrftrgkxbsfgbftkk/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6349-vi.jpg)

Looking down one side of the trailer, all wired up. The big tube is for the 6" diameter shells. The shells go up about 100' per inch in diameter.

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftdfwgbwfqkkxgddbwddrbddf,vi/bsbfrdbrrxswtffststxkkrqfkbdt/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6351-vi.jpg)

Another shot of the trailer. Wired and ready to rumble. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/rolleyes.gif)

More to follow.

This post has been edited by CrashTestDummy: Jul 6 2016, 09:04 PM
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CrashTestDummy
post Jul 6 2016, 08:57 PM
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Some of the show itself:

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftdfdqskdkwdxgddbwddrbddf,vi/bsbqfkqtdxswbggrtrrxbskdqqwdg/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6362-vi.jpg)

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftfkdqkqdsgfxgddbwddrbddf,vi/bsbqfkqtdxbsgrftrgkxbskdqqwdg/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6387-vi.jpg)

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftfbtqdrwkbqxgddbwddrbddf,vi/brqggwgwsxbsbqfkqtdxbsfsskdbq/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6394-vi.jpg)

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftgswsddwsqqxgddbwddrbddf,vi/brqsqrkstxbsgbrssfgxwtfdwdfsg/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6462-vi.jpg)

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftgstffstfqsxgddbwddrbddf,vi/brqggwgwsxbskdqqwdgxrwgtdqdwr/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6464-vi.jpg)

The 'Grand Finale' - 30-40 3" shells set off in rapid succession. Imagine those truck-mounted rockets you see in the WWII movies, only pointing straight up. Even at 100' away, you can still feel the heat. It was much more intense when we light these off with the flare. Sorry for the blur, it's about the best one:

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftgwdkfqwfdtxgddbwddrbddf,vi/brqsqrkstxbskdqqwdgxbsfsskdbq/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6449-vi.jpg)

End of the show. The grand finale is still lighting up the sky. That's us at the control panel:

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rtwftgskkqkqdgqxgddbwddrbddf,vi/bskdqqwdgxbsbqfkqtdxbsgbrssfg/5/1331095/14009024/IMG_6469-vi.jpg)

We had one go off short, which woke us up, and they had some shells that put out 'spiders' that rained down all around us, even dropping a 'sparkler' on the table. Luckily, things are set off with electricity, not fire.

This post has been edited by CrashTestDummy: Jul 6 2016, 08:59 PM
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trackbird
post Jul 6 2016, 11:31 PM
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Fun stuff. We didn't do any shows this year. We just don't seem to have the time these days. It's odd taking a year off after doing shows for the last several years. You are correct, hand lighting is much more interesting than the electronic shows (we've done both). I've hand launched up to 6" shells and it's certainly a different kind of fun. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)

I like the trailer setup. We spend most of the day nailing racks together, then loading product, then tearing racks down. It's a long and exhausting day by the time it's over.
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CrashTestDummy
post Jul 7 2016, 03:12 AM
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Oh, it's a long day, either way, just a different kind of long day. Digging pipes out of the ground, and covering their holes, or picking up the spent cakes (3" and 4" cake racks can be used to launch your individual shells) and the burnt paper and all the wire, and rolling up the cables, your day still doesn't end until late in the night. The guy who runs the show drags the spent trailer back to the fireworks vendor, unpacks it and then drives home. He usually doesn't get home until early in the morning.

Still, it's a hoot and a half.
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trackbird
post Jul 7 2016, 10:52 AM
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Yea, we always had tons of paper to gather up. And we put foil over the finale to help insure an ember didn't set it off. Then we shot the mortars through the foil. That turns it into confetti and it winds up EVERYWHERE. Most of the cakes seem to wind up on fire at the end. Usually we pick up whatever didn't burn up and throw it in the scrap cardboard (after wetting it down). It is a hoot, but it does make a mess.

Last year we had a 6" that didn't detonate....until it hit the ground. Left a pretty decent crater and got our attention. That was an interesting one.
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CrashTestDummy
post Jul 7 2016, 01:39 PM
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We would cover the grand finale at our old location, since it was pretty close to the big tubes. The old location was also adjacent to a bayou and some trees. In dry weather, the fire department usually had to squirt some pine litter to put it out, but nothing serious.

In our current location, out on the fairways, we can really spread thing out, so it's not that big of a deal. We haven't had that big an issue with the cakes catching fire, in spite of all the paper they're made of. We usually just have a few pieces of paper laying on the ground burning when everything gets quiet. Easy to put out.

We pick up what we can, especially the wires. We had one of those cheap plastic yard brooms this year, and it seemed it did more damage to the grass than moving the trash into a nice pile. We'll pick up the wire, stack the spent cakes off the fairway, and let 'Carl the groundskeepers' clean up in the morning. I'm sure those guys really love us! (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/nutkick.gif)
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Steve91T
post Jul 7 2016, 06:29 PM
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That sounds like so much fun! I've always wondered what it must be like to be the crazy few standing so close who put on the show. I remember seeing on TV (so it must be true) that all fireworks come from one family who has been making them for generations?

How did I spend my 4th? Well I was on call and was pretty sure I'd be working, but I happen to not be called that day. So my wife and my 2 yr old daughter went to my parents house 40 minutes south of us. My brother was also there with his wife and his 16 month old little girl. My parents belong to a country club and they put on an amazing buffet style dinner. Last year they had a huge bucket full of fresh steamed lobsters. My brother and I must have had 6 or 7 whole lobsters each. It was awesome. Then they put on a really great firework show. It seems to go on forever. So to be able to be home for this years 4th was a real treat.....except about an hour before we were supposed to leave, I started to get chills. I crawled into bed to take a nap and didn't wake up till 11 at night, 6 hour later. I missed the whole damn thing.

It's ok, at least everyone else had a great time. That's what really matters.

(IMG:http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v199/Steve91T/Camaro/65B7A4D2-9EB9-44CB-91BB-3E7269EBC586.jpg)
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trackbird
post Jul 7 2016, 06:40 PM
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It's quite an interesting place to be "standing". Here's a pic of me when a 3" mortar goes up (this was a still frame grab from a video). It still gives a decent idea of the show you get when you're that close. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)

I lit a show with one crew and they'd light and "run". They were all surprised that I stayed "low" and stayed put. I just tilted my head down enough for my hard hat to protect my face/eyes (you have on safety glasses, but if something blows up in the tube, I'd like to make it go through a hard hat AND safety glasses).
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Steve91T
post Jul 7 2016, 06:58 PM
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Wow that's some serious power! And btw, I'd be leading the pack as they ran.


So what kind of charge sets it off? And how is it different from the one that creates the explosion that everyone sees? Basically, how dangerous are they if it all goes wrong?
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CrashTestDummy
post Jul 7 2016, 07:22 PM
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Here's an old picture of our old setup. The fireworks going off is the end of the Grand Finale, and people are starting to cheer. The people bent over on the left are reloading the tubes, probably 4" since it's down the row a bit. To light, you'd be walking pretty much where those people are standing, light the fuse with a road flare, take a step to the next tube, and wait for the >WHOOM!!< as the shell you just lit goes up, count to 3, then light the next shell. The 3" and 4" shells you heard, the 5" and 6" shells you felt. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/blink.gif)


(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,sgdssqgqfrbdwgrxgddbwddrbddf,vi/rdgggqgqrxrdqrkkwrk/5/1331095/10081187/2009July4th2-vi.jpg)

We screwed that event up some, we had those left over shells, so continued to reload the tubes after the Grand Finale. We shot those off, and people were kind of wondering what happened. Still, it was a hit.

Funny I don't have many pictures of that. I have a movie that I recorded of one of the events that pretty cool, but we're running around too much in those days to take many pictures.

This post has been edited by CrashTestDummy: Jul 7 2016, 07:23 PM
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trackbird
post Jul 7 2016, 09:17 PM
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QUOTE (Steve91T @ Jul 7 2016, 02:58 PM) *
Wow that's some serious power! And btw, I'd be leading the pack as they ran.


So what kind of charge sets it off? And how is it different from the one that creates the explosion that everyone sees? Basically, how dangerous are they if it all goes wrong?



For lack of any sugarcoating....this stuff will kill you. There are some rules. You NEVER lean over a loaded tube (or any tube, that way you don't make a mistake). If you were above it when it launched, it would likely kill you on the spot. They are heavy and they are moving pretty fast. A 6" shell goes up about 700-800' and weighs something close to 2 lbs. The charge that "lifts" the shell is basically black powder (or similar). The tubes are HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). In the event that a shell detonates in the tube, it doesn't turn to deadly shrapnel like metal or PVC does. It pops more like a balloon.

The part you see is more "magic". Different powders and different minerals are used and wrapped/joined/packaged in various ways to make the patterns of light that you see. If you ever did a flame test in chemistry class, where the fire made different things burn in different colors....that's my best simple understanding of how the colors and visuals are made. Gene might have more/better info on this or anything I missed.
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CrashTestDummy
post Jul 8 2016, 01:20 PM
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Yes, the shell is shaped kind of like a hot-air balloon. I found a picture:

(IMG:http://media.fotki.com/1_p,rrdqfgwdwgfwdkdxgddbwddrbddf,vi/sbqwbwgbdxsdfwwkrbsxsqddgfwkw/5/1331095/13756766/6inchgoldenpalmshell-vi.jpg)

The 'basket' portion is the launching charge, which is pretty much gun powder that launches a more-or-less spherical shell, and lights the fuse to explode the shell. You light them off with a fuse, which is, I think, chordite. You can light that fuse with electricity, via a 'squib' (exactly the same as what they use to light model rocket motors), or fire. Once lit, that fuse burns at about 400 ft/sec. When it lights, you can actually hear the >FOOM< as it burns into the tube, then there's the boom when the launching charge goes off. For the manual shows, we'd bury steel tubes of different diameters about half way into the ground. During the show, the 5" and 6" shells will actually plant themselves deeper (probably a quarter of the length of the tube) into the ground. Heck, the trailer jack pad sinks into the ground during the show. Those have to be dug out when the show is done.

Heh, when we were doing the manual show, we'd let different people take turns with different tasks during the show. One would 'rake', or pull the spent and usually still burning bits of old shell out of the tube (with a stick that has nails driven through one end, it looks a bit like a bottle brush), then another would load (with the proper orientation) the shell, and set the fuse out, and pull the cover. Then one would come by and light the fuse, step to the next tube and wait for that charge to go off, then light the next shell. This process is continued until we run out of shells.

As Kevin says, they can kill you. I guess that's part of the 'fun'. You just have to be very careful. We wear hearing and eye protection, as well as long pants and long sleeved shirts and hats that you won't mind getting burned. During the show, you put no part of the body over the tubes, in case a charge goes off due to all the burning embers still in the tube. The launching charge launches the shell about 100'/inch of diameter of the tube. That is, a 3" shell will go up about 300 feet, and a 6" shell will go up about 600'. So it's a lot of power. If you drop a shell into the tube upside down, when it lights, you immediately know that happened. The tube becomes a big blow torch for a half second, then the >BOOM!<. 5" and 6" shells have the power to blow the tubes up, or bell-bottom them and lift them out of the ground. The guy who puts the show on had that happen once, a 6" got dropped in upside down, the fuse was lit, and the thing went off. He said the tube bell-bottomed, and launched out of the hole about 10', and then laid itself down on the ground. No one was hurt, so they continued with the show. The bottom plate of the tube was still in the hole. They never found it.

We actually got to do the show where we're doing it now, because of such an accident. I think they hurt someone, because the tube blew up, blowing a crater in the ground. It can be a mess.

The electronic shows are mostly shot from a trailer, like what you see above. They have ABS tubes of different diameters which are set in sand up to about half of their length. The unloaded trailer weighs about 10,000' because of all the ABS and sand. The Grand Finale is shot from boxes holding about 40 3" ABS tubes, and most of the cakes are just thick cardboard tubes that are glued and strapped together.

Yes, the color of the display is created by using different powdered minerals and metals. They get the different patterns by packaging the shells differently, usually with thick paper dividers or bundles wrapped up in the spherical shell. The colors and patterns are all part of the magic of the fireworks, part chemistry, part art. The charge to set the shell off is the same stuff they use to launch the shell, probably pretty much gun powder.

The guy who runs our show said he heard of a recent show where they had made a custom-sized 22" shell. It was for a cancer benefit. It's supposedly the largest shell ever made. They used pipeline pipe to launch it from, and yes, they had to get permission from TxDPS and the FAA. So that shell went about 2000' in the air before going off. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/ph34r.gif)

This post has been edited by CrashTestDummy: Jul 8 2016, 01:55 PM
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trackbird
post Jul 8 2016, 01:56 PM
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Here's some pics. Part is the finale (the fuses are "daisy chained" together so you light one and they go like dominos). The large racks contain four 6" tubes for launching 6" mortars. The pic of the mortar is a 5" (not a 6" as I originally posted). And one pics is racks of 3" shells. Though as I remember, our 3" shells go about 800-1100' (though I have seen one go off at 2 feet out of the tube before).
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Attached File  Finale_1.jpg ( 184.11K ) Number of downloads: 8
 
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CrashTestDummy
post Jul 8 2016, 03:42 PM
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Interesting layout. Our Grand Finale configuration is essentially a big box. The tubes for the grand finale are loaded in the middle of the trailer in the first picture, so you get an idea on the configuration.

Yeah, we've had them go off short. We've also had them pulled out of the tube by an adjacent shell, then lit. Last year we had what we thought was a 4" whiz by us standing at the console, then bouncing down the fairway a bit before going off. It got everyone's attention. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/2thumbs.gif)
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CrashTestDummy
post Jul 8 2016, 03:48 PM
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QUOTE (trackbird @ Jul 7 2016, 01:40 PM) *
It's quite an interesting place to be "standing". Here's a pic of me when a 3" mortar goes up (this was a still frame grab from a video). It still gives a decent idea of the show you get when you're that close. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)

I lit a show with one crew and they'd light and "run". They were all surprised that I stayed "low" and stayed put. I just tilted my head down enough for my hard hat to protect my face/eyes (you have on safety glasses, but if something blows up in the tube, I'd like to make it go through a hard hat AND safety glasses).


With the manual show, we'd light and stand, too. We'd take turns lighting, and one guy who was a N0ob grabbed the flare, lit a 3" off, dropped the flare and ran when it went up. He later got back to loading tubes, but I think he had to go clean his underwear. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/2thumbs.gif)

The guy who runs this show did one on a barge in a lake. They were doing some dredging, so the barge had a crane on it. This show included some 10" and 12" shells. They were launching the shells electronically, with the console on the opposite side of the crane from the tubes. He said you really couldn't tell the different shells apart by the noise, since the sound was blocked some by the crane, but they could tell when a 10" or 12" shell went off by the air that was sucked back under the crane after the shell went up. the smaller shells didn't do that.

This post has been edited by CrashTestDummy: Jul 8 2016, 03:52 PM
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Steve91T
post Jul 8 2016, 03:53 PM
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Does the FAA issue a TFR?
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trackbird
post Jul 8 2016, 04:48 PM
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QUOTE (Steve91T @ Jul 8 2016, 11:53 AM) *
Does the FAA issue a TFR?


I don't believe so, at least not for the smaller shows. I don't think we are much over 1,200', so you might have the potential to get a VFR light aircraft or ultra lite get too close, but it's nothing I've seen so far.


QUOTE (CrashTestDummy @ Jul 8 2016, 11:42 AM) *
Interesting layout. Our Grand Finale configuration is essentially a big box. The tubes for the grand finale are loaded in the middle of the trailer in the first picture, so you get an idea on the configuration.


We don't reload "hot" tubes in a show (it was done in the past, but not since I've been involved). We always have one tube per shell. We've had to run and get tubes in the past from another show (where there was a mistake made packing). We run the "finale chain" shells back and fourth in the racks (such as the three rows of 3"....up one row, back down, back up and on to the next rack). To get the 4's, 5's and 6's in there we often set them off to the side (as shown). And we tie twine across the racks about 3 shells from each end to help prevent a shell from lifting and pulling the fuses out of the rest of the row. Just put nails on each side and tie twine down tight (tight enough to pull the fuse below the top of the tube). It seems to help keep the fuses in place.
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CrashTestDummy
post Jul 8 2016, 04:56 PM
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We don't reload hot tubes anymore either. The racks do have deck screws in them that we wrap the fuse wire around, but with the tubes overlapping each other some, they do occasionally get lifted out. Since most of us have done this before, we're pretty good about making sure a wire doesn't cross over another tube, and checking each other's work to make sure that hasn't happened, but in the heat of the event, one can move a wire to be an issue with another shell.

Our grand finale tubes are close enough together that we usually stuff the fuses down between the tubes, and they stay secured pretty well. Using twine is not a bad idea, though, and if I remember that next year, I may recommend we try it.
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trackbird
post Jul 8 2016, 05:02 PM
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Yup, we stuff the finale fuses down below the tubes. We don't tie off every row, but 2 or 3 across a 10 shell rack doesn't seem to hurt.

In the picture of the finale that I posted, the tubes are loaded but the fuses aren't tied or "handled" in any way yet. That was after we finished dropping all the product in the tubes and before we started tying them together.
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Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 25th February 2021 - 06:32 PM