Fireworks Guide: Lancework & Set Pieces

Ground-based and often custom-made fireworks.

Key information

  • Lancework is lettering or logos made from small fountains (gerbs) mounted on a wooden frame.
  • Lettering can also be created with fire rope or similar materials.
  • Very quiet in operation and suitable for low noise displays.
  • Set pieces are novelty ground effects such as unusual wheels, flying pigs and other oddities.
  • CE regulations (which replaced British Standards) has killed off availability of set pieces as consumer fireworks.
  • Guides to other types of fireworks can be found in the Firework Guides main menu.

Lancework and fire rope

If you want to create a word, logo or phrase in fireworks then lancework is the way to go. Here, multiple small fountains known as gerbs are glued to a wooden frame and fused together so they all light at once, spelling out the required word or shape in sparks. Various coloured gerbs are available. Popular uses include initials and a heart for weddings, phrases such as “Goodnight” (for the end of a display – or “BYE” for those on a budget!) or “Will You Marry Me?”.

More elaborate designs are possible – for a premium. An example with words and a logo is shown below:

Lancework words and a logo (note that it looks much better in real life than it does in a static photo).

Lancework is always created on a frame and as such is a ground-effect firework. Lettering is usually about 30cm high. For best results it needs to be mounted as high as possible on wooden posts. Note that it is not possible in consumer fireworks to create lettering that goes off in the air.

Pre-made lancework such as BYE retails for around £100+ with Good Night costing around £200 or more. Custom words typically cost around £30-£50 per letter although delivery can sometimes be expensive (partly due to the requirement of using an explosives courier and partly because of the incredibly big boxes needed to pack this in). Not every firework specialist is able to make lancework and with many it is an item for collection only. It can also be time consuming to build so enquire and order early.

An alternative to lancework, particularly for much bigger or more complex designs, is fire rope. This is, as the name suggests, a type of rope that burns slowly and is twisted into the required shape, also on a wooden frame. However, this effect tends only to be used in professional shows and is not on sale to the consumer (if you know any different please let me know).

Set pieces

One of the casualties of the transition from British Standards to the EU’s CE safety classification is set pieces. These weird and wonderful fireworks were mostly ground effects and included elaborate wheel effects, star-shaped fountains, flying pigeons and flying pigs (basically a rocket mounted on a long rope that flew back and forth between two posts).

There aren’t any suitable CE compliant alternatives available to UK consumers that I know of, but if you know any different please let me know and I will update this section accordingly.

Flying Pigeon Firework
The now extinct flying pigeon in action! Coo.. Coo.. WHOOSH!

Lancework and set pieces FAQ

So many wonderful fireworks available under the old British Standards are no longer available under the newer CE firework regulations. This includes flying pigeons, flying pigs, large waterfalls and so on.

At the consumer level you can only do this with ground based lettering attached to a wooden frame, called lancework, which burns to spell out a word. You cannot get aerial words or numbers in consumer fireworks.

Professionals can write letters and words using precisely launched coloured stars which fire up from the ground. This requires a lot of precision fusing, electrical ignition and computer control; it's well beyond consumer fireworks.

Yes, this can be done with a static firework on a wooden frame which burns small fountains called lances to spell out a word. It's not an aerial effect and needs a large post to mount it on. Budget for £200 or so - it's expensive as it's hand made to order. Sadly, it's almost impossible to ship by courier these days due to its fragility and size, so most are collection only from the fireworks retailer.

Lancework is on a wooden frame. Mount it as high as possible on a sturdy post. Be careful: it's very fragile and don't let it get wet.

These are becoming very hard to find in consumer fireworks since we switched from British Standards to CE. I don't know of any current supplier of these. Stage pyro versions tend to be classed as T2 which means they're professional use only.

Further information and next steps

If you are following the Beginner’s Guides then you can click here to return to that page. Alternatively you can click here to see the main menu of each firework type in this section if you want to read more (or click on the menu at the top of this page to access all of my guides).

If you’re ready to buy fireworks for your display then the Buying Fireworks section will guide you further.