Fireworks Guide: Mines & Dump Cakes

A one-hit, high impact firework.

Key information

  • Secured on the ground, fires a single burst into the air.
  • Usually used for very high impact effects and finales, though some lower noise versions are available.
  • Very short duration of just a few seconds.
  • Some have a small fountain to start.
  • Newer “dump cake” mines are one of the most high impact consumer fireworks now available.
  • Safety distances typically 8m up to 25m. No licence or training required to buy and use at any time of the year.
  • Guides to other types of fireworks can be found in the Firework Guides main menu.

A closer look at a typical mine

Mines can vary in size and shape however with the exception of dump cakes (see below) most are cylindrical as shown above.

Fuse: This will either be on the top as shown here or down the side of the tube.

Decorative paper wrapping: Not all mines have this, but for those that do this is purely cosmetic and blows off when the mine detonates. Fountain-start mines will instead have a small tube sticking up from the top which is where the initial fountain comes from.

Main tube: This is what you secure to a post on the ground.

Warning label and instructions: The important things you need to know about firing the mine, the firework’s classification (Category F2 or F3), the net explosive content (NEC) and so on. It’s on the reverse of the mine shown here.

What type of effects to expect

The main effect of a mine is a single, large explosion into the air from the ground upwards. This could contain coloured stars, glitter or colours. There is often a secondary burst overhead as any shots ejected from the mine explode. These can be a variety of effects including bangs, coloured stars, glitter and so on. There are a huge variety of effects available and firework retailers’ video clips will be your best guide to specific items. An example mine is shown below:

Although low noise mines are available, really they should be described as “lower noise” relative to other mines rather than “low noise” fireworks in general. This is because the main explosion is so big that it’s hard to miss even if the main effects don’t bang!

Fountain-start mines as the name suggests begin with a pretty fountain. This is usually small (up to a few feet). These are effective for lulling an audience into a false sense of security before the main effect erupts. However for bigger displays these fountains won’t be seen by anyone other than the front row so are generally only used in garden displays.

Selection boxes might contain a number of smaller mines. These typically eject coloured glitter or crackles, although they are still one-shot fireworks.

"Mines" vs. "Batteries of shot tubes"

If you’ve been using fireworks since the days of British Standards you will remember that mines always contained their effects in one single internal cylinder (essentially a shell without a lift charge).

However in recent years manufacturers have increasingly turned to using multiple smaller tubes fired simultaneously to recreate the big tube effect. So although many of the big CE mines currently on sale might still comprise of a big outer cylinder, inside you will find the powder content is spread across multiple smaller tubes (typically seven, as in the “Mayhem” mine above).

On a technical note, where we talk about “mine effects” in this case I am referring to the overall effect of the firework regardless of whether it delivers that punch from one big mine unit, or from multiple tubes fired together.

You may notice this technical difference too when looking at warning labels; some will refer to the firework as a “mine” and others as a “battery of shot tubes”.

Dump cakes

Given that many mines now contain multiple smaller tubes there is no longer a requirement to house them in a big cylinder. In fact, this is most likely done so that mines continue to look familiar to consumers. There is also no requirement to stick to just a few internal tubes either.

In recent years some manufacturers have therefore taken the next step in producing cake-shaped fireworks containing larger numbers of tubes, for example 25. These are called “dump cakes” as the entire powder content is detonated at once and dumped into the air. The results are spectacular although you are paying a lot of money per second. Dump cakes are therefore ideal for display endings if you want to put up a spectacular and powerful effect. 

A consumer mine detonating at a fireworks demo night. Notice the firers for scale!

Mines and dump cakes FAQ

Mines need to be secured on the ground so they cannot fall over. This can be done by part burying or attaching to an upright wooden stake; see the mine's instructions for specific details. Mines are exceptionally powerful: Always secure them before lighting.

They are one-shot fireworks by design, so only last a few seconds. This makes them very high impact.

The main ejection of effects is quite loud so even if the overhead effect is quiet (such as falling stars or wriggling fish), mines are not really considered suitable for low noise displays.

Unless specifically told to on the instruction label, you should not remove any packaging other than the fuse cover as it will blow off by itself when the shots start firing.

You need between 8m and 15m distance to spectators for F2 fireworks and 25m for F3 fireworks. 

In terms of effects, none. In technical terms, traditional mines have one big container of effects which explodes. Newer dump cakes have multiple shots (e.g. 25) which fire all at the same time. 

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.