Setting Up Wheels & Set Pieces


Catherine wheels work better the higher they are mounted, so I recommend putting them towards the top of a big post. This should be a post on its own set up just for the wheel. Don’t mount these on fence posts, sheds or similar because if the wheel gets stuck (it happens to the best of us!), you might end up with an unplanned bonfire!

It’s often easier to bang a smaller stake in the ground first and use this as a base to attach a larger one to.

Usually you’ll want the fuse accessible from the ground so you won’t struggle to light it, though if you’re displaying to a larger audience and want to mount the wheel higher then putting a portfire (a firework lighter) on the end of a stick is a good way to light items that are otherwise out of reach, assuming you’re firing by hand and not electrically.

When attaching the wheel to the stake you’ll use a nail – normally supplied with the wheel and often sellotaped to the packaging or near the fuse – which you need to bang through the centre hole. You need to bang it far enough in that the wheel is secure from falling off, but not enough to impede the spin.

Once you’ve banged the nail in, give the wheel a test spin with your hand to make sure it is moving freely, and do this again before lighting it if you’re setting up in advance. A little dab of oil on the nail can also help things along.

Wheels are easy to waterproof with plastic bags, something I’ll cover in more detail in the Coping With Bad Weather section.

Wheels eject a lot of sparks which will come down to ground level and carry in the wind, as shown in the image below. So set them up well away from fireworks set up on the ground such as cakes and barrages to reduce the risk of cross-ignition.

Catherine wheel sparks
Sparks from wheels can reach the ground, so set up away from other fireworks.

Set pieces and lancework

Since we moved from the old British Standards over to the European CE regulations for fireworks, the number and variety of set pieces on the market for consumers has all but dwindled to just lancework – lettering and numbers on a wooden frame – which is what I will concentrate on here.

As with wheels, the higher these are mounted the better, simply as more of the audience can get a good view. Two wooden posts either side are ideal and these can be cable tied to smaller posts banged into the ground as a base. Hang the lancework on nails and/or cable tie it to the posts. Take care to orientate the lancework the right way around.

Lancework is one of the most fragile fireworks and you need to take great care not to knock the lances and connecting fuse. It is also very vulnerable to rain which I will cover in more detail in the Coping With Bad Weather section.

Further help and information

For help with setting up other fireworks such as rockets or fountains, head back to the Setting Up Fireworks menu section where you will also find site layout advice and other helpful articles.

Once you have set up and are ready to fire I do of course have a complete section dedicated to letting off your fireworks safely.

If you are a beginner and any of the terms used in this guide are unfamiliar, or you are new to UKFR, my Beginners Start Here! guide will walk you through the basics.