Using Fuse & Linking Fireworks
Exploring what you can and cannot do with additional fuse.
The legal situation with fireworks fuse
Disclaimer: This information is my interpretation of the law and how it is understood by fellow enthusiasts but should be taken as a personal opinion only and should not be replied upon as a legal defence.
Consumers can buy additional fuse for attaching to their fireworks. However, some types of fuse are only intended for professionals and are no longer sold to the public.
It is understood to be legal for members of the public to add additional fuse to their fireworks, to modify a firework’s fuse or to use fuse to link multiple fireworks together, without requiring any form of licensing. The legislation, The Explosive Regulations 2014 (part 2-6), runs through all of the restrictions surrounding what you can’t do with explosive items but states an exception to these rules in the following very specific scenario:
“the preparation, assembly, disassembly and fusing of firework displays at the place of intended use;”
This means it’s allowed but note the term “place of intended use”. In practice this means you’re fine working with fuse at home if you’re having a display in your garden. If your display is elsewhere you should only carry out fusing modifications on site, for example when you are setting up. The safest approach is to set out your fireworks ready to fire (i.e. securing them) in their positions and then do your fusing last.
The most common type of fuse you will encounter on consumer fireworks is usually green or pink and is known as visco fuse (pictured below). Typical sizes are 2mm or 3mm and it has a burn rate of 1cm per second. Visco is very useful for linking fireworks where you do not need them all to fire at the exact same time. It is also very handy to use to practice using firing systems and igniters (especially when checking how many igniters your system can fire from a single cue).
If you want to ignite multiple fireworks quicker using fuse, you’ll need something that burns much faster than standard visco. Examples are quick pink visco (6cm a second), fast visco (10cm a second), lightning fast fuse (100cm a second) or a specialist fuse known as black match or tapematch fuse (300cm a second, pictured below).
The faster the fuse burn rate, the more inherently dangerous it is to work with. In particular, never directly light faster burning fuse; attach a slower burning visco fuse as a safety fuse, or use a remote firing system.
For lighting multiple fireworks together, using a firing system to do so remotely might be more appropriate.
Other fuse types include Chinese timed fuse for exact timing (1cm a second) and flying fish fuse which emits sparks that “wriggle” (I’ve yet to think of a use for this when it comes to connecting fireworks).
Where to buy fireworks fuse
Fuse is a specialist item and the vast majority of firework retailers do not stock it so you won’t normally be able to buy it along with your fireworks. Instead you will need to buy fuse from a company that specialises in fuse and firing systems.
The myth of fusing an entire large display
By far the most common newbie question with regards to fuse is: “How can I link my whole display on one fuse so it all fires by itself?”. It’s a great idea on paper – set out your fireworks, link them, light one fuse, stand back and admire the show.
In many cases, particularly with a lot of fireworks, it’s not a good idea. To understand why, you need to first consider that a typical firework has a running duration of 30 seconds or so but some last for well over a minute. Running with 30 seconds for the moment, if you had just ten fireworks of this duration, you would need 270 seconds of fuse delay leading up to the last firework. At a burn rate of 1cm/s for green visco, thats 2.7 metres of fuse. For a display of mixed fireworks lasting, say, 10 minutes, you would need getting on for 6 metres of fuse.
And this is before we consider the problem of knowing at what point on this fuse to attach each firework. You would need to know the duration of each one and this is impossible to accurately guess given the variation between fireworks (which are hand made and hand fused). Attach it too soon and you will overlap your fireworks, too late and there will be gaps.
Finally, if you’re not already convinced this is a bad idea, consider the safety concerns of initiating a long display and having no means to stop it if anything went wrong.
In most cases, newbies want to fuse a complete display simply because they want to make life easier. The good news is that hand firing is not only easy and cheap, it’s fun too. Or, why not consider firing your display remotely and at the press of a button with a firing system? To find out more about how to do either of these, have a look at the Firing Your Fireworks section.
Note: Some enthusiasts have made “cake boards” or “firework boards” where multiple fireworks are taped or glued to a large bit of wood and then a fuse is run between them. This can be quite effective for smaller numbers of fireworks and where you don’t mind items overlapping or firing at once. However I don’t recommend this approach for beginners.
What you CAN do with fuse
The main use of extra fuse is to link a small number of items together so you can fire them easily either by hand lighting a single fuse, or using one single igniter on a remote firing system. Examples include:
- Multiple candles, such as angled combinations on wooden racks.
- Multiple cakes, such as your finale sequence of several items.
- A line of rockets, to fire them in a volley or quick succession.
Be advised that firing multiple items at once is actually quite easy to do without using fuse. If hand firing, you can use a portfire or blow torch and their intense flame will get your fuses going without any fuss, allowing you to light several at once. Fireworks can be set up so their fuses are next to each other, or you can space them out so you can safely walk down a line of items lighting each one as you go. I’m just mentioning this because newbies quite often think that to light more than one firework together you need to connect them with fuse. It’s one way of doing it, but not the only way.