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Volume 10, Issue 2
December, 2010
Beginner Project:
Sunflower Tourbillion
by Michael Fales
Pages: 1
Build This:
Falling Leaves Rocket
by Kyle Kepley
Pages: 5
Product Review:
Mum's Bucket Star Screens
by Kyle Kepley
Pages: 1
Shop Tip:
Star Storage Containers
by Kyle Kepley
Pages: 1
Color Changing Falling Leaves
by Gary Smith
Pages: 2
Tool Tip:
Drop-Hammer Corning Drum
by Kyle Kepley
Pages: 2
Sunflower Tourbillion
This little item may bring back memories of colorful paper wings and mystifying flying fireworks of your childhood. I can remember my older cousin coming back from down south with a box of these butterfly looking items and being in awe. I think that may have been the start of my pyro bug! At that time, I knew nothing of their construction or their method of flight. Well, since I joined the MPAG and PGI I have never looked at a fireworks device the same!

The following instructions require a 1/2” ID paper tube, some chipboard and a relatively easily made tourbillion composition. Perhaps after you have completed a few of these items, you may want to experiment with a colored driver for the second half of the burn. A switch from charcoal to green is most common in the commercial Sunflowers that I have seen. However, there are greater risks associated with pressing the color perchlorate compositions and due precautions should be taken. Adding +7 titanium to the tourbillion formula makes a spectacular umbrella of white sparks.

To start we plug the end of the tube with clay. Many attempts were made at these little buggers only to have them lift off the ground quickly then slow down and eventually head back toward earth! I found that the hot composition was eroding the port rather quickly and diminishing the thrust. The trick to making these winged devices is to use a clay plug with a conical cavity on the inside. The exhaust hole passes through the wall of this cavity, such that the clay on the inside prevents the exhaust hole from being enlarged over time by the fire jetting through it. To create this special end plug, we can create a rammer that has a cone at one end. This rammer is commonly used in Saxons for this same reason. This clay port will produce a nozzle with almost no erosion allowing the Sunflower to gain height during its entire burn.

Creating a tapered rammer is quite easy if you have a drill or drill press with a 1/2" chuck. Cut a section of 1/2” dowel 1.5” taller than your finished rammer will be (approximately 7”). Place the top 1.5” of dowel into the chuck of your drill and start it spinning! Using a file, rough in the taper of the dowel at about a 60 degree angle (See Figure 1). After the shape has been formed, polish the cone with very smooth grit sand paper. This last step is crucial. Without a smooth surface, the rammer will grab at the sides of the clay and be quite difficult to remove and may ruin your plug. Unchuck the dowel and cut off the top portion that was indented by the jaws of the chuck. If you intend to ram the components into the tube, you can extend the life of your wooden rammer by tightly wrapping fiberglass reinforced strapping tape around the top end about 6 times. This tape will hold the fibers of wood together and prevent the mushroom effect from happening so quickly. (3/8” copper plumbing pipe caps also fit nicely onto the ends of ½” dowels to protect them.)

After pressing the clay plug, remove the rammer and drill into the side of the tube 3/8” up from the bottom with a 1/8” diameter drill bit. See the dimension drawing above for plug height and drilling dimensions. Be careful not to apply to much pressure, or the clay plug will break away in the center. Drill slowly and straight in the center of the tube far enough into the clay to reach the center. Dump any loose clay out of the tube and insert a 2” piece of safety fuse into the hole until it seats in the center of the tube (See Figure 2). If you are uncertain of your clay plug thickness, place the rammer inside the tube and seat it into the clay cone. Make a mark on the rammer at the top end of the tube (See Figure 3). Remove the rammer and place it on the outside of the tube lining up the mark with the top edge (See Figure 4). You can now mark where the point of the rammer ends and drill centered at 3/16” above that mark.

Switch to a regular flat ended rammer and start pressing the tourbillion formula in 1/2" high increments as you go up the tube. After reaching 2-1/4” height from the bottom of the tube, press a final increment of clay 7/16” thick. This completes the tube portion of this item and now it’s off to the wings.

The wing is cut from a single piece of chipboard and the template can be found along with this article. Trace the template onto a piece of chipboard or posterboard (See Figure 5). The thicker of the cereal boxes will work as well as the hard stock on the back of notepads and the like if it is not too thick. Cut out the wing and cut along the inside lines as well (See Figure 6). Prepare the wings by bending both of the thinner tabs downward and place the wing on the tube. Pressing the tabs up into the tube will create a natural twist in the wings somewhat like a propeller.

The top of the left wing will be angled down and the top of the right wing will be angled up (See Figure 7). Getting the wings into shape before gluing will greatly reduce frustration later. Twist the tube so that the fuse sticks out to the left and slightly down. Measure down 11/16” from the top of the tube and mark a dash across the tube with a pen or pencil. This will be where the upper edge of the wing body will rest when finished. Place a mark from the center of the wings down onto the tube perpendicular to the previous mark for alignment when gluing. Slide the wings down the tube out of the way and put two beads of hot glue around the tube just below the mark. Quickly place the wings into the glue making sure that the fuse is still to the left and pointed down at about 45 degrees from the horizontal plane the wings are on. The wings only supply part of the lifting force, with the remainder generated by the downward thrust of the angled exhaust port. Line up the marks and hold the wings in their twisted position against the tube until the glue has cooled enough to hold them in place. Put a couple of dabs of hot glue on the inside of the thin tabs of the wings and hold them firm to the upper wings while holding tightly in to the body of the tube as well.

The sunflower is finished! Yahoo!!!! It is my experience, and my families for that matter, that it is important to make sure you have plenty of open space when lighting something that flies. Place the Sunflower in the middle of a flat surface like plywood. Light and retire to a safe distance. A few spins around on the ground and it’ll be quickly up to speed. Sunflowers will leave spiral shaped burn marks on the surface they take off from, so don’t use your sidewalk or driveway unless you don’t mind black spirals burnt into it.

Take off should be consistent and ever sky reaching. If the flyers are CATO’ing (a common problem), your meal may be too hot and you need to open the port a bit with a larger drill bit or cool down your tourbillion formula with added percentage of charcoal. Some of you out there may want to add a finishing touch to the flyer in the form of a report header, or as my brother would call it “Waste Management”!! Be sure to only add a touch though. Placing to much weight toward the “head” end of the flyer will cause it to not fly all that well.

Ron Lancaster

Meal D 35
Potassium Nitrate 45
Charcoal AF 15
Sulfur 5

(results will vary depending on the quality of your meal powder)

Formula Notes:
I use straight ball milled meal for the Meal D and I find that this composition is so fine that it will act like a fluid while pressing/ramming and present itself out the side of your tube and in your face! Granulating the mix will take care of the dust problem. If you are not sure on how to granulate a composition, ask a fellow club member for help.

Page 1

Figure 0: Click Here for Wing Template Printout

Figure 1: Filing down a tapered rammer using a drill press.

Figure 2: Fuse inserted after drilling into clay plug.

Figure 3: Marking rammer for clay plug thickness.

Figure 4: Marking the point of the clay plug on the tube for drilling location.

Figure 5: Wings traced onto chipboard.

Figure 6: Wings cut from chipboard.

Figure 7: Bending wings into shape and preparing them to be glued – notice marks on wings and tube for alignment.


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