Introduction: Fireworks Igniter

Picture of Fireworks Igniter

These electronic igniters will reliably light any firework with a fuse on it. They are designed to use in conjunction with my Fireworks Controller, but can be used with any electronic controller that you may have built already, or even any 12v battery. They are relatively simple to construct and are made of common materials already available in your house or at a local hardware store. You don't need nichrome wire to construct these igniters.

Use these igniters ONLY IF:

  • It is legal to launch fireworks where you live
  • You are using factory/store bought fireworks
  • You are far away from dry grass
  • The launching area around the fireworks is clear
  • There are adequate safety features on your controller to reduce the chance of an accidental detonation while connecting the igniters

The author (Systemf92) is not responsible for any accident, damage, legal trouble, encounter with law enforcement or death that may occur from the use of these electronic firework igniters. Use at your own risk.

Step 1: Acquire Your Materials

Picture of Acquire Your Materials
The parts you will need shouldn't be to hard to find, if you don't have them around your house, then your local hardware store should carry them.

Parts Needed
  • Any small gauge insulated hookup wire, stranded or solid, around 20-24AWG (Size doesn't matter that much, as long as the gauge is not smaller than the steel wool you will be using. You will need about 6" per igniter.)
  • Matches, one per igniter
  • Electrical tape
  • Grade #3 steel wool (commonly used to remove paint and clean engines)
Tools Needed
  • Scissors (or teeth, for cutting electrical tape)
  • Wire strippers (if you don't have any, try using scissors)

Step 2: Tape Wires to the Match

Picture of Tape Wires to the Match

First, cut two 3" pieces of wire for your igniter. Strip about 1/2" off of each end. Line up the wires on both sides of a match, with one end of the stripped wires lined up with the match head. Wrap electrical tape around both wires and the match to hold them in place. Make sure they have stayed on opposite sides of the match after you tape them to it. See the second picture below for the placement of these wires.

Step 3: Wrap the Match Head With Steel Wool

Picture of Wrap the Match Head With Steel Wool

Now that the wires are taped to the match, we can add the heating element, steel wool.
Take your ball of steel wool and look for a long, thick piece. The pieces are not uniform throughout the ball, so find a good one that is about 3" long. Extra length can be cut off when we are finished, so don't worry about having a piece that is too long.

First, pinch the end of the steel wool strand between one of the wires and the match, as seen in the first photo below. This will keep it from slipping off when we wrap it around the match head.

Wrap the steel wool around the head, around the wire on the opposite side, and back to the wire you started on. Then, do this once more (wrap it around the match twice). When you have done this, you should have two strands of steel wool crossing each side. See photos below for more detail.

The number of times you wrap the steel wool around the match head is important because if the steel wool wraps around too many times it will just conduct and not heat up. Too little, and it burns up before it can ignite the match.

After wrapping the steel wool around twice, loop it around the wire you started on a bunch of times to take up the extra length and hold it in place.

Step 4: Secure the Steel Wool

Picture of Secure the Steel Wool

After the steel wool is wrapped around the match and connected to each wire, fold the ends of the wire back over the loops in the steel wool to keep them from sliding off the end of the igniter. This is the final step, and you are ready for ignition.

Step 5: Using the Igniters

Picture of Using the Igniters
To use the igniter, connect it to a long run of two conductor cable such as speaker wire with alligator clips on one end. Connect one alligator clip to each lead on the igniter, as seen in the picture below. Connect the opposite end of the long speaker wire to one channel on a fireworks controller. These igniters are designed to be used with 12v DC power, which is the right amount to correctly heat the steel wool. If you do not feel up to the task of constructing an entire controller, using a 12v battery will work fine too, just connect the leads of the speaker wire to the terminals when you are ready to fire. This isn't the safest option, but it works.

Depending on the thickness of your speaker wire, you should be able to prop the igniters up in a way that will keep them near enough to the fuse of a firework to ignite it. Leaning the match heads right up against the fuse itself has worked well for me so far.

Things to consider:
  • Make sure that the alligator clips are not touching each other, as this would cause a short circuit
  • Make sure the exposed wires near the match head of the igniter are not touching each other
  • If the igniter does not ignite after 1-2 seconds of pushing on the ignition button (applying power to the circuit) stop pressing it or you will short out your controller/battery because the full current is flowing back to it, rather than having the resistance of heat in the steel wool.)
  • When the igniter is used up, it ideally will completely break the connection between the two wires, but sometimes it doesn't, so a channel might show up on your controller as still being unfired, even if the match has already been burnt up. Keep track of what you have fired already, because there is usually at least one igniter that does this in a batch of 12 being used at once.
Video of ignition


Jerimiah40 (author)2009-07-05

How would you recommend attaching this to the actual firework?

drkress (author)Jerimiah402017-06-30

I know this is old but zip ties work fantastic for me. At harbor freight I can get thousands of the little ones super cheap. I have used them for years.

systemf92 (author)Jerimiah402009-07-06

I dont have a very secure way of doing this right now, but what has always worked for me is to just lean the match head directly on the fuse or slightly below it. The ignition wire I have running from the board to the ignitor is also thick enough to bend roughly into a position and stay there to ignite the fuse. I have also thought of using something like a paperclip to hold the ignitor to the fuse, you might try that.

bowmaster (author)systemf922009-07-08

Have a bit (~1 inch) of steel wool hanging off. Then wrap it around the fuse.

systemf92 (author)bowmaster2009-07-08

ahh, now we're talking. good idea

pontiacking (author)systemf922009-07-16

If you wrap a 1in. pice of fuse to the match win you wrap the match head with steel wool you can tape the fuses together

would a rubber band wrapped around the fuse and ignitor a couple times work?

rrrmanion (author)systemf922010-09-02

if it is a rocket, attach a small piece of metal to the firing tube (the thing you stick in the ground) then attach assembly to that, and put fuse in position. i think this will work fine

3001515562 (author)Jerimiah402010-07-06

i made this and tried it with a fuse and it worked fine. it took about 1 sec longer but it worked

3 to 1 launch (author)2015-08-25

cool method. thanks :)

Raydoom (author)2009-08-03

nice Igniter , How many volts did you use ?

jelimoore (author)Raydoom2014-04-14

You can use anywhere from 3 volts (not out of an Arduino, or other microcintroller) up, but I wouldn't recommend AC current

systemf92 (author)Raydoom2009-08-03


im3733 (author)2012-07-03

Theoretically, one could use several strands of a much finer grade of steel wool, like 00 or 000, since you can light 0000 with a normal match and it will smolder itself to oblivion, theoretically, using something a little thicker would both have the advantage of increased resistance, meaning more heat, and being burned up by the lit match. This would decrease the likelihood of a fired channel showing up as unfired on the box.

static (author)2010-07-06

An interesting approach, but here I would think the breeze would blow out the match before it lit the fuse.

rrrmanion (author)static2010-10-03

i find a small amount of something flammable such as aftershave or deodorant works really well to prevent that.

systemf92 (author)rrrmanion2012-01-26

will give this a try - thanks

kscience (author)2011-06-30

actually- a dipped tantalum capacitor, wired reverse polarity will ignite nicely from a 12v gel cell; it will also stay lit, as I found out once on a project that was not supposed to ignite. :P

systemf92 (author)kscience2012-01-26

I've heard a little bit about this method - definitely need to give it a try! Uh oh! haha

pyra_builder_1337 (author)2009-09-30

another way to do this is to take the wire setup and place it on a piece of celophane pour a SMALL amount of BP on it and cover with duct tape leaving some of the sticky part over the plastic so you can tape it to the explosive device

BP would be?

Bryan "clueless" Paschke

MikrySoft (author)bryan31412011-07-03

Black Powder

bryan3141 (author)MikrySoft2011-07-04 context that makes sense....should have been able to figure it out. Thanks.

Bryan "truly clueless" Paschke

British Petroleum? do you soak it in gas?

DannytheGreat (author)2011-04-05

why dont you just let the wires arc?

The power supply would have to be too high a voltage. That would preclude using a regular 12v battery as the power supply.

riverreaper (author)2011-07-01

so it works like a taoster ? that seems like you couldent have a timed show very well , what if you just went to the goodwill an bought some old cheep toaster took it apart sthech the heat coils out to form a line use a bit of sotch tape to hold fues to it sat back at the house with the ectetion cord an pluger it in lol

BlueFusion (author)2011-06-30

This seems to be remarkably familiar to my (very old and poorly made) instructable from 4 years ago :)
Except yours is more complex. I've made some changes to my design - maybe I should republish!
Nice work though.

emmick4 (author)2010-08-05

wouldn't it be easier to simply put the fuse where the match head is?

systemf92 (author)emmick42011-03-29

From what I tried, just the heat of the wires was not enough to ignite the fireworks fuses, it needed actual flame. If you play around with it some more, you might get it to work though!

PyromanX (author)2010-07-05

How about sticking the end of this in a wire nut, then twist the fuse up in there too?Is it too big?

rrrmanion (author)PyromanX2010-10-03

i think that might work with the right sized nut,

MACKattacksnipe (author)2010-07-14

Get some of those model rocket ignites

airsoftjunke (author)2010-07-02

i am having troble ignighting the match head using a 12 v battery from my switch bord any sugestions?

i have a suggestion dont use alot of steelwool it will not heat up and glow to the point where the match catches fire

i am only using one strand of steel wool and it seems that there isnt enought currant flowing through the 15ft wire to heat up a copper fillament i use instead of steel wool

AZombieHippie (author)2010-07-03

Thanks systemf92 for the awesome tutorial i included your idea in this project i made called the ultimate detonator : )

technodude92 (author)2010-06-30

Cool idea. and I applaud your use of common household items. I've seen a few tutorials on different ignitors but most call for nichrome wire or flash powder(or both!), but this is nice, simple, cheap and readily available.

stocky (author)2010-06-29

Could you use Fuse wire instead of cotton wool as a love amp one with a car battery or any high current battery would result in constant fires, you could also use different thickness/current wire depending on how long you want the heat to last.

supernoeva (author)2010-06-28

I know it's more expensive, but wouldn't nitinol wire be reusable and more consistent than the steel wool? This is the stuff I am talking about, and when it shorten from the heat it'll break the circuit.

funwithfire93 (author)2009-08-22

y uses aligator clips y not use longer wire? and im trying to rig aton of them together do u have any suggestions

amoliski (author)funwithfire932010-06-27

A longer wire can only be used once before it has to be rewound/taped with the alligator clips, he can have one long wire that fires as many igniters as he wants to make. It is kind of like making a new gun every time you fire a bullet. Replacing as few parts as possible makes it cheaper and faster!

Biohazard1194 (author)2010-06-27

I'm probably going to make a few of these this year. Great instructable, very clear instructions and photos!

aeronut01 (author)2010-04-17

Nice descriptions, clear photos, awesome instructable...... why isn't this a freatured instructable yet?  Great job!

akanan (author)2009-10-03

I had 4 9v batterie in series. And it didnt light the match. i have the exact same steel wool why?

thepaul93 (author)akanan2009-11-03

in series it justs up's the voltage,
in parallelit ups the amps.
the more power it has the more chance it will work.
try connect them in parallel.

ktalex (author)akanan2009-10-13

did you check the output voltage?

jon_nic (author)2009-10-02

nice idea, but i use a 10ohm, 1/4 watt resistor stuck to the firework fuse. place 12V across, The resistors burn and the firework ignites

chelsea517 (author)2009-09-19

good, we also have a special website for this.

batman96 (author)2009-09-18

I built this, it works great!

About This Instructable




More by systemf92:Fireworks IgniterFireworks Controller
Add instructable to: