24" Girandole Frames

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER:  If you are underage, then consult with your parents or guardians before attempting any of this.  You are on your own - I'm not responsible for your actions or harm you may bring to others because of your actions.  Making the items described below  can result in injury or death to you or people in your vicinity. Some things mentioned here may be illegal to make in your city, county, state, or country so check the laws that apply to you before you attempt anything described here. These notes are not complete on purpose. If you are reading them and new to pyrotechnics, then you are making a mistake. Stop now - this page is not for you. Get a beginning book on fireworks (see Skylighter or American Fireworks News (very quick shipping)  for a start) and read up. You can't make any of this work without more information so read up or join a club or ask someone to help you.

Pronunciation: 'jir-&n-"dOl
Function: noun
Etymology: French & Italian; French, from Italian girandola, from girare to turn, from Late Latin gyrare, from Latin gyrus gyre
1 : a radiating and showy composition (as a cluster of skyrockets fired together)
2 : more stuff not related to this web page ;-}
3 : same as #2

The tricks to making girandoles are threefold: Keep them light, keep them strong, keep them balanced.
Recommended reading: "The Incomplete Book of Girandolas" by Tom Dimock

They are not as hard as they sound - the first step is to make the former (jig)

Here is a girandole just being born.

The former to make a 24" girandole is pretty important and easy to build. Trying to make one of these without a former is difficult - and getting it balanced is even more difficult. The former will take care of most of the problems automatically so be sure to use it.  Whip one up from some 2x4 and a base plate. You don't have to have a round base for the former, a 2 x 2 base will work fine. The base above is a 24" cake base from a craft shop. Arrange the uprights used to hold the hoops so they are evenly spaced in a circle - use six. The spacing between the grooves on the uprights is 3 1/2 inches or so and the first one is about 2" off the base of the former.. 

Use those funky wood clamps to secure everything. Get the clamps from a discount tool house - the cheap ones work fine for this purpose (the name-brand ones are outrageously expensive). The hoop wood is from a craft shop and is porous debarked bamboo. I think they used it for making stays for hems in puffy skirts. However, garden stake bamboo will work fine as well as split bamboo from fences or other sources. You can even make your own material from layers of veneer or finely sliced hard woods. Just keep it light. The frame should weigh around seven ounces when done. 

The center post is most important and will play a major part in the stability of your girandole. Center it carefully - take your time with it. The easiest way is to get the center of the base and draw a 24" circle around it. One of your goals is to keep everything balanced.

The uprights have to be removable (the ones above screw in at the bottom) because once assembled, the girandole will be locked onto the frame until you take the formers off (all of them!).

You will have to splice the ends together if you make one of these. These two ends are glued and then wrapped tightly with waxed string. Keep your joints as strong as possible. This puppy has to take a fall from high altitude so it needs to be light, strong, and well-balanced.


The uprights have to be sturdy, too. So drill a 3/32" hole through them, glue and tie them with waxed string as shown.

After you get it all assembled, run over the string and joints with a strong all-purpose adhesive. This will seal it for keepsies. 


The center post is made from a drilled dowel (3/8" I.D. + 1/64") but you can also make it from a rocket tube or other brain storm. The cross-members are light wood - in this case, sticks from Chinese rockets. You can use bamboo or other light wood, too. 


Here is the completed item. The center post is tied and glued and then reinforced with hot glue. The cross members are drilled, tied and glued. It only takes an hour or so to create one of these (not counting interim waits for glue to dry). It weighs about 7 1/4 ounces. This is a reusable frame - if you fly it in the right places and your motors don't blow it up, you can reuse it many times.  I often fly these in a big parking lot where they land on cement or tarmac - usually unscathed.

Here is the finished item on a launch stand. The center pivot is a 3/8" bolt with the head chopped off. The launch stand is tall to make it easy to configure the girandole. However, tall means unstable so the bottom should be sandbagged if the girandole is weighed down with lots of stuff. There are a lot of forces on the thing when it launches.

With big motors on this frame, I have to shoot it at a test site which is about 50 miles from my house. However, I can test the frame locally if I use Estes hobby motors as drivers. I decided to test this sucker with three Estes C6 motors. Click on the image above and watch closely... Do you think it will work?