Chap Goh Meh marks the end of the Lunar New Year.
Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days and Chap Goh Meh literally
means (the) 15th night. Firecrackers and fireworks are usually let off
liberally to mark the end of Chinese New Year. There is a wide variety
of firecrackers and fireworks available in Malaysia and the large
self-contained box type is the most popular ones.
Download: Chinese New Year 2006 [sixthseal.com]
I’m a big fan of firecrackers and fireworks (and everything else
that goes “boom”) and it seems that the trend in 2006 shifts markedly
to industrial grade fireworks. The market in Sibu and Kuching is
flooded with display shells – the catch-all term for the 3″, 5″ and 8″
shell that shoots up before exploding in fascinating pyrotechnics.
This is an example of a “consumer grade” display shell fireworks. Shellshock
comes in a box containing 12 pieces of “double break shells”. It’s made
in China, that’s where firecrackers and fireworks in Malaysia is
sourced (read: smuggled) from.
The Shellshock box opens up to reveal a foot long tube launcher
embedded into the package with 6 shells lining each side of the box.
The shells are inserted one at a time into the launch tube with the
flat end (base) making contact with the bottom of the launcher tube.
The 1.5″ shells is shaped like a gourd and there is a long
conventional green fuse bound intricately around the shell and held in
place by a colored string on the top indicating the color of the
display shell when it is…well, displayed.
Here is a closer look at this consumer grade firework. There are
double spheres in the shells – this is a double report, double flare
display shell. The shells have a flat base and a visible fuse starter.
This firecracker requires the launcher tube to launch the shells into
the air and the long fuse is to accommodate for the launcher length.
The Shellshock ones come in a disposable cardboard and plastic launcher.
The display shell type fireworks (regardless of grade) should always
be used in conjunction with a launcher tube to guide the shell upwards.
I’m sure everyone has tried not using a launcher tube at least once in
their lives (at least I did, with a 3″ shell) and the results are not
The Shellshock launcher tube does the job well enough…
It’s pretty dangerous since the shell just explodes on the ground,
sending out burning debris over a wide area. Notice how large the
dispersal area is when it’s airborne? That’s the coverage you can
expect when it goes off on the ground. Most residential areas cannot
accommodate for this kind explosive power.
…though it topples after each launch…and the cardboard burns.
The one time I did it resulted in a cracked glass door (with an
industrial grade shell), flaming explosions all over the front of the
house and shocked family and neighbors. Oh, and I set the lawn of the
neighbor on fire too. In my defense, it was dry grass. :p I never did
dare to repeat that stunt again, since I didn’t want to pay for damages
to vehicles, property and possibly human life. ;)
Industrial grade fireworks
Meet big brother. ;) This is a custom made launcher tube for 3″ industrial grade display shells.
The display shells (3 inch, 5 inch, and the expensive 8 inch ones)
are sold in boxes with instructions on the dimensions of the launcher
and the instructions are passed on to a local blacksmith (metal smith)
to be custom made.
It’s usually made of solid metal alloy so it can be reused without
the force of the initial primer explosion from the shells (which is
quite substantial) wearing out the launcher tube. The base of the
launcher tube is very important – perhaps the most crucial part of the
component – it must be heavy enough to hold the structure or wide
enough to allow other weighing material (bricks etc.) to weigh it down.
This is the launcher tube displayed with 3″ display shells.
These things are ordered in bulk and come with a sticker specifying the
exact pyrotechnics to expect from the particular shell (see below).
It’s sold in boxes made of heavy paper stapled together to form a
“box” of sorts and each box contains a mixed bag of pyrotechnics
goodness, with different “grades” of shells e.g. Grade A would be a
shell which goes “Purple with sparkling to red ball” (three stages with
large initial purple explosion bloom, followed by sparkling edges and a
single slowly descending red ball) while Grade B would be a shell that
goes “Green to silver” (one explosion, color change at fringe of
This is a close look at the grenade like display shells. It’s
wrapped with heavy reinforcing paper and these fireworks are considered
industrial grade as it’s the same ones that the government lets off
during official celebrations. Heck, some of them are even “diverted”
from official celebrations. ;)
The grenade like display shells are individually wrapped and come
with a label in two languages of what to expect from that particular
display shell. This Grade A shell goes “Red to Green to Crackling”.
This Grade B shell goes “Blue to silver” (two phase change) while a
Grade C shell would be a single phase explosion e.g. “Red & Blue
I have relatively large palms and this is a size comparison of what
a 3″ display shell looks like. It’s remarkably similar to a grenade,
except you have to use a launcher tube instead of igniting it on the
ground (which would cause a lot of Bad Things (TM) to happen).
The industrial grade shells are inserted into the correctly sized
launcher tube with the base of the shell level against the base of the
launcher, and with the fuse sticking up and out of the launcher tube.
Download: Industrial grade fireworks [sixthseal.com]
I probably should mention that the industrial grade fireworks do not
have a long fuse delay, despite its looks. The fuse lights slowly at
the top and then *zaps* goes straight down the remaining length of the
“fuse” and its pyrotechnica!
The blast is pretty substantial and it’s fun to be close to the
launcher when it goes off. It’s a mini shellshock effect, right at your
Consumer grade fireworks, these are not.
Lest we forget our roots, these are the traditional Chinese firecrackers.
I love the 50,000 Horse Brand firecrackers.
It’s fast and furious, burning through 50k of individual sticks of firecrackers in the span of a few seconds.
Download: Fast and furious firecrackers [sixthseal.com]
It got all over me in the video, though I thoroughly enjoyed it. Classic!
Happy Chap Goh Meh everyone!