Build Your Own Set Stands
Building Set Stands For Holiday Displays
By: Matthew Kleinmann
Some of the coolest fireworks you can get are ground devices such as fountains, strobes and spinners to name just a few. While you can use most of these on the ground, you can also build wooden set pieces to get them up where people can easily see them and really ramp up the coolness factor of your display.
I use home built wooden tripods to mount things on. Here is how I made them:
My stands are made out of 3 2x4’s each and three wooden feet with three ¾” holes drilled in each foot so I can use rebar stakes to anchor them to the ground.
I try and make my life easy, so I decided on a few ground rules for my pieces. First, that I would use all the same sized 2x4’s for everything, and second, as you will want to disassemble these so they lay flat, I used star drive, Teflon coated deck screws to hole the removable parts together. They are easy to put in and take out, even in the dark.
I used all 12 foot 2x4’s and I use an electronic firing system. If you do not have a firing system you may want your displays at a lower level so you can reach the fusing from the ground.
Start out with the easy part. I cut out 3- 8”x8” foot pads out of ¾” pressure treated plywood on my table saw. The 8x8 is an easy size to cut even on a modest saw. This need not be exact.
Next, on each pad, about 1” in from each side and about 4” in from the bottom, drill two ¾”
holes. Now in the center of the top, about 1” down, drill one ¾” hole. The holes make a triangle.
The center foot and securing pad
Now, take one of your 2x4’s. This will be the center one. Mount one of the feet so it is in the center of the foot so that the holes are on both sides of the long dimension of the 2x4. Drill pilot holes so you don’t split the wood and fasten it in with small lag bolts and washers.
Take your next 2- 2x4’s and cut both ends at 45 degrees right at the end. A chop saw is perfect for this. One end of this piece will have a foot on it like the center piece and the other end will join the center piece exactly half way up its length. On the feet with the angles the side with the one hole goes in front of the 2x4 and not under it and the two holes on the other side so they are on both sides of the 2x4. If you get this backwards you will have the 2x4 leaning over the one hole and you will not be able to hammer a stake through it into the ground as the 2x4 will be in the way.
One of the two sides with the holes for the stakes correctly aligned. The 2x4 tilts to the left in this case.
Stake the center down and lean one of the sides against it so it meets it halfway up., and when the foot sits level, use a couple of the star drive decking screws to fasten it on. I shot them in and out a few times to loosen them up in their holes. When you have the first side done, do the same with the other side. Thought: If you use these a lot screw eyes may be even better than the star drive screws to hold them together. You can turn screw eyes in by hand and tighten them up by putting a screwdriver through the eye for leverage, no power tools needed. I have been taking a cordless drill with me but I may switch over to screw eyes!
Now, take some small dots of masking tape and mask off the screws and give the whole setup a couple coats of a dark colored paint. I lucked out at the local $1 store. They had a green paint that was so dark you could not tell it from black for a buck a quart. It must have been a manufacturing mistake, but it worked great for me. If your local $1 emporium does not have paint, you might see if one of the local home centers has any “mistake” colors that they will sell you cheap. You might be able to charm them into giving it a few pumps of some dark pigment. Tell them you want something near black when you are done.
If you paint them assembled, there will be nice unpainted spaces where the side legs go on after you take it apart. This makes putting it back together really easy the next time.
If you do not have stakes, they can be anyplace from easy to hard to make. The easy ones are pieces of rebar about 16” long. If you are feeling energetic you can sharpen one end, than chuck the other end up with about 4” of the rebar in the vice and bend the log side over at a 90 degree angle. If you have a torch it will make bending them a lot easier. Failing that you can put a piece of pipe over the long end and mussel it over. If you like to weld you can cut the rebar into 1’ pieces and 5” pieces and weld Tees together. You can also weld a T top to long landscape nails. T stakes are easier to pound into rocky ground than L stakes are. L stakes are easier to make.
Assorted T and L stakes. You will need 9 to hold this stand up.
Stakes have a lot of uses outside of holding your set pieces down. You should use them to keep your racks in place and also to keep any big cakes from moving or tipping. This is very important if you are electrically firing the show as you may not see something tip over in the dark until you fire it.
Now that you have a set piece, what do you do with it? This is where it gets interesting. Spinners are an obvious idea, but you can also tack on pieces of wood and mount other devices on them.
For example, take 5 pieces of wood, each one a foot shorter than the one before it and tack them on the center strut with the biggest at the bottom. That will give you a rough Christmas tree shape. Now with duct tape mount a fountain every 1’ (foot) across each strut. You can alternate colors, and perhaps put one with a more active effect at the very top. Hook it all together with the fastest burning fuse you can get so they all go off essentially at the same time, and you will have a Christmas display that people will remember!
After your show y
After your show you can take the set pieces down, store them and fit them with spinners and fountains and roman candles for your 4th of July display. Good luck!
Matthew Kleinmann is a professional, licensed pyrotechnician and a staff writer for Mess’s Fireworks