Report by Tony Webster: On a superb
warm and sunny day last year (yes, we did have at least one nice
day!) I was invited to take a tour around Sandling's licensed
magazines. Now for any normal pyromaniac, this is a dream come
true but for me it was Heaven or to give you some idea of my true
feelings: "I behaved like a kid in a sweet shop."
I arrived at the Sandling office
where I met both Graham and his wife. Our first port of call was
their local "small store". The strong metal door was
duly unlocked and we proceeded to enter the building. What greeted
me was racks of staging on two sides of the building, which contained
numerous brown boxes loaded to the hilt with various sized shells,
mainly 3, 4 and 5 inch ones, but there were some 6 and 8 inch
shells in abundance too. Numerous names of different types of
shells were listed on each box, names such as Gold Sparkle, Gold
Willow (my favourite) and lots of Silver flash shells.
- You can click on any thumbnail
to enlarge the picture -
||Several thousand aerial shells from three
inches upwards. You can "feel" the power through
||A whole wall of four inch aerial
shells. This is a supermarket for display companies.
At this point, "The boss"
reached casually into a brown box and pulled out a 12 inch shell.
Now for some one who had not seen a 12 inch shell before, I was
lost for words. I then wondered what he would do for his next
trick, heheh. Also, this small store contained a wide selection
of both Cat 3 and Cat 4 goods. Ranging from a mouth-watering selection
of some small bore roman candle fans, progressing through the
range, Blockbuster candle fans and onto the Cat 4 Bazooka candle
fans. These looked really tasty and a much bigger bore than the
||Assorted boxes of Vulcan fireworks.
||Comet candle sets as they come packed, six
to a box.
||Now this kind of does your head in when
it sinks in. Each box contains over a dozen candles. There
are dozens of boxes. Do you realise just how many candles
there are in this shot?
||Or how about in this shot? If you thought
contemplating the size of the universe was hard, you ain't
been in Sandling's magazines. Infinity is child's play when
you've seen this many candles!
Also in this "small store"
were a few small cakes accompanied by some huge cakes that looked
very impressive, a hundred shot "Silver Fish & Crackling
Bees" and a 144 shot "Silver tourbillions & salute
cake" - huge items (obviously Cat 4). Next to these cakes,
an open box of 3" shells, surprisingly I noted very few rockets
in the store, but even so, this was probably the biggest selection
of fireworks that I had seen at such close quarters. Little did
I know what was to follow? Incidentally
I was informed that
thieves had broken into this small store fairly recently using
guessed it, Oxyacetylene cutting gear. Crazy or what?!
||Very worrying looking boxes with very worrying
||Enough pyro to blow up the Houses Of Parliament,
I drove the pair of us to the next
location, some distance from the first. This is where all his
orders are packed (a job they do expertly). Over the years I have
received countless packages from various companies in the firework
trade and Sandling's are amongst some of the best-packaged fireworks
in the business. Orders were being "boxed up" as I walked
Then onto their equipment store,
which was not far from his packing department. Upon entering this
large building, immediately on the right were hundreds of empty
round tubes that eventually contain the Roman candle batteries.
||Empty outer tubes. These are used to make
candle bundles look nicer and also a but safer for public
Halfway down one side were hundreds
of new fibreglass mortar tubes (looked like 3, 4 and 5 inch) some
of these had been assembled in to the wooden crate racks, each
containing 5 mortars. Alongside these were the usual "paper"
mortar tubes, thousands of them, encompassing every conceivable
size. Ranging from the very small (2 inch) up to some huge ones
(16 inch and above). One, I think was so big, I could have climbed
inside, it was that huge (if I slimmed a little!).
Obviously no fireworks were stored
here and you might think it was uninteresting for that reason,
but even so, it was amazing to see so many mortar tubes in one
place. Before the ban on Cat 4 came into force I had previously
fired hundreds of shells which had included some very very nice
5 inch ones. I had gained loads of experience of "digging
in" these 5 inch mortars and burying them 2/3 depth. But
no way would I enjoy the job of burying some of these monster
||A ten by ten shell rack.
||This is typical of most display companies
"tube storage" area with an assortment of various
tubes and other display equipment.
||Fibreglass mortar tubes (instead of the
||Some bigger boys, for the bigger shells.
Part burying these ain't easy.
||Loads of tubes here. I bet the one you need
is always at the back.
For the next location, I had been
warned "not to divulge the location of their licensed magazines"
(at this point, I thought I was going to be blindfolded, but as
I was driving
hehe). We duly arrived at the site and found
five separate magazines waiting for me. One magazine would have
been sufficient and very enjoyable
but five? Er! This was
going to be a day to remember. The door to the first was opened
(heavy steel doors) and
.WOW! This was something else. Enormous
quantities of brown boxes awaited, initial reaction was
all looked the same, then a trained Pyrotechnician's eyes came
in to play and I noted the contents and description were printed
on each box. At this point I asked if I could spend my summer
holiday in there.
Most of the boxes were sealed and
stacked 6-10 high (depending on contents), shells (must have been
thousands), roman candles (thousands), cakes of every size imaginable
(thousands again) and loads of Cat 4 stuff (some very nice Poisonous
Spider cakes). There were too many to list (even if I had spent
my holiday there). It was Heaven. It didn't go unnoticed how much
my jaw had dropped and at this point, some of the boxes were opened.
This had me spellbound. Lots of names I had recognised, but had
never seen before and here they were appearing in front of my
eyes, a pyro dream. After eventually recovering from the contents
of the first magazine, we drove to the next one.
||Each close-up shot of boxes on this page
is from one section of one magazine room. Here you can see
why Tony was so mesmerised by it all.
||My God, if I had this lot, I could display
for an hour a night, all year round!
||Comet World (that big expensive cake) here
sitting in vast numbers.
If the first magazine was impressive,
the second was even more so and contained a slightly different
selection to the first. If my memory serves me correctly (probably
not, by then I was "mesmerized") in this magazine I
was handed a 16 inch shell (a purple to brocade to green with
red flower one). "Handed" is not the correct explanation
for it, as it was extremely heavy and there was no way I was going
to drop it (not when I was informed how much they cost and the
possibility that damages had to be paid for!).
I just had to have a photo of me
and the 16 inch shell together and I was so far gone by then,
I did something I would probably regret later
to "hand fire" the thing. It was the first time ANYONE
had ever volunteered to hand fire one! To be so close to just
one 16 inch shell was almost too much, but when I eventually took
my eyes off the thing I found I was surrounded by a couple of
dozen of them. Each shell was housed in its own wooden crate.
Now, if only I could tuck a few under each arm and walk out without
being noticed. This sight of a couple of dozen 16 inch shells
all in one place will remain with me for a long time (I must get
||Another magazine shot. Remember the end
of Raiders Of The Lost Ark when the Ark is sealed in a box
and wheeled into a massive, top secret storage area? Apparently
it was filmed here, heheh. Tony half expected to see surplus
items from Area 51 lurking between the pyro.
||The highlight of ANY pyro tour, the huge
cat 4 items. Here, the legendary sixteen inch shell.
||Close-up of the Vulcan 16 inch shell. By
far the most spectacular single shell we have seen in a display.
Another shell was produced out of
nowhere and this little beauty (not so little, 12 inch I think)
contained several smaller "baby brothers" that were
attached to the larger one. On launch, the main shell rises and
each of the smaller ones drop off and produce a tiered effect.
||Multiple shell unit. The main shell fires
and the smaller ones create a multiple effect.
The third magazine contained some
duplicates of the contents of the other two (as if there were
not enough in the other two) with some very nice £220 "Display
in a box" cartons. Dozens and dozens of outer cartons of
every type of fireworks imaginable were to be found. It then occurred
to me - three magazines so far and no sight of any rockets.
||You know those huge £200+ complete
display units? Here's a wall of them.
A short distance to the next magazine
and the heavy steel doors were unlocked (same heavy steel doors
on each magazine) and at last: rockets and loads of them as well.
Hundreds and hundreds of their Giant and Monster rockets in several
types of each, but no "Mega" (the big ones). I have
heard good things of these Megas and wanted to get the "feel
of them" at close quarters (no, I'm not a pervert).
I found out later that they were
due to be delivered the following week, together with some new
triple break ones. Loads of the double break rockets were present
and looked very impressive, so the triple break ones should be
||Assorted Cat 3 items from some of the many
hundreds of boxes.
||Another shot showing various Cat 3 items.
Sandling import loads of quality gear and supply both through
their own retail venture and also wholesale to other suppliers.
You'll see some familiar names here.
||A working area at Sandling as they prepare
various munitions for display.
||Close-up of more work. 99% (or more) of
time spent running a pyro company is "routine" jobs
After all of the magazines had been
visited (apart from the last one, where bats were roosting and
so remained unused and empty) my overriding lasting impression
(apart from trillions of superb fireworks) was
dam, it was
not a speck of dust or debris anywhere. Mother would
have been pleased.
My thanks and much appreciation
must go to Mr Lundergard (The Boss) of Sandling Fireworks who
made it all possible and just to say apologies for behaving like
a "kid in a sweet shop"
||The Boss, Graham himself. This picture amuses
me because his expression is "just another day at the
office". He is neither trembling, weeping, crying or
sweating with the intense excitement of standing in the middle
of all that pyro as Tony was. I suppose you get used
to it after a while!
At this point a couple of famous
quotes spring to mind, one
"It made my day" and
"I'll be back". I should say
I will be back.
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