Lanterns, Lancework & Set Pieces

Three totally different items now in terms of performance but all offering something unique and beautiful.


Chinese Lanterns

Not strictly a firework in terms of their classification but now a firm favourite with the public and readily available from fireworks retailers. These are very large paper bags with a wick attached underneath. Once the wick is lit the hot air fills the bag and it gently floats away.

Chinese Lanterns

A Chinese lantern filling with hot air

Lanterns produce an effect unlike any firework  and thanks to their beauty and lack of noise it is no surprise these are proving so popular. They can float for miles (literally) and are best used in groups because they form a chain of lights or constellation when airborne.

Chinese Lanterns on sale in the UK have to conform to quite strict safety standards but you should still take care to buy quality lanterns from a genuine retailer rather than some of the very cheap ones available on-line. On a good lantern the paper is flame retardant and the wick is already in place (and does not drip hot wax on people’s heads!). The prongs supporting the wick are also made of biodegradable material now rather than metal after pressure from environmentalists and farmers over the dangers posed by spent lanterns.

These are also known as sky lanterns, glow lanterns and Glo-Lanterns (which is a brand of lanterns and a trademark).

Lanterns summary:

  • Flame retardant paper bag which fills with hot air from the attached wick
  • Completely silent in operation
  • Becoming very popular in the UK



If you want to say something in writing then you would use lancework. Examples include “Goodnight”, “2012″ (or whatever the New Year is!), bride and groom’s initials with a heart, and company logos.

Lancework is a bespoke firework made to order. The writing or shapes are made from multiple fountains called lances which are all connected by a fuse and mounted on a wooden frame. This frame is in turn mounted as high as possible on wooden posts.


Lancework under construction and an example of a bottle and glass

Lancework is not cheap because it is made to order but it can add a very special and memorable moment to your display. To see a video clip of the lancework pictured above, click here. To see an example of letters in lancework – in this case UKFR, the site’s initials – click here. To see an example of a heart and initials, click here.

Lancework summary:

  • Ground effect which is mounted on a wooden frame
  • Depicts letters, shapes and logos
  • Usually bespoke and made to order


Set Pieces

Becoming somewhat rarer these days, set pieces refers to items which are set up and let off on the ground but which are quite unlike wheels, fountains and lancework but may contain elements of each. The flying pigeon is a good example. This is a rocket-powered “bird” which shoots backwards and forwards  along a rope. To watch a video of a pigeon in action, click here.


A flying pigeon in action!

Other examples of set pieces include frames with fountains (or gerbs) at various angles and waterfalls (a long line of fountains suspended from a rope).

In general these tend to be hand assembled in the UK, so the number of firework companies offering a good range of set pieces which are still classified for consumer use is quite small. Kimbolton Fireworks are recognised as a leader in this area.

To see a video clip of a slightly different waterfall with colour changing gerbs, click here.

Set pieces summary:

  • General term for ground based fireworks which can include elements of fountains, wheels or lancework
  • Useful to add something different to your display but most suited to big events


Further information

If you are working through the beginner’s “Start here!” guide you can return to it here. Or, pick a new help topic from the menus at the top of the page.

When you are ready to buy fireworks have a look at UKFR’s Buying Fireworks guide for advice and the Buy Fireworks page for a listing of fireworks suppliers. Always give these companies priority with your fireworks cash (find out why).

If you want to ask for help or have any other questions, try the UKFR Fireworks Forum. Beginners are warmly welcomed and the firework community here is standing by to help you.

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