June 30, 2011 AT 9:24 am

YOU CAN Make Your Own 4th of July Fireworks

Pt 101206

YOU CAN Make Your Own 4th of July Fireworks, Modern Mechanix – July, 1930

THIS month’s chemical section is dedicated to that noble and glorious purpose of celebrating the Fourth of July in noisy fashion—and with cannon crackers and colored fire that can safely be made in your own lab. However, before plunging into a pile of recipes and formulas it is necessary to warn you fellows to be extremely careful in preparing these mixtures. In themselves they will not blow up until brought into actual contact with fire or through extreme friction, but remember always that you are working with explosives—regardless of how mild they may be away from fire.

To overcome the dangers of friction it is well to mix your powders in small doses. A simple way is to put them on a sheet of fairly substantial paper and, by picking up two ends, rolling the powder back and forth as you raise and lower your hands alternately. But where you must use your pestle and mortar—watch out for friction!



  1. Most of the chemicals listed in that article can’t be purchased today unless you have a license, and you’d probably have to pass an FBI screening to get one. When I was a teenager it was still possible to get most of the chemicals at the local hobby shop, with the exception of the potassium nitrate (saltpeter). I found that at a very well stocked “industrial” drug store on Avenue U in Brooklyn (a place called LeFay’s IIRC).

    Another chemical you probably can’t buy today would be sodium thiosulfate, a very common compound used in the days before digital cameras.

  2. The organization of would-be fireworks makers somewhat pre-dates the organization of other “Makers” that is now getting all the publicity. There have been mail-order dealers specializing in chemicals, equipment, and BOOKS THAT GIVE MUCH BETTER ADVICE THAN WHAT YOU FIND ON THE INTERNET, and conventions rather similar to one-topic Maker Fairs. Homeland security hasn’t eliminated the fun yet, though they’ve done some damage.

    I’ll particularly recommend http://www.firefox-fx.com/ http://www.skylighter.com/ http://www.pgi.org/ http://www.fireworksnews.com/ http://www.westernpyro.org/

    Do be careful; even the long-time experts have a better-than-average chance of needing excellent medical insurance and/or a good lawyer.

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