Homemade Sparklers for the 4th of July! - (Improvised Hand-Held Fireworks)

Picture of Homemade Sparklers for the 4th of July! - (Improvised Hand-Held Fireworks)
In this project, we're making hand-held sparklers for the 4th of July.  When it's time to celebrate with fireworks, you could just buy them.  Or you could improvise, and make your own.
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Step 1: Watch the Video!

WARNING: There is a very real risk to health and safety.  This project should not be attempted without adult supervision and adequate training.  Pyrotechnics are not toys, and should be handled with extreme caution and respect.  High temperatures on the stove or oven may cause auto-ignition of the pyrotechnic composition which may lead to serious injury, death, and/or permanent damage to equipment and property.  Ignition of an incendiary or explosive material may not be legal in your area, and resulting damage may not be covered by your insurance.  Check city laws and ordinances before attempting.  Use of this video content is at your own risk.

Step 2: An Alternative Use for Slow Burning Fuses

Picture of An Alternative Use for Slow Burning Fuses
These sparklers are nearly identical to the slow burning fuses made in a previous project.  The only difference is, this time I tried adding food coloring for effect, and a clothespin as a holder to help prevent burns to fingers.

To see the slow burning fuse tutorial, check out this video:

To watch how to make smoke flares, check this one out:

Garra231 month ago
couldn't you use salt peter as potassium nitrate?
Ugifer9 months ago
Have you tired putting some iron filings (or titanium chips) into the mix? Could give a really great spakle-effect.

Great 'ible - thanks.
NoseyNick Ugifer9 months ago
+1 vote for iron filings, great for really sparkly sparkles.
Steel wool is also very sparkly but presumably less practical for embedding in string.
try magnesium powder, that's whats in real sparklers and its pretty cheap. its what makes that big bright spark
As I said earlier not Mg but Fe powder is used to make the characteristic sparkle in sparklers. When burning Mg is a very bright white, Fe is yellow orange and makes that typical sparkler sound and look.
Ugifer Light_Lab8 months ago
Agreed - the yellow branching sparks that you get in commercial sparklers are iron filings. I have used them often, although you need to shop around a bit sometimes. I don't know whether it's carbon content or crystal structure or what but some iron filings are great while other batches are rather underwhelming. Great thing is they are dirt cheap.

Ferro titanium chips also make great sparks - bigger and brighter than iron filings but no so "branching". I also get the impression they are a bit harder to light so maybe this mix would not be hot enough for them.
Light_Lab Ugifer3 months ago

As I said below, when I was a kid I used to make my sparklers and fireworks with iron filings collected with a magnet under my dads bench grinder. Visit any metalworking shop and ofter to clean up around their grinders. You can check how well they work by sprinkling them on a flame out of an old salt shaker.

Light_Lab8 months ago
I think the people concerned about safety for children should see this:

Over-shielding kids robs them of their capability as adults.
guuber9 months ago
Just wondering, I know that Potassium Nitrate makes good smoke bombs. In your recipe you mentioned using "stump-out" by bonide (in my hardware store anyway) which is sodium pyrosulfite or sodium metabisulfite (which is not the same as Potassium Nitrate so my question is... Is there a Potassium Nitrate "stump-out" at the hardware store that would work or did you just use the sodium pyrosulfite chemical? Thanks
Light_Lab guuber8 months ago
I am not familiar with "stump-out" but sodium pyrosulfite would not work for sparklers.
My chemistry isn't exceptionally strong, but mightn't these sparkle more if one were to add a solution of iron such as steel wool dissolved in vinegar or something like that to the saltpetre/sugar mixture? Would it be unwise to just dissolve everything in the same pan and concentrate it a little on the stove top before soaking the yarn and carrying on?
Steel wool doesn't really dissolve in vinegar it just quickly oxidizes, exactly what you don't want. You are on the right track though; some shredded steel wool sprinkled on the canes while they are drying would definitely add to the sparkle.
I used to collect iron powder from under my Dad's bench grinder with a magnet, works really well in sparklers.
I'm curious wouldn't iron oxide add an even bigger sparkle due to the added oxygen? Or would it be a dangerous addition?
Actually iron oxide is what you get when iron burns in air. Metal oxides are the most thermally stable of all compounds.
As Millchard says it takes another metal that forms an even more stable oxide eg Al, Mg, to reduce iron oxide back to iron.
Sorry Dropkick, I think the oxygen in iron oxide is already bound pretty tightly to the iron and won't be available for the reaction. Add some aluminium powder, a strong reducing agent and you have Thermite and the ingredients for REAL trouble!!!
unless you know how to use it, my uncle is a rocket scientist and works with the stuff every day, or at least he used to until the govt. stopped funding the space program. : ( of course now he works on ballistic missiles... >: ) hehe
the sparks in real sparklers are caused by magnesium... Not a good idea to add burning metal to the mix
Mg turnings and powder are used in fireworks but I have 4 different sparklers recipes in front of me, they all have powdered iron. It is the iron powder that actually does the characteristic sparkling.
On a commercial pack I have it says to quench in water so I doubt they have Mg.
Light_Lab9 months ago
I like this instructable, as a chemist I can tell you that the amount of water used makes this fairly safe. More importantly it is a push back at the system and is fun enough to move kids outside away from video games.
Nowadays in my country, fireworks are banned (except for professional displays). I feel sad that what was the major fun part of my childhood is disallowed for my children. Ironically the only "fireworks" legally sold are sparklers; good thing too I am fairly sure if I tried to buy some saltpeter to make my own I would be arrested as a potential terrorist. To me the crazies and terrorists have already beaten us by taking all the outdoor fun out of life. Our kids sit in front of video displays getting fat and destroying their eyesight and all we can do is feed them vitamin D to compensate for the missed sunshine. A doubt my 17 year old son even knows how to light a match.
that's just sad, but surely you could teach him how to light a candle... couldn't you?
To light birthday candles we have a butane barbecue lighter; hard to even have a barbecue nowadays, fire bans everyday that's nice. I could buy some matches I guess if I hunt a around...I don't recall seeing them at the supermarket anymore....perhaps the restricted counter where they sell cigarettes.
Darn why don't they just pack us in cotton wool lined coffins as soon as we are born!
Wyle_E9 months ago
Have you tried adding powdered aluminum or iron filings? That might produce more sparks. Commercial sparklers are steel rods coated with a composition of iron oxide and aluminum (thermite), which is why they're hard to light but very bright. I don't know what they use to bind the thermite powder to the rod, but melted sugar might work. 
kerikins9 months ago
Omg!!! It's a tutorial! If you are worried about it being dangerous, or that your childn may be hurt, don't do it. Simple. I never let young children see me actually light anything...We spend the first 10 years of a childs life saying," oven 'hot', stove 'hot', don't play with matches... in case of fire stop,drop,roll, don't get to close to a fire pit, don't smoke, don't get too close to the fireplace," then on the 4th of July we say, "here have a sparkler!" I know, it's fun and we all did it as kids...I'm just sayin'.
GrfxGawd9 months ago
Silicon parchment "baking" paper or, a simple silicon sheet covering the pan will prevent sticking. I keep sheet silicon around all over for everything for placing under hot glue guns to protecting work surfaces.
Kinnishian9 months ago
It's unclear to me what danger the kids are in...Seems like they might get burned? And have fun doing it? Yeah, seems worth it. So long as eyes, limbs, and tendons are intact, (for the most part), I think that's a fun part of childhood that I enjoyed (and I'm not an old guy talking about how it 'used to be')
I'm not normally an overly cautious person, but burning KNO3/Sugar has the potential to spit out hot, molten, burning droplets that you really wouldn't want on your skin especially as a Fuel/oxidizer mix, it may well continue burning for a short while. Store brought sparklers are a different composition, so don't exhibit this behavior, even then they do spit out sparks, but these are shorter lived than this example.
my wookie chaydgb9 months ago
have you seen what happens to skin when welding slag lands on it? obviously you don't want either but still this is way better than that.
The entire yarn burns, so they would get burned if they let it burn all the way down to the wee one's fingers.
But, if my kid doesn't let go when there's a hot thing- i mean, common? I understand if the kid is not capable of understanding that yet (at a certain young age) but anyone slightly older than 3 should probably be ok....I don't have a kid, so I don't fathom how it scares a parent to protect a kid, but I also have the clarity of not finding a burnt finger to be devastating to a childs upbringing.
Do you want to burn your fingers? What do you do with the end that is burning down completely? Just toss it on the ground to burn out?

Why not put it in some kind of holder that will let you hold onto the sparkler until it burns completely?

This is not a "life lesson" for the kids that fire is hot. This is a lesson of, "If you are going to handle hot things, protect yourself in a prudent manner."

I don't have a child either, and I was most definetly brought up on the school of hard knocks... But even I don't think you should let your kid potentially get scarred for life over sparklers. Seems like a small chance at learning a lesson--fire is hot--and a much bigger chance of being afraid of all fire/sparklers for the rest of their life.

The risk outweighs the reward, in my eyes. However, you are free to do as you please with your own children, whenever you have them.

I think my mildly flippant manner during the day didn't fully reflect my message. I'm willing to guess we're more on the same page than apparently obvious.

(1) A holder? Yeah, that could make sense. If only, you'd get to use all of the device and not have to drop it near the end. Plus there is no *desire* to cause burnt fingers

(2) I definitively think the kid should be warned and as a parent you'd kind of have to figure out if the kid would be ready/ok without much of a risk of being terrified if things don't work out. I'm not a fan of fears (though I hope the sparkler fear might not be lifelong, but it would definitively affect childhood sparkler enjoyment)

(3) Don't worry! As risky as my initial remarks seem, I don't plan to have a kid anytime too soon. And I'll probably be more invested and cautious at that point.

"than apparently obvious" should technically read "than apparent."
mastergabe9 months ago
this sparkler looks cool but for it to be really called a sparkler you need to ad a metal powder i made a sparkler instructable, Bright Tube Sparklers,, and the sparkler i made used aluminium powder.
AtlantaTerry9 months ago
I just have to wonder how many house fires are going to start due to this project.
I wonder how many kids are going to do chemistry at University due to this project.
Right on!
Insonicbloom9 months ago
"now put on gloves and safety glasses"...
if you're that scared of sparklers then don't bother using them. you don't need the safety gear - you just need to instruct the person using them that hot stuff really hurts and if they are not cognitively able to understand that without being wrapped up in asbestos suits then they shouldn't be using things like that.

I know disclaimers are there to warn people and so on but I just feel that if; as a society - we can't handle a sparkler without 8 firemen standing by shitting themselves and the local lawyer rubbing his/her hands with glee - there is something very wrong.
I just feel very patronized every time I see a disclaimer like that.
These don't have the metal wire in the middle of them like the kind you buy at the fireworks stand. So gloves are a pretty good idea. And as careful as you might be, someone might come along who isn't quite so cautious (particularly if strong drink is involved) so this disclaimer is a good idea.
Millchard9 months ago
I would be VERY cautious about mixing the dry sugar and pot nitrate, they could spontaneously ignite very easily, especially if there is any sugar powder present. Better to put them into the water separately.
8steve889 months ago
Brilliant. I subscribe to your YouTube channel which is also brilliant.

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