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.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

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:

1-40 of 68Next »

FROM BATF Web site:
You may not transport personally manufactured fireworks under the club’s explosives license. Under 18 U.S.C. § 845(a)(3), it is unlawful for any person other than a licensee or permittee to knowingly transport, ship, cause to be transported, or receive explosive materials. ATF authorizes volunteer members of licensed clubs or other licensed hobby organizations to possess explosive materials while assisting in supervised club shoots, so long as their assistance is under the direct control and supervision of the licensed club. However, your personal manufacturing activities are conducted at a location away from the club’s licensed premise or shoot and are not directed or supervised by the fireworks club.

You may manufacture display fireworks for personal use at your property without obtaining a Federal explosives license or permit (a manufacturer’s license is needed only by persons engaged in the business of manufacturing fireworks for sale, distribution, or other commercial purpose). However, where storage occurs, you must comply with all storage requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555, Subpart K. In addition, a Federal explosives license or permit is required to transport, or cause to be transported, the explosive materials, even to the location of the club activity.

This ONLY refers to Federal Law, check your State, County, or Municipal Laws before ANY firework making.

Take note- separate ingredients, kept in different containers according to applicable safety methods are not "explosive materials." Potassium nitrate by itself is not "explosive." Sugar alone is not explosive. Unmixed potassium nitrate, separate sulphur, and charcoal are by themselves individually not "explosive materials."

(Hint!) Before any "thing" is made, when powders are safely stored according to best guidelines, it's not an explosive device. Restrictions do not apply until after "it" is created. So don't mix, wrap, and build before you transport such things. Wait until you get where you are going.

Shanjaq11 months ago

How about adding some metal shavings for additional colored sparkiness? Copper for green, Aluminum for white, Iron for amber, etc.? Also, Charcoal dust for some short-lived golden sparks.

I just have to wonder how many house fires are going to start due to this project.

Nice -ible. Safe and sane.

Since people have to actually think, and follow instructions to make these smoke-powder-on-a-string things... I'm not worried about those kind of people actually starting their floor on fire indoors. Instructables is for thinking people.
What is much more worrisome are the people here who are not thinking logically or rationally, the fear-mongers worry me!
The FUD crowd (Fear, Uncertainty, Deception) is guilty of intellectual censorship. Eventually a new "dark age" will result. I'm talking about suppression of knowledge and the chilling effect of the nanny-state dogma.
Humanity needs to continue to use their God-given minds to learn how things work and how to improve the human condition of their fellow man. Chemistry, even pyro-chemistry, is but one area of knowledge. Let's work together to help everyone become smarter, that's what Instructables is for. :)

BTW, happy 4th of July to citizens of the united states of America wherever you happen to be!

Tspherix DIY-Guy11 months ago


billbillt DIY-Guy11 months ago

This is one of the most refreshing statements I have read in a long time.... I have been YELLING this for years as we move away from thinkers and closer to morons that allow a government to tell us how to do everything... Double plus good...

wynrol billbillt11 months ago

totally agree DIY-Guy and billbillt - great statement

I will certainly be motivating and coaching my nieces (age 8, 10 and 13) and nephew (15) on making your instructable this weekend.

I wonder how many kids are going to do chemistry at University due to this project.
Right on!
maxman1 year ago
What kind of stump remover?
DIY-Guy maxman11 months ago

Stump remover with the ingredient: Potassium Nitrate, or some other Potassium chemical. It's pretty expensive and usually only 90% with some inert filler. It's already been targeted by the nanny state de-educators.

and7barton1 year ago
I would say that falls down on ALL fronts -
a. Use stiff wire, not string.
b. If you MUST use sugar in your mix - add magnesium powder.
Sugar is not good in any pyro mix - You've got enough using the saltpetre & magnesium.
DIY-Guy and7barton11 months ago

This is not really a "pyro mix" in the common understanding of most experimenters. It's just smoke powder really. Smoke powder on a string. Kind of nice to see it as the flame moves along. Much better than an ember-only KNO3 glow worm string.
The string burns up, thus no hot wire to accidentally get stepped on with bare feet. BARE FEET? OH NO! (Please don't wear open shoes when doing this, and if you have bare feet- don't step on hot commercial wire type sparklers for goodness sake!)

billbillt11 months ago

also revered are the Wikipedia chemists... I stand in awe of the brilliance of their ten minute education in chemistry.....

Garra231 year ago
couldn't you use salt peter as potassium nitrate?
billbillt Garra2311 months ago

Yes... They are one in the same....

Where do you get potassium nitrate? Awesome Instructables.

potassium nitrate??..... Lots of it here......

He said in the instructable that it is sold as stump remover and can be found in a hardware store.

See the BATF page to be sure you are within Federal Regulations.

My shopping list is looking a little funky.:)

Ugifer1 year ago
Have you tired putting some iron filings (or titanium chips) into the mix? Could give a really great spakle-effect.

Great 'ible - thanks.
+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.
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.

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_Lab1 year ago
I think the people concerned about safety for children should see this:

Over-shielding kids robs them of their capability as adults.
guuber1 year 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
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_Lab1 year 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.
1-40 of 68Next »