Introduction: 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.

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:

Step 3: Sparkle Stick Recipe

Picture of Sparkle Stick Recipe

This sparkler, or sparkle stick, works best at night, or in low-light conditions.  During the day, you see more smoke than you do sparks, but both effects are pretty fun.

This is the recipe for making a "sparkle stick";

-60 mL Water (Heated on medium heat) 
-36 grams KNO3 (Potassium Nitrate) which I obtained in the form of stump remover
-24 grams White Sugar
-1-20 drops of food coloring (Color to suit your preference)

Note: White/Gray smoke is the only color emitted, even if you use different colored dyes.  Colored smoke cannot be made with KNO3.

Shake the Sugar and KNO3 together to get an intimate mixture, then pour into the water and stir until dissolved.

Soak about 12 feet of 100% cotton yarn in the solution, then space evenly on a cookie tray.

Bake in an oven at 150ºC (300ºF) for about 20 minutes, making sure to lift the yarn at 10 minutes to make sure it doesn't stick to the pan.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes.

Step 4: Cut to Desired Sizes

Picture of Cut to Desired Sizes

When your sparkle cords are cooled down, you can easily cut them to any desired size with a pair of scissors, and place in clothespin.

I made a couple of different batches, in different colors, for the holiday.

Step 5: Lighting Your Sparklers

Picture of Lighting Your Sparklers

Now you can put on gloves and safety glasses, light your sparkler, and enjoy!

The sparks are much more noticeable at night when there is very little light.  During the day, the smoke is more visible.  Personally, I think both effects are awesome.

Gloves are recommended as bits of burning fuel will occasionally fly off, and can burn the skin.

If the sparkler burns too fast, wait a few hours, or days to try again.  The composition is hygroscopic and will absorb moisture from the air, reducing the rate of burn until eventually it won't light at all.

If you want to revive an old batch that has absorbed too much moisture, re-bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 150ºC (300ºF).

These types of devices may not be legal to make or use in your area, so check local laws before attempting to duplicate this project, and as always, be safe and aware of your environment before igniting anything flammable!

Step 6:

Picture of

The best part is, you can make hundreds of these sparklers for only a few dollars, and the clippings can be burned together for a more dramatic display!

Well, now you know how to make some improvised hand-held fireworks to celebrate your special occasion.

If you haven't seen the video yet, you can still see it here.

And if you missed seeing how to make fuse cord and smoke flares, you can check them out in the links below.

To see the slow burning fuse tutorial, Click Here

To watch how to make smoke flares, Click Here

If you like this project perhaps you'll like some of my others. Check them out at


taur561 (author)2016-03-23

I seem to recall a formula using sulphur , salpeter and iron filings . Not sure how it was made to bind onto a piece of wire .. The iron filings burn and cause the sparkler effect . Nice research project ..

jmwells (author)2016-02-23

Taking a magnesium fire starter and a course file and making shavings wool give you day visible sparks. Soft aluminum too. Just mix some in your batch. It's what's used in professionally made versions.

RoyaA (author)2015-12-31

I don't want to be rude,but where do you get KNO3?(I'm learning chemistry next year).

MaxF5 (author)RoyaA2016-01-01

try finding at walmart or some pharmacies, if they ask you what will you do just say removing stump

RoyaA (author)MaxF52016-01-02


jwindberg made it! (author)2015-07-03

If they don't spark much, and tend to go out, what did I do wrong?

MaxF5 (author)jwindberg2016-01-01

there might be something wrong in your ingredients, or the measurements are not equal

AtlantaTerry (author)2013-07-02

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

DIY-Guy (author)AtlantaTerry2014-07-03

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!

ricjoh (author)DIY-Guy2015-12-27

FUD = Fear, Uncertainty and *Doubt

DIY-Guy (author)ricjoh2015-12-28

For the sake of words, "uncertainty" seems to be the same logical operator as "doubt." If uncertainty = doubt, the equation has one less operator available.

My use of the acronym FUD is based on a Micro$oft strategy as reported in opinion based computer literature published many years ago. I think Microsoft has done some good things, notably the job security of all of us who fix their problems on the computers of our customers. The drive to ascendancy was marked by the litter of corporate bodies strewn about the economic wayside. Looking back, I only wish the minds who built Microsoft OS had been building the Linux OS and had made it (the OS) open from the beginning. We might have excellent robots by now instead of just beginning to be able to create them at home with a budget.

ricjoh (author)DIY-Guy2015-12-29

Except you're wrong.

DIY-Guy (author)ricjoh2015-12-30

I hate to use Wikipedia in defense of my own opinion, considering how fraught with errors both can be. But directly from the Wikipedia reference you gave me, is this which supports my idea about "deception."

After 1991 the term has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.


Disinformation does equal deception. My use of the term appears valid.
Thanks for the wordplay. :)
Have a happy new year! 2015 into 2016.

(Remember, the enemy is not us who choose to think, it's those who are afraid of us who do choose to think.)

lgroenewald (author)DIY-Guy2015-07-03

Sanity from a sane person in a world of delusion. It is good to hear from a human in a room full of sheep.

pooter1433 (author)DIY-Guy2015-07-02

INDEED! Awesome reply!

Tspherix (author)DIY-Guy2014-07-03


billbillt (author)DIY-Guy2014-07-03

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 (author)billbillt2014-07-03

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.

CleoR1 (author)AtlantaTerry2015-12-28

Probably the same amount as with turkey fryers.

I wonder how many house fires will start that are not due to this project.

I also wonder how many will NOT start due to this project because someone learned a thing or two.

Light_Lab (author)AtlantaTerry2013-07-02

I wonder how many kids are going to do chemistry at University due to this project.

Captain Robert (author)Light_Lab2013-07-03

Right on!

3967 (author)2015-12-28

great that you have disclamers and a clear note "Dangerous", the pic with the oven is somehow funny :), remembers me some news where a dude tried to make blackpowder in his oven and the explosion destroyed his whole house. I hope no kids try this at home since nowdays kids ignore the disclaimers in my experience.

schabanow (author)2015-12-27

Here you can see MY candy sparky stuff. The first and the only video. ((

I could not repeat it. Many iterations have no siccess. I was frustrated-desperated... Now I only can number ingredients:

- KNO3 / sugar candy as usual

- castiron dust

- sulfur

- FeO (pigment)

That is! The RATIO is LOST!!! I angry with myself as ... I even don't know as who!

mshl (author)2015-07-03

Is there any chance for explosion?

John T. McF. Mood (author)2014-07-03

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.

etdesigns (author)DIY-Guy2015-07-02

Yes! Thank you, I've been telling my parents that for ages!!

2ndAmendmentLover (author)2014-06-15

Where do you get potassium nitrate? Awesome Instructables.

ask the drug store for it

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.

kjsinstructables (author)2015-07-02

I used very fine wire wool for the same use but for photography. Wire wool burns at a fierce rate and basicly use it for fire writing or spark effects. Will give this a blast, an see if this is ideal for some trick clicks...

vbanaszak (author)2015-07-02

Although, I myself won't be making these, I think they are awesome. No left over wires to be left on lawns and no packaging to throw away.

VinnyL1 (author)2015-07-02

I wonder how many metal objects will be inserted in electrical
outlets with bare hands? Should we ban electricity or educate
pro-actively? Pyrotechnics
is an applied science. This project is no different than any other
elementary concept that entertains while educating young minds and
requires adult supervision. Is it better to shelter kids so when
they are learning core concepts in school they are either told it's
just something they need to learn or are shown a limited amount of
mundane applications, rather than showing them a wide spectrum? The
former is just one reason why the US scores so low in education and
countless dollars are wasted towards liberal arts degrees, instead of
taking full advantage of a degree program that is their passion.

jacciboo (author)VinnyL12015-07-02

Intelligence! how beautiful! You do know that the 2 most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity?!!

Ricardod1 (author)2015-07-02

I was taught how deal with pyrotechnics at a very early age (7). And progressed on as time passed.
I've seen 3 or 4year olds in the Amazon work with knives and machetes without doing harm to themselves or any near them. Shame on the fear mongers!

nolan.kriegel (author)Ricardod12015-07-02


VinnyL1 (author)Ricardod12015-07-02

I second that Ricardod1!!! It's time we ban ignorance, not limit freedoms to safely partake in activities in this country!!!

Shanjaq (author)2014-07-03

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.

maxman (author)2013-07-02

What kind of stump remover?

DIY-Guy (author)maxman2014-07-03

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.

and7barton (author)2013-07-02

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 (author)and7barton2014-07-03

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!)

billbillt (author)2014-07-03

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

Garra23 (author)2014-03-15

couldn't you use salt peter as potassium nitrate?

billbillt (author)Garra232014-07-03

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

John T. McF. Mood (author)2014-07-03

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

2ndAmendmentLover (author)2014-06-15

My shopping list is looking a little funky.:)

Ugifer (author)2013-07-02

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

Great 'ible - thanks.

About This Instructable




Bio: Random Weekend Projects
More by The King of Random:5 Ways to Start a Fire, Using Water How to make a Batarang like "The Dark Knight"How to Make Ninja Stress Balls
Add instructable to: