Introduction: How to Make Nitrocellulose

Picture of How to Make Nitrocellulose

How to make cheap Nitrocellulose from ping pong balls, black powder, and acetone for use in igniters and detonators.

Step 1: Mix Acetone and Cut Up Ping Pong Balls

Picture of Mix Acetone and Cut Up Ping Pong Balls

Cut Ping Pong ball into small peices to make them easier to disolve in the acetone. Ping Pong balls themselves are a type of nitrocellulose, acetone will disolve them and make them easy to work with and make it possible to add black powder for a more violent ignition. After the ping pong balls are cut up and in the contianer you are using to mix your ingredients in pour enough acetone to cover the cut up balls and than add that amount again. You don't want it too think and sticky.

Step 2: Add Black Powder

Picture of Add Black Powder

Next add the black powder. Add enough to make the mixture very dark, but don't add enough to make it very thick. Make sure that black powder you are using is very fine and mixed evenly through out the mixture. There you have it, it's done. Now dip you igniters/detonators in it and let dry completely.
For detonator check out


ljb727 (author)2017-11-13

You forgot to mention-

#1. USE a plastic or non conductive mixing tool

#2. Make damed sure your body is PROPERLY grounded to a reliable ground. The slightest spark (IE. running your hand through your hair could create a static spark) COULD set your mixture off. posted by an old military ordnance man.

I witnessed just this happening on a flight line(military)- 7 people died in the explosion and I spent the next 90 days in sickbays ICU from the blast and shrapnel.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-03-25

This is interesting but would the stores if they knew about this replace the compound with a non reactive/flammable material? (author)2009-02-08

if I coated string with this would it be waterproof? this isn't the same nitrocellulose as 'gun cotton', that involves nitric acid etc. but well done with the Instructable

GeoK (author)mr.space2015-07-27

Yes it is... Ping pong balls are made out of nitro cellulose... Old movie projector film from back in the day was made from nitro cellulose as well. After several truly horrific fires killing nearly every one in the theaters they passed a law where all movie projection booths in the US had to have the walls covered in steel! The nitrocellulose film would sometimes jam in the projector and ignite due to the intense focused light. The flames would quickly spread to the reels. Once the reels took off that was it, the building was definitively ablaze! lol Anyway, as for the ping pong balls, the Acetone is simply the solvent to dissolve the nitro cellulose. It does not react with the nitrocellulose in any other way. Ping pong ball nitro does work well for adding additional water proofing to fuses and also works great for electro detonators for remotely igniting model rockets or whatever the hell else you want to ignite remotely from a safe distance. I like to experiment with igniters. One of the better ways to make them is by using thin double layer PC board used for DIY electronic projects. Simply cut it with scissors(if you purchased the right thin stuff) and solder your 2 lead wires to it, one lead to each side. The form a tiny loop of 44ga nickel chromium wire and solder each end of your 1/8" loop one to each side. This gives you a nice small size ignitor in an easy to assemble form factor. You can get away with just the nickel chromium wire if you are just lighting gun powder but it is far better to use some form of prime on the wire for added insurance and KICK! lol For extra heat you can start with the standard black powder and nitrocellulose lacquer for a reliable work horse igniter. If you need a little more WHOOSH you can add in some 70/30 potassium perchlorate black aluminum flash powder and for some serious heat you can add a layer of thermite! Some of my larger experimental igniters have frightened even ME! The worst one was a small standard Christmas tree light bulb with the tip snipped off. I filled the now open cavity with acetone peroxide and sealed the hole in the tip with epoxy. It was so tiny I assumed it would be OK to test it indoors. I used a 12 foot lead wire and situated the igniter in the middle of a thick phone book and set it off from around the corner for an added safety margin. I set it off with a 9 volt battery and it sounded like someone fired a 357 in my living room, so load it frightened my neighbors! LMAO Thankfully I was thinking quick and their happened to be a hammer on my counter and I started pounding on my door jam as it was loose from me forcing it when I forgot my keys and had to get a credit card through to open the door. The neighbors were relieved and bought it hook line and sinker! I do not recommend anyone to play with acetone peroxide! Even the terrorists don't mess with it as they refer to it as Satans Breath! You have to keep the reaction well below 35 degrees during production to prevent the formation of even nastier isomers far more sensitive though that is hard to believe as even the more stable version seems as if it could go off from farting to load! lol

ewcrew (author)mr.space2014-04-10

Gun cotton is made when you add Nitric acid and sulfuric acid. You then have to stir them and be careful not make any sparks or use anything metal. Also remember to keep the acids below 18 degrees Celsius. Then add the acids to some water (not water to the acids) and be careful not to get any on your fingers as it will damage you skin. Then leave it for a bit but make sure it stays below 18 degrees. Now add cotton and leave that for a bit. Now set fire to it.

Be extremely careful when you are doing this unless you have a death wish or a degree in flammable stuff that could kill you. (author)mr.space2009-11-25

It's got camphor in it, making it burn slower

struckbyanarrow (author)mr.space2009-11-24

yes beacause this is what waterproof visco fuse is coated with

ewcrew (author)2014-04-10

If you take sulfuric acid and nitric acid and mix them together before diluting them and dipping paper (cellulose) in it you get nitro cellulose. This is flash paper that magicians use to burn their fingers with.

AzNSilentAssassin (author)2009-05-14

if you add cap gun powder, how do you crush it up without it exploding in your face? i would stick with match powder. what other powder can be used for this?

Far as I know, there is no way to keep cap gun powder from exploding. It likes to trick you; it'll let you get maybe twenty or so of them emptied out into a container, and then you look away for one second and POP!! There goes your fingernail. It gets a good 5 or 10 feet though, but honestly fingernails are NOT what you want to be propelling with the powder.

tl;dr lurk moar, don't mess with capgun powder(ammonium triIodide is safer imho) or lose a fingernail. It might grow back, but it won't be like the others.

here's a link to some stuff that's safer to transport as a powder than capgun bullshit:
inb4 "that isn't safe at all"

Well Cut Up The Paper Caps The Powder Isn't A Paste-Like Compound Like In The Little Plastic Potassium Nitrate Ones

dauweiler (author)2011-08-26

This isn't really the making of nitriocellulose. this is Recycling of Celloloid.
Simple Nitrocellulose is made by mixing 20 ml concentrated salpetric acid an
40 ml concentrated sulfuric acid and 2 g cotton ( mixing the acids before adding the
Cotton). The temperature of 20°C should not be exceeded or the mixture
will decompose veary quickly.
you can't allways use the technique shown in this instructable, because Ping Pong balls are often made of polyethylen or polystyrene.
If you want to make Celloloid you desolve nirocellulose in acetone, add some
camphor and lett the acetone evaporate.

sprocketeer (author)dauweiler2012-07-08

Unless you live in the 18th century 'Salpetric Acid' tends to be more often known as Nitric Acid, just in case anyone was wondering...

techno guy (author)2011-04-30

So ping pong smoke grenades shoot smoke out violently because it's made with nitrocellulose.

mcaliber.50 (author)2011-03-22

this would be good for making quick loading packs for a muzleloader

manmelvin (author)2008-05-10

arnt ping pong balls made of celluloid?

pyro-jim (author)manmelvin2010-08-03

sorry to bring back an old post but celluloid is made of nitrocellulose.

freakyqwerty (author)pyro-jim2010-12-11

No it is not;
Ping pong balls are made from celluloid which if you read the wikipedia article (I know, I know its unrelible and all that, but if it is used along with common sence it can have some good info) it says that celluloid is the name of a class of compouds created from nitrocellulose and camphor which is why its bad to use the ping pong ball smoke bombs (toxic fumes)

There, thats my lecture for today.

pyro-jim (author)freakyqwerty2010-12-11

"celluloid is the name of a class of compouds created from nitrocellulose" That's just a way of saying that the compounds called celluloid are made from nitrocellulose. Rant unneeded...

beehard44 (author)2010-12-11

can this be used for making flash paper?

M4industries (author)2010-02-20

 This is mis-titled and has terrible pictures, but I did learn that you add gunpowder to the mix.

yohoo444 (author)2009-09-04

ping pong balls are made from nitrocellulose its a common misconception that you can make it from them this is more of a way to make it moldable to surfaces but its still cooler than a shattered ping pong ball

Zegen (author)2009-06-30

Are you sure that this isnt in the same family as adding styrofoam to gasoline? Nitrc acid is awefully hard to comeby these days. But I dont know much about acetone solutions. Nice instructable tho!

Mattrox (author)2009-03-08

If you soak cotton balls in this will it make gun cotton??????

Tombini (author)Mattrox2009-04-28

No, guncotton is nitrocellulose . A mixture of cotton (cellulose) and nitric acid will produce nitrocellulose

Mattrox (author)Tombini2009-04-28

Did you notice at the top ya know where its says the name of the instructable it says How to Make Nitrocellulose

Tombini (author)Mattrox2009-05-01

I thought you where asking about guncotton, and it would work but not as well as you would assume

dagabu (author)Tombini2009-06-19

You might want to Google gun cotton first before making it, it will self ignite when dry. It takes an acid wash followed by water washing.

Tombini (author)dagabu2009-06-19

No, as long as you neutralise your nitrocellulse self ignition is improbable. The flash point of pure nitrocellulose is 4.4C and Its flash point is well above room temperature. I'm assuming by acid wash you where refering to nitric acid...

dagabu (author)Tombini2009-06-20

Tombini, sounds like you know a lot more than me about the issue, my comments are made based on the written history of the discovery of guncotton where the nitrocellulose was covering his apron as a dust and he spilled some nitric acid in his work area and thinking quickly, used the apron to wipe it up and hung it to dry on a door. The story goes that the wind caused enough friction to ignite his apron and thus guncotton was invented. Totally by memory, feel free to fix.

Tombini (author)dagabu2009-06-25

I have no idea about the history of nitrocellulose, and cannot be bothered to research XD But wind doesn't produce nearly enough friction to ignite nitocellulose made that way That would although be quite interesting watching your apron... POOF!

dagabu (author)Tombini2009-06-25

Really, here is the story: Although his wife had forbidden him to do so, Schönbein occasionally experimented at home in the kitchen. One day in 1845, when his wife was away, he spilled a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid. After using his wife's cotton apron to mop it up, he hung the apron over the stove to dry, only to find that the cloth spontaneously ignited and burned so quickly that it seemed to disappear. Schönbein, in fact, had converted the cellulose of the apron, with the nitro groups (added from the nitric acid) serving as an internal source of oxygen; when heated, the cellulose was completely and suddenly oxidized. Oesper, Ralph E. (1929). "Christian Friedrich Schönbein". Journal of Chemical Education 6: 432 – 440. I forgot about the heat as well, sorry!

struckbyanarrow (author)2009-04-13

could you specify how many ping pong balls to how much acetone?

dagabu (author)struckbyanarrow2009-06-19

Sure, a six pack of ping pong balls from Wally World and a 16 ounce bottle of pure acetone from the nail polish shelf will make a 25% Nitrocellulose Lacquer concentration. Play with them first till they break (don't want to be wasting fun here) tear them apart into small pieces by hand and drop them in the bottle. Takes around four days to fully liquefy. Should pour like thin syrup when done.

xenobiologista (author)2006-07-19

haha, didn't know that about ping pong balls. i work in a molecular biology lab and was thinking of nitrocellulose membrane filters. any other everyday items made of that stuff?

slim_jim (author)xenobiologista2008-10-03

Guitar picks are also nitrocellulose.

twenglish1 (author)slim_jim2008-10-18

so your saying they will burst into flames if ignited

ChemEng08 (author)twenglish12009-05-02

No Nitrocellulose picks are esterified which makes it highly stable and therefore boring. FYI Esterification is the addition of 2 oxygens, one of which is double bonded to the ester carbon and a handful of additional hydrogens and carbons.

pyroarchist (author)twenglish12009-02-23

yes,they do, look up fender heavy guitar picks (100% nitrocellulose) and if you light the tip to the point of it melting, imbed other end in patato, fire out of small weakish cannon you get flaming patatoes!!!

vince086 (author)2008-04-05

do i have to put black powder in it ? can i dip coton into it to make some sort of explosif coton? and does it have to pure acetone or can it be nail polish remover? Nice instructable.

Vulcanator (author)vince0862009-04-27

nail polish remover is acetone unless otherwise noted on the bottle.

C17H19NO3 (author)vince0862008-08-24

no you don't have to put black powder in it, yes you can dip cotton in it and let it dry to make cotton that will burn fiercely (though it wont explode) and no it doesn't have to be 100% pure, but needs to be close.

lobo_pal (author)C17H19NO32009-03-07

You should show the flame, I didn't know how big it would be until I lit the whole batch at once and almost lost some facial hair. (author)vince0862009-02-08

pure acetone, i've tried with nail polish remover, doesn't work. it will light without black powder, but its not as useful, and not nearly as cool

Deltablazing (author)vince0862008-05-09

cotton, explosive, cotton again!! learn to spell!!!

vince086 (author)Deltablazing2008-05-10

Really couldn't care less about my spelling. anyway, that wasn't exactly the answer I was waiting for was it?

Vulcanator (author)2009-04-27


Coolerman (author)2008-07-01

Help!! posted this somewhere else, but you guys seem more knowledgable!! Need to make large initials (B & M ) for a wedding that will light & glow for the final finalla at an outdoor wedding fireworks. I think I know how to ignite?? but has to burn brilliant & briht for 30 to 60 sec.????

lobo_pal (author)Coolerman2009-03-07

Try thermite. You can use a stronger type made from crystallized materials, but you'll need to light it with sugar and hydrochloric acid.

nate121 (author)lobo_pal2009-04-25

id be careful with termite it CAN melt steel. and you can ignight it with a magnesium fire starter from a sporting goods store.

About This Instructable




Bio: I like anything low budget and DIY, especially if it can be worked into a film.
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