Making Smoke That Really Performs

Smoke is a useful thing, whether you want to hide from enemy combatants or just make a big scene at a local sporting match. Smoke devices have lots of applications, many of which will likely cause a nuisance to somebody, somewhere. With that said, they can also be really cool, and [Tech Ingredients] is here to tell you how to make them.

Far from a simple tutorial, the video guide is loaded with detail. It begins with an explanation of the basic chemistry involved, using potassium nitrate and sugar. This is the basis of rocket candy, a popular method for making solid rocket motors at home. However, it’s then explained how the formula is altered to suit a smoke-making, rather than a thrust-making device. The trick is the addition of paraffin to moderate the reaction.

The tips don’t stop there. The guide explains how to use a coffee grinder to make the coarse ingredients finer, which increases the surface area and allows the powder constituents to blend with the wax more easily. Enclosures are also discussed, with a cardboard tube and bentonite clay favored for its heat resistance and stability.

Overall, it’s an excellent guide which takes the time to explain the rationale behind each step in the process. It’s great to see the underlying concepts explained with the practical execution, giving a strong understanding of not just how to do it, but why. Video after the break.

37 thoughts on “Making Smoke That Really Performs

  1. Bear in mind that in some backwards countries this may well be seen as manufacture of explosives.
    And if you want to argue the toss with the authorities, you’re welcome to do so as their guest at a high security location.

    1. Unfortunately some lawmakers and their minions lack common sense or even something vaguely resembling a functioning neocortex in their heads.
      I theorize their higher functions have been shifted with a cephalopod like brain located in their posterior.

          1. Pretty sure that when I bought 1kg of 8% oil infused paraffin that is specifically designated to be used as lubrication, it came as a hard white chunk and I’m NOT in the US :P

          2. I was thinking the wax. It is still a hydrocarbon. I have no idea how explody you can make it in solid form without an oxidizer soluble in molten paraffin.

    1. I was kind of a nightmare for my parents… Before I study to become a chemist, I used to heat sulphuric acid in (supposed) stainless saucepan before adding nitric acid on it, cooling mercury fulminate in the family freezer (between the tomatoes and the berries), trying to make nitration of toluene in the bathroom and of course grind charcoal with the coffee grinder to obtain a thinner black powder (and stealing the potassium nitrate used by my father as a fertilizer for his vegetables)… Oh yeah, spreading Nitrogen triiodide on the school ground was also a funny part of my childhood. Now I’m an old guy but those remembering makes me laugh every time

  2. I used to make smoke bombs from sparklers, electrical tubing, candle wax & tape as a kid, good times:
    1] Get some electrical tubing, those rigid yellow plastic ones about 1,5cm across that are used in most walls, cut sections of the same length as sparklers
    2] Cover the outside of the tube with candle wax
    3] Take a bunch of sparklers that snugly fit the tube, remove 2, put them in the tube
    4] Bend the ‘bottom’ (the non-covered) part of the sparkler around the pipe edge and tape them, stick in one more sparkler without taping it.
    5] More tape! (just wrap all the wax in tape so it stays with the tube as it burns)
    6] Find a place that needs smoke
    7] Light the one sparkler you didn’t tape, shove it back in the tube, throw/drop

    1. Actually you didn’t do anything illegal. Manufacturing of explosives is illegal. Owning anything more explosive than gunpowder is illegal. Making some smoke is legal. So they visited you just for statistics. A friend of mine was visited by them because he posted a clip showing burning small sample of guncotton he made. They visited him and did nothing because all “evidence” was burned. So they confiscated his rock samples that contained small ammounts of uranium ore…

      1. You don’t mean that seriously, do you? With the VW diesel it was just the question, if they emit less NOx than the current limit, or a little more (and still less then the limits a few years ago). By burning this mixtures containing nitrates you for sure get some “interesting” nitrogen compounds.

  3. Tip for the day, if you want long lasting, fairly dense, whitex slow stream of controllable smoke and don’t have nitrates and sugar floating around your work bench…
    Coil up some nichrome and wrap it in a ball of bluetak
    It’s great for wind tunnels and crack finding.
    A lot easier to buy. Alternatively there are the pellets that are used to test chimneys but it’s more fun to make your own.

    Alternatively if you want lots of light and you don’t mind a slight purple huw, pet shops sell water oxidising tablet. 12 a pack 1/3 of a gram per tablet. But they sometimes sell by the bucket load for ponds. They are usually 99.7% chlorate. Add a little candle wax and some vaseline. Just don’t enclose it. It needs a little energy to get it going. Only make what you intend to use.

  4. Looks like fun, but with burns bans around here being a constant, it would be a long time for the opportunity to light them off. Light them off without contacting the LE dispatch, and someone reports a fire and the FD responds. one could be stuck with a large bill. Contact dispatch you are likely to be denied permission to light them off. None of that has nothing to do with the governing authorities abusing their power, but simply common sense.

  5. Using a coffee grinder is a bad idea. Using a coffee grinder for both ox and fuel is asking for a fire and burns. A sealed container (e.g. rock tumbler type drum) with separate containers for fuels and oxidizers is the safe way to do it.

    Coffee grinders aren’t sealed motors, but then coffee won’t flash.

  6. You should never put the complete mix in a mortar or any grinder, I self learned that it can ignite from the grinding process alone. The end of the story depends on the quantity you were processing. I was lucky.
    Also if you have only one grinder, it is better to wash it when you switch from one chimical compound to another.

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