Know What You're Handling
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IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING THIS RE-PRINT:
THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL SHOULD BE CONSIDERED OUT OF DATE, INACCURATE
AND OBSOLETE. IT IS PROVIDED HERE FOR HISTORICAL INFORMATION ONLY.
PLEASE CONSULT CURRENT CHEMICAL REFERENCE WORKS FOR KNOWN HAZARDS.
ADDITIONALLY, MANY KNOWN HAZARDS AND INCOMPATABILITES ARE NOT CITED
THIS IS NOT A CURRENT WORK OR CURRENT STATMENT OF KNOWLEDEGE IN THIS
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE HANDLING
Within this booklet you will find descriptions of almost 150 chemi-
cals that are used in Fireworks, Explosives, Rocket Fuels or are
Explosive in themselves. This list is not complete and is not in-
tended to be complete. All of the uses are not given and only the
related purposes of each are stated.
Whenever possible we explain which grades are thought to be best, the
chemical formula, melting temperature, decomposition temperature,
form (liquid, powder, crystal, etc.), if it will explode, if it is
poisonous and its usage. Some of these chemicals cannot be purchased
and are offered as a guide for information purposes only.
Chemicals have a certain purpose to perform in fireworks and
can be classified into four groups.
GROUP I These chemicals are the chemicals which produce the
oxygen and are called oxidizers.
GROUP II Those which combine with the oxidizers are called
GROUP III These are the chemicals which regulate the rate of
burning and help to produce the desired effect.
GROUP IV This group of chemicals are those which impart color
to the flame.
We believe that the information contained here-in is true and cor-
rect, however it is offered only as a guide and not to be used as a
guarantee. We cannot assume responsibility nor liability for the use
or misuse of the information contained here-in.
PLEASE NOTE: ALL REFERENCES TO TEMPERATURE ARE IN DEGREES FAHRENHEIT.
An element used for brilliancy in the
fine powder form. It can be purchased as
a fine silvery or gray powder. All
grades from technical to superpure (99.-
9%) can be used. The danger is from
inhaling the dust and explosive room
condition if too much dust goes into the
This chemical must not come in contact
with the skin, as severe burns can resu-
lt. The yellowish-white crystals or
powder have a strong attraction for
water. Purchase only in the anhydrous
This is a fossil resin of vegetable
origin and is yellowish-brown in color.
It is used in fireworks to a small ex-
A mild poison used in the manufacture of
& Dichromate tabletop volcanoes (sometimes called
Vesuvius Fire). It is available as
orange crystals in a technical grade.
Also used in smoke formulas.
The common name is Sal Ammoniac. Comes
as colorless crystals or a white powder.
The technical grade is used to manufac-
ture safety explosives and smokes.
This compound takes the form of color-
less, poisonous, crystals. The technical
grade is suitable for the manufacture of
This chemical can be made to explode by
either heat or shock. Besides exploding
in itself, it is used to manufacture
A moderate explosive which can be detona-
ted by either heat or shock.
These bright orange crystals are used in
armor piercing shells and fireworks. If
heated to 300 degrees it will explode or
it can be set off by shock. If you do
any work with this chemical, it is ad-
visable to keep it wet.
These are used in smoke powder formulas.
They are organic coal tar derivatives.
Available in many different colors.
Also known as Malachite Green. One of
the many aniline dyes. The green crys-
tals are used in smoke formulas.
A coal tar derivative used as a source of
dyestuff and for colored smokes. Avail-
able as colorless crystals which melt at
Another name for this metal element is
Antimony Regulus. Purchase the black
powder in a 99% purity. Not the yellow
variety. It is used in pyrotechnics.
One of a group of unstable, explosive
compounds related to Mercury Fulminate.
Also known under the name of tartar
Tartrate Emetic. These poisonous, transparent,
odorless crystals (or white powder) are
used to make Antimony Fulminate. The
moisture that is present can be driven
off by heating to 100 degrees. Do not
exceed this temperature or the chemical
This has a usefulness in sharpening the
report of firecrackers, salutes, etc. or
to add color to a fire. The technical,
black powder is suitable. Avoid contact
with the skin, dermatitis or worse will
be the result.
A strong acid containing 1 part con-
centrated Nitric Acid and 3 parts con-
centrated Hydrochloric Acid. Store in a
well closed glass bottle in a dark place.
This acid will attack all metals, includ-
ing gold and platinum. It is used in
making some explosives.
Arsenic Sulfide, Red
The common name is Realgar and it is also
known as Red Arsenic. Purchase the
technical grade, which is available as a
poisonous orange-red powder. It is used
in fireworks to impart color to the
Arsenic Sulfide, Yellow
This chemical is just as poisonous as its
red brother and is also used in firewor-
ks, somewhat. The common name is Kings Gold.
A white, highly poisonous powder used in
fireworks. It is also known as Arsenious
Trioxide, Arsenic Oxide and Arsenous
Acid. Its uses are very similar to Paris
A black bituminous substance, best described as powdered tar.
Also known as Auramine. It is used in
smoke formulas. Available as yellow
flakes or powder, which readily dissolve
A certified Biological stain used in
This is a poisonous salt of Barium, which
decomposes at a fairly high temperature,
1300 degrees. It is available as a fine
white powder in the technical grade. It
is used in fireworks as a color imparter.
Available as white powder. It is poison-
ous, as are all Barium salts. It is used
in fireworks, both as an oxidizer and
color imparter. It is as powerful as
Potassium Chlorate and should be handled
with the same care. Melting point is 414
The uses and precautions are the same as
above with a comparison equal to Potas-
sium Nitrate instead of the Chlorate. It
melts at 500 degrees.
One of a group of unstable, explosive
compounds derived from Fulminic Acid.
This is an alloy of Copper and Zinc.
Some also contain a small percentage of
Tin. The commercial grade is suitable in
a powdered form. It is used in some
These grayish, irregular lumps are nor-
mally packed in waterproof and airtight
metal containers. It is used in toy
cannons. Mixed with water it forms
Acetylene Gas. (EXPLOSIVE)
This occurs as the mineral Calcite. It
is used for Phosphorus Torpedoes, but
does not have any dangerous properties in
itself. Also as an acid absorber in
This finds its use in a smokeless firew-
ork mixture and is not used elsewhere.
It is a white powder, also known as
This compound, which comes as gray lumps,
must be kept dry. Upon contact with
water it will form the flammable gas,
Phosphine. It is used in signal fires.
A ketone found in the wood of the Camphor
tree, native to Formosa and a few of our
States. For the best results, buy the
granulated, technical grade. Used in
explosives and fireworks.
The common drug store variety is used in
some powders to reduce the sensitiveness
and to waterproof the mixture.
A form of the element, Carbon, it is used
in fireworks and explosives as a reducing
agent. It can be purchased as a dust on
up to a coarse powder. The softwood
variety is best and it should be black,
An organic dye available as a red-brown
powder. It is used in smoke formulas.
This can be purchased in the powdered
form. It is used dry for chokes, nozzles
and sealing firework cases. You can mix
it with water to form a paste if so
Commonly called Powdered Sugar, it can be
purchased as your local food store. The
fineness is graded by the symbol XXXX.
It is used in explosives.
As any pure metal used in fireworks, this
must also be in a powdered state. It is
reddish in color, in fact, it is the only
element to be found in nature having that
The popular name for this is Paris Green.
It is also called Kings Green or Vienna
Green. It is readily available as an
insecticide or as a technical grade,
poisonous, emerald green powder. It is
used in fireworks to add color.
A fine, light green, poisonous powder.
It is used in the technical grade for
Also known as Cupric Carbonate or Artifi-
cial Malachite. It is a green powder
used in fireworks.
Or, technically Cupric Chlorate. A
poison used in fireworks as an oxidizer
and to add color.
An oxidizer and color imparter used in
fireworks. Purchase the brownish-yellow
technical grade. This is a poisonous
Or Cupric Nitrate, Cupric and Cuprous are
many times interchangeable with the word
Copper. These blue crystals absorb
water, as you can see from the formula.
It is used in fireworks.
When ordering be sure to specify the
black powder. It is also available in
Red. The technical grade will serve the
purpose for fireworks.
A green powder used to impart oxygen an
color especially to blue star formulas.
It is a poison and the dust should not be
Known as Blue Vitroil, this poisonous
compound is available as blue crystals or
blue powder. It can be purchased in some
drugstores. Used in fireworks for blue
As are the other Copper salts, this is
also used in fireworks to add color. The
technical grade is suitable and is black
in color. You can make your own, by
passing Hydrogen Sulfide into a Copper
This chemical is classed as a flammable
solid and is used for rocket fuels. It
will remain stable indefinitely at room
This can be purchased as a white or
yellow powder. It is a good cheap glue
for binding cases and stars in fireworks.
A very severe explosive in the form of a
yellow oil. It will explode on contact
with Sulfuric Acid or when heated. Very
volatile and explosive.
These golden yellow crystals will explode
when heated to 150 degrees.
Another severe explosive. It can be
exploded by rubbing the white paste or
powder, or by heating.
An organic explosive in the same group as
the above compound. Also very sensitive
to shock or heat.
Also known as Azimethylene. This yellow
gas is also in the same group as above
and can be exploded by heat or shock.
Known as DNT for short. These yellow
crystals are used in the manufacture of
This alcohol is the only one that is
useful for fireworks. It should be about
95% pure. It is poisonous because of the
impurities. It is clear, like water and
also a very flammable liquid.
A very sensitive colorless gas which will
explode on the slightest contact with a
rough surface. It can also be detonated
by heating to 168 degrees. Avoid all
contact with this gas, even a trace of it
will attack the lungs.
A white or pale fawn colored powder used
in fireworks to make whistles. When
mixed with some Chlorates, Permanganates
or Silver salts, it may explode.
Commonly known as Glycerin. It is ob-
tained from oils and fats as a by-product
when making soaps. It is a sweet warm
tasting syrupy liquid which is used in
several explosives. Contact with Chrom-
ium Trionide or Potassium Permanganate
may cause an explosion.
A dark brown powder which explodes when
heated or rubbed. Upon exploding, it
yields Gold, Nitrogen and Ammonia. The
exact composition is unknown because it
is too explosive to be dried.
Guanidine is found in turnip juice, rice
hulls and earthworms. It is used in the
preparation of this chemical. Or, it can
be made from Ammonium Nitrate and Dicyan-
odiamide. To be of any value, it should
be 95% pure. Guanidine Nitrate is not
explosive itself, but is used in the
manufacture of explosives. It is a white
powder which melts at 210 degrees.
A dried, gummy, exudate from tropical
trees. It is available as flakes, frag-
ments and powder. It is used as a binder
in firework formulas.
Also known as Carbon Hexachloride, this
chemical is used in smoke formulas. It
can be obtained in either powder or
A dark blue crystalline powder which is a
commercial dye. You can purchase either
the technical or pure grade for smokes.
Heavy grayish metallic looking crystals
or flakes. Poisonous. Purchase the
U.S.P. grade. It is being used in making
The granular powder (at least 99% pure)
is needed for several firework pieces.
It is not a dangerous element, but will
rust very easily, making it useless.
These black crystals are used in thermite
mixtures. When ordering, it may be
listed as Ferrous Oxide. Black.
This is a whitish powder used in dynamit-
es. It is a siliceous earth, consisting
mainly of diatoms. A good grade will
absorb about four times its own weight.
Also called milk sugar. This white
powder has a sweet taste. The crude
grade will do for smoke formulas.
This is another form of the element,
carbon. It is a finely powdered black
dust, resulting from the burning of crude
oils. It is used for special effects in
This is a poisonous white powder which
explodes by heating to 350 degrees or by
concussion. The main usage is in prime-
rs. It can be made from Sodium Azide and
Poisonous, colorless crystals. Pure Lead
Bromate is not explosive unless it is
made from precipitated Lead Acetate with
an alkali bromate. Made in this manner,
it can be exploded by rubbing or strik-
It is available as a white crystalline,
poisonous powder which melts at 501
degrees. It is used in fireworks.
Also known as Brown Lead Oxide, this dark
brown powder is used as an oxidizor in
matches and fireworks. Poisonous.
Available as white or colorless crystals
is the technical grade. The uses include
matches and explosives. Poisonous.
Also known as Red Lead or Lead Totraoxi-
de. A 95% purity is desired for matches.
Available in many forms: Brown, boiled,
raw and refined. All are made from the
seed of the flax plant. The cheapest
form is suitable for fireworks. Purchase
from a paint store.
The technical grade is sometimes used to
add color to fireworks compositions.
Available as a white powder.
Used in pyrotechnic mixtures, matches and
match box friction surfaces. Available
as a technical grade, black powder. This
oxidizer decomposes at 535 degrees.
This metal is used in a powdered state
for brilliancy in flares and will even
burn vigorously underwater.
A white, poisonous powder. Also known as
Corrosive Sublimate. It can be made by
subliming Mercuric Sulfate with ordinary
table salt and then purified by recrys-
tallization. The U.S.P. grade is used
for some firework compositions.
Available in two forms- red and yellow.
Both forms give the same oxidizing ef-
fects in fireworks. The technical grade
is suitable. All forms are Poisonous.
In the pure state it is a violent poison
which will explode when touched by flame
A poisonous, white odorless powder used
in the making of Pharoah's Serpents. Use
the technical grade.
Also known as Calomel or Mercury Monochl-
oride. This white, non-poisonous powder
will brighten an otherwise dull colored
mixture. Sometimes it is replaced by PVC
or Hexachlorobenzene and even Antimony
Sulfide, for the same purpose. Note that
it is non-poisonous only when it is 100%
PURE. Never confuse this chemical with
Mercuric Chloride, which is poisonous in
A crystalline compound used in primers,
percussion caps, blasting caps and other
detonators. Explodes very easily from
heat or shock.
This dark green powder is used for smokes
in the technical grade. Also called
Also known as Vaseline, Petrolatum or
Petroleum-Jelly. This acts as a stabili-
zer in fireworks and explosives.
This is a tar product that you may know
better as Moth Flakes. Only the 100%
PURE form should be used in making smoke
powders. The melting point is 100 degre-
Also known as Aqua Fortis. It is a
clear, colorless, corrosive liquid, which
fumes in moist air. It can react violen-
tly with organic matter such as: Char-
coal, Alcohol or Turpentine and conse-
quently must be handled very carefully.
It is available in three forms: White
Fuming, Red Fuming and Concentrated (70
to 71%). The latter, with a specific
gravity of 1.42, is the proper grade to
buy. Whatever grade, avoid contact with
the fumes or the liquid. Contact with
the skin will cause it to burn and turn
yellow. It is used to manufacture many
A liquid with a sweet burning taste but
do not taste it or it will produce a
violent headache or acute poisoning. It
can be made to explode by rapid heating
of percussion. It is used as an ex-
plosive and also to make other ex-
A yellow solid make by dissolving Fuanid-
ine in concentrated Sulfuric Acid and
then diluting with water. Dangerous
An oily, poisonous liquid, which is used
as rocket fuel.
Oil of Spike
This is a volatile oil obtained from the
leaves of certain trees. Keep this
colorless (or pale yellow) liquid well
closed and away from light. It is used
in some fireworks.
This is a white or transparent wax. It
is normally sold in a solid block. You
can use a file to make the required
A dye used in smoke formulas. It dissol-
ves in alcohol and will melt at 139
degrees. It is also known as p-Aminophe-
A high explosive known at PRTN. Besides
being an explosive itself it is used in a
detonating fuse called Irimacord.
A gas under normal air pressure. When
brought in contact with alcohol, ex-
plosions have resulted.
This element comes in three forms, with
three different ways of reacting. They
resemble each other in name only. Red
Phosphorus is the only suitable form for
fireworks and matches. It is a non-
poisonous violet-red powder. It will
ignite at 260 degrees. When making a
formula containing Phosphorus, be sure to
work with it in a wet state. This is a
most dangerous chemical to work with and
should be handled by the most ex-
perienced. Oxidizers have been known to
detonate violently without warning when
mixed with Red Phosphorus.
Also known as Phosphoric Sulfide. These
light yellow crystals are used in match-
This chemical can catch fire from the
moisture that is present in air, there-
fore the container should be kept tightly
capped. The technical grade, purchased
as grayish-yellow masses, is used in
This is used to bring out and improve the
tone of colors in various fireworks. It
is also used to make other chemicals that
are used in fireworks and explosives.
Picric Acid can explode from heat or
shock. It is interesting to note what it
is called in other countries. Britain:
Lyddite; France: Melinite; Japan: Shimo-
Plaster of Paris
This is a white powder, composed mostly
of Calcium Sulfate. It is used, by
mixing with water, for end plugs in
fireworks and also in some of the for-
A soft silvery metal element. It will
react vigorously with water and several
acids. It is not used directly except
for some experiments.
This, perhaps, is the most widely used
chemical in fireworks. Before it was
known, mixtures were never spectacular in
performance. It opened the door to what
fireworks are today. It is a poisonous,
white powder that is used as an oxidizer.
Never ram a mixture containing Potassium
Chlorate. Do not store mixtures which
contain this chemical for any great
length of time, as they may explode
Also known as Potassium Bichromate. The
commercial grade is used in fireworks and
matches. The bright orange crystals are
poisonous. Also used in smokes.
Lemon yellow crystals or powder which
will decompose at high temperatures. It
is used in the manufacture of explosives.
Commonly called Saltpeter; this chemical
is an oxidizer which decomposes at 400
degrees. It is well known as a component
of gunpowder and is also used in other
firework pieces. Available as a white
Much more stable than its Chlorate broth-
er, this chemical is a white or slightly
pink powder. It can often substitute for
Potassium Chlorate to make the formula
safer. It will not yield its oxygen as
easily, but to make up for this, it gives
off more oxygen. It is also poisonous.
A salt of Picric Acid, this chemical
comes in yellow, reddish or greenish
crystals. It will explode when struck or
heated. It is used in fireworks.
Colorless or white crystals which are
used to make the Pharaoh's Serpent. The
commercial grade or pure grade is suitab-
Prepared from Silver Nitrate and n-Propyl
Bromide and is used as a jet propellant.
Rosin similar to Shellac and can often
replace it in many fireworks formulas.
Red Gum is obtained from the barks of
A basic red fluorescent organic pigment
also known as Rhodamine Red. Available
in green or red crystals or powder. It
is used in smoke formulas.
An organic rosin made from the secretion
of insects which live in India. The
exact effect it produces in fireworks is
not obtainable from other gums. The
common mixture os Shellac and Alcohol
sold in hardware stores should be avoid-
ed. Purchase the powdered variety, which
is orange in color.
A crystalline salt similar to Mercury
Fulminate but more sensitive. In fact,
too sensitive for commercial blasting.
It is used for toy torpedoes and poppers.
Dark brown, odorless powder. It is
potentially explosive and becomes in-
creasingly more so with time. Keep away
from Ammonia and combustible solvents.
The technical grade, which is about 92%
Silver, is suitable.
Sodium Aluminum Floride
Also known as the mineral, Cryolite. It
is used in fireworks in the white pow-
When a formula calls for this chemical,
you can use Baking Soda (NOT Baking
Powder). It is a white, non poisonous
This white powder is used in fireworks,
but not to any great extent. The an-
hydrous grade is best.
An oxidizer similar to Potassium Chlora-
te, although not as powerful and also
with the disadvantage of absorbing water.
Decomposes at 325 degrees.
This is used in fireworks. You can use
the common form, table salt (or rock salt
if made into a powder).
Also known as Chile Saltpeter; very
similar to Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate).
It is used where large amounts of powder
are needed in fireworks and explosives.
It will absorb water as do other sodium
This is not a strong poison but is poiso-
nous, and you should not come in contact
with it or breathe the dust for any
prolonged period. The technical grade is
best for making yellow fires.
This chemical is used in fireworks and
explosives. It is very similar to Potas-
sium Perchlorate with the exception that
it will absorb water.
A yellowish-white powder. It can explode
or ignite in contact with organic sub-
Very similar to Potassium Picrate and
should be handled with the same precau-
tions. It is also known under the name
of Sodium Trinitrophenolate.
This chemical, commonly called water
glass, is used as a fireproof glue. It
is available in syrupy solution and can
be thinned with water if necessary. When
dry it resembles glass, hence the name.
It can when desired be thickened with
calcium carbonate, zinc oxide, powdered
silica, or fibre glass (chopped) if extra
strength is desired.
Colorless, odorless, tasteless, soapy
crystal or powder. Sometimes referred to
as Stearic Acid, purchase the technical
grade, powder. It can often take the
place of Sulfur and Charcoal in firewor-
Known in the natural state as Stron-
tianite, this chemical is used for adding
a red color to fires. It comes as a
white powder in a pure, technical or
A colorless or white granulated chemical
used in pyrotechnics. It will absorb
water and is not used often.
By far the most common chemical used to
produce red in flares, stars and fires.
Available in the technical powder grade.
An oxidizer with 45% oxygen and absorbs
This does not absorb water as quick as
nitrate and is used when storage is
necessary. In its natural state it is
known as Celestine, which compares to
grades used in fireworks.
For an example type II burns as 250
degrees giving off choking fumes. Pur-
chase good pyro grades low in acid. Used
in many types of fireworks and ex-
Also called oil of Vitriol, it is a clear
liquid with the consistency of thin
syrup. Bottles should be kept tightly
closed as it is a very corrosive and
dangerous chemical. It has a great
affinity for water and will absorb it
from any source. The effect can be a
charred surface or fire. The grade used
in explosives is 93-98%.
This powder will combine with water with
explosive violence to form Sulfuric Acid.
If brought in contact with wood flour and
a drop of water is added, a fire will
start. It is used to make some ex-
Commonly known as TNT. The poisonous
crystals are colorless in the pure state.
It is more powerful and expensive than
Dynamite. If not confined it will burn
like dynamite. Used as a high explosive
and to make others.
This is merely another name for Sawdust
or Wood Meal. It is used in fireworks
Of all the forms, only the dust is suita-
ble in the technical or high purity
grade. It is a gray powder used in star
mixtures and for fuel in model rockets.
A white amorphous powder used in making
smoke formulas. A relatively safe com-
pound to handle.
Another white Zinc compound used in some
smoke formulas. Also a safe compound to
Sometimes called Flowers of Zinc. This
is a white or yellowish powder used in
some fireworks formulas. It has also
found use as a thickening agent in water
glass when a stronger pyro paste is