[this page is a mirror of this original]

Excerpts from My Notebooks
Tom Spooner

I'm going to pass on giving you a specific project this month. All in all, you've already learned plenty about different kinds of fun gadgets. So now I'm going to give you another chance to...

(here it comes...)

Be Creative!

You've made and used guns, bombs and incendiaries. You know the basics. Here are some fairly simple and effective recipes to combine with the previous knowledge to come up with other exciting toys.

Primary Explosives

Primary explosives are shock and temperature sensitive. Exercise extreme care. When in doubt about the reactions in preparation, use an ice bath to avoid unrequested detonation surpluses.

Primary explosives can be used on their own, or in percussion caps, primers, and blasting caps to inititiate secondary explosives.

Acetone Peroxide

    60 Acetone
    36 Hydrogen Peroxide (30% Concentration)
    4 Sulfuric Acid (S.G 1.84)
Use Ice Bath!

Mix H2O2 and acetone. Cool to 5 degrees.

Drip in Sulfuric acid. Maintain low temperature.

Stir five minutes (to react mixture; watch temp).

Let sit until Acetone Peroxide precipitates out; several hours to a day. Watch temp.

Filter out precipitate, and rinse in baking soda solution until no bubbles appear.


Short shelf life; use within ten days.

Mercury Fulminate

By volume:

    1 part mercury
    15 part nitric acid (sg 1.33)
    10 parts alcohol

Slowly dissolve mercury in 7.5 parts acid at gentle heat.

Slowly add 7.5 parts more nitric acid.

Add 10 parts alcohol. The reaction will produce toxic fumes; ventilate very well!

Filter out the precipitate, wash with cold water, dry well.

Store in non-metallic containers, a small portion per container. Store isolated for safety.

Percussive Powders

Percussive powders, as the name suggests, are shock/impact sensitive. They can be used on their own, or in primers and percussion caps. They may not have sufficient energy to inititiate the less sensitive secondary explosives, so may not be suitable blasting caps. These powders can be used in small quantities in simpler pyrotechnics like firecrackers.

When mixing, avoid too much friction, sparks, heat, impact. Nonmetallic (or non-sparking bronze) implements are highly recommended.

Nitrocellulose Percussive Powder

(by weight)

    1 Nitrocellulose
    1 Potassium Chlorate

(Preparations using Potassium Chlorate tend to be unstable, shock sensitive, which is fine for this. But be careful with the stuff.)

Pyrotechnic Powders

1. (by weight)

    75 Potassium Nitrate
    25 Sulphur


Impact sensitive

    80 Potassium Chlorate
    20 Sulphur

Impact sensitive

    67 Potassium Perchlorate
    33 Powdered Aluminum


    60 Potassium Perchlorate
    20 Powdered Aluminum
    20 Sulphur


Impact sensitive

    67 Potassium Perchlorate
    33 Sulphur

Mercury Fulminate Percussion Caps/Primers

Mercury Fulminate is very sensitive; exercise extreme caution.

    100 parts MF
    30 parts water
    55 parts potassium nitrate
    29 parts sulphur

Mix wet. Let dry to thick paste consistency.

Press (Do Not Pound! You wouldn't believe some of the instructions I've seen on other websites.) into primer/percussion cap.

Cover percussive material inside cap with foil or varnish.

Secondary Explosives

Secondary explosives are the real workhorses of demolition. They typically don't go boom on their own, but must be initiated by a primary explosive (hence the name). Just how hard a shockwave is required to set them off varies by explosive.


(by weight)

    94 ammonium nitrate
    6 carbon black

15.666667:1 ratio; call it 16 to 1.

Relatively insensitive; expect to use something potent to set it off, just like ANFO.

Ammonium Nitrate/Fuel Oil - the infamous ANFO

(by weight)

    16 Ammonium Nitrate
    1 Fuel Oil

Insensivitive and fairly safe to handle. Not extraordinarily powerful (which is why so many knowledgeable people have questions about the Feds' version of events at Oklahoma City), its main advantages are safety, low cost, and ready availability.

Low Order Explosives

Low order explosives have burn/expansion rates too slow to generate a shockwave by themselves. They must be contained until pressure builds up sufficiently to explode. The most familiar low order explosives are gun powders, as used by reloaders everywhere. So, as you might guess, these are suitable for firearms propellent, and also - when compressed - as solid-fuel rocket propellents.

Use the same safety precautions as when making percussive powders.

Nitrocellulose (old fashioned guncotton)

As a bullet propellent, its power equivalent to black powder was roughly 5 to 1; or 1 gr GC = 4.5-5 gr black powder.

Nitrocellulose is also used in a percussive mixture (see above).

Version 1:

Immerse clean cotton in bath of equal amounts sulphuric acid and nitric acid for approximately 10 minutes. Wash treated cotton in water, dry with gentle heat.

Adding Potassium Nitrate to mix improves power.

Sulphuric Acid is there to absorb water.

Version 2:

    80 grams Potassium Nitrate
    120 grams S. Acid (sg 1.84)
    4 grams cotton

Black Powder (by weight)

    75 Potassium Nitrate
    13 Charcoal
    12 Suphur

Classic Black Powder

(by weight)

    75 Potassium Nitrate
    15 Charcoal
    10 Sulphur

For use in a firearm, black powder should be corned to regulate the burn rate. This can be done by moistening the mix with water or alcohol, pressing it into a cake and allowing it to dry completely. Once dry, the cake is crushed or grated to make grains. Sift the resulting grains to obtain grains of a uniform size. Grains that don't make the sifting grade can be recycled through the corning process again. Waste not, want not.

White Powders

Prepare in the same fashion as black powder, including corning.

Version 1:

    3 Potassium Nitrate
    1 Powdered Sugar

Version 2:

    5 Potassium Nitrate
    3 Sugar
    2 Sulphur


Incendiary. Burns damned hot. In sufficient quantities, it can burn through sheet metal and damage even heavy metal castings. The resultant slag is low grade iron, which amateur blacksmiths might want to experiment with. Thermite is difficult to ignite. Use a "sparkler" as a fuse. Or ignite with powdered magnesium topped with pistol powder, lit with a lighter/match/fuse.

Using black iron oxide:

    3 Black Iron Oxide (ferrous ferric oxide, Fe3O4)
    1 Powdered Aluminum

Using pure pure FeO (ferrous oxide; which doesn't occur naturally, but if you find it):

    4 Iron Oxide
    1 Powdered Aluminum

Red Iron Oxide (ferric oxide, Fe2O3) doesn't work worth a damn!

But theoretically, it's ratio would be roughly 3:1.


Classic Smoke

    1 part Potassium Nitrate
    1 part Sugar
Thick white smoke. Can be lit with a lighter/match/fuse.


Comment on this article
View all comments on this article


Did you like this article?
Please consider rewarding Spooner's
hard work with a donation.

Don't have PayPal yet?

Books on freedom


Please rate this article! Knowing what you like will help us provide the content you want.

Bad Poor Average Good Excellent

If there's anything specific you'd like to say about this article, please do so here. Comments may be used in an upcoming Letters to the Editor.

Copyright © 2002 by Doing Freedom! magazine. All rights reserved.