Improvised Handheld Fireworks: How to Make Homemade Sparklers
The big fireworks day is almost here, but most of you are limited in what you can do when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July with a bang. Unless you live in a dry area prone to wildfires, one type of fireworks you can probably still legally buy are sparklers.
But why buy boxes of sparklers for Independence Day when you can improvise and make your own handheld sparklers?
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.
These sparklers are nearly identical to the slow burning fuses made in a previous project, which I used for my smoke flares. 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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!
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 handheld fireworks to celebrate July 4th or another special occasion. If you haven't seen the video yet, you can still see it here. And if interested, check out how to make fuse cord and smoke flares, too.