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How To Make Whistle Mix For
Whistle Rocket Fuel




If you want to make whistle rockets or whistle and strobe rocket combinations, the most tedious part of the whole process is making the whistle mix. Dan McMurray has provided an excellent article on how you can cut the time it takes to make up a batch of whistle, and improve the quality of the whistle rocket fuel as well. Thank you, Dan.


Whistle Rocket Fuel in Under 8 Hours


To improve fuel quality and decrease preparation time, this recipe uses Naphtha (i.e., VM&P Naphtha, Camping Fuel, or Mineral Spirits) as the Vaseline solvent instead of Acetone or Toluene. The Naphtha solvent minimizes moisture accumulation while drying and eliminates the need to crush and/or screen the dried whistle rocket fuel (see Solvent Comments below). Using VM&P (Varnish Makers and Painters) Naphtha and drying over hot water, about 4 kilograms (around 10 pounds) of fuel can be prepared and ready for use in 3 to 4 hours.


Equipment List

  • Safety Glasses

  • Chemical gloves (e.g., Playtex, vinyl, PVC, or other types) suitable for handling Naphtha solvent. Thin latex gloves are not suitable - they will dissolve. Heavy-duty chemical gloves are too big and bulky to fit in the bowl. The best gloves I have found are the disposable vinyl gloves sold by Home Depot.

  • Breathing respirator suitable for working with organic paint solvents

  • Scale suitable for weighing chemicals

  • Two sieves (one 20-mesh and one 40-mesh).

  • Three mixing bowls, each of which is large enough to hold the completed mixture, with half the bowl space remaining. One of the mixing bowls should be made of stainless steel to withstand Naphtha solvent and heat. The other mixing bowls must be made of plastic.
    An 8-quart stainless steel mixing bowl ideal for this purpose is made by Metro (Item No. 0065) and available at Wal-Mart for about $5.00. This bowl is large enough to make a 4 kg (about 10 pound) batch of whistle rocket fuel. A 4-bowl set of covered plastic mixing bowls is made by Sterilite (No. 0747) and available at Wal-Mart for about $3.00. Only the 2 largest bowls are needed.

  • A 500 to 1500 milliliter glass, plastic, or metal container (e.g., a Pyrex beaker, 1-quart Mason jar) for melting the Vaseline and mixing the Vaseline with Naphtha solvent.

  • Small pan suitable for heating about 2 quarts of water to melt the Vaseline

  • Optional: Ball mill with two containers and two sets of media: one for fuel/catalyst and one for oxidizer.

  • Optional: A large pan suitable for heating enough water to "float" the stainless mixing bowl, but small enough to keep the bowl from turning over.

A good combination of stainless mixing bowl and large pan can be purchased from Wal-Mart. The stainless mixing bowl is an 8-quart bowl made by Metro (Item No. 0065). The pan is a 16-quart covered Teflon coated aluminum saucepot made by Mirro (Mfg. No. 34018). The total cost of the bowl and pot is around $30.00. If you look a bit, less expensive 16-quart saucepots are available.

Ingredients for 76/23/1+3 Sodium Salicylate Whistle Rocket Fuel

INGREDIENT SMALL BATCH
-1/4 pound
LARGE BATCH
- 10 pounds
Potassium Perchlorate powder (oxidizer) 76 grams 3040 grams
Sodium Salicylate powder (fuel) 23 grams 920 grams
Iron Oxide (catalyst) 1 grams 40 grams
Vaseline (stabilizer) 3 grams 120 grams
Naphtha (Vaseline solvent) 25 milliliters 1000 milliliters

Solvent Comments Unlike Acetone or Toluene, Naphtha (i.e., VM&P Naphtha, Camping Fuel, or Mineral Spirits) is an excellent Vaseline solvent and a poor Sodium Salicylate solvent. Naphtha evaporates without attracting moisture and hard whistle rocket fuel clumps do not form when the solvent evaporates.

Chemically, Acetone and Toluene are classified as "polar solvents." Both are very flammable, evaporate rapidly, and are hard on the respiratory system. Acetone mixes well with water. Toluene mixes with water, but not well.

Sodium Salicylate is classified as a "polar reactant." Acetone and Toluene are Sodium Salicylate solvents; thus, hard clumps of Sodium Salicylate form when the solvent evaporates.

Potassium Perchlorate and Iron Oxide are not soluble in Acetone, Toluene, VM&P Naphtha, Camping Fuel, or Mineral Spirits.

Vaseline (i.e., petroleum jelly) is classified as a "non-polar reactant." Acetone and Toluene are poor Vaseline solvents.

VM&P Naphtha, Camping Fuel, and Mineral Spirits are all classified as "non-polar solvents." All are excellent Vaseline solvents and poor Sodium Salicylate solvents. All are easy on the respiratory system. None of these solvents mix with water. All work well in this recipe.

Camping Fuel is inexpensive, readily available and very flammable. Mineral Spirits and VM&P Naphtha are readily available and less flammable than Camping Fuel, Acetone, or Toluene. Mineral Spirits and VM&P Naphtha are more expensive than Camping Fuel, but less expensive than Acetone or Toluene. VM&P Naphtha and Mineral Spirits can be found in the PAINT section at Home Depot and most hardware stores. Camping Fuel for portable stoves and lanterns can be found in the Sporting Goods section of most discount stores like Wal-Mart or K-Mart.

VM&P Naphtha evaporates faster than Camping Fuel. Mineral Spirits evaporates slower than Camping Fuel. When stirred every 15 to 20 minutes over a pan of hot water, VM&P Naphtha evaporates in 2 to 3 hours. Camping Fuel takes a full 8 hours to evaporate and Mineral Spirits take even longer.


Recipe

  1. Using the scale, weigh out the Sodium Salicylate and Iron Oxide into the stainless mixing bowl. Using the scale, weigh out the Potassium Perchlorate into a separate plastic mixing bowl.

    Using the scale, weigh out the required amount of Vaseline into the melting container.

    WARNING: While dry, Potassium Perchlorate must not be mixed with, screened with, or ball milled with Sodium Salicylate. The dry mixture of Potassium Perchlorate and Sodium Salicylate is very static, shock, and friction sensitive. THE DRY MIXTURE IS EXPLOSIVE!!

    Optional: To increase burning speed -- Both the Sodium Salicylate & Iron Oxide mixture and the Potassium Perchlorate may be ball milled, but not together. In both cases, 8 hours of ball milling should be long enough. While being ball milled, the Sodium Salicylate & Iron Oxide mixture may have to be broken-up periodically because it has a tendency to stick to the sides of the ball mill.

    WARNING: The Sodium Salicylate & Iron Oxide mixture (i.e., fuel & catalyst) must be ball milled in a different container with different media from the container and media used to ball mill the Potassium Perchlorate (i.e., oxidizer).

    Fill the small pan with enough water to almost "float" the Vaseline melting container. Place the container of Vaseline into the water. Heat the pan, water, and Vaseline melting container until the Vaseline is completely melted.

    If the optional large pan of hot water will be used to dry the final mixture, the large pan of water should be put on to heat at this time.

    FOR THE REMAINING STEPS, WEAR SAFETY GLASSES, CHEMICAL GLOVES, AND A BREATHING RESPIRATOR SUITABLE FOR WORKING WITH ORGANIC PAINT SOLVENTS. REMOVE ALL HAND JEWELRY, WATCHES, AND BELT BUCKLES. OTHER THAN THE STAINLESS STEEL MIXING BOWL AND WATER POT, MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO METAL OBJECTS IN THE WORK AREA.

    WARNING: GO OUT OF DOORS!!! DO NOT PERFORM THE FOLLOWING STEPS INSIDE!!! STAY AWAY FROM OPEN FLAMES, SPARKS, OR OTHER POSSIBLE IGNITION SOURCES!!! NAPHTHA IS FLAMMABLE.

    WARNING: DO NOT PERFORM THE FOLLOWING STEPS IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT!!! THE STAINLESS STEEL MIXING BOWL CAN FOCUS THE SUNLIGHT AND IGNITE THE MIXTURE.


  2. Using a clean plastic mixing bowl, screen the Sodium Salicylate & Iron Oxide mixture through the 20-mesh sieve. Place the screened result back into the stainless mixing bowl. Using a clean plastic mixing bowl, screen the Potassium Perchlorate through the 40-mesh sieve. Place the screened result into a plastic mixing bowl.


  3. If the Vaseline melting container is made of glass, make sure the Vaseline melting container is cool enough to keep from breaking when cold Naphtha is added.

    Measure and pour about half of the required amount of Naphtha into the container with the melted Vaseline. Shake and/or stir until the Naphtha and Vaseline are thoroughly mixed. Pour the Naphtha & Vaseline mixture into the stainless mixing bowl with the Sodium Salicylate & Iron Oxide. Pour the rest of the required amount of Naphtha into the Vaseline melting container, swirl it around to rinse off the Vaseline residue, and add the rinse to the mix.


  4. Using one gloved hand only, distribute the Naphtha & Vaseline mixture throughout the Sodium Salicylate & Iron Oxide. Scoop up the mixture, a hand full at a time, and squeeze it through your fingers until no dry powder is present in the bowl. Continue until the mixture looks like smooth tomato soup - no lumps.


  5. Using your clean-gloved hand, pour all of the Potassium Perchlorate into the stainless mixing bowl.

    NOTE: Adding Naphtha & Vaseline to the Sodium Salicylate & Iron Oxide before adding the Potassium Perchlorate "wets" and stabilizes the mixture, making it much safer to handle.


  6. Using both gloved hands, combine the ingredients. Scoop up hands full of the mixture and squeeze it through your fingers until the ingredients are completely mixed. This step typically takes 5 minutes - and I do mean a full 5 minutes. The resulting wet mixture should be smooth and a uniform dark red color.


  7. Using both gloved hands, clean as much of the mixture as possible off of your gloves into the bowl. Your gloves may be removed at this time and placed to the side to dry. When dry, any fuel remaining on your gloves may be easily removed.

    Using a soft plastic spatula, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, stir the mixture, and re-spread the mixture on the sides of the bowl. Repeat every 15 to 20 minutes until the mixture is dry and powdered.

    Optional: To reduce drying time (especially during cold weather) -- Fill the large pan with enough water to "float" the stainless mixing bowl, bring the water to a boil, remove the pan of boiling water from the heat, and take it outside. Float the bowl of wet mixture in the pan of hot water. Using a soft plastic spatula, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, stir the mixture, and re-spread the mixture on the sides of the bowl. Repeat periodically for the next 2 to 3 hours. The more often the wet mixture is scraped, stirred, and re-spread on the heated sides of the bowl, the faster it dries. During cold weather, insulate the outside of the pan to keep the water from cooling before the Naphtha evaporates. As a rule, when the water is cold, the mixture is dry and powdered.

    When completely dry, the properly combined mixture is soft, fluffy, and powdered. Any lumps are soft and crumble easily between the soft spatula and the side of the bowl. The dry, properly combined mixture should not need to be screened.


  8. If required, carefully screen the mixture through the 20-mesh sieve using a soft plastic spatula.


  9. Inspect the powder for white granules among the red. The presence of white granules indicates that the ingredients were not properly mixed in Step 7. The correction is to thoroughly "wet" the mixture with Naphtha and repeat Steps 7, 8, and 9.


  10. When complete, properly store the resulting powder.


WARNING: At this point, the mixture is still static, shock, and friction sensitive (although the Vaseline has stabilized and desensitize the mix).

HANDLE AND STORE WHISTLE ROCKET FUEL, AS YOU WOULD FLASH!

This article is a vehicle for exchanging information in the pyrotechnics craft. Readers are urged to learn and obey all laws and regulations of all federal, state and local jurisdictions and their agencies and representatives. Some information herein may contain incomplete descriptions of fireworks techniques based on the experience of its author(s) in a controlled environment with circumstances and conditions different from a readerís. Readers must form their own opinion as to the application of this information. This information is considered documentary in nature and no opinion is given as to its suitability or use. No warranties are made either expressed or implied, including but not limited to warranties of the accuracy of the information herein.

Copyright: The content of this article is Copyright 2002 All Rights Reserved by Robert D. (Dan) McMurray. This publication is edited for, is published by, and is the sole property of the copyright owner(s). This publication is not to be sold, distributed or reproduced without written permission from the copyright owner(s).

Materials Needed
Read and review these Fireworks Safety Articles before starting any fireworks project.

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