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Making 1.75-Inch Bag & Piston Mines

Jumbo Colored Smoke Bombs

Learning how to make a smoke bomb is pretty easy. This project shows you how to make colored smoke bombs, which use organic powdered dyes. One very simple homemade smoke bomb uses cardboard tubes, filled with colored smoke composition, then capped and fused.

Making colored smokes has two inherent problems: Finding small quantities of organic powdered dyes, and getting the smoke composition mixed correctly. Skylighter solves both of those problems by providing two-part colored smoke mixes.

Sometimes it's hard to wait until dark to start lighting the fireworks. We get impatient and can't wait to light a fuse.

These jumbo smoke canisters are sure impressive when we get that urge in the middle of the afternoon. These are not your consumer fireworks smoke balls. These smokes will get everyone's attention when you fire one up.

And there's a dividend: after burning one of them, you won't see any mosquitoes for at least an hour!

Green Jumbo Smoke Canister
(click image to play video )

Instructions for Making a Jumbo Smoke Canister

Before you begin:

Note #1: Smoke dye is dirty stuff. There's no escaping that fact. You should use rubber gloves and a dust mask when making smoke canisters. Cover all surfaces with newspaper or some other covering to be thrown away later. Work on this project outdoors on a day with no wind, if at all possible. Do not work on smokes in your home. Working with smoke dyes can be very messy no matter how careful you are. The dyes will permanently stain anything they come in contact with.

Note #2: The oxidizer in this smoke fuel is potassium chlorate. If this chemical comes into contact with sulfur-bearing compounds and moisture, spontaneous combustion can occur and/or friction sensitive compositions can be produced. Your screens and tools most likely have sulfur-bearing compounds on them from all the previous black-powder-based projects you've been working on. For this reason, never use those same tools or screens when you are working with the potassium-chlorate-based smoke fuel. Follow the instructions in this project carefully, using only the materials specified.

Preparing the Paper Tube and End Caps

If the thin paper end caps are not reinforced, the hole around the fuse in the top end cap will enlarge very quickly as the smoke fuel burns. This makes the smoke spray look wimpy and unimpressive.

As the fuel burns, the thin bottom end cap can burn through as well, and the effect will be further spoiled.

To remedy this, get or cut some cardboard discs, the same size as the paper tube OD, and glue them into the inside of the two end caps.

If you don't have any disks already, cut 4 discs out of cardboard such as cereal boxes are made of.

Marking and Cutting End-Cap Reinforcement Discs

Glue two discs into each end cap with Elmer's glue.

Gluing Discs Into End Caps

Set one end-cap assembly aside to dry.

Glue the other end cap on one end of the paper tube and hold it in place with a 6-inch band of masking tape.

Gluing and Taping One End Cap on Paper Tube
(click image to play video )

Allow the glue to dry completely.

When the glue is dry, punch or drill a 1/4-inch hole in the middle of the loose end cap. Cover this hole with a piece of masking tape and mark on the masking tape where the hole is.

Punching 1/4-Inch Hole in End Cap, and Covering with Tape

Mixing a Batch of Smoke Fuel

During the following process, observe the safety and hygiene notes mentioned above.

Now, regardless of how much smoke you mix up at a time in the instructions that follow, there are three critical parts to this process that you cannot ignore. If you fail to do any or all of them, your smoke will not ignite, and you will probably have to throw it away.

  • Weighing: you have to weigh these chemicals with a scale.

  • Milling: you have to mill these ingredients as directed.

  • Mixing: you have to thoroughly blend the ingredients.
There are two chemical components that will make up your finished smoke composition:

  • Colored smoke mix (16 ounces/454.4 grams) and

  • Potassium chlorate (168 grams/ 5.9 ounces).
These components have been pre-measured, so that in the end all of the potassium chlorate will get mixed with all the smoke mix, and the proportions in the final mixture will be correct.

But, that will almost certainly be too large a physical volume for you to work with easily.

When mixed, the whole batch of smoke comp will yield between 8 and 20 smoke canisters, depending on the type of smoke you have, the tube size, and whether they are filled completely.

But smaller batches are much easier and a lot faster to complete. So we recommend you only make 2 smoke canisters at a time.

And until the composition is mixed, it keeps matters simpler from a safety and legality standpoint, if you minimize the amount of explosives you have to store. (Yep, a completed smoke device is legally an explosive.)

So, if you cut the quantity down to 1/8 of the total composition amount, it will be much easier for you.

1/8 of the total composition amount is 2 ounces (56.8 grams) of the smoke mix, and 0.74 ounces (21 grams) of potassium chlorate.

Smoke Composition (typically enough for 2-3 jumbo smoke canisters)

Chemical Percentage Ounces Grams
Smoke mix 73% 2 ounces 56.8 grams
Potassium Chlorate 27% 0.74 ounces 21 grams
Total 100% 2.74 ounces 77.8 grams

Remember, these proportions are weights, not volume and they are absolutely critical. Both components have been pre-weighed, and must be mixed in their proper proportions, or the smoke will not happen. If all the potassium chlorate is mixed with all the smoke mix, then the proportions in the final mixture will be correct.

But if you are not mixing all of your smoke mix and potassium chlorate at one time, you must use a scale. Measuring with a spoon, or any other volume will not work.

Again, these proportions are absolutely critical. If the proportions are off, your smoke mix will either not burn at all or will catch fire. Either way it will not produce the desired colored smoke. Instead, it will be bad, bad, ungood, ugly.

So, to make up 1/8 of a batch...

Weigh 2 ounces (56.8 grams) of colored smoke mix into its own, individual paper cup.

Weigh 0.74 ounces (21 grams) of potassium chlorate into its own paper cup.

Note: The following blade-milling step is crucial to the proper functioning of these smoke devices.

Notice that the potassium chlorate is lumpy, and the smoke mix is not a completely homogenous mixture. These two components must be milled in a blade-type coffee mill before they are mixed, to ensure a final, finely pulverized, homogenous composition.

Always use one blade-type coffee mill dedicated to oxidizers, such as the potassium chlorate, and a second dedicated one for fuels, such as the chemicals in the smoke mix.

Blade-Type Coffee Mill

The potassium chlorate must be milled separately from the smoke mix. Never blade-mill an oxidizer and a fuel together. If you do, a fire and/or an explosion will be the likely result.

Mill each component separately until it is a finely pulverized homogeneous powder.

Use your blade mill this way. Add the chemical to the hopper. Put the top on tightly. "Pulse" the mill on and off for 5-10 seconds at a time. Or turn the mill off after no more than 20-30 seconds. Hold the mill in your hands and shake it at the same time it is milling. This way, you can actually hear the grains getting smaller.

Typically, a mill like the one above will make each chemical, fluffy-fine, in 30 seconds. No need to mill your chemicals for long periods. You will only burn up the mill's motor.

Pulverizing Chemical in a Blade-Type Coffee Mill
(click image to play video )

Combine the two components into one cup and reweigh the mixture to confirm the total weight is very close to 2.74 ounces (77.8 grams). This verifies that no mistakes were made during the weighing.

Put a lid on the mixing tub and shake the tub while holding the lid on tightly.

Open the tub and pour the mixture into a 20-30 mesh screen kitchen strainer, which is sitting on or held over a sheet of news or kraft paper.

Sift the mixture through the screen and onto the paper. Break up any remaining lumps of chemicals. Be patient, and do not rush this.

Put the composition back into the mixing tub, and repeat the shaking and screening two more times.

The resulting composition will be a homogeneous, fluffy powder, with the same color throughout.

Divide the composition into two paper cups, weighing the amount in each cup so that the powder is evenly divided between the two cups. (This will normally be enough to fill two jumbo smoke canisters. But some smokes are denser or fluffier than others, so the volume may vary.)

Put each batch of the smoke composition into its own ziplock sandwich bag and zip each bag closed.

Weighing Smoke-Mix Components, and Bag-Mixing Composition

(click image to play video )

Filling Canisters with Smoke Fuel

Put one of the prepared, capped smoke canisters on a paper plate to catch any composition that gets spilled.

Clip a 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch corner off the plastic baggie with a pair of scissors.

Carefully fill the paper tube with the smoke composition, occasionally tapping the tube to settle the mixture.

Put some glue around the inside edge of the loose paper cap and put the cap on the tube.

Secure the cap with a band of masking tape.

Filling and Capping Smoke Canister
(click image to play video )

Reinforcing and Fusing Smoke Canister

Even though the end caps are glued on the paper tube canister, the device can generate enough internal pressure while it burns to pop one or both end caps off.

To prevent that, reinforce the end cap with some vertical bands of 1/2-inch fiberglass strapping tape.

Avoid covering the marked vent hole location with strapping tape.

Reinforcing Smoke Canister with Fiberglass Strapping Tape

To install an ignition fuse, cut a 6-inch piece of green Visco fuse with a razor blade or anvil cutter.

Pierce the marked vent hole location with an awl, and insert 3 inches of the Visco fuse into the smoke canister. You want your fuse to go well into the smoke composition in order to insure it lights.

The fuse needs to be secured in place, and the smoke composition prevented from leaking out. Bend the Visco over against the end cap and cover the fuse and vent hole with a piece of masking tape.

Smoke Canister with Visco Fuse Installed
(click image to play video )

The jumbo smoke canister is now ready to take out, set upright on its bottom end cap, and ignite. Bon appétit!

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