Titanium Lightning Bolt Instructions

This project originally appeared in "Best of AFN IV." We've made a few changes, specifically Titanium as our metal of choice.


First, the pyrotechnic composition is made by mixing granulated metal with a good Black Powder. In our video we used Goex FFg powder, but hand-mixed or ball-milled black powder will work just as well.

The amount of metal isn't critical – lightning bolts work with as little as 5% or as much as 25% (by weight of metal). Our test example used approx 15% metal.

The metal can be any one of the common spark metals, such as iron, titanium, zirconium, magnesium-aluminum, etc.

supplies used to make a titanium lightning bolt

We like Skylighter's +200-325 Titanium (CH3110) because it is inexpensive and for its energetic bright white flash and sparks. But any of the Titanium sky lighter sells with work as long as it has a large -100 mesh fraction.

Now the amount of black powder and sparking metal mix you will need depends entirely on the length of the tape you are going to use. But as a rule of thumb, you can use 3-4 grams per 6 inches of tape as a starting point. Don't worry if you end up with too much of the mix; you can always use more Lightning Bolts!

Thoroughly mix the spark-metal in with your black powder.

Next, lay approximately 2 – 6 feet of masking tape on a flat surface with the sticky side up. The width is not critical, but 1" and up works very well.

In this project we are using 2" tape.

Fuse for making a titanium lightning bolt

A 4" piece of Visco is attached to one end of the tape, about an inch from the end, leaving 3" outside of the tape.

I used a paper cup to apply the Lightning Bolt composition in a line on the tape. Just squish one side of the cup a little bit to create a little mini-pitcher. Drizzle a line of the mixture down the length of the tape.

Powder used for making a titanium lightning bolt

This line should be about half as wide as the tape, and it should NOT be allowed to reach the edge of the tape. Then, place another piece of tape on top of the first one, sticky-side down. This will cover about an inch of the Visco fuse and the line of Lightning Bolt composition.

And that is literally all it takes to make a finished Lightning Bolt!

We left some space without any composition at the non-fuse end of the tape strip. Then we put a small nail into a fence post and hung the Lightning Bolt tape strip on the nail to hold it in place—fuse on the bottom end.

Titanium lightning bolt hung on a fence ready to light

Carefully light the end of the Visco fuse. Do NOT let your torch or lighter to ignite the Lightning Bolt tape by accident. If the two pieces of tape are not sealed perfectly, small fire leaks may exist along the edges of the tape.

When the Visco fuse ignites the black powder core, it acts exactly like quickmatch: the tape explodes as the fire flashes from end to end, blowing open the tape and sending a shower of sparks as much as ten feet in all directions.

Titanium lightning bolt sparks

Not bad for a little BP and a few grams of cheao Titanium powder, huh!?

After the lightning bolt is fired, the masking tape will often continue to burn. Be sure to have water on hand to put it out if necessary!

You may thin paper instead of masking tape to be preferable. Gummed Kraft tape can be laid on the table with the unwetted glue upwards, the Visco placed and the powder train laid down as before.

Then the top layer of tape can be wetted and pressed sticky-side down over the lower tape.

Unlike the masking tape, this has to be allowed to dry for an hour or two before use. But it doesn't tend to catch fire as much, and the fire is less obnoxious even if it does catch fire.

Get your Lightning Bolt project supplies at Skylighter:

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