1. Mix only small batches, especially when trying something out for the first time. Some mixtures, particularly flash powder, will detonate rather than deflagrate (just burn) if enough is present to be self- confining. It doesn't take much to do this. Small amounts of unconfined pyrotechnic mixtures may damage your hands, eyes or face. Larger amounts can threaten arms, legs and life. The hazards are greatly reduced by using smaller amounts. Also be aware that a mixture using finer powders will generally behave MUCH more vigorously than the same mixture made with coarser ingredients. Many of these mixtures are MUCH more powerful than comparable amounts of black powder. Black powder is among the tamest of the pyrotechnician's mixtures.
2. Many of these mixtures are corrosive, many are very toxic, some will react strongly with nearly any metal to form much more unstable compounds. Of the toxics, nearly all organic nitrates have *very* potent vasodilator (heart and circulatory system) effects. Doses for heart patients are typically in the small milligram range. Some can be absorbed through the skin. [so you might wanna use gloves]
3. Keep your work area clean and tidy. Dispose of any spilled chemicals immediately. Don't leave open containers of chemicals on your table, since accidental spillage or mixing may occur. Use only clean equipment. [You really dont want to have any stray chemical reactions]
4. If chemicals need to be ground, grind them separately, never together. Thoroughly wash and clean equipment before grinding another chemical. [This is because some chemicals are extra friction-sensitive]
5. Mixing should be done outdoors, away from flammable structures, and where ventilation is good. Chemicals should not be mixed in metal or glass containers to prevent a shrapnel hazard. Wooden containers are best, to avoid static. Always use a wooden implement for stirring. Powdered mixtures may be mixed by placing them on a sheet of paper and rolling them across the sheet by lifting the sides and corners one at a time.
6. Don't store powdered mixtures, in general. If a mixture is to be stored, keep it away from heat sources, in cardboard or plastic containers. Keep all chemicals away from children or pets. [Please use common sense]
7. Be sure all stoppers or caps, especially screw tops, are thoroughly clean. Traces of mixture caught between the cap and the container can be ignited by friction from opening or closing the container. [Or dont use those container types]
8. Always wear a face shield, or at least shatterproof safety glasses. Also wear a dust mask when handling powdered chemicals. Particulate matter in the lungs can cause severe respiratory problems later in life. Wear gloves and a lab apron when handling chemicals. This rule is very important.
9. Make sure there are no ignition sources near where you are working. This includes heaters, motors and stove pilot lights. Above all, DON'T SMOKE!
10. Have a source of water READILY available. A fire extinguisher is best, a bucket of water is the bare minimum. [Or a pressurised hose]
11. Never, under any circumstances, use metal or glass casings for fireworks. Metal and glass shrapnel can travel a long way, through body parts that you'd rather they didn't. [Try to avoid plastic for anything because it is less detectable on an XRay]
12. Always be thoroughly familiar with the chemicals you are using. Don't just rely on the information provided with the recipe. Look for extra information - the Merck Index is very good for this, especially regarding toxicity. It can also provide pointers to journal articles about the chemical. [See the chemical info page.]
13. Wash up carefully after handling chemicals. Don't forget to wash your ears and your nose.
14. If a device you build fails to work, leave it alone for half an hour, then bury it [be environmentally concious, though]. Commercial stuff can be soaked in water for 30 minutes after being left for 30, then after 24 hours cautious disassembly can be a valid learning experience. People have found "duds" from shoots that took place over a year ago, having been exposed to rain etc, which STILL functioned when fitted with fresh fuse or disposed of in a bonfire. Even after a 30 minute waiting period (minimum), initial pickup should be with a long- handled shovel.
15. Treat all chemicals and mixtures with respect. Don't drop them or handle them roughly. Treat everything as if it may be friction- or shock-sensitive. Always expect an accident and prepare accordingly, even if all these safety precautions are observed. Several people on the net have gotten stitches, lost fingers, or been severely burned. Some of them were very scrupulous in their safety precautions and had many years' safe experience with pyrotechnics. [But if you follow these rules, you are less likely to explode yourself]