Accident and Near Accident Reports

One of the keystones of risk management is to analyze past accidents, to help avoid future ones. However, many pyrotechnicians and fireworkers are loath to share the details of their accidents, because they don't want to be embarassed. The purpose of this board is to provide a place where people can anonymously leave reports, and others can freely read those reports.

To read past reports, simply scroll down. You can go here here to add your own report.

Remember, if you have just added a comment, you must hit RELOAD to see your comment.

A quick tip on fuses for those living in the UK who are finding that it is infinitely more difficult to get hold of even remotely dangerous chemicals here than it is almost anywhere else in the world.

Get some of the 50% Sodium Chlorate weedkiller, available most places, and make a saturated solution with warm/hot water. Cut some strips os kitchen towel, tissue, etc. Make em about 1" to 6" wide, depending on how thick you want your fuse. The lenght is up to you, but I would recommend no more than about 6-8" per strip as they will need to be stored in airtight containers, very hygroscopic you see. Soak each strip in the solution until it's wet through. Then fold it up and twist it, as you might twist wires together to make an electrical connection. The strip will get much thinner without losing too much length. Leave these wet, twisted strips (shoul be looking like string if you used plain white paper towel) somewhere pretty warm to dry. Dashboard of a car on a hot day works wonders.

When they're dry, they'll go real rigid, and will burn deceptively fast. Try a couple out first and always give yourself more fuse than you think you need.

Left out in the open they will absorb water alarmingly fast - find yourself a good container and keep 'em in there. They can't really bend, they're pretty fragile, and they're no good in even damp conditions...but they are easy and quick to make and, when dry, very reliable.
Age: 23, Experience: Educated novice, Procedure: Nope, just reckoned it would work...and it does.
- Thursday, June 24, 1999 at 10:29:21 (EDT)

when i was waliking around on my property i stumbled on to a cave when i went in i found an old crate of tnt and it looked still good so i opened it up and got oudt a stick and just happend to have a lighter with me so i thought i would try it to see what it would do. the tnt had about 3 inches of fuse i went outside of the cave and light the fuse but the fuse was quickmatch and burned hella fast it blew about 20 feet away from me in the air and blew me against the entrance off the cave which brook my legin 3 places. When i got home i took apart a stick of tnt and powder it and took about 1/6 of it and put it in a piece of pipe with 2 inces of visco i lite the visco and a spark shoot in through the hole my fuse was going through and it exploded and blew my arm off but luckly i was able to turn my head away from the blast know i only have 1 arm
Age: 15, Experience: none, Procedure: nope
- Monday, June 14, 1999 at 22:51:50 (EDT)
My brother had these sticks of 1/3 dynamite along with a bunch of other fireworks. A fuse on one of his 1/3 sticks died just as it entered the casing, so he took part of a wick off of another item. He cut about 2 inches off of a wick that was over 1 foot long, and he performed a little surgery, inserting the new wick into the stick. For some reason, he didn't remember that these 1 foot long fuses were VERY fast fuses. As he lit the fuse and saw the spark shoot from the end of the wick all the way inside the 1/3 stick of dynamite, he only had enough time to turn his head. He found himself in the ER that night with wads of paper embedded 1 inch into his legs like bullets. He also had thousands of little dots of blood up his arms and legs from all the tiny particles in the powder that were still burning at the time they entered his skin. I guess he didnt learn his lesson last year, as he wants to get bigger bombs this year!
Hayward, WIAge: 25, Experience: idiot brother, Procedure: sure...if there's an idiot's handbook
- Sunday, June 13, 1999 at 00:40:38 (EDT)

For God's sake DO NOT mix Sodium Chlorite (NaClO2) with anything. ESPECIALLY not sulphur, but it is also friction, and I would imagine impact, sensitive to sugar, carbon and probably most other stuff - I didn't check that far. Burned my hand quite bad with Sulphur (the slightest touch in my mortar set it off) and nearly did so again with the sugar. Should you come into posession of any, not that it's that common - mine was still a bit 'warm' when I used it - don't bother with it. If it's possible to convert to (per)chlorate, then do it...don't trust the Chlorite or you'll end up getting burned.
Age: 23, Experience: Educated Novice, - Thursday, June 10, 1999 at 09:21:28 (EDT)

i had a 3 inch by 3 foot piece of 1/8 inch walled steel pipe with caps on each end. I filled it with 20 pounds of flash powder and put about 3 feet of fuse on it. Then I dug a hole about 10 feet deep and taped a electrical igniter to the fuse with about 500 feet of wire and buried it then went about 500 feet away with a 12 volt car battery and lite the fuse when it blew up the was a big ass explosion and a shockwave that would knock you on your ass if you were 100 feet away i did this at night and it light up the whole fucking sky it was hella cool
Anonymous <don't know>
none, ca usa
Age: 13, Experience: none, Procedure: no
- Wednesday, June 09, 1999 at 20:18:02 (EDT)
I write this for those of you who think you might know every thing there is to know about fireworks. I live in New York, one of the most restricted states regarding fireworks in the country and everything else for that matter. I, like many others, love fireworks but unfortunately I am not able to use them legally here. And since I can't just get up and go to a state where I can be a free american, I decided to try to join firework companys that would allow me to work for them, just to have the opportunity to learn and use the real thing! After a couple of years I realized that I was just being used and would never be taken for my own shooters license. So I dropped out,and began to purchase and use profesional fireworks illegally. In New York before the Guliani administration, which is our present mayor, certain neighborhoods where notorious for the fireworks shows that where put on in the middle of the streets. Little by little these shows got bigger and bigger that they rivaled the largest city displays available. Groups of individuals would pool there resources together to out do each other,12" mortars,1000 shot super cakes and 3" candles were the norm, all within city blocks from each other!!! Yes, I thought this was the best. It didn't matter any more about safety,people were actualy accepting the dangers of a low breaking 6" or 8" mortar or a super cake exploding out right. But what awaited me I would never come to expect. I personally shot many shows with about everything that could happen to me happen. I've had 6" mine bags filled with salutes blow me off my feet,6" shells blow right over my head. But when I dropped a 8" shell into a pipe that was above ground and I didn't know it was a salute because the shells description was in chinese and I had done the biggest mistake in history!! I would like to say that I'm here to tell the tale because God was watching over me. The pipe 5 feet in height 1/2 inch carbon steel thick weighed in at about 150lbs. It blew up in my face as I lit the shell. The pipe flew into the air about three stories high and almost killed me again when it fell inches from where I WAS STANDING!!! And yes I was still standing! Windows shattered, house's shook and I was bleeding from my skin pores all over my body,from the intense pressures the explosion created. To this day I have black powder embeded in my skin!! Two years ago I was arrested for possesion of fireworks, 300 cases of the best shells you can get your hands on. It hurt me deeply, financially and emotionally. Somtimes I wonder if it was worth it. My advice, stick to class "C" works, you can have just as much fun and it's legal. Ever try to light 12 100 shot air defense at once!!!! Or make a 100 shot festival ball battery!! Just use your imagination and you'll have all the fun you want!!! Enjoy it while you can,this country is still the best, have a happy fourth!!!!
marco <>
ozone park, NY U.S.A.
Age: 39, Experience: semi pro, Procedure: hell no
- Sunday, May 30, 1999 at 19:02:57 (EDT)
M-80 sends one to the hospital

About 15 years ago I was celebrating July 4 with my dad, sister and her boyfriend. The boyfriend had brought some m-80's and was lighting them. I had been putting firecrackers underneath a commercial grade stainless steel boiler pan. The pan would hop a little when the firecracker went off.

The idea then came that we should put an m-80 under the pan. We did, and it went WAY up in the air, probably about 40 - 50ft. It came down still intact, but the bottom was bowed out.

The next idea was that a smaller pan or CAN would go much higher. So, the m-80 was placed under an "Armour Star" aluminum chili can, a very thin and flimsy container, carefully washed out of old chili.

When it went off, I looked up, but didn't see it flying high. My sisters boyfriend let out a grunt. His right arm was bleeding profusely from a large wound near the elbow. He got a bunch of stitches that night at the hospital.

It could have been his eye or face. Or someone elses. Bottom line is: putting exploding devices under or inside of any container, no matter how strong or light, is a BAD idea.
Age: 20, Experience: kiddie level, Procedure: nope, totally illegal
- Wednesday, May 26, 1999 at 16:35:28 (EDT)

I will blow your fuckin ass up you bunch of bastards and bitches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCK YOU
ipp, ;;;
Age: 77, Experience: lkj, Procedure: nnnnn
- Sunday, May 16, 1999 at 18:35:25 (EDT)
i was with my 17 yr. old cousin and he was braggin to me about all of his skillz (like a typical male) an he wanted to show me what was in the garage. he's some serious pyro, he had all of this technical stuff that i've never even heard of before! so he's tryin to make some m-80's (or something like that, i dont quite remember) and when he was weighin the powders, they somehow self ignited or something because he caught his clothes on fire!! i was like "oh sh*t!" hah hah hah! i think it really hurt his ego more then it hurt him!! but it was a funny time i'll never 4get!
brandi <>
Age: 15, Experience: none :), Procedure: um......... NO
- Tuesday, May 11, 1999 at 17:31:06 (EDT)
Ok. I was playing with KNO3 (Potassium Nitrate), charcoal, sulfer and sugar. I mixed all of these in a can and shook it around. Then I lit a match and tossed it in. The first two times the compound on the match burnt up before I got it in. But then the third time it worked. It flaired up and kept burning for about 10 seconds. By thins time the can was red hot and the lawn blakining by the second. When it finnished burning I looked up and saw the biggest cloud of smoke I have ever seen. I got the hose and blew water all over it and the only damage was a big black spot on the lawn. My parents never found out..Luckely :)
Age: 13 (At the time), Experience: Moderate, Procedure: It was a procedure but I modified it a little.
- Monday, May 10, 1999 at 16:39:44 (EDT)
This was nearly 40 yrs. ago. I haven't engaged in pyrotechnics of any kind in >35 yrs., except to watch professional displays from a distance. I clearly don't have enough sense to mess with this stuff, as is obvious from the following: I was using mixed aluminum powder, 3 parts, and powdered sulphur, 2 parts, with an equal volumetric amount of sodium peroxide, in a room cooled by an evaporative cooler. The mixture was piled on the center of a piece of notebook paper, and consisted of about 1/2 (volumetric) cup. I noted a couple of rapid puffs of smoke and sparks from small traces of powder peripheral to the pile. As the pile was on the top of my mom and dad's new dining room table, I grabbed the paper and ran for the door, making it about one good stride before the mixture spontaneously (sparked by stupidity - I knew about sodium peroxide) flashed with a solid thump and flash, thoroughly incinerating a throw rug, burning into the linoleum, and ruining a good shirt, not to mention the minor burns and singes to me. I deserved all the hell I caught, when my parents returned, no more than 5 minutes later, to a house full of smoke.
Age: 15, Experience: Got away with it for 2-3 yrs., Procedure: No - didn't know it existed
- Thursday, May 06, 1999 at 23:40:44 (EDT)
shell when I was filling the Stars the shell just fell apart like it was sogged. it was not dry was the first thing cause it was moist in the work area. The Next day it was dry and sunny so I continued to fill it . after I got it finished I took it to a large empty field late at night. I set the morter up and put the shell into it and launched it from 40 yards away. it took off in the air avout 10 feet then it fell to the ground boom stars everywhere no harm done. Bad luk with it . oh well it was fun.
Anonymous <>
Denver, Co USA
Age: 29, Experience: 1 to 10 scale I am about a 8, Procedure: Nope , it was a test.
- Sunday, April 25, 1999 at 15:27:06 (EDT) 
We were using a petrol firefighter pump mounted on the back of our ute (thats a pickup for you yanks) which was parked at an angle. The petrol can was left up hill of the pump and managed to vibrate down over several minutes until it was directly over the exhaust port of the pump motor. The jerry can which was shut was only noticed by chance by my wife when she passed by and it had expanded until almost round like a ball. She called me as she sensibly ran away. I got down off the roof where I was washing down the gutters and managed to turn the pump off and spray down the jerry can which was near breaking point by seconds I would have said. After a few minutes I went to the incredibly deformed can and opened it. The petrol was still boiling furiously inside it. I've twice seen jerry cans half full of fuel like this one and you wouldn't want to be within about thirty meters when one blows. The most chilling realisation for us was that the whole lot had been only four meters from three large LPG gas bottles for our hot water and cooking. The explosion that could have resulted from this incident would alsmost certainly have killed two of my three children and my wife , me or us both as well as utterly demolish our house. We really were very lucky.
Age: 36, Experience: High, Procedure: no
- Thursday, April 22, 1999 at 12:37:25 (EDT) 
Every pyro show know the sounds of a good lift. if it doesnt sound normal get the hell out of there fast we had a 6 inch blow in the gun causing a chain reaction with 4 others going off at the same time 1 flew by me less than 12 ft from my head .even though I was 25 yards away behind a tree pleases be careful quite a scary experience
Experience: pro, Procedure: yes
- Saturday, April 17, 1999 at 01:38:45 (EDT) 

well, sometime earlier than the accident, me and my friends would light off rocket engines by themselves. The first one we ever did spun around like a UFO, going straight up and spinning around, then they would ignite the KNO3/sugar "dope". A couple of months later I got my hands on some C6-7s, and me and my friends make M-60s out of them. After my friends left, i decided to light the last engine off by itself. It ignited then smashed into my window three times before flying away. It left a jagged hole in my window about 6 or seven inches across. my parents weren't really too upset, because they understand my wierd tendencies. Later I realized it didn't go straight up like a UFO because it didn't have the home made "dope" on it. I was extremely lucky because the flight path of the rocket was random, and it could have turned for my eyes as easily as it did for the window.

The moral:Better safe then sorry.
FLAge: 14, Experience: Somewhat, a couple of years, Procedure: no, of course not
- Saturday, April 10, 1999 at 01:05:08 (EDT) 

This relates to an incident some considerable number of years ago. Age 14, I was experimenting with pyrotechnics, especially rockets. Most expertiments were small (>1oz of mixture) but I really wanted to make a BIG rocket motor that would drive a model car or boat to high speed. Mixtures were varied, BP variants, sulphur/zinc and sodium chlorate/sugar. Yes I KNOW chlorates are dangerous, I didn't know then. In fact I didn't know enough then to know how stupid I was.

Anyway after using a number of small tubes to test mixtures I "built" a full size one from a 2" iron pipe, fitted with a cap end at one end, and a series of screwed reducers down to around 3/8" at the other. This was packed with sugar/sodium chlorate, with and sulphur/zinc, with a "fuse" of sorts. At the last minute I decided to run a first test without the cap end. I dig a pit in earth, encapped the blank end and burried the tube with the "nozzle" end just protruding. The earth was well stamped down and I lit the fuse and retired 10ft (!).

The mixture ignited, flared, smoked furiously, and then appeared to go out (a not-unknown occurance with small scale trials). After waiting about 10 seconds, jist to be safe (!) I approached the nozzle with the intention of trying to re-light it. As I approached an explosion occured, a large sheet of flame removed most of my eyebrows and eyelashes, and the earth errupted. I fell back, dazed, stunned but otherwise unhurt. A pillar of smoke about 200n feet high marked the spot and a load explosion was heard 1/2 a mile away by a farmer who raced to the scene to find out what had happened.

Lessons are obvious. READ the literature and OBEY the safety warnings. I had a VERY lucky escape. I am still fascinated by explosives and rocket fuels, but I learned a lesson I will never forget.

If you don't know what I did wrong you should not be experimenting - you don't know enough and you may not be as lucky as I was. Some things you should check before you do any more

Chlorates - danger of

Metal tubes - ditto

Scaling up - ditto

Safety distances

Time to leave misfires

Age: 14, Experience: Low, Procedure: No
- Wednesday, March 24, 1999 at 08:17:52 (EST) 

I was making fireworks for my display i was going to put on for a birthday party.I made about 25 3" shells that explode w/ a bang and send white sparks and golden comets through the air.I hade many others to.I had put in the fuses and preped them for later that night. My friend came over {i swear he is mentally reatarded some times) and asked what i was doing.I told him i was making fireworks.He picked up a 3" shell and asked what it was, i told him it was a firecracker.He believed me.Since it did not have the lift charge on the bottem on the 1" fuse it did look like a cylender firecracker.He asked me if he could come to the party and help with the the display.We went to the field behind the house we were planning to do the show and started setting up morters and rocket racks.I had 3 boxes full of different types of fireworks.He asked me if he could try out a firecracker,since i had a box w/ some packs of firecrackers in it i said ok, not thinking.I herd him light his zippo and say ugh when through it.He actually threw a 3" shell since i told him it was a firecracker. I turned around and saw a huge explosion and white and gold sparks everywere.He got hit in the stomach w/ a comet and stoped, dropped, and rolled.What a retard! After that he vowed not to light anything that he does not no what it is.The show was a success. I went home with thoughts of satesfaction, my friend went home with a sore stomach.
Age: 14, Experience: very skilled 6 years of training (i have my own pyro lab), Procedure: yes, my own
- Tuesday, March 02, 1999 at 17:31:10 (EST) 
A few days ago I noticed that my pyroshop had gotten dusty and dirty. I started cleaning the shop. I have a heavy vice that I used in rocket making. I put the vice on the floor, and then slid it along with my foot over the somewhat rough concrete floor. There were a few small crackles and then one very large *BANG* as various bits of dust, star fragments, and random junk exploded under the weight of the 30 pound vice.

I guess it really WAS time to clean up!

Age: 45, Experience: Pretty High, Procedure: not really
- Monday, March 01, 1999 at 13:18:17 (EST) 

It was a satuday morning and some friends and I were having our weekly pyro party.I had disasembled some Estes rocket engines and (stupidly!) powdered the B.P. with a ferrous hammer.Then I set it on the sidewalk (stupidly!) next to my friend's house and stuck a match directly in the pile.All my friends watched as a fireball of burning sulfur,charcoal and KNO3 char broiled my middle finger.Lukily,it was only a second degree burn.I didn't stop being a pyro from one little accident.We named our fast B.P. "atomic fireball".
Age: 10, Experience: Pretty good, Procedure: Not really
- Saturday, February 27, 1999 at 20:08:53 (EST) 
This is how it all started: it was me and my brother's friend. We were out on my back deck. My brother was and we were shooting off fire crackers so I said, "Let's do something else, this is getting cheesy." So I found a big red shovel so we started launching them into the air and into a creek. These wicks go super fast when you light them. Then I was lighting one. I lit it-the wick burnt out short so I had to light them on the shovel and launch them. I picked it up, had it in my hand, relit it, tried to throw it on the shovel-it blew up in my hand. I fell on the ground, looked at my finger and there was a huge hole in my thumb. Then it bled badly and then it looked like my thumb was blown off completely. My brother, father and mother were all gone and I didn't know what to do. I ran into my house. My mom and dad pulled in the driveway. My mom screamed with rage, said what the heck happened, I said I almost blew off my finger. Now my thumb is better but I still do the same thing.
Brett Baslee
Age: 11, - Sunday, February 21, 1999 at 00:27:11 (EST) 
Hey Everyone, Today I made a charcoal cooker ( yes, I know, I'm the only one who could have an accident with a charcola cooker :-). My design is simple, but I'll go into that later. Anyway, the heat source was a candle I made from a soup can, and candle wax, with about 10 mop strings as wics. Getting to the point, my retort fell off the heat source, so I needed to pt the candle out. Now, I don't know why in the hell I did this, I suppose it was a BAD case of acting before thinking..... Anyhow, I poured water on the candle. I don't know why I jumped back when I did, and frankly, I don't care I'm not hurt bacause I jumped when I did. When the water hit the flame, it made a HUGE fireball. This fireball as taller than I am( so at least 6 feet hight!) and about 3x as wide as I am( about 4 feet wide, the flame, I'm NOT 4 feet wide :-) It was over reallquickly and I learned a valueable lesson. I hope me posting this helps save someone else in the future. Anyway, the cooker did work
Andy Woodard
Age: 15, Experience: Still learning, Procedure: not really.
- Thursday, February 18, 1999 at 15:41:43 (EST) 
On the night of boxing day we had a small display using shop-goods fireworks. The whole display was placed on the back lawn (we have a large block)including a number of small multishots. During the "show", one of the multi-shots tipped over on the lawn after firing the first few balls. Fortunately, the next ball skimmed over the grass but that firing action, "kicked" the cake around resulting in the finals balls being aimed directly where our friends were watching around 10 metres away. One ball "bogged" into the ground whereas the other flew in between our friends. No one was hurt, most thought it pretty funny (?!) and I had to change undies. Moral of the story: ALWAYS read and ALWAYS follow the instructions (Place on hard flat surface). Use sandbags, bricks, frames to make sure the things stay pointing in the direction you want them to.
Age: 38, Experience: Low, Procedure: No, but have our own.
- Thursday, February 11, 1999 at 08:27:22 (EST) 
Building sugar rockets..KNO3,sucrose,S...small ones worked well. Tried a few of 12mm diam.80mm long. Out of 6 built, only 1 successful. The other 5 were VERY big salutes. Lit fuse(good homemade match) and stepped back...should have ran like hell!! Concluded that fuel not compressed enough. (Turned up brass tooling on my have done the job) Gives you a healthy respect for the hobby!
Age: 38, Experience: beginner..but learning damn fast!, Procedure: to the letter
- Friday, February 05, 1999 at 19:31:14 (EST) 
Knowing that I was putting my Chemistry background to some pyrotechnic use of late my family in another town asked me to put on a fireworks show for the fourth of July for some American friends. I'd been experimenting with some very old mixes from before the American Ciivil War using Pottassium Chlorate and sulphur and was making a pretty good meal powder rocket fuel. Hand rammed,hollow pierced core type rockets from 8 gram fuel up to some of 65 grams and most moved up pretty fast or blew up throwing stars like mines. I'd been making rocket driver cases for days and had attached some to catherine wheel bases. I was keeping the whole lot in the kitchen where we had a slow combustion stove burning to keep the house warm since it was winter. This helped keep everything dry. I was loading stars into the swell heads of rockets and pasting these at the last minute before leaving for the party. There were about two hundred different rockets mostly without sticks in buckets, catherine wheels on the steps above the fireplace and five large trays with two different sizes of stars layed out for drying covering the kitchen bench. I was finishing the larger rockets and laying them to dry on top of the not so hot slow combustion fireplace in a minute or so the heat dried the glue I was using and the rockets were finished to be added to the growing pile to one side of the fireplace. I had just layed a big rocket with blue stars based on Copper Powder I electrolised myself through an acid bath. Despite rinsing well I suspect in retrospect that it had some acid impurities. (remember the Chlorate and sulphur) As I returned to the workshop to get another rocket glued I suddenly heard the first pop and then in the time it took me to run back the ten steps to the kitchen door my wife threw my eldest son out the door and by now all hell had begun to erupt in our kitchen. Faster than you would believe there were suddenly dozens of loose medium sized rocket cases flicking and flying in every direction. They and the other larger rockets were ignited by that first blue one which probably had an ignition temperature around 90 degrees C. These in turn lit the trays of stars wnd the boxes of smaller rockets which also began to fly about between the dining room and kitchen. In the smoke and noise my wife and I rallied and while she went upstairs to get the sleeping baby I found my terrified daughter and got her the back door. Back into the incredible inferno that was our kitchen I went and using a small fire extinguisher I kept any fires from spreading but could not stop this extraordinary indoor display from running it's course. The catherine wheels were like UFO's and were likely to decapitate you as they flew insanely about in the smoke and fire. When I finally had things put out I went out to my little family who had gathered together in shock. My wife was not very happy about all this and our kiitchen was demolished. Luckily for me though she was so shocked that she could't truly express much beyond her amazement. The kids also were unhurt thank God and although my daughter is still wary of any fireworks they have suffered no lasting effects. We called and cancelled the show at my parents and got on with the job of cleaning up. A week later with new floor, some wall panels, a new bench top and a lot of scrubbing, the kitchen was back to it's old self. I don't have fireworks inside the house anymore and I don't use Chlorate sulphur mixes either. I'm a proffessional pyro with my own company today. Due to this and several other minor accidents I'e developed many safety rules and precautions, but you can never be too careful. Once also I had a lilac mix also using Chlorate/ sulphur and 50% Chalk dust. This actually ignited spontaneously after mixing. Chlorate/Sulphur is even more dangerous than can be described by all the warnings out there. To fool with any pyrotechnics without a lot of knowledge and a great deal of care is playing russian roulette with yours and other's lives. Also watch out for titanium, extremely hard and therefore some accidents ramming in fountains and mixing in mills or blenders. Groung cakes do not only fall over thay can blow apart and scatter firing cartridges in every direction. Sand bagging does not stop this since they cannot be completely buried (fuse on bottom), try tying to stakes with duct tape or wire. Holds them together and they can't tip.
Age: 34, Experience: Minimal but mor than most of these contributors., Procedure: Bending the rules a bit actually
- Sunday, January 24, 1999 at 09:39:42 (EST) 
I won't say how it happened, its too embarrasing even when anon., but basicaly I had a pot with about 5 worth of black powder go off in my face. The ball of flame it produced singed off my eyebrows, some of my hair and my eyelashes. Luckily for me, I wear spectacles. They saved my eyesight for, had I not been wearing them, I would have burnt my eyes too. If I had been wearing saftey goggles, I would have saved myself some uncomfortable weeks with sore eyebrows/eyelashes. The moral? Wear goggles and don't stick your head in a pot full of black powder. Anonymous U.K. The same thing happened to me be sure you wear goggles i have second and third degrea burns on my face because of it
Age: 13, Experience: Very high, Procedure: no
- Friday, January 22, 1999 at 18:54:47 (EST)

An "incident" occurred while disposing of excess/misfired product. 1) A metal container was being used to keep the product from burning the grass up at our site 2) There was a misunderstanding about disposal of salutes as compared to other products. The devices were opened, the powder poured in (including the flash powder for the salutes) and the mixture was lit. BANG!! There was nothing left of the metal container (and it was not a little or flimsy container) A large piece of it was found over 1000' feet away. No one was injured but the buildings took a lot of damage. We won't do THAT again!! Moral: burn off materials out in the open!!!
- Wednesday, January 13, 1999 at 13:14:02 (EST) 
I had a couple of years experience with millitary and home manufactured high explosives when I discovered the awesome world of pyrotechnics. I was up early one morning reading on the internet about how mixing sulferic acid with potassium chlorate will cause a spontaneous combus- tion. I had just acquired some KClO3 and I already had some H2SO4 so I ran outside with a stainless steel salad bowl, put a small(1/3 tsp.) amount of potassium chlorate into the bowl and then dropped the acid directly onto it. Now, I'm a fairly well educated guy so I guess it was out of shear stupidity that I was not wearing ANY protective gear. The mixture not only caught on fire, it exploded in my face, sending small globs of acid and flaming chlorate all over my exposed skin, including in my left eye! I was as furious as I was scared. I ran into the house and flushed my eyes out. Luckily I was not injured. However I was a little embarrassed and humbled. The moral: just because you may have experience with C-4 and other dangerous high explosives doesn't mean you can't get hurt. Pyrotechnics demands and deserves enough respect that you should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS wear eye protection at the very least.
Phase III
Age: 24, Experience: low/moderate, Procedure: yes
- Monday, January 11, 1999 at 15:51:52 (EST) 
about 2 years ago I made some acetoneperoxide explosive I was very safe about the procedure (keep in mind this was made in a bathroom) i made about 4-5 pounds of this substance (the amount to fill a nice sized salad or punch bowl) well i was into blowing things up and making shaped charges and i guess my dad had heard some of the explosions that i was seting of in the area so he asked me if i had any thing in the house and i told him i did . so he told me to get rid of it. so i had it stored in my bed room when i pulled it out he looked at me like i was the unabomber he backed up out of the room (very good idea because its impact senitive) now their is no way i can detonate this amout or I would have to answer to state cops and the FBI so i set it down in the backyard took the hose and washed it into a rock bed (very hard to set off in a wet state) so my dad gave me a big talk about hurting my self and to find a new hobbie and he was right because the amount i had in my room it would have blowen half the house apart (no joke very powerful real explosive its not a propellent like blackpowder) so the next day i was looking at the formula and remembered water is just going to evaporate leaving the powder in the mud and rocks this is not good becuase now i've made a landmine in my backyard (f**k)and I have a dog who likes to dig in the rockbed , now have to detonate it . i tested it to see if i was right i got back and picked up a small rock a threw it were i washed it out at when the rock hit it sounded like an M80 and I knew there was more that so I weted it down again went and grabed some old 1/4 sticks extended the fuses and dug some holes in the ground and put the 1/4 sticks in the holes. then i had to wait for the area to dry i lit the fuses and ran like hell!!!!!!!when it when off it was the loudest thing i've ever heard rocks flew into my pool at my house it broke windows out of my porch after it was over i had to fill the hole was 2-3 feet deep but the cops never came and i did find a new hobbie
- Monday, January 11, 1999 at 03:01:08 (EST) 
Well me and my friends were shooting crab apples out of a pipe with black powder. We did this about 5 times then we tryed to do 2 apples at once well there must have been to much pressure on the pipe cause it exploded with tremendous force the shock wave ( or the noise) knocked me down. we then ran into the woods and acted like it never happenned!!
Anonymous <Cant Say>
Age: 14, Experience: about 2 years of pyro, - Saturday, January 09, 1999 at 10:07:30 (EST) 
I had been making some sort of fireworks for the fourth of July celebration since I was about eight years of age at the time of this near miss I was about 12 or 13. It was early July, fireworks season, and I had nothing prepared. Something had distracted me from the important work of explosive production ( probabaly puberty ). I decided to make a "cannon" at the last moment. I had a proceedure worked out by trial and error. It had worked well year after year. I would take a short lenght of copper tubing, between 8 and 18 inches long, hammer a couple inches of one end flat and fold it over several times. This would produce a crimped end like a toothpaste tube. Then I would drill a small hole an inch or so away from the crimped end. The barrel thus produced was fitted into a base of scrap lumber. I would usualy make seat in the board with a wood chisel and secure the barrel with pipe hangers ( "c" shaped strips of metal nailed to the board at their ends). For explosive I used the heads of cheap paper matches, they will not strike on themselves, they are cheap and can be bought by a child with no embarssing explanations. The cutting off of the paper stems is tedious but a not too much so. I found that the local joke shop sold "fake firecrackers" a red cardboard tube with a small bunch of replacable fuses. The "firecracker" was fake but the fuse was quite real! On this memorable occasion I prepared the barrel as decribed. I loaded it, put in crumpled newspaper as wading and inserted a fuse. I took out into my back yard and set it off. The explosion was most satifactory. My technique was crude but effective. Then I looked for my cannon, no cannon to be found! With dawning horror I realized I had forgotten the base. I had made a crude rocket instead of a cannon. My next door neighbor was having a garden party at the time directly in the path of the projectile. However the party prodeeded without any more than the usual annoyence at "kids playing with firecrackers". None of the guests seemed to have a fourteen inch length of 3/4 inch copper tubing inbedded in them so I somehow missed killing anyone. The next day I found an eight inch gash in the bark of an oak tree about six feet from my neighbor's hedge. The gash was at waist height. I never found the cannon, I presume the tree deflected it away from the party. My gaurdian angel was working overtime that evening. I lost my taste for explosives some what after that. in was years before I did anything else along those lines and I never fired any explosive in a metal container again. Paper is safer. I'm 52 now and still have my eyes and fingers.
Springfield, MA USA
Age: about 13 then 52 now, Experience: enthusiastic novice, Procedure: no
- Wednesday, January 06, 1999 at 21:21:09 (EST) 
After successfully making my first stars ("spider web" from PGI bulletin #19, but using KP instead of KNO3, cut to about 1/4 inch cubes) and shells (homebrew paper cases, jap time fuse, FFFg rifle BP for burst and lift, 1.9 inch diameter, fired from old Temple of Heaven paper tubes), I was thoroughly tired of the hour per piece they took to make, and sought some less labor-intensive device for an alternate effect.

I found that a very quick and easy mine was a wonderful effect. I made them from 1/2 inch HDPE tubes (from sprinkler pipe nipples) and a 1/8 inch fuse hole. A tiny bit of FFFg Goex (about 0.1 cc scoop) in the bottom, insert Visco fuse, fill half the tube with stars, plug the top with a wad of tissue paper. The BP would puff the stars about 25 feet into the air, and the stars would peak and just start to fall before burning out. Wonderful.

After exhausting the batch of stars, though, I had about two tablespoons of meal and dust left over from the small batch of stars I had made. Not realizing that this was in fact a rather hot type of powder when in small particles and confined (not unlike H3), I thought to use up this remnant by making one last mine out of it. I charged it into the tube on top of 0.1 cc of Goex, and plugged the top firmly with a wad of paper. I ignited the fuse and retired about 20 feet.

KABOOM! My pretty, quiet mine had turned out to be a 40-gram salute! The report was loud enough to leave my ears ringing, and I felt as if a shotgun had gone off next to my head. I could hear reverberations echoing about the vicinity. Then I heard the tube bouncing off the roof of the house. The base plate hadn't moved.

In effect, I had unwittingly made a pipe bomb. I was quite glad to have followed prudent procedure in using HDPE instead of brittle PVC or (heavens!) steel pipe, and in wearing eye protection. The next day in the daylight I found the pipe nipple. It was splayed out like some exploding cigar in a cartoon.

Lessons: Consider carefully what your slow, pretty effect would do if it deflagrated all at once, and design your containment and distances appropriately. Star comps don't burn slowly like stars when in meal or dust form! A paper wad with a hot comp is as good a confinement as if you had used a threaded pipe cap. Don't think you can get away with PVC or steel instead of HDPE, just because "it's only 1/2 inch".

Alamo in Florida, USA
Age: 43, Experience: medium amateur, PGI member, Procedure: No
- Wednesday, January 06, 1999 at 16:11:03 (EST) 

My friend Will and I are almost proffesional firework producers and shooters and are licsened pyrotechnicians. We were working in our heated shed. This shed is air conditioned, heated, static free, and is very large. We have a chemical supply in the shed of over 150 chemicals, these are kept in large sealed explosion proof containers. I had just finished my latest creation, "The Chrison." This is essentially a small roman candle that shoots to stars at a time. The stars launch to 25 meters were they cross each others path and then die out (IT LOOKS VERY VERY COOL!!!). Will had just finished his creation, "The Flittering Dragon." This firework launches a small flittering comet to 125 meters were it explodes in a huge dazziling magnesium flittering explosion. The problem was that this was it's first test we had a large piece of visco fuse so that we could get away quick. We got away quick and we far away. The comet launched as plan but only got up to about 10 meters were the magnesium charge blew up sending flittering magnesium balls over a massive area. No one was hurt, luckily. We later modified the firework and it now works perfectly.
Chris & Will
Age: 14 & 15, Experience: Highly Experienced, Procedure: This Time No
- Sunday, January 03, 1999 at 20:51:00 (EST) 

Alcohol & Rocketry

The new years eve 1998-1999, a friend of me and myself was walking through my neighbourhood after we had fired our rockets and roman candles. We are always very careful when using fireworks, and had been preparing the firingplace for days. Everything was most successfull, exept the damn fog that stopped us from seeing the display. As we tend to go for a few large rockets instead of a lot of cheap, small ones, we was soon finished with our part, and my friend and I went to watch some of our neighbours fireworks.

We arrived at a footballfield where we knew some of our neighbours always arranged a new-years-eve-party. We stood about 20-30 meters away from some 40 or 50 years old man, who had collected a small pile of snow he used as a base for his rockets. He was obviously more than a little drunk, an it seemed the fog was irritating him and his comrades, because he aimed his rockets in a 30-40 degrees angle to the ground. There were lots of children running about, and we prepared to leave the aerea as we saw a green fireball approaching us with an amasing speed. Obviously, one of the rockets had lost its way, but I was not planning to stay there to see whether it re-found it or not. I leapt to one sid, just before the rocket hit me in the nads, but my friend attemptet to outrun it. Of course, he was not successfull. The rocket passed an inch or so beneat the place where his legs meets, and fortuneatly still do, and exploded som 3/4 of a second later. The last thing we saw befor we leaved the aerea head over heels, was a rocket unable to take off from the pile in the snow explode in the drunken idiots face.

Conclusion: Drink alkohol only after all fireworks is securely used.

Erik Nyggard <>
Soon, Norway
Age: 18, Experience: Beginner, Procedure: Nope
- Saturday, January 02, 1999 at 19:56:39 (EST) 

One Night my friends and i decided to go camping down at the local Basin, we decided to take my tinne(boat) and borrow a friends motor, so i took the petrol tank and took of to collect my friends. It turned out that we couldn't borrow the moter, so we decided to row,it took over 3 hours to get there mainly because of the low tide,we got as far as we could and left the boat where it felt safe.,we took all ower camping shit and the petrol tank and footed the rest of the way, after treaking through knee high water we finally got where we were going.(now the fun begins)I decided to make a fire I found a shit load of wood and dry stuff ,using half a small baked beanz tin full of petrol i through it on the would and light it it burst into a great big ball of fire going about 30 feet into the air spreding redhot embers every where unfortuneetly I forgot to put the lid of the petrol tinand one of those red hot embers landed in the petrol ti causin on of the biggest flamming ball any of us ever seen sawring more than 100 feet in the air. the explosion burnt my clothes to a crisp, singed all of my hair and totally destroying 2 tents
Age: 14, Experience: Good blower uperr, Procedure: NEVER
- Monday, December 28, 1998 at 01:03:33 (EST) 

I won't say how it happened, its too embarrasing even when anon., but basicaly I had a pot with about 5 worth of black powder go off in my face. The ball of flame it produced singed off my eyebrows, some of my hair and my eyelashes. Luckily for me, I wear spectacles. They saved my eyesight for, had I not been wearing them, I would have burnt my eyes too.

If I had been wearing saftey goggles, I would have saved myself some uncomfortable weeks with sore eyebrows/eyelashes.

The moral? Wear goggles and don't stick your head in a pot full of black powder.
Age: 16, Experience: At the time, almost none., Procedure: nope
- Monday, December 14, 1998 at 10:52:34 (EST) 

Last night I was helping out at a fireworks diplay and a fellow pyro told me about how the night before he was handlighting croissette candles small shells and the like. Mid way into the show there was a "lowie" 3" shell which went off at about 20ft (instead of about 300ft) shooting stars everywhere. One star hit him in the pocket lighting about a dozen portfires. These burnt through his overalls setting his parachute pants allight. These particular portfires cant be put out with water, sand, CO2. He excaped with absoloutly no injury but he could have had severe burns. KEEP your portfires out of your pocket.
Experience: Novice - aren't we all in this art?, Procedure: no
- Monday, December 14, 1998 at 02:50:03 (EST) 
I was wanting to light a cigarette, but had left my trusty Zippo lighter in my other pants pocket at home. All I could find to help me out was a pack of cheap paper matches. (ya know, the kind which advertizes stamp collections ect...) After gleaning what information I could off of the cover, I foolishly ignored the instructions "Close cover before striking" and sure enough, when I struck the match, a spark flew and ignited the rest of the whole pack!!! Luckily, being quicker of reflexes than I am of brains, I managed to drop the lit pack of matches to the ground before the matches burnt all the way down to my fingers which would probably have burnt me. I was however not quick enough to light my smoke with the match that was still burning, and was left without any way at all of igniting the Marlboro.

Lesson learned: Always use quality materials, and always heed the instuctions.
Aynal Sphyctar
Age: 32, Experience: Novice, Procedure: No
- Sunday, December 13, 1998 at 00:07:10 (EST) 

Our first near accident occurred with the our 40# thrust nitrous oxide propane engineering engine. This engine was designed expressly for engineering tests with the injector and chamber clamped between heavy steel plates by four bolts. We were trying different combustion chamber materials, and during pre fire testing noticed that a recent repair to a ball valve caused the pneumatic cylinders, which were feed in parallel to operate the fuel and oxidizer ball valves, to operate in an oxidizer first fuel second sequence. We had never thought much about it but before the ball valve repair the sequence had been fuel first oxidizer second. Tightening the ball valve seal had changed the resistance of the valve to movement and the cylinders moved the least resistance first. As a result of the change, the combustion chamber was filled with nitrous oxide vapor when the fuel arrived. Ignition caused the whole volume of the combustion chamber, filled with nitrous oxide, to react explosively. The combustion chamber, which was rated at 6000 psi shattered. Nitrous oxide is nearly a monopropellant with considerable contained energy. It should be introduced into a chamber which is fuel rich, with an ignition source near the injector face. Of course, yours truly and all souls were in a concrete bunker at the time of the test. Our only injury so far has been back strain from moving heavy shielding slabs,... does that qualify as a pyrotechnics accident?
Age: 47, Experience: moderate, Procedure: in house, yes we write out procedures first.
- Saturday, December 12, 1998 at 12:16:50 (EST) 
i was palying around with some black powder in my workshop and set some off (about 2oz) and got 1st degreee burns on my index finger. but it was preetty cool setting it off.
Anonymous <>
ukiah, ca usa
Age: 13, Experience: moderate, Procedure: no
- Monday, December 07, 1998 at 22:17:26 (EST) 
I was doing a presentaion on the element Magnesiun for my Chemistry class in high school just one day ago, and I had managed to obtain a small, 8 inch strip of pure magnesium from my science teacher to aid my presentation. When I lit it on fire, it burned properly without incident, until the ash trail started to fall from the strip. Fortunately, I didn't start a fire, and I knew that you can't extinquish Magnesium with water, but I figured that the standard carbon dioxide fire extinguishers would be fine in case if accident. Disturbingly, I later learned that Magnesiun cannot be extinquished in carbon dioxide, either. The lesson I learned: Don't screw with something if you don't know how to put it out. Be careful if you use solid magesium at any time.

Age: 16, Experience: modest, Procedure: no
- Friday, December 04, 1998 at 18:19:15 (EST) 
2 accidents here:

1.) i was running out of oxidiser really fast, so I decided to try some of the chemicals around the house. the one I picked out, was lithium hypochlorite (LiClO, because the box had a "warning, strong oxidiser" label on it. deciding sugar was probably the easiest fuel for this new comp. I put some sugar, and the LiClO in a coffee grinder, and reduced it to a fine powder. i knew that LiClo reacted to make a small flame with glycerine, so i took this stuff outside, made a small pile, and put a drop of glycerine on it. it made a nice reaction, with a large amount of foam, and a big cloud of chlorine gas. "cool" i thought, and mixed up annother batch for use on the road so that i could safely have a bigger pile. watching the simpsons at the time, i put the stuff on the bench (next to the phone) in a tissue. when it was the ads, i decided to take it up to the road, but when i turned around, i was met by a HUGE white cloud, and a half molten phone. i didn't know this stuff reacted spontaneously. it sucked. moral: NEVER mix chemicals when you don't know exactly what will happen

2.) i had bought some Ammonium nitrate (AN) for use in a large rocket as the oxidiser. i decided to add this stuff to a fountain mix (which also contained a few stars). i made the fountain (a fairly large one) and lit it. to my surprise, a HUGE (about 15 foot) flame erupted from the nozzle for about 5 seconds, then shrunk to about 3 inches. i thought the mix had finished, but i didn't see the pool of molten slag which was oozing out the top. since it would still be really hot, i decided to go back into the house, and pick it up later. i was about 70 meters away from it, when i heard the loudest explosion i have ever heard, and felt a sharp sting in my left quad (ya know, on your leg) I turned around and saw a LARGE crater in my beloved testing ground. the molten slag had made enough pressure in the tube to detonate the AN, and the sting in my quad was a small hole made by a star going at a huge velocity out from the fountain. i guess this occurence probably was caused by the hydroscopic nature of AN i've since learnt never to do anything which you haven't read about without first asking for adive from rec.pyrotechnics
Age: 14, Experience: limited, Procedure: nope, i made it up
- Thursday, December 03, 1998 at 22:00:56 (EST) 

Incident date: November 29, 1998; 6:05pm local time Conditions: Early evening darkness, slightly foggy, temp. 19C, [about 65 degrees F.] R.H. 78% Chemicals involved: 2u spheroidal atomized magnesium [Skylighter #167] Cabosil fumed silica flow agent [Skylighter #22, Cab-O-Sil M-5] 300g of magnesium was placed with 70g of Cabosil in a plastic container of approximately one gallon capacity. A plastic lid was taped onto the container to prevent leakage. The container was placed on a tumbler for mixing. No grinder pellets were used. About two seconds after the tumbler started, the lid was expelled with a wump sound, and a beach ball sized fireball emitted from the mouth of the container. The pyrotechnician was standing about three feet from the tumbler when the fire occurred. The pyrotechnician stood to one side, out of line of the mouth of the container. Apparently, the fire did not touch the pyrotechnician, as evidenced by a complete lack of singe to hair or clothing. However, the fire ball was intensely white hot, and the pyrotechnician suffered severe burns from direct radiation. Second and third degree burns occurred over the facing side of the forearm closest to the tumbler. First and second degree burns occurred over the entire side of the face facing the tumbler. However, no hair was either burned or curled by the heat. All areas shielded by hair or clothing were unburned. This makes it seem as if the majority of the burning was due to ultraviolet radiation, rather than infra-red [or direct contact from flames]. As a matter of practice, and not for any specific safety reason, the pyrotechnician wears ultraviolet (UV-A and UV-B) protective [plastic, shatterproof] glasses. Areas behind the lenses were unburned, although there was some eye irritation and blurred vision after the event, and for the next 24 hours afterwards. The container did not burst, nor could the event be called an explosion; rather, a flash fire. After the fireball, the container still had the bulk of the magnesium in it, which had caught fire. It burned until buried in sand. The mixing shack was heavily damaged but not totally destroyed. The tumbler was heavily damaged. Total equipment damages were about $400, plus labor to repair. Within 30 seconds, about 5 square inches of forearm skin came off, even before the pyrotechnician was able to get the skin area under cold water. The following day, there was skin loss, dehydration, and blistering accompanied the other burn symptoms. ----------- The conclusion is that in the right concentration of airborne particles, two-micron magnesium is pyrophoric. It is also possible that static was the source of ignition because of the high ambient humidity, the fact that the container was filled in that environment, and the fact that Cabosil is static-dissipative. However, it cannot be conclusively determined that the magnesium did not react with, and thus absorb any moisture in the air inside the container, thus reducing the R.H. inside the container to essentially zero. It is thought that the Cabosil may have contributed to the ignition because of its highly insulative qualities; it may have helped contain and concentrate the heat of reaction when the Mg reacted with the oxygen in the container. -------------- Thus: It is important that any mixing process involving potentially pyrophoric fuels be designed to minimize the evolution of dust. Only slow-paced diapering seems to adequately meet this criterion. Also, it is important that pyrophoric fuels be dispensed from their containers in a manner that does not create dust. Careful spooning from one container to another seems to best suit this need. It is also recommended that in the event mechanical mixing is attempted with these or any other potentially pyrophoric materials, that it be done remotely in such a way that the operator cannot be harmed. Obviously, 2u Magnesium powder is much more dangerous than less finely-divided forms of Magnesium. ------- >From a concerned and once [but not twice!] burned pyrotechnician.
Age: 39, Experience: High, Procedure: No
- Wednesday, December 02, 1998 at 19:48:18 (EST) 
A few years ago, one July 4th, a local man was celebrating by filling 2-liter plastic bottles with acetylene gas, then igniting them. One such device exploded near his head, killing him.
Cleveland, OH USA
- Wednesday, December 02, 1998 at 12:18:21 (EST) 
What I am about to tell you is a true story of an accident that happened to me when lighting fireworks. Please keep in mind that I AM a safe user of fireworks and not some pyro freak wanting to blow things up. This story is not meant to discontinue fireworks use. Just that you need to be safe when lighting fireworks and take precautions. This may not seem real gory material and not enough to keep you interested, but if you ARE, then continue reading. It was about 7:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, and I had a brand new case of mortar shells reading for creating a beautiful sky show. My friend was with me, but he was the type of person who wanted to see the reaction of fireworks, not caring about anything else. That was our mistake. I had put the box down for a second so I could get the shells ready, and there was an extra shell I had not attended to yet, so using his own judgement, my friend grabbed it and picked up my lighter. It was very dark, so it was hard to see where everything was. I went to grab for the last shell and I noticed it was not there, so I looked back at my friend and I saw this flicker coming from in front of him. Now, everyone knows you are supposed to put shells in a mortar launcher, but my friend did not know (or even didn't care) about this, so he placed it on the ground and lit the fuse. As I figured out what he was doing, I ran up to the spot where he lit the shell and the fuse was amazingly quick, and as I tried to stamp the fuse out (it was a rather very long fuse however), I couldn't keep track of it, so I knew I would not have much time, so I grabbed my friend by the arm and directed him to run, I started to run after he started and I turned so my back was to the shell and I heard this loud BOOM. I felt this wave of heat over my entire leg and then the crackling mixture of the shell spread out over the street and yard as I dove for the ground which the place I landed was not more than 10 feet from the shell. I looked back and tried to adjust my eyes back to the darkness after the bright sparkingly mixture went off and my friend started cracking up. I tried to think of what just happened and since it happened so quick, I did not happen to feel the result of the explosion on my leg. I looked down at saw my sock had been chargroiled to my skin and it would not peel off (like I wanted to anyway), and my leg had severe burns on it. A few 3rd degree in the ankel area which was closest to the shell. I was rushed to the hospital after my friend ran to the house and called the emergency. I spent about a week and a half in the hospital undergoing surgery and such. Nevertheless that it was a good or bad experience, I will not forget it, and I won't forget how people can get into these accidents because of foolishness. So have fun, but be careful out there.
Eric Wendt <>
Snellville, GA US
Age: 20, Experience: Exhaustive experience in pyrotechnics and fireworks, - Wednesday, November 25, 1998 at 12:27:49 (EST) 
one day me and my friend were making firecrackers, by roling postit notes around pencils to make tubes. then we caped one end with toilet paper and uased the pencil as raming rod to make sure it was tight. we then aded black powder and smokeles powder about 8:1 .then we caped the other end with toilet paper and packed it in with the pencil. after we each made about 20 or so we decided to test them out but we had no fuses so i took masking tape and put a krease init and put a thin trail of smokless init folded it over and cut off the excess tape. with the pencil we made a hole in the side and put the fuse in so it looked like a realy thin m60 .we then went out side and started liteing them one at a time. one of my friends didnt work so he unroled the tube and decided to lite the powder with a match. when he did this he was leaning over it which itoled him not to but he did and got 1st degree burns all over the left side of his face and singed his hair. it healed lukily for him. lesson learned: never lean over things while liting them.
Age: 14, Procedure: no
- Tuesday, November 24, 1998 at 16:17:38 (EST) 
Me and one of my friends had some experience making small rockets out of empty CO2 cannisters (pellet gun sized), propelled be smokeless gunpowder. (this was one of our first experiments) We got the powder by emptying .22 shells. These worked fairly well, except emptying the shells was a pain in the a**. We went to a gus shop and asked for a can of smokeless powder. We later realized the guy thought Pyrodex was smokless powder. We filled a cannister with the stuff, put it in the launch pipe (1/2 inch wall), lit the fuse and stood back. The pyrodex exploded with enough force to tear the pipe apart. Fortunatly, neither of us was injured. This has taught be to do my own chemical research.
Age: 17, Experience: moderate, Procedure: no
- Monday, November 23, 1998 at 21:45:19 (EST) 
in a mortar tube. The tube had collected water from condensation, and so the lift charge had failed to function. I drowned the shell, and took it home for proper disposal.

The next night I built a fire from some old construction scrap, and then threw the salue into the fire. I stood back about 20', and waited. After about 3 minutes the lift charge finally ignited, and so I turned away from the fire. There was the expected explosion, followed by the passage of a dark lump. Then, a lawn chair fell over.

 The dark lump was a 1' long chunk of partially burned 2x4. The HPDE lawnchair was laying on it's side, with one leg completely missing. The leg was laying about 2' away, and a small fragment of the leg was found nearby. The leg showed a large dark mark where the burning length of 2x4 hit it.

Apparently the explosion broke one of the 2x4's, and sent the end of it flying through the air with such force that it was capable of breaking the leg off of a HDPE lawnchair that waas 12' away! Those things are tough! The combination of strong force and rapid application must have done it.

 Anyway, I will stand farther back when destroying duds in the future!
Age: 45, Experience: High, Procedure: yes, kinda...
- Wednesday, November 04, 1998 at 16:57:10 (EST) 

friends, We decided to use many small cakes for the show. We have done this many times however, this time there was a very close call. We were setting the cakes on the ground and noticed a particularly tall and narrow (comet emitting) cake kept falling over on it's side due to the fact it was top heavy. Rather than find a solid flat surface to set it on like a small piece of plywood or better yet, secure it with small plastic bags filled with sand, we continued standing them back up until they finally stayed upright. We knew there was no danger to the audience being hit from the comets because of the distance the audience would be watching from (IM a stickler here) but duh? what about the safety to ourselves? Well you can guess the rest from here. As soon as the first comet fired from the device it toppled over. Almost immediately the second comet fired horizontally almost hitting my wife squarely in the face, missing only what seemed to be inches. I swear I saw her hair blow back as the comet nearly struck her in the face. All other comets fired in erratic directions, fortunately for us we were both able to run clear to a safe distance. &ltp>Thank god this was only a close call and a lesson learned. When the devises read, "Place on hard flat surface" they usually DON'T mean back yard grass.
NJAge: 39, Experience: 20+ years, Procedure: hardly
- Sunday, November 01, 1998 at 21:25:11 (EST) 
me and a friend were making chlorine bombs. The "chlorine" is a compound used to clean swimming pool. We dissolved some sugar in warm water, put in a plastic bottle, added the granules or chlorine stuff and screwed the lid on. This usually goes bang after a minute or so. One didn't. After 5 mins we walked over, and my friend picked it up. Bang. He was blinded for a few minutes, clothes ruined, and looked pretty sh** - but was ok.

A week or so later a kid at my school was rushed to hospital after almost gassing himself with a larger version, in his garage.

Then one of my friends tried making one with a glass bottle.
Age: 14, Experience: low, Procedure: no
- Monday, October 05, 1998 at 07:02:59 (EDT) 

At a recent commercial barge display one of our techs (licensed with 7 years experience) was checking continuity on multipul ignitor circuts. Suddenly a shell lifted. He was using one of the small "wafer" type of tester made from a wafer battery, resister and small buzzer. This was insulated with heat shrink tube. Un-noticed, the insulation had worn away and allowed the ignitor wire to touch directly on the battery. There was enough current to set off one ignitor in the circut. The tech was well trained and was following safety proceedures about not putting any part of his body over the mouth of the mortar, and was in fact also well out of line with the tube. This tech had attended safety training classes 3 years in a row.

The moral of this story is that a variety of incidents may/will happen for a variety of causes. The way to survive is to always adhere to good safety practices. Additionally, buying the cheapest tools available is not always the best way to go. If you are going to work as a display pyrotechnician, choose and buy your tools with care.
Age: 57, Experience: 40 years, Procedure: no
- Sunday, October 04, 1998 at 00:29:55 (EDT)  

I was launching some bottle-rockets out of a PVC pipe with a cap on the end that wasnt glued on. Everything was going fine. Then, I lit the next rocket, and it exploded in the bottom of the tube, blowing the end-cap off. I had been holding it at my hips trying to look cool for my friends that were there. The cap hit my hip, and my hands were stinging. Luckily, all that happend was that I had a welt on my hip from the end-cap.

The moral: glue your end-caps on, and dont hold the tubes!!
Age: 20, Experience: novice, Procedure: no
- Monday, September 28, 1998 at 23:44:51 (EDT) 

I was making retort charcoal in a propane barbeque. Wood used was maple that was cut in the spring when the leafs were starting to come out as described in some texts for prime wood.. It had been cut and stacked all summer long. I filled a large popcorn tin, then installed the lid with screws and put * inch hole in the center of the lid. Turned can upside down and installed it in the barbeque. Closed the lid with glass window and hit ignition. About 3 hours latter the gas started coming from the hole in lid.. Turned propane on low. After about 10 minutes checked barbeque and the whole inside was in flame. Turned of gas and watched as fire get even hotter! About this time the glass broke and let more oxygen in and flames grew even more! Observed lid on barbeque starting to buckle! The railing on deck is starting to burn 2ft. Away! It's time to get the hose! Put everything out including the deck and wiped my brow. Boy did I have Pyro!!! The charcoal turned out real good but it is the most expensive charcoal I have ever came across! I don't give up easy. One more try, what went wrong? My conclusion was not enough vent holes in can. Installed more holes, four more holes plus the one in the middle and tried again. Same thing except for the deck, this time the barbeque was in middle of yard! I guess maple harvested this way has more gas then willow! Never had this with willow! I guess I will go back to one gallon paint cans.
Age: 46, Experience: 4 years, Procedure: none
- Monday, September 28, 1998 at 21:59:25 (EDT) 
I had some KNO3 in the form of stump remover. I put some home made charcoal in and lit it. I didn't know it also had too much sulfer. Little bubbles of molten sulfer started forming. One of them popped and shot it up at me. It hit my eye and eyelids. I ran in side and rinsed it out w/ water. I don't think it was still molten when it hit me. I think it still was hot though. I'm lucky I didn't get hurt worse. Next time I'm gonna get K-Power and a bag of sulfer so I know how much is in it.
Age: 14, Experience: some what, Procedure: Probably not
- Sunday, September 27, 1998 at 10:13:41 (EDT) 
I was mucking around with a bunger that i had got from a friend, I lighted it & the fuse went out so i lit it again & BANG! it went of in my face & my Ears were ringing for like 10 Mins
Age: 12, Experience: Beginner, Procedure: No
- Sunday, September 20, 1998 at 03:02:11 (EDT)  

I have just endured my first shrapnel wound. To prevent further occurences of this, I'd like to tell you how this happened.

I had just completed a 60 KClO4 - 30 NaBenzoate - 10 Titanium whistle/spark rocket motor, and wanted to try it out. So, I went down to the hardware store and asked for a bamboo gardening support stick, to use as the stabilizer. The guy there said, "We don't carry bamboo anymore. We now carry soft plastic rods, which wear better outside because they don't absorb moisture like bamboo sometimes does."

The limit of my botanical knowledge halts abruptly at the ability to identify a willow tree, so I nodded my head and bought a 2' rod. I was amazed at the rigidity of the thing, since it was apparently made out of a soft plastic.

At the test site, I firmly taped the stick to the rocket motor using some 'sandpaper' tape (really strong tape which has a grit on the outside to allow better grip; it is used to give you a little more grip on slippery spots in shops, etc.), inserted the stick into the ground, lit the attatched visco, and retreated to about 50 meters (50 yards).

I watched intently as the waterproofed fuse burned closer and closer into my whistler, getting increasingly excited because I absolutely love whistle rockets. However, all this was rather anticlimatic as the engine CATOed and sent sparks and little bits of the casing everywhere.

I suddenly felt a nip on my shoulder, and felt it getting wet. I looked over, and there was a large gash on my shoulder, bleeding intensly. I yelled, "OH, SH*T!!!!", and ran back to the car to apply pressure, bandages, and to disinfect the cut with a bit of peroxide.

After the bleeding had stopped, I went back to examine the area where I had been standing for the 'soft' plastic rod. All I found was a metal rod, a bit thinner than the plastic rod, but the same length, impaled into a birch that I had been standing in front of.

The metal rod was bloody.

After taking the metal rod out of the tree and putting it in my car, I drove on down to the hospital to see if they could do anything. They said, "Oh, I'm sure we could stitch it up in about 5 hours if you can wait."

I left the hospital and went down to my parents' place, praying to Shimizu that my dad wasn't at work. He was sitting in the kitchen eating dinner, when I rushed in and asked him if he could disinfect/stitch the wound up for me (he is the leader of a trauma team at a bunch of Hamilton Ontario hospitals, as well as an anaesthatist). He stitched it up and it was feeling fine ten minutes later.

He then asked, "Where did you get this? Bike crash?"

I shook my head.

"CATO?" he asked.

I nodded.

I then went back to the hardware store and bought another of those 'soft plastic' rods. Then, testing out a suspicion of mine, I stripped all of the soft plastic exterior off of the rod. Sure enough, there was an iron rod residing in the center.

I hope that you don't have to learn this the hard way, like I did. Try to avoid using anything that isn't wood for rocket sticks.
Lindsay Greene <>
Age: Too Old :-), Experience: High, Procedure: The rocket motor fuel was the only unpublished thing
- Saturday, September 19, 1998 at 18:28:57 (EDT) 

I had read about ammonia iodide, so I stole a bottle of iodien from the chem lab in school and got my mother to buy some strong ammonia. I dumped the entire bottle of iodien into the ammonia, and then pored it all out onto a dishcloth. I did this in the garage. I went inside to get something to drink and the whole thing exploded. I ran out and found that the door had been blown off and the windows blown out and my dads car was a mess. Boy did I get in trouble. The police came and they took me to the police station but they didn't keep me they only yelled at me. But my father was so mad he hit me. That stuff is really a lot more strong than I would have thought, and it just exploded without my doing anything to it. If I had been near it when it exploded I think I would have been hurt pretty bad. That stuff is dangerous.
Age: 15, Experience: beginner, Procedure: yes with changes
- Wednesday, September 16, 1998 at 16:26:46 (EDT) 
I was makeing some black powder charges to rid myself of a stump I was suposed to remove. I figgured 10 pounds of black powder per charge, and 4 charges, would be enough to get rid of this stump. As soon as I lit the fuse (I rigged them all to a 40 foot fuse) I ran away. A few seconds later there was a huge boom and then the sound like a swarm of bees. I was luck to only get a large splinter of wood in my leg. Never use black powder for what it's not made to be used for!
Aurora, OH USA
Age: 14, Experience: Novice, Procedure: No
- Sunday, September 06, 1998 at 22:56:17 (EDT) 
My mortar had worn out when I was experimenting with some 1*" shells, I had three shells left, and decided to throw them off my balcony on the 4-th floor. I threw two of them and left the third one for the next day. I started to throw the third one, I lit the fuse and to my suprise, the 3 second delay had turned to quickmatch - BANG - Ouch, thank god my hand didn't hurt too mutch but I was stunned, luckily the shell had only a light kraft-paper cover with some heavy stringing... The point NEVER THROW SHELLS! (duh)
- Sunday, September 06, 1998 at 14:29:04 (EDT) 
I was making some KNO3 - sugar -propellant, and then I loaded that in some assault-rifle shells to make really tiny fountains. I have been experiencing with pyro materials in small fountains as these. KNO3 + sugar is not too easy to ignite, so I decided to add some black powder in it to help ignition. It ignited quite soon after ingridients was mixed. Luckily the amount was small, about 1cm^3. Thermostat of my heater was set on 150 C (abt 300 F?). Quite a surprise, when considering that paper ignites at abt 300 C. Heating pyro materials can and will be dangerous and they will ignite when time comes. I should have visited on Paolo's pyro page, where this was mentioned in safety page. Negligence. Inresponsibility. Luckily nothing happened.
Ozgul <>
Age: 16, Experience: Low/moderate, Procedure: No.
- Wednesday, September 02, 1998 at 09:46:34 (EDT) 
Made the mistake of holding a salute in MY HAND when lighting. Even though it was a 'small' one, it went off while holding it on its end (at least followed that idea if you DO hold it). Well, went to emergency room to fix a broken thumb, blown apart middle finger, etc. Was real fun explaining 'what' happened. Examination revealed that some of the salutes were not properly sealed on the end, leaking flash out to coat some of the fuse, resulting in instant firing of the device. DO NOT HOLD A SALUTE IN YOUR HAND EVER! I was lucky, most are not and loose fingers and or other body parts! LIGHT FUSE ONLY ON A CLEAR GROUND AREA OR HANGING FROM A STRING ABOUT 2 FEET OFF THE GROUND!!! Stay green!
Age: 41, Experience: Medium, Procedure: No
- Tuesday, September 01, 1998 at 00:18:12 (EDT) 
I have lately been trying to make a sugar & Kno3 smoke mixture. The melting of these two ingredients is where everything goes wrong. All these operations are done in a safe area, so when the stuff goes off when I'm melting it, nothing gets hurt. If anyone knows how to melt these ingredients without them going off, it would be helpful if you left an "ANAR" on how to do so.
Age: 15, Experience: low, Procedure: somewhat
- Saturday, August 29, 1998 at 15:01:47 (EDT) 
When I was a kid, I reloaded some spent Estes rocket engines with my own mixture of Chlorate and flowers of Sulfur. Well, later that evening I was watching a movie on TV with my mom with the motors stored on a shelf above us. All of a sudden, about 5 hours after manufacture, one engine spontaneously ignites and goes flying around the room. Very cool, although my mom didn't think so. But wait, you want stupid? The other motor I let be and sure enough, it spontaneoulsy ignited about an hour later! Lesson learned: the acid in flowers of sulfur can easily set off kclo3.
young 'n stupid
Procedure: no
- Friday, August 28, 1998 at 22:20:59 (EDT) 
I had been working out of the book, chemicals in war by prentiss in the school lab where I was the lab assistant. I decided I would make a red phosphorous/chlorate ignition system. I placed the stochiometric amounts of KnCl03 + P, about 20 gms total, on a filter paper in the hood with the shield down and was very gentle shaking it in a circular manner when the mixture flashed. I got small burning phosphorus chunks in my left hand as a result. I reached immediately to my right and poured copper sulphate solution on the burning P and went to the base hospital where the black chunks were cut out. The material neglected to mention that this mixing should only be done with both materials wetted. The lesson taught me to always use two or three independent sources to confirm directions, as well as understand the sensistivity and hazards of one's materials.
Age: 14, Experience: intermediate, Procedure: yes
- Friday, August 21, 1998 at 03:09:42 (EDT) 
'Bout two years back, me and my freinds started messing around with pyro stuff. Living in a suburb, we didn't want anything noisy, as the neighbors would call the cops at any explosion, no matter how minor. So we came up with the nifty idea of smoke bombs. They were pretty cool- burned real bright, sounded like a bond fire and made billows of smoke (which we thought would help us escape if anyone were to try and catch us...). Being the only one with any practical knowledge of pyro stuff, the task of making the actual smoke bombs was up to me. Being the careful sort, I did rather extensive research on the subject, and finally decided on carmel candy (because I could obtain the materials for it and they seemed rather simple to make...). Off to the drug store I went; bought a bunch of saltpeter, and some white sugar at the grocery store. Then back to the house. My parents weren't home at the time, and this was my first venture into the actual making of pyrotechnical devices. I used a coffee can, the 1 kg type to heat my chemicals in. As I said, this was my first time. I set out several toillette paper tubes on a slab of wood, which were to be my moulds, and proceded to dump in about 6 cups of saltpeter in the can. I then tried to put in 4 cups of sugar, but it wouldn't fit (the ratio's 2:3) so I figured it would just burn better. Little could I know just how right I was... Next I stuck the huge can on the stove, and turned it on to low heat, as the instructions warned about too much heat being dangerous. I waited paitiently for about 45 minutes, and nothing happened, so I turned the heat up. And Up. And UP. Until the burner was red hot. I finally got some results- the mixture started to melt... and then bubble. It bubble right up and over the side, gravity pulling down a tendril of molten nitrate, until it touched the red hot grill... What happened next were surely some of the most terrifying moments of my life. A sound like a jet engine filled my ear with a deafening roar- and didn't quit. A two and a half foot tall blue flame; no, blue blow torch, the diameter of the 1 kg coffe can sprung up and roared in fury. Thick, billowing white smoke began to fill up the kitchen... Tendrils of liquid fire were falling all over... the can had started to melt... all in the span of about 4 seconds. I grabbed the pliers I had brought to move the can around with, and latched onto the rim. Instantly the skin on my knuckles began to burn. I threw the can in the sink (steel), and remember I was young and stupid, turned the tap on full blast. My God. BOOOOM!! A geyser of steam erupted and threw me back against the fridge... the can had been burning for about 50 seconds (I think). By this time the kitchen was so thick with smoke I was choking, but I also remembered the fire extinguisher. ABS type. Ran to the closet and ripped it out the wall bracket, pulled the pin and... stopped. The sink was GLOWING red/orange, and the blue, roaring flame was getting smaller. I finally went and sprayed the damn thing... put the smoke bomb out after using about half the charge. By this time, the whole house was chock full of dense white smoke. I was fulling expecting someone to call the fire deparment and say the house was on fire- which wouldn't have been all that far off the mark. I was 14, in a house full of stinking white smoke, with burnt hands, a red hot sink, a BLACK kitchen, and only 2 hours until my parents got home. Damn near wet my pants. I won't tell you about the clean up that followed, or the nightmares (that flame was SCARY). But I will say me and my freinds took up a safer hobby, paintballing, and from then on, I was, and am, careful to the point of paranoia about safety, knowledge, and procedures. But I still have fun. And I always make smoke devices at somebody else's house...
Age: 16, Experience: Novice, Procedure: Nope
- Friday, August 21, 1998 at 01:08:58 (EDT) 
We were messing around with weedkiller and sugar, we'd heard about its interesting properties and went to town. my friend had mixed up a HUGE coffee jar full and was storing it under his bed... I stumbled across an old chemistry textbook that claimed chlorate and sugar was impact sensitive.. We tried a teaspoon full, hitting it with a hammer-BOOM! needless to say the jar changed storage location pretty rapidly
Age: 17, Experience: low, Procedure: nahhh!
- Sunday, August 02, 1998 at 21:08:02 (EDT)  

A standard rocket/smoke bomb mix used in my family was powdered Zinc and Sulfur in various proportions depending on the effect and burn rate desired. I never had any difficulties with these mixtures until I had the bright idea of adding some Sodium Peroxide as a "boster". The idea is an attractive one. Add an oxidizer to pep up an otherwise bland mixture. Sodium Peroxide was a poor choice. The mixture ignited while pouring from one container to another with a paper funnel. Although I had enough sense to hit the shower immediately, I still suffered 2nd degree burns on my left wrist (an area replete with many sensitive nerves!). I was hospitalized overnight and had an interesting conversation with the local fire marshal the next day. The lesson is a valuable one- New or experimental mixtures require extensive testing in small (<10g) amounts.
Experience: medium, Procedure: no
- Sunday, August 02, 1998 at 04:05:23 (EDT) 

When i was first starting off in pyrotechnics about 1 1/2 yrs ago i made some Meal powder. It turned out to be really slow, so slow that i could pick up a large chunk, light one end, hold it by the other end and throw took about 10secs to burn. So..ipicked up the chunk, lit the end, leaned back and threw it..nice comet effect :-) All of a sudden i felt this whole saucepan of Meal had caught on fire from the spark when i leaned back.. Anyway i grabbed the sauce pan (since it was just outside the house) and threw it away while still burning. I got burns on my feet,hands and stomach..not bad though. I know..stupid stupid. I have since improved both my Meal and my methods of making effects :-)
Age: 16, Experience: amateur, Procedure: no
- Saturday, August 01, 1998 at 05:10:43 (EDT) 
Stapel guns NEVER use them in combination whit or around ANY pyrotecnikal devices EWER. Dont even think of it. 4 frends buried on that acount!! need to say no more
outsite USA
Age: 3x, Experience: xx, - Friday, July 31, 1998 at 19:13:02 (EDT) 
This was a really stupid thing that I did many years ago. Some friends & I had been messing around with Mg/KMnO4 flash powder (old photographers flash) - we got the receipe from Bennet's Formulary - BTW a great book, which I've lost :-(

In any case, we'ld been using it to make bangers (salutes) out of plastic pen lids with some KNO3 touch paper. Well, one of my friends came over, & as he was locking his bike up, I decided to throw a small banger to go off behind him. Needless to say the touch paper didn;t survive being thrown, so the banger was a dud. Once he'ld forgiven me for trying to blow him up, we decided to just light of the flash powder. We emptied the banger and started throwing matches at it. Nothing happened, so I went and shoved a burning match right into the pile of power - flash, smoke and a very crispy hand, which hurt like buggery for many days + loads of grief from parents. Moral: use the correct fuse for the job!!!! Stay safe.
Age: 26, Experience: Novice, Procedure: No sir
- Thursday, July 30, 1998 at 14:16:13 (EDT) 

I had been experimenting with the manufacturing of small salutes (less than m-80 size). Not having a source for black powder, I decided to remove some from a model rocket engine. (BIG mistake) about half-way through the engine, i had accumulated a good sized pile. When suddenly,(to this day I do not know why) the rest of the engine (about a sixteenth of an inch) went off......igniting the pile of black powder...catching my left hand and foot on fire. My foot escaped unharmed.......but i had 3rd degree burns on my hand.....which miraculasly healed almost completely in a month. I have learned that dissasembling ANY device is not a good idea..and have learned that it is much easier to buy or make black powder.
Age: 1*, Experience: Novice, Procedure: no
- Friday, July 24, 1998 at 01:46:23 (EDT) 
Working with expert on recent stage show and learned of another "expert" (2 years experience) who was securing quick match to mortar tube frame with staple gun and had his head over end of 8" tube. Staple struck nail, spark ignited quickmatch and 8" aerial shell exited tube decapitating pyro. My expert co-worker reiterated this poor fellow had supposedly been well-versed in the practices of safety but his failure to use TAPE and common sense cost him his life. I assume this must have received first page attention in the pyro trade rags but haven't seen it yet.
Age: 51, Experience: Novice, - Wednesday, July 22, 1998 at 18:32:36 (EDT) 
Anonymous <>
def, 458 4654
Age: 25, Experience: dsfFaf, Procedure: sdf
- Wednesday, July 22, 1998 at 08:31:07 (EDT)  

This happend for two reasons: lack of good thinking, and 'go fever'. I had made lots and lots and lots of match stick rockets that worked great. So I thought "hey maybe I could use match heads for a rocket fuel". Dumb idea, as I know now. Every thing was going fine. I had ramed a clay plug that the nozzle was to be drilled in and I had ramed the propellant. Next step: Drill the nozzle. This is where every thing went wrong. I got through the clay fine but when the drill bit hit the match heads the whole thing blew up. My casing was pretty strong so the blast was forced up at my face. Luckly I was wearing glasses or I might be blind now. I saw a bright flash and heard a loud bang and then I felt clay thrown against my face. I had minor burns on my face and fingers. No marks but it hurts. Some how my Dremel tool wound up on the other side of the room! Please don't play with matches!!!!
Age: 15, Experience: beginner, Procedure: NO
- Sunday, July 19, 1998 at 23:01:57 (EDT) 

A group of pyro's were staging a public display, using almost all commerical product. However, there was one 4-inch salute that was 'semi-mysterious'. People thought they knew who made it but nobody was sure. The suspected maker was in the public, so the shoot-boss just said to load it in it's own rack and take a little extra caution with it.

 I was hand-lighting the next rack over when it came time to fire the mystery salute. The shooter did everything correctly - removed the safety cap, lit the fuse, turned and walked away. The salute blew up in the gun, toppling my rack and scattering live 4" commercial ball shells on the ground. I started to make tracks as those shells proceeded to explode sending burning stars all over the place. I has hit in several places, but the heavier cotton jeans and shirt protected most of my body. However, I had been shooting in sandles and two stars burned my feet (I had been invited to watch, I didn't come dressed to be a shooter, but was asked to help at the last minute).

The guy who lit the salute wasn't so lucky - a peice of the wooden rack hit his thigh ripping out two peices of skin the sizes of a quarter and a dime. The holes were deep - I could see major muscles. Fortunately, no major vessels were hit and the bleeding was slow and minimal. A palm-sized patch was also abraided where a large peice of board must have hit it a glancing blow. He was taken to the ER where they cleaned the wound, stitched him up, bandaged him, and released him.

 In my opinion the following errors led to this accident: 1) When using amateur product one should use EXTRA safety precautions - visco delays, barricades, etc. 2) Have adequate safety clothing.
Age: 45, Experience: Pretty good, Procedure: More or less
- Tuesday, July 14, 1998 at 11:02:36 (EDT) 

Well, it was just this past Fourth of July. I have some experience in making different fireworks such as Roman Candles, rockets, and just starting to experiment with shells. I have a small shop on the far end of my 10-acre property in the country. Well, being that this is the country, people think they can light anything anywhere, and not have to worry about where it will land. As the suns set, I headed out to my shop to get my shells I was experimenting with, and some other fireworks. A friend of mine (who isn't really into fireworks) came over as I was getting my supplies. He was mad at his brother, and stole a string of about 30 M-1000's. These bombs were not what you find at the corner market, and someone had fused them together in a half-assed job. He asked me if I wanted to light them, so I told him I probably wouldn't because I like my fingers and hands very much. So we set them in my shop. As I left, I left the door open because I had to get more stuff to load onto my bike. When I turned around, some crazy idiots had lit around thirty rockets, and they were landing. NEAR MY SHED!!! Well, needless to say I dropped my fireworks and pedaled as hard as I could. One rocket must have slipped through the open door and ignited something inside. Well, that was the end of my shop. It rocked the entire area, and left a huge crater where my poor shed once stood. Moral: NEVER accept large amounts of foolishly made explosives. It IS dangerous
Anonymous <>
Madera, CA USA
Age: 17, Experience: 5+ years as an amateur, Procedure: No
- Friday, July 10, 1998 at 18:11:23 (EDT) 
Well, when I now look back on it, it was a pretty dumb thing to do. However, at the time it seemed like a good idea. I was experimenting with different propellants and in an effort to get them to work better I decided to fuse them together in water. I mixed some home made black powder with some sugar in water. Unfortunatelly I put too much water in. I did not have the patience to leave it out in the sun to evaporate so I poured it into a crucible and set it above a spirit lamp. I sat watching it for about half an hour. It had been turning red and very viscous so I decided to take a sample outside for testing. No sooner had I reached the door and the stuff caught light. I instantly hit the deck. As I looked over my shoulder I saw a 50cm wide roaring red flame shooting from where my mixture was being heated. That was about all I could see through all the clouds of smoke. After ten seconds it died down. I returned to find the crucible in pieces and chunks of the molten explosive all over my desk and over the walls. I was very lucky to leave when I did or I may have suffered severe burns, let alone suffocation in the sulphur dioxide fumes. However, I discovered a mean mixture which I will make again. Next time I will do it outside and will better estimate when to stop heating!
Age: 16, Experience: beginner, Procedure: Not a very good one
- Friday, July 10, 1998 at 11:24:41 (EDT) 
after leaving work one day from the fireworks plant, I found that a 3" salute had follin out of the box it was stored in ( we use my vehicle to move shells from the storage bunker to the manufacturing plant) and had been under my seat. Yikes! holding a valid state explosives licsence I was not overly worried about getting caught with the shell in my posssion. But since I had no Storage Permit and I no Not have keys to the magazine, I decided to destroy the shell at home. I started by pulling the lift bag off the bottom and then pulled the top back so it was unconfined. I stuck a piece of visco into the flash and in the famous line "lite fuse and retiree" that what I did to a distance of about 40 - 50 feet expecting only a nice showy flame but instead of burning like the rest I did this way it denotante. now in the past I have had to destroy fireworks that I had been left in the car, and the local sheriff told me everything was ok and that he did not need nor did he want a call to inform him in advance. but after this exploded I called anyway to let his office know it was a licesenced person and not somebody who should not have display stuff. he swowed up with the local police and a rep. of the fire department. took a report and told me everything would be ok the it was an accident. and there would be no charges filed. since i was legal in my action. 2 weeks later he arrested me for unlawfull possession of fireworks and tried to force my employer to file theft of explosives charge against me. lucky for me they refused "stating they have no prove that there had been a theft or loss of explosives. so as it stands I am looking at up to a class a misdemeanor charge, although the current charge is a petty offense my boss told me they where going to upgrade the charge regardless of them pressing charges. moral of the story is #1 do not haul explosives in your personal car even if exempt #2 Being legal does really nothing to protect you from your stupidity #3 always call law enforcement if there is chance you could cause an explosion either accident or intentional #4 ALWAYS CLEAN THE MORTARS AFTER THE SHOW, TRIPLE CHECK before leaving, check again before putting the racks away.
Age: 23, Experience: medium, Procedure: modified oral
- Thursday, July 09, 1998 at 16:52:02 (EDT) 
I made a compound i called acetone peroxide, it consisted of Hydrochloric Acid and Acetone and 40 % Peroxide. i mixed the right percentages into a mason jar and in the morning i hade little white crystals i tested the crystals and they had the properties of Sodium Azide. i decided to mass produce this Explosive, i took about 2 teaspoons of this compound and out it in a old metal container i was sprinkling small piles that were about the sixe of a matchhead on the ground and was lighting them to watch them flash and pop. well i started to sprinkle the next pile and the match was still hot and it flashed into the container and blew off my pinkey finger and the majority of the skin on my hand i was rushed to the ER and was sewn back up. I stick to fireworks now and i go by the books pretty much and have grown alot mentally from this experience

Age: 18, Experience: ??, Procedure: Kitchen Improvised Blasting Caps
- Friday, June 26, 1998 at 14:46:59 (EDT) 

I made a compound i called acetone peroxide, it consisted of Hydrochloric Acid and Acetone and 40 % Peroxide. i mixed the right percentages into a mason jar and in the morning i hade little white crystals i tested the crystals and they had the properties of Sodium Azide. i decided to mass produce this Explosive, i took about 2 teaspoons of this compound and out it in a old metal container i was sprinkling small piles that were about the sixe of a matchhead on the ground and was lighting them to watch them flash and pop. well i started to sprinkle the next pile and the match was still hot and it flashed into the container and blew off my pinkey finger and the majority of the skin on my hand i was rushed to the ER and was sewn back up. I stick to fireworks now and i go by the books pretty much and have grown alot mentally from this experience

Age: 18, Experience: ??, Procedure: Kitchen Improvised Blasting Caps
- Friday, June 26, 1998 at 14:46:50 (EDT) 

I made a compound i called acetone peroxide, it consisted of Hydrochloric Acid and Acetone and 40 % Peroxide. i mixed the right percentages into a mason jar and in the morning i hade little white crystals i tested the crystals and they had the properties of Sodium Azide. i decided to mass produce this Explosive, i took about 2 teaspoons of this compound and out it in a old metal container i was sprinkling small piles that were about the sixe of a matchhead on the ground and was lighting them to watch them flash and pop. well i started to sprinkle the next pile and the match was still hot and it flashed into the container and blew off my pinkey finger and the majority of the skin on my hand i was rushed to the ER and was sewn back up. I stick to fireworks now and i go by the books pretty much and have grown alot mentally from this experience

Age: 18, Experience: ??, Procedure: Kitchen Improvised Blasting Caps
- Friday, June 26, 1998 at 14:45:52 (EDT) 

I made a compound i called acetone peroxide, it consisted of Hydrochloric Acid and Acetone and 40 % Peroxide. i mixed the right percentages into a mason jar and in the morning i hade little white crystals i tested the crystals and they had the properties of Sodium Azide. i decided to mass produce this Explosive, i took about 2 teaspoons of this compound and out it in a old metal container i was sprinkling small piles that were about the sixe of a matchhead on the ground and was lighting them to watch them flash and pop. well i started to sprinkle the next pile and the match was still hot and it flashed into the container and blew off my pinkey finger and the majority of the skin on my hand i was rushed to the ER and was sewn back up. I stick to fireworks now and i go by the books pretty much and have grown alot mentally from this experience

Age: 18, Experience: ??, Procedure: Kitchen Improvised Blasting Caps
- Friday, June 26, 1998 at 14:45:39 (EDT) 

I had just finished testing a new rocket design.A core burning black powder rocket engine with about 8 oz.of propellant.

 I had the stabilizing fins all finalized for size and spaceing.A good friend of mine kept begging me for 1 rocket motor for himself.p This person had limited experience with rocket but assisted me on numerous occasions and I saw no problems with his request.,P. The finished rocket had 5 fins,a guide lug for a launch rod and a top payload with a generous payload of flash. My friend took his

rocket to a friend of his house for the launch.It seems his friend broke off some fins.Well to be on the safe side he broke them ALL

 off.He knew this would be unsafe so he stuck a pipe in the ground 150 yds. from his house aimed at a 45 deg.angle the opposite way.

 After lighting the rocket and dropping it down the pipe they ran back for cover.The rocket came out of the pipe,went up about 50 feet

 and flew right to the house.After hitting the roof HARD they thought it broke up....until boom.His friend lost some 100 year old slate

 roofing and put a hole through the roof and broke a stud.NEVER,NEVER,NEVER give a device to a inexperienced shooter !!
J K Harned <>
oh USA
Age: 36, Experience: advanced, Procedure: No
- Friday, June 12, 1998 at 21:59:46 (EDT) 

about 5-6 months ago me and me friends were causing some mindless anarchy. Im not sure if this really fits into this category but here goes: anyway, without telling me my friends threw the spray paint can we were using into a large skip(for you americans, thats a large trash can, for use at building sites etc.) later on that night i proceeded (with a nice little cocktail of thinner, diesel, petrol,meths(for that slow steady burn)and kerosene) to ignite that self same skip. Now this skip was filled with all kinds of nasty shit, nails, glue etc (as this wa a industrial site we were on) and it began to burn quite well. We left and returned later on and i observed that the fire had gone out. I opened the lid and peered in. The left side was going nicely but the right wasn't so i lent over to help it along. This is when i noticed a crinkling sound and turned aroud to see the spray paint can lying in a pool of burning petrol. I had time to yell out "oh fuck" before i was blown clear off my feet. The bright red cloud of burning spray paint exploded all over me, etching into my skin and turning my hair white. As i dazedly stood to my feet a second explosion shook me, an burning piece of shrapnel (a aluminium nail incedentally) shot out and imbedded itself in my chest (i still have the scar). We ran off and since then have been a safer pyro. it taught me a lesson i think i needed to be taught.
Age: 15, Experience: mediumlow, Procedure: no
- Friday, June 05, 1998 at 00:41:35 (EDT) 
I carefully mixed up a SMALL amount of red phosphorus and trilead tetroxide (red lead)to test as a "smoke puff" composition. This was December 1996 and the day was cold and calm - perfect for testing such a composition ! I was mindful of the reactivity of red phosphorus with oxidants, particularly potassium chlorate, but also with bromates, iodates, nitrates, etc. I guess I underestimated the power of compositions employing red phosphorus with metal oxides. Anyhow, having no safety fuse to hand, I placed the composition in an empty film cannister (no lid) and (FOOLISHLY !) tossed in a lighted safety match while quickly stepping back; except that the match stuck to sweat on my finger and I did not manage to withdraw my hand quick enough ! Yes, you guessed it, the composition went off in a large, fairly loud "WHOOOSH!", an exothermic yellow-white flash and a rolling cloud of white smoke. The pain was unbearable; I plunged my hand into a nearby pool of ice cold water, but my thumb and finger began to smoke when I removed it (white phosphorus formed from the red phosphorus) ! I managed to cleanse my hand with damp moss and treated it with copper (II) sulfate solution when I got home (to neutralize any remaining phosphorus). It then had to be coated with burn ointment and dressed; the pain persisted for several days and the scars were slow enough to heal, weeping at times, but luckily there was no lasting damage - the scars are practically unnoticeable now ! However, it brought the need for safety home to me in a big way. It is important to read up on procedures or experiments to find out as much as you possibly can BEFORE you do it, especially with new procedures - it could be too late AFTER the incident !! I have since purchased a copy of Bretherick's Handbook of Reactive Chemical Hazards (Butterworth-Heinmann, 1995) and found it extremely useful in predicting dangerous or unwanted reactions. It's so true that you can never be too careful !!
Age: 26, Experience: Fairly Experienced, Procedure: No
- Friday, May 29, 1998 at 08:05:17 (EDT) 
I was making up 11 grams of 7:3:1 flash. I had ground the perc and the sulfur and aluminum looked fine. So I mixed them using the folding method. After a while I noticed lumps. I think it was the sulfur. So I took a wooden tounge depresser and started crushing the lumps. I knew flash is senstive so I was doing it gently. Suddenly there was a bright flash. I didn't hear any noise - just a flash. I thought it must not have been an explosion because there was no noise. But then I noticed my hand hurt a lot, and when I looked at it I saw a mess. The flash had burned it and the tounge depresser had turned into splinters and made a mess out of my hand. I had to go to the ER. I got 36 stitches. I guess it did explode, but somehow I never heard it go bang. This taught me that I have to be more careful with flash powder.
Age: 24, Experience: beginner, Procedure: kinda
- Tuesday, May 26, 1998 at 18:09:40 (EDT) 
I wanted to fire a rocket out of a pipe over my shoulder. I used a commercial model rocket, with the fins cut to fit my PVC pipe, about 2 or 3 feet long, and used a homeade engine made to the same outer diameter as an Estes (larger) A, B, or C engine. When I fired it, the rocket fired, spitting burning charcoal and molten sulfur back, right into my eyes. I couldn't get the chunks out of my eyes, and it took 3 days to wash them out. It wasn't too comfortable. The rocket went pretty far, however, I couldn't find it anywhere in the field. 6 months later when I was walking around the field I found the engine, without the rocket! I know it was my work when I saw it. I wasn't expecting it. Since then, however, I've not been so idiotic. Even before then, I was quite un-idiotic. It was just that one time. I swear! :-)
Experience: low, dumb, - Friday, May 22, 1998 at 02:02:56 (EDT) 
I made sone deadly little bombs from assaul rifle shells (7.62) that I filled with black powder and put some glue on both ends after I crimped the open end with pliers. I had put a green visco on that open end before I crimped and glued it shut. I did those little devices quite a many, perhaps about 10 to 20, and I didn't have much troubles with them. About 2 didn't go off when fuse was lit, but that didn't matter. One of them had still some fuse sticking from its other end, about 1cm (2/5")so I thought that I could still use it. I want to it and lit the fuse with cigarette lighter, but the fuse didn't light from end of that fuse, but from halfway! I got so scared that I almost shit in my pants, but still I managed to duck away. I couldn't move more than 0,5m (abt 2 ft) away before it exploded. The shell was torn in to pieces and crimped end of it passed my head some centimeters away (1 in) si I could feel the heat glowing from it and the air flow that it raised on my ear. I had some tinnitus on my ears, but that was the minor thing to worry at that state. That shell was last one that I used, and for now I respect all safety precautions. I'm a chemist nowadays, and at school I've been working with very dangerous mixtures, but I haven't hurt myself. I'm happy that I had a warning like that shell, because some people have got injured or died. I didn't. Ozgul
Kerava, Finland
Age: 16, Experience: novice at that state, Procedure: No.
- Tuesday, May 12, 1998 at 11:18:15 (EDT) 
I tracked down the formula for a modified firefly effect I had seen at the convention. This formula was in the form of comets plumeting down to earth leaving a 500-600 foot twinkling tail behind them. The formula is KNO3 44%, mixed C 44%, Sulphur 6%, Barium Carb 6%, 30 mesh flake MG/AL 6%, and Dextrine 6%. Twenty percent water was called for. I got lazy and just dumped a lot of water in until it looked good. I added too much and put in more dry comp. I started to knead the comp with my hands and it started heating up FAST. By the time I got it outside, the stuff couldn't be touched. Luckily I dumped it onto some newspaper and spread it thin before it lit. The stuff cooled off pretty quickly. It heated up because I used fertilizer grade KNO3 and there was a problem with the PH. I tried this procedure with tech grade KNO3 and it worked. Moral: Be weary when working with fine metals and water.
Joel <>
Omaha, NE USA
Age: 23, Experience: Moderate, Procedure: Private Correspondence
- Thursday, May 07, 1998 at 23:24:20 (EDT) 
Incident 1: Mixing red P4 and KClO3 underwater. There were some undissolved KClO3 crystals, and while stirring the solution, these actually ignited the mixture - it burned underwater until all the P4 was gone! Well, gimme a break, I was in high school! We all know better now, right? Incident 2: A couple decades later was experimenting with a boron metal/KClO3 mix. Had a short piece of fuse & was too lazy to cut a longer one. Result: Second degree burns on my hand. Boron mixtures are incredibly exothermic - be careful!! All my "incidents" have been caused by either carelessness or laziness. It's so easy to use face protectors & welders gloves when experimenting - use them - your eyes & hands will last a lot longer.
Age: 44, Experience: High, Procedure: No
- Monday, May 04, 1998 at 23:46:56 (EDT) 
One very hot, dry, September afternoon while assembling a eight 8" chrysanthemum I ran out of "slow flash" which I use to suplement the main burst. BEING IN A HURRY to put the two hemis together I decided to mix the slow flash in a small hand shaker can with glass marbles in a tropicana plastic orange juice can, rather than sift and diaper mix as usual. To the best of my memory I placed 128gms KClO4, 18gms Sb2S3, and 6gms german dk Al in this can and walked outside of my shed to give it a few shakes before adding the remainder of bright aluminum in the usualy fashion. My impatients came from the fact that the fine german dk and antimony trisulfide tend to clump and not screen well alone as does the perc if its been around a while and had a chance to cake. Well after about 4-7 shakes the mix exploded in my hands just about fileting them, nerves exposed, blood squirting from the arteries I took a helicopter ride to the hand specialists who put me back together. Much pain, therapy, prayers and a little luck 8 years later I am typing this for the record with the hope that anyone reading will never let their guard down when it comes to pyro. This is a very unforgiving art. There is no place for impatience and shortcuts. Find your own comfort level for yourself and your loved ones in terms of risks etc. and never allow yourself to bend safety rules.
Age: 50, Experience: very experienced 35+ years, Procedure: no
- Sunday, May 03, 1998 at 16:59:26 (EDT) 
Several months ago I was making a star mine about 1.5'' id. this was my first mine larger than an inch. The first mine worked but the stars didn't go as high as I wanted them to. The second mine I made added more BP to it, a whole lot more than was needed(that was one mistake I will never forget). The following night I decided light the mine. Around 8pm I when up to my shooting site set I up the mine. after setting up I lit the mine & started running. I got back 35' thinking the mine whould shoot out the stars like in my earlier attempt. Instead it blew up as if a gabe mort had gone off instead. Luckily the mine was a paper mortar with clay plug. I survived in unharmed from the blast. Because of that blast am now much more careful with BP & anything similar
Age: 24, Experience: Beginner, Procedure: No
- Tuesday, April 28, 1998 at 20:01:30 (EDT) 
About a year ago, I violated one of the most important rules of pyrotechnics: never use metal cases. I had just mixed about 20 grams of a barium chlorate lance composition and I wanted to test it out. I decided to put it in a 4" section of .5" copper pipe, with one end open and the other end capped. I gently placed the powdered composition in the tube and ignited it with a few inches of visco from the top. It worked wonderfully. I did that a few more times, then decided to get creative. I thought that if I ignited it from the bottom of the tube (like a side-fused mortar) it would act as its own lift charge and eject the composition in a cloud if green flame. It didn't. Instead, it exploded violently, with no visible flash or flame. I honestly felt my hair move, and I was a good 75 feet away. Until then, I had no idea how powerful 20g of anything could actualy be. I found small flecks of copper in our wooden siding (about 50 feet away) and in a tree about 100 feet away. It had blown a hole through 3" of ice on the ground and left a hole about 4" deep in the frozen ground below that. That shows just how pressure dependant the burn rate of compositions (especially if they involve chlorates) can be. The small increase in pressure caused by the loose powder blocking the hot gasses' only exit was enough to make the burn rate go sky high -- so high that the pressure built up to several thousand PSI before the composition could "get out of the way" If I had been in the wrong place, I might have ended up with a hole in my skull. Had I been using a cardboard tube, it would have been loud, but not a real hazard.
Age: 16, Experience: beginner, Procedure: no
- Sunday, April 19, 1998 at 00:55:27 (EDT) 
I found a really cool web site on how to make big firecrackers, and so I decided to make something that was ten times bigger than an M-80. Since an M-80 has about a teaspoon of flash powder, I decided to make 4 tablespoons of flash powder from ground up solid-ox, aluminum paint powder, and garden sulfur. I made up the flash powder and left it on the table. While I was gone the pile exploded with a really big bang all on its own. The damage wasn't bad since the powder was loose in a pile, but the noise alerted the neighbors who called the police. Fortunately nobody knew it was me so the police didn't find me, but I was sure scared. Why did this stuff explode, I wasnt grinding it or anything?
Age: 17, Experience: Beginner, Procedure: from the web
- Monday, March 30, 1998 at 17:59:29 (EST) 
I'd made a small starmine, to see if my new batch of CIA blackpowder was fast enough to use as a lift charge. It was 1 1/2" in diameter, and about 5" high. Unfortunately, I didn't have any fuse at the time and decided to substitute sparklers. I fused it from the top. The lift charge and stars were in a thin "bag" of tissue paper, which was not totally sealed.

Crouching down and leaning over the device, I lit the sparkler. Almost instantaneously WHUMPF! The damn thing fired! Fortunately my body was JUST clear of the flame and stars, although my hair got ruffled and I certainly felt the heat.

I think that the reason for the early ignition is that a spark from the sparkler bounced down the tube and into the lift charge, setting it off. The morals of the story are: don't substitute crappy fuses; seal devices properly (in this case the lift bag) so they don't prematurely ignite; don't lean over mortar tubes. It was very stupid of me to use sparklers and I only just escaped severe burns to the face. Oh yeah, by the way the BP was not fast enough and the stars only went about 3m.
Age: 15, Experience: beginner, Procedure: no
- Sunday, March 29, 1998 at 09:11:07 (EST) 

As a real job I am a machinest and welder . I had reat TIP'S spot about a rat aquireing a few of his comets and thought or one of my own . I have been trying to come up with a good B.P. rocket fuel for some 6 # rockets and not having very good luck, they were all to slow.

I rember thinking to myself that my 2# batches didn't go very far and set the project aside to work on some wistle comps. My welding table is made of 1" steel and very sturdy for ramming and that is were I rammed all of my B.P.

The fun happened one day when I had to do some welding for someone . It appears that a rat ( might be in cahoots with Tom's rat), had decided that about three pounds of my finaly perfected powder would make a very good future food source. He also liked the 3" pipe in my scrap pile as a storage tube.

Yep , you guest it, I started arcing and my customer started getting excite
Anonymous <>
needles, ca usa
Age: 31, Experience: intermediate, Procedure: yes
- Tuesday, March 17, 1998 at 19:27:56 (EST) 

Years ago I created a primary explosive decribed in a miltary improvised explosives manual. The explosive was made by presipitating crystals out of cold hydrogen peroxide and two other "un-named" chemicals. This was all fine and dandy, but because of my unexperience at the time, I decided to mix this primary explosive with other chemicals to produce different colors. One such chemical was barium chlorate, the other chemical in a second batch was strontium nitrate. As expected one had a stunning green flash and the other a nice red flash. Best of all, you could light this mix right in the palm of your hand and not get burned. I thought was so clever and cool having been the inventor of a colored flash powder that didn't burn the skin. I had put the red mix in a one ounce glass bottel and the green mix in a separate identical bottel. I Carried these around in my pocket so I could always have them ready for a quick demo. At night I put them in a cabinate in my room. One night at 3:00 A.M. I was awoken to a horendous explosion. I leaped out of bed and ran down the hall (nobody slept in that room). I opened the door and smoke billowed out. The neighbors woke up and wanted to know if everything was OK. Upon examination of the aftermath the next morning, both doors were blown off the hinges. A 8" hole was blown in the wall behind the cabinet. In the wall on the opposite side of the room, fragments from the contents of the cabinet were inbedded into it. Tiny pieces of stuff everywhere. Now it gets weird, the bottel that had the red mix was in the same cabinet, it was perfectly in tact. It was indeed the barium chlorate one that spontaniously detonated. Scary to think I kept it in my pocket while it could have detonated at any time. ??Moral, there is no need to make anything from an explosives book. Don't mix something you don't know.
Age: 32, Experience: experienced, Procedure: no
- Monday, March 16, 1998 at 21:21:04 (EST) 
For a school project, I constructed a skyrocket with some of my classmates and our chemistry teacher. He wanted to make a sparkler mixture consisting of:

1 part (volume) Mg

1 part Al

1 part Fe

3 parts potassium nitrate

He formed a grey pastry by adding water. Then we formed little balls as big as peas and let them dry on a sheet of paper. When they were almost totally dry, they startet to smoke and crackle. Then the lesson was over and we went home, leaving our teacher having the trouble with the mixture. He told me later that he had put the balls into a pot of water to stop the reaction. The result was that the mixture began to boil!

I think the reaction occured with the aluminium and the nitrate. I read that mixtures of these chemicals could produce heat when getting wet.
Augsbug, Bavaria Germany
Age: 16, Experience: low, Procedure: I don't know
- Friday, March 13, 1998 at 15:20:45 (EST) 

American Pyrotechnist: A Monthly Fireworks Jouranl
Volume 13, Number 10 October, 1980 Issue Number 146

 Dear Max: As you probably know, I was involved in a firework accident last June 22. I was making Lancaster's red star mix with potassium chlorate (on page 87, FIREWORKS: PRINCIPLES & PRACTICE) when the conflagration occurred. I had finished cutting the loaf and priming it with Meal-D, as the stars were to be used in mines, and set the board they were on out in the sun - temperature over 100o F. with about 0% humidity - to dry. After returning about 30 minutes later I attempted to scrape the cubes off the board with a spatula, and that's when every thing ignited, with injuries to my body caused by flying stars and the excess mealpowder lying around.

 I believe it went up because:
(1) The charcoal in the mealpowder migrated and sensitized the
(2) potassium chlorate (along with the sulfur, perhaps);
(3) The stars were dry and rock-hard and extremely hot from the solar flux absorbed by the black powder, and they stuck to the board;
(4) With almost zero humidity, the conditions were excellent for the generation of static electricity, and
(5) The mechanical action of scraping the hot stars was like striking a match!

 I believe every-thing would have gone all right if I had done everything in the shade and let the stars cool before playing with them. The "icing on the cake" as far as injuries were concerned, though, was my having made 50 Pounds of stars, with 15 pounds of mealpowder nearby. My motto now is: Never mix-more than you'd like to have go up in your face.

 Now here's the unbelievable aftermath of my accident. After confis- cating all my chemicals, tools, fireworks, books, letters - even my copies of AMERICAN PYROTECHNIST - and blowing them up with dynamite, the ATF has renewed my licenses and put me back in business! You fig- ure that one out.

 I'm being charged in Magistrate Court with "illegal storage," a misdemeanor. I was told by the ATF that there would not be an "arrest" but that the procedure was "more like paying a traffic ticket." By the time you read this, the case should be closed, with everything forgotten and forgiven - except by myself! - Staying Green, Black and Blue John Dawson, ENCHANTMENT PYROTECHNICA, Albuquerque, N.M.

(Excerpts of John's letter, dated Sept 3, were also printed in PGI Bulletin #19, with the additional news that he was back at work after four weeks in the hospital being treated for 2nd-degree flash burns over 36% of his body, and that his wife and infant son were also treated and released, all three of them now "completely healed." We wish them luck!)
Taken from the Net
Procedure: yes, see below
- Wednesday, February 18, 1998 at 11:27:58 (EST) 

I was working on a blue strobe rocket using the formula from Ken Burdick's paper. I was ramming the comp into the tube when it ignited with a loud bang followed by the deflagration of all the comp in the tube. The rammer bounced off the ceiling and several other things before coming to rest with some comp inside still burning. Luckily, none of my body parts were above the rammer! I think the hammer deflected the rammer away from my body as well. This comp is more sensitive than I realized and in hindsight, I would suggest pressing behind a blast sheild while wearing ear protection if you try using it at all. I escaped with only 3 days worth of ear ringing. It could have been much worse.
Age: 37, Experience: Beginner, Procedure: Yes
- Monday, February 16, 1998 at 10:06:06 (EST) 
We were setting up a show, when one of the loaders dropped a 4" shell. It must have hit just right because the lift charge went. I guess it hit the electric match we had buried in the lift charge. Anyway, the lift went, and it took a second but we all realized what happened and we all ran or ducked. Sure enough in just a few seconds the shell blew up, pelting a number of us with burning stars. A number of us were hurt, but nothing too bad. But later I really got scared when I saw burn marks on the canvas tarp we had been using to sort shells before dropping them into the guns. We had shells up to 8" sitting there. If those had lit there would have been 100 shells flying everywhere and bursting everywhere. I guess we were lucky.
Age: 26, Experience: moderate, Procedure: not really
- Thursday, January 29, 1998 at 16:55:44 (EST) 
I was setting up a show for a local hospital for Christmas. The show would be a lot of fountains, some set pieces, and some low level aerial stuff like festival balls. I was putting together the quickmatch for one of the set peices (Santa Claus), and using a scissors to cut the quickmatch, when suddenly the match caught fire and lit half the set piece. Fortunately, I had some extra lances, but part of Santa was in funny colors and a little sparse. I guess cutting quickmatch with scissors isnt always a good idea.
Age: 38, Experience: Skilled, Procedure: no
- Monday, December 29, 1997 at 14:42:13 (EST) 
In my business as a pyrotechnic chemicals vendor, I get a lot of samples of chemicals to evaluate. The most basic test that I run on fuels (particularly metal powders) is to see what they look like when burned in a propane torch flame. One day, I had a particularly large batch of aluminum powders, about 30 different ones to burn-test. What I normally do is to set my torch up with the flame shooting horizontally away from me and sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/2 gram into the flame using a spatula or something like that. I just lightly sprinkle the dust into the flame and see what happens. Then I reseal the container, note the results, open another container and repeat the process for each sample. After the first 5 or so, I started to get impatient. So I decided to just skip the spatula step and sprinkle the aluminum powder into the flame directly from the 1 quart paint cans they came in. Bad move. The flame from the dust went directly back into the quart can of aluminum which I was holding in my hand. In an instant, I was holding a white hot ball of flame. Just about as fast as it happened, I tossed the can away into the yard (about the only thing intelligent I had done was to do these tests outside--thank God). The contents of the can then REALLY flared up. But no harm was done and I didn't get burned. I was lucky. While the aluminum powder was still burning on the ground and in the can, I decided to experiment a little and see just what kind of reaction I would get by trying to put the fire out with water. I knew ahead of time what the risks were and stood 40-50 feet away with a garden hose. When the water hit the burning aluminum, it practically exploded. Interesting. Impressive. I tried the same thing later, after the fire had died down using an ABC powder fire extinguisher. Even more impressive. VERY large near-explosion. I politely left the fire alone and let it burn itself out.
Harry Gilliam <>
Round Hill, VA USA
Procedure: No
- Monday, November 24, 1997 at 19:14:54 (EST) 
I was relatively new to building pyrotechnics, although I had been shooting professionally for several years. I built a ball mill based on the information available at the time (about a year before publication of LS's articles in AFN). The mill had a wooden jar about 18" in diameter. The nine sides were solid maple, the top and bottom were good quality (void free) 3/4" plywood. Three of the sides had 2" lifter bars, also made from maple. This gave the mill a very strong "lift and drop" action. I used ceramic 1" sperical milling media from a ceramics supply house. The mill had been used to mill several small batches of Black Powder fairly successfully.

On the day of the accident, I loaded the mill with quite a large charge of ingredients for BP and started the mill. It was 100' from my house, without bunkering. At about four hours into the milling process, the mill blew up. Wood fragments flew about 70', most of the milling media landed very close.

The cause of the explosion is unknown. The theory which I find most plausible is that the very vigorous action, in which the balls were lifted and dropped, caused a point impact between two balls, heating up the BP at the point of contact past the ignition point.

Since this time I have used a smaller mill (built to LS's specs) with lead media and have had no furthur problems. As a result of this experience, I strongly recommend against the use of ceramic or other very hard milling media. Note that if the cause really was point impact heating, that the fact that the media was non-sparking was not relevant. As my t-shirt says "It Takes Lead Balls to Mill Black Powder"!
Age: 48, Experience: Novice, Procedure: Sort of
- Tuesday, November 11, 1997 at 11:19:42 (EST) 

About four years ago I tried to build a few rockets, not quite knowing how it should really be done. Nor did I have any good ideas about safety. I had a used large felt pen, I used that as the rocket casing. I packed moist bp down the tube, pushing a round stick in the mass to make a core, made nozzle out of epoxy. When the motor was dry, I went outside to test it. I took a short thin aluminium tube for a launch tube, and outside I discovered that I couldn't attach the tube to anything... So, I decided to hold the tube in my hand. I thought it would be safe, none of my earlier tries had worked, I thought that if the rocket didn't fly, it would just create a lot of sparks and smoke. I placed the rocket in the tube, lit the fuse and waited for it to fly, when it suddenly exploded. My hand hurt, my ears rang and my eyes watered. I carefully took a peek at my hand, all fingers were still there, and no bleeding. I went back home, washed my hands and discovered only a few small bruises and some small burns.
Age: 22, Experience: Amateur, Procedure: No
- Wednesday, July 02, 1997 at 05:53:34 (EDT) 
When testing a small rocket I used a long, 8 to 10 inch piece of black match that was removed from a section of commercial quickmatch (origin unknown) as the fuse. Black match usually burns at a 1 to 2 seconds per inch rate. When I lit this particular match it burned almost instantly, as if it were quickmatch. To make matters worse the experimental rocket exploded at ignition hitting my jacketed arm and leaving a bruise and me with ringing ears. The Moral: Do not trust black match to burn slowly. Apparently some commercially made product burns just as fast without the paper sheath of quickmatch! Damage: Only a bruise and another notch in the hearing reduction.
Procedure: No.
- Monday, June 02, 1997 at 13:30:48 (EDT)  

I was firing a show on a barge with shells and mines up to three inch. It was before the days of electric firing and we were following the established procedures involving reloading.

The barge skipper had full instructions to keep it head to wind so the ready boxes were up wind.

Unfortunately surrounded as we were by very high hills and mountains a flurry of wind hit from the other direction and made a show of sparks pour into the ready box as I opened one picking out two mines.

I went swimming to ease the burn pain while calling advice to my assistant to continue with the show from the water.

They did not open the boxes till each effect was well and truly fired. It took about a month for the skin on my hands to regrow and I was very lucky I had no scarring.

Moral, dont trust the wind direction especially around high rough stadiums hills and mountains. I only find constant winds on gently rolling country that does not create vortices in the wind.
Anthony Lealand
Age: 30, Experience: Professional of the time, Procedure: Standard for hand fired shows
- Sunday, June 01, 1997 at 01:22:01 (EDT) 

Some years ago when I was just starting in professional display work, some friends and I were preparing to do a small dislay in the midwestern US. One of the functions of our displays aside from making a few bucks was to test our new designs and dispose of accumulated projects. At that time, I had been working with perchlorate/salicylate whistle mix for some time. One of my favorite creations was a "whistling chaser" made from an 8 ounce rocket tube (3/4 inch inside diameter) with a salute on the end roughly equivalent to an old-fashioned cherry bomb -- maybe 2 to 3 grams of perc / Al flash mix. For some reason I had fused some with black match, that led through a paper nosing to the propellant grain. Having fired several successfuly without incident, I came up with the brilliant idea of igniting the fuse, and the dropping the device down a small mortar into which a small amount of commercial black powder had been poured. My hand moved quickly, but not quite quickly enough. Instead of the desired effect of whitle popping out of the mortar, the device exploded almost as soon as I dropped it. My hand was probably a foot or at most two away when the entire device (whistle and flash together) went off. The total damage: one very frightened formerly arrogant pyro, one badly bruised hand, some hearing loss in my right ear which persists to this day (maybe 10 years later?). The benefit: one anecdote that reminds me and anyone who will listen about the advantages of thinking carefully before one acts, especially in pyrotechnics. I'm very lucky not to be minus a few fingers.
Age: 44, Experience: 30+ years amateur & pro, Procedure: no
- Saturday, May 31, 1997 at 11:25:56 (EDT) 
This is a test
Age: 25,Experience: Beginner,Procedure From an ftp file
- Friday, May 30, 1997 at 14:16:06 (EDT) 
I generally make it a rule that there is NO fire in the pyroshop... I have a specific testing are outside of the shop where I can test stars, etc... Recently, I was tired, it was raining, and I made a mistake. I had just created a new type of electric match, and I decided to test it. Perhaps the fact that it was an electric match, and not a torch or match, didn't trigger off the "no fire in the shop" rules. I hooked the match up to my CD box, and fired it off. It worked nicely, throwing sparks for 3' in all directions. It was only AFTER I fired the match that I noticed the open bag of stars that were about 2' past where some of the sparks had fallen.

I had broken my own rules about

1) no fire in the shop
2) returning stars to the magazine when not shell building

It would have been bad if 2 Kg of stars had caught fire. I probably would have been burned. Fortunately, there were no shells or other explosive or flammible materials out of the magazine, so the accident "might" have been contained. Or at least, I could have gotten away while the shop was only on fire, and before it exploded. NO FIRE IN THE SHOP.

USA - Friday, May 30, 1997 at 13:28:18 (EDT) 

This is a test of ANAR

USA - Friday, May 30, 1997 at 13:08:51 (EDT) 

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