HOWTO: Make Your Own Smoke Bombs at Home!

by Whatsblem the Pro


While it’s an amazingly bad idea to fool around with making your own fireworks in general if you don’t happen to have a knowledgeable qualified pyrotechnician on hand, there are some fireworks you can easily make yourself, safely and cheaply and without the risk of losing any extremities.

Smoke bombs top the safe ‘n’ sane list, and in their own way they can be just as fun and useful as even the more extreme blowy-uppy and melty-throughy varieties of recreational DIY combustibles, like tannerite and thermite.

Don't try this at home. Or anywhere else.

Don’t try this at home. Or anywhere else.

Like thermite, smoke bombs are very easy and cheap to make quickly at home, and almost as safe to manufacture, store, and transport. . . but unlike thermite, which is horrifically dangerous once ignited, and shouldn’t be meddled with even in small quantities unless you know exactly what you’re doing, smoke bombs are safe enough that ordinary common sense will prevent you from suffering any serious consequences. Please note that while tannerite is only a little bit tougher to make at home than smoke bombs or thermite, tannerite absorbs water from the air over time and, in the process, can become unstable enough to self-ignite. In other words, if you don’t have someone qualified around, you might want to limit your pyro DIY to smoke bombs.

I’m going to divide the making of smoke bombs into three categories: Basic, Advanced, and Kit. Basic smoke bombs are minimalist things; the Advanced instructions will take the Basic smoke bomb and add various fancy-lad options; Kit smoke bombs provide the best of both, offering ease of manufacture with tons of options (especially for colors).


The most basic smoke bomb of the variety we’re going to discuss requires only two components: ordinary refined white table sugar, and potassium nitrate, aka ‘saltpetre.’ You’ll also need a skillet or frying pan, and some aluminum foil.

Check the label; use 100% potassium nitrate

Check the label; use 100% potassium nitrate

You can buy the sugar at any grocery story, obviously, but where do you get saltpetre?
At the store, of course! Maybe not the supermarket, but Lowe’s or Home Depot or the gardening center at any number of big box stores will usually have it, as will some feed stores and farm supply outlets (potassium nitrate is a fertilizer). Ask for saltpetre or potassium nitrate by name, or look for Spectracide brand Stump Remover or similar products. . . but check the ingredients list on the label, and make sure it says “potassium nitrate,” “saltpetre,” or “KNO3.” Spectracide’s product is 100% potassium nitrate; don’t settle for anything less!

You can also buy online, at any number of places. Check Amazon, or try a chemical supply house. is a pretty comprehensively-stocked distributor of pyro supplies, and can furnish you with everything you’ll need, including saltpetre.

You can also just make your own, if you really want to go to all the trouble, by reacting ammonium nitrate with potassium chloride. . . but we’ll leave those instructions for another time.

So, you’ve got your sugar, and you’ve got your potassium nitrate. You’ll also need a nice big skillet (teflon-coated or other nonstick, if possible), and a range to cook on.

Break up any clumps in the potassium nitrate and the sugar; you want them to be free-flowing, finely-divided powders. THIS IS CRITICAL, as even a small amount of clumping will cause your smoke bombs to be hard to light and prone to going out. Run your ingredients through a sifter if necessary. Once you’ve got them both finely divided, mix them together in a 3:2 ratio. It’s not a critical ratio, so you don’t need to weigh them out; just measure by using a spoon or a scoop of some kind; three scoops of potassium nitrate to every two scoops of sugar.

Warm the skillet over low to medium heat, and put the sugar-saltpetre mixture in it. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon (so you don’t scratch the pan’s nonstick coating) until the mixture melts together and the sugar begins to caramelize; it will resemble smooth, light-colored peanut butter when it’s ready.

I repeat: STIR CONTINUOUSLY, AND DO NOT leave the pan unattended on the stove; this isn’t a terribly dangerous procedure, but if it does catch fire you may not be able to find it to put it out before it fills your entire house with smoke and burns the place to the ground. Even if all you do is smoke up your kitchen, it’s going to attract hordes of flies the next day, so keep stirring and don’t let it catch fire!

Don’t worry about contaminating your skillet; clean-up can be accomplished with nothing but water. Also, potassium nitrate is often used as a food preservative, and this mixture you’ll be working with is entirely non-toxic (but avoid breathing the smoke when you set it off). Eating it isn’t recommended, but it won’t hurt you a bit, and any residue left in the pan after washing is ignorable.

Once you’ve got a nice smooth brown mixture in your pan, treat it like cookie dough (but don’t bake it). Spoon rough spheres of the hot mixture onto a sheet of aluminum foil, and let them cool and harden. Done! Peel them off the foil, take them outside to an appropriate spot, and hold a lit match to one until it catches. Smoke bomb!


Perhaps the most obvious option would be to add a fuse. I won’t go into the intricacies of rolling your own fireworks fuse in this article (maybe another time), but it is doable if you don’t want to simply buy it online. Again, try Amazon, or The type of fuse known as ‘Visco’ and sometimes referred to as “cannon fuse,” “fireworks fuse,” “safety fuse,” or “wick” is ideal, but it’s not critical, as a smoke bomb isn’t going to blow your hand off no matter how iffy the fuse might be.

Adding a fuse can be as simple as shoving a length of your preferred fuse into the smoke bomb right after it leaves the pan, while it’s warm and soft. For best results, poke a hole in the cooling mixture with something rigid that is bigger but not too much bigger than the diameter of your fuse (an ordinary pen works well). Wait an hour, drop the fuse into the hole, then push a small amount of cotton wadding (tear apart a cotton ball) down into the hole alongside the fuse to secure it.

If you want to do the job extra neatly and also make your smoke bomb last longer and give off smoke a little more effectively, add some containment. This can be as easy as filling a section of cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll, paper towel roll, or frozen “push-up” confection with the warm mixture of saltpetre and sugar you’ve prepared, inserting the fuse, and wrapping the whole thing tightly in duct tape with the fuse sticking out, leaving a small open space around the fuse to vent the smoke. Packaging your handiwork this way is also helpful if you intend to store or transport smoke bombs, and don’t want your storage area littered with detritus. Instead of using a cardboard tube and duct tape, you can just wrap your bombs in aluminum foil; this will, however, leave more mess to clean up after the smokeration is over.

If you want to get really super-fancy about it, you can press the hot mixture of sugar and saltpetre into a mold, for a decorative look that says “I buy all my fireworks from Tiffany’s, peasants,” or perhaps a nice hand grenade motif.

Another option: Right after removing your skillet full of fun from the heat, add baking soda to make your smoke bomb burn more slowly and evenly. The proper ratio of saltpetre to sugar and baking soda is 9:6:1; nine parts saltpetre, six parts sugar, and one part baking soda. Mix the baking soda in quickly but thoroughly just before removing the mixture from the pan.

Aniline-based dyes for the win

Aniline-based dyes for the win

What’s more awesome than a homemade smoke bomb? A COLORED homemade smoke bomb! There’s a whole range of colors you can add to these little gems, but you’ll want to be picky about the dye you use. Don’t use water-soluble dyes, like food coloring. These may (or may not) change the color of the flame, but they won’t give you the bright-hued smoke you’re looking for. Aniline dyes, sometimes sold at art supply/craft/hobby stores as “powdered organic” dyes, work well, and you may even be able to find them in the laundry section of your local supermarket. Check the ingredients list on the label carefully to make sure you’re buying an aniline-based dye!

Just after removing the pan full of sugar-saltpetre mixture from the heat, and after mixing in the optional baking soda if you choose to use it, it’s time add the dye. The optimum ratio of saltpetre to sugar to baking soda to dye is 9:6:1:9, so the amount of dye you add should be equal to the amount of saltpetre you used. Again, make sure the dye is finely-divided and free-flowing before you mix it in, and not a mass of lumpy, clumpy, chunks. You should be able to manufacture a huge variety of colored smoke bombs this way, although blue and orange work best with this type of smoke bomb.


Sure, take the easy way out. . . and why not? You can still say you made your smoke bombs at home, and you’ll avoid having to make multiple trips to different types of store to obtain your materials. Smoke bomb kits are an ideal combination of convenience and DIYitude.

Skylighter sells a reasonably stunning array of smoke bomb kits in a whole rainbow of colors (even pink!) that you can put together at home, but they are often out of stock, so you might have to sit on your hands a while before you can get started. Take note: these kits use a different mix of chemicals than our sugar-and-saltpetre concoction, so you’ll want to set this article aside and follow the instructions that come with the kit instead. On the plus side, this different type of smoke bomb offers more vibrant colors than the saltpetre-and-sugar variety.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: BE CAREFUL. Smoke bombs are relatively harmless little beasts, but anything that is on fire poses a hazard, and you do want to avoid inhaling the smoke, although a little won’t hurt you. You can also create quite a hazard by setting these things off in the wrong place; the middle of the freeway is a poor choice of locales for creating a giant opaque wall of colored smoke. Use common sense; it’s nice to stay alive and enjoy your shenanigans without falling into the rookers of the millicents for it.

Burn on!

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Being Really Hard to Find

by Whatsblem the Pro

No less a light than R. Buckminster Fuller once said that “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Art sometimes requires access to tools and substances that are well beyond the pale of normal day-to-day existence; procurement of this matériel can be vital. It can also be difficult, even if you live in a place where what you need is technically legal. Try sourcing a large supply of tannerite sometime, and you may get your phone tapped or your e-mail gone through even if nobody knocks on your door to see what you’re up to. Maybe all you need for your shenanigans are some industrial-strength fireworks, but you live in an area where fireworks are tightly controlled.

Fireworks - screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Fireworks – screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Silk Road has rendered the existing model obsolete. The site is an online marketplace that preserves anonymity, provides escrow service and a reputation system, and allows the sale of just about anything at all.

You can’t just point your browser at Silk Road, though. The site’s servers can’t be pinpointed, and can’t even be communicated with if you’re not set up for it. Silk Road is the major player on the Deep Web, sometimes called Darknet, or Undernet. Unless you’re already anonymized, you can’t get there from here.

Tor (aka “The Onion Router”) is the big workhorse of the Deep Web. How does Tor work? From the Wikipedia entry:

How Tor works

How Tor works

“Tor aims to conceal its users’ identities and their network activity from surveillance and traffic analysis by separating identification and routing. It is an implementation of onion routing, which encrypts and then randomly bounces communications through a network of relays run by volunteers around the globe. These onion routers employ encryption in a multi-layered manner (hence the onion metaphor) to ensure perfect forward secrecy between relays, thereby providing users with anonymity in network location. That anonymity extends to the hosting of censorship-resistant content via Tor’s anonymous hidden service feature. Furthermore, by keeping some of the entry relays (bridge relays) secret, users can evade Internet censorship that relies upon blocking public Tor relays.

Because the Internet address of the sender and the recipient are not both in cleartext at any hop along the way, anyone eavesdropping at any point along the communication channel cannot directly identify both ends. Furthermore, to the recipient it appears that the last Tor node (the exit node) is the originator of the communication rather than the sender.”

Once you’ve got Tor installed and running, you’ll have a special Tor-hardened browser open that keeps you anonymous on the Internet. . . or does it? Not entirely, as it turns out. You still have to avoid doing things that might reveal your identity, which means your Tor-enabled browser should be the only browser open, and you must resist the temptation to do everyday things like log in to Facebook, or check your e-mail. Doing so while using Tor is actually much less secure than doing it without Tor running, because hey: people are watching. Tor does not, and by design cannot, encrypt your traffic between exit nodes and target servers. In other words, you can send and receive data all you like and nobody will know where or who you are just by looking at the flow of data, but if you yourself send information that tells where and who you are, you may be exposing your most sensitive data to hackers or law enforcement. You can expose where and who you are indirectly, as well; as an example: in September 2007, Swedish security consultant Dan Egerstad reported the interception of a large number of email account usernames and passwords by running and monitoring Tor exit nodes. Once someone has information like that, finding out who you are, where you live, and all kinds of other things about you becomes trivial.

Posting photographs without taking the necessary precautions can also compromise your identity while running Tor. Digital photos normally have what’s known as EXIF data attached to them, and the EXIF may include things like the precise GPS coordinates of where you took the picture. Scrubbing or spoofing the EXIF data is easy, but it’s also essential that you don’t skip that step if you want to upload photos and remain anonymous.

You can log in to Silk Road and lots of other Deep Web sites safely because they avoid those exit nodes that make your data sniffable and therefore vulnerable; since Silk Road also wants to remain anonymized, your requests to the site and the site’s replies to you meet and negotiate with each other at some random point in the middle of the Tor-enabled network. Again: don’t open a second browser, don’t check your e-mail, don’t sign into Facebook or other sites that know your real identity, and don’t browse web sites casually. The Deep Web is for getting in, getting what you need, and getting out.

Some popular Silk Road offerings - screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Some popular Silk Road offerings – screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

The best way to get to the anonymized dark side of the Internet is to boot to a CD, a USB thumb drive, or an external hard drive that contains a special Tor-enabled security-hardened operating system. This will enable you not only to completely, securely anonymize yourself, it will also give you the ability to take your show on the road and safely access the underworld from just about any computer with an Internet connection, even the ones in the library. There are several options to choose from in such an operating system; two very good choices are Tails, and Liberté Linux.

If you boot to one of these specialized operating systems, Tor will already be enabled, and you’ll be ready to go. Point the specially-modified browser at the Silk Road and you’re there (please note that if you don’t have Tor installed and running correctly, though, you’ll get “404 Not Found” or your DNS provider’s equivalent instead).

OK, so you’ve created a Silk Road account and logged into that. What now? You can feast your eyes to your heart’s content, but how do you buy anything, and what is the weird pricing system all about?

That’s the other part of the Deep Web equation: anonymized money. Silk Road’s transactions (totaling over 1.2 million US dollars per month in 2012) are conducted using Bitcoin, an electronic currency introduced in 2009 that was designed with your privacy in mind. So, before you can buy anything on Silk Road, you’ll need to acquire some bitcoins. There are several ways to do this, and more all the time; just in the last few weeks, a Bitcoin ATM was announced for use in public spaces. The most common way of obtaining bitcoins is to go through a site like Mt. Gox; this method involves a trip to a local bank to finalize the transaction, which places bitcoins in your encrypted ‘wallet’ to be spent online. As Bitcoin achieves greater recognition and acceptance, even easier methods of trading non-virtual currencies for bitcoins should quickly become trivial and routine.


Just buying bitcoins isn’t enough; you’ll also need to use a mixing service or three if you want your transactions to remain truly anonymous. You’ll need to pick your mixing services judiciously; they also operate anonymously, and a fly-by-night operation could simply disappear with your bitcoins. Do your due diligence! As a general rule, anyone you do business with anonymously should have a reputation that is worth much more to them than your transaction.

Now you can buy, but who can you trust? If everyone’s anonymous, what’s to stop vendors on Silk Road from simply keeping your money and sending you nothing at all?

Fortunately, Silk Road provides both an escrow service and a reputation system. Do your due diligence and shy away from the early funds release option, and your transaction is assured. Your bitcoins won’t be handed over to the seller until you both agree that the deal was completed fairly.

Safely communicating with vendors is also an issue. You’re going to have to give them a name and address to ship to at some point, so take steps to keep anyone in between you from sniffing that information out of the packets of data you transmit as they travel through the cloud from server to server. Make sure you use a dedicated e-mail account, and encrypt your messages in both directions with PGP or the free alternative GPG. . . or take the easy way out, and get yourself a Hushmail or Tor Mail account.

How PGP works

How PGP works

Finally, you’ve got to receive the product. It might be advisable to limit your purchases to vendors in your own country; Silk Road allows you to declare a country for your account (or not), and provides a handy “domestic only” checkbox at the top of every search page. You’ll need a name and address; PO boxes are commonly used and if you’re in America the USPS is highly recommended over other carriers like UPS or FedEx, simply because the Post Office handles such an immensely larger volume of mail and packages than the alternatives.

Volumes have been written about secure shipping, and indeed, there’s a great deal more to say about all of this. This article should be considered the tip of the iceberg; it will give you enough information to get started, but by “get started” I mean “do a lot more reading.” It’s no small or simple thing to free yourself of the burden of an obsolete old paradigm, especially when the corpse is still violently thrashing around and hurting people who try without first preparing themselves adequately. All the information and resources you need are available to you, but it’s up to you to put in the study time necessary to master the tools you’ll need.

Proceed with caution!