LABORATORY AND/OR PYROTECHNIC TYPE CHEMICALS AND MIXTURES CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO BOTH STORE AND USE! TO EXPERIMENT WITH OR USE SUCH CHEMICALS AND MIXTURES SHOULD BE DONE ONLY BY QUALIFIED, KNOWLEDGEABLE PERSONS WELL VERSED AND EQUIPPED TO HANDLE, STORE OR USE SUCH PRODUCTS, INEXPERIENCED PERSONS SHOULD FIRST ENLIST THE HELP OF AN EXPERIENCED LABORATORY CHEMIST AND/OR PYROTECHNICIAN BEFORE ANY ORDERING OF OR ACTIVITY THEREOF WITH SUCH CHEMICALS, MIXTURES OR EXPERIMENTATION THEREOF. BE SURE YOU KNOW THE LAWS BOTH LOCAL AND FEDERAL (IF ANY) REGARDING THE EXPERIMENTATION OR CONSTRUCTION OF ANY MIXTURE OR DEVICE BEFORE YOU START. SAFETY MUST BE PRACTICED AT ALL TIMES!
AS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FORESEE AND/OR LIST ALL THE SAFETY PRACTICES NEEDED IN ANY GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES OR EVENT, BELOW WE LIST JUST A FEW "BASICS" THAT SHOULD ALWAYS BE PRACTICED AND BORE IN MIND SOLIDLY AT ALL TIMES.
BASIC SAFETY AND EQUIPMENT
1) Know exactly what you are doing and be well versed on the chemicals, mixtures and their properties before starting. Enlist the help of the experienced and/or use well written literature by experienced authors.
2) Storage of chemicals should be in strong, tightly sealed polyethylene, metal or glass containers (depending on chemical) labeled as to contents on the side and lid of each to avoid mix-up when more than one container is open at a time. Glass containers (whenever possible) should be avoided for reasons that are obvious.
3) Chemicals should be stored separately - oxidizers away from flammables locked away well out of reach of children. Storage should be in a well-ventilated area and out of seasonal temperature changes.
4) Proper measuring devices must be used. The first being an accurate laboratory "Tri-beam" scale or one used by ammunition re-loaders (available at most gunshops). The second is a set of aluminum measuring spoons.
5) Chemicals that need to be finely powdered before use should be ground separately in a clean mortar with pestle or a clean ballmill or tumbler. Keep separate equipment for oxidizers and fuels. For cleaning equipment used for fuels, a solvent or sand may be useful. NEVER GRIND EXPLOSIVE COMPOUNDS OR MIXTURES!!
6) The work area should be separate from the storage area in a well ventilated, even temperature area away from heat sources or open flame of any kind (space heaters, pilot lights, gas heaters, etc.). Always keep a fire extinguisher handy in both storage and work areas. SMOKING IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED IN AND AROUND WORK AND STORAGE AREAS! Smokers should either give up the habit or give up the hobby - one or the other. Smoking and finely divided powders together can be FATAL!
7) Equipment and utensils should be properly grounded to reduce static electrical discharge - one of the most dangerous aspects of working with finely divided/ powdered chemicals and compounds. Cotton clothing should also be worn to help guard against static buildup. Even a static "shock" from a fingernail to a chemical or compound can result in an explosion and fire. Floor and walls of work area should be coated with a nonsparking surface such as latex or rubber type sealer.
8) Always use approved eye and respiratory protection during all operations. Good cotton clothing and/or overalls or apron and a pair of latex gloves are of utmost importance. Always keep them clean - wash them as needed. Keep a clean work area - clean up spills immediately before proceeding.
9) Mixing should be done only in paper or plastic containers (preferably paper), paper does not have the tendency that plastic has for holding a possible static change. Chemicals should be "screened" separately when possible, without friction, using a clean brass or aluminum screen over adequate paper for collection. Be sure there is adequate ventilation. This will discard any "dust" when grinding or mixing. Do not proceed with airborne dust in work area. Use properly approved/sealed grounded ventilation fans and ducts to discard dust. NEVER GRIND AN UNSTABLE OR EXPLOSIVE COMPOUND OR MIXTURE! Many mixtures or compounds can be sensitive to friction as well as static electricity or shock and to subject them to grinding (friction) can be disastrous. Use common sense at all times during operations. If a spill should occur, clean it up at once an dispose of properly. Always keep a clean work area free of spills, dirt, and debris.
10) Only small batches should be attempted and used right away. Many mixtures are moisture sensitive and attract moisture to them rendering the compound sensitive and/or unstable. Spontaneous combustion can then occur. Some chemicals (mixed with other) become sensitive and break down under storage with resulting chemical changes and dangerous compound structure.
11) The mixing and use of high energy heat/flash mixtures is perhaps the most dangerous of all mixtures. Ultrasenstive compounds containing an oxidizer with fine metal powder(s) are extremely sensitive to heat, friction, static electricity, and shock and should be avoided at all times. Many fatal accidents both commercial and private have been linked directly to flash mixtures. There is absolutely NO safe way to produce or use such mixtures. To avoid them is the only safe practice.
12) Avoid the use of chlorates whenever possible. They are a chief cause of hazard when it occurs. In mixtures, chlorates are dangerous. While not sensitive by themselves, chlorates render many mixtures sensitive to heat, friction and shock. NEVER mix chlorates with sulfur, sulfides, sulfates, antimonies and/or fine metal powders. NEVER grind or pound (to compress) a chlorate-containing mixture. The explosion can be FATAL!
Laboratory and pyrotechnical research and experimentation is rewarding and valuable when approached properly - disastrous when not. When experimenting with rocketry and/or pyrotechnical type compounds and devices, be sure to double-check your procedure before starting. If at any time you become confused or doubt what you have done, destroy/dispose of properly and start over. NEVER guess at anything - be sure before proceeding. If a compound or device fails to function properly or not at all, destroy it in or with water (using shovel - never by hand) after a sufficient amount of time has elapsed. NEVER attempt to re-ignite or use a compound or device that has failed to function! NEVER use containers of metal, glass, wood, plastic or other such rigid materials to test compounds or devices in. Only containers of paper should be used to test compounds or a complete device. If an explosion should occur, paper fractures into relatively harmless bits - other rigid materials fracture into deadly shrapnel.
HEREIN IS BASIC SUMMARY OF PROPOSED SAFETY PROCEDURES. BY NO MEANS ARE THEY COMPLETE. READER MUST DRAW HIS/HER OWN CONCLUSIONS AS TO THEIR USE. TO USE THEM AND BEAR THEM IN MIND IS ADVISED. WE CANNOT STRESS SAFETY PRACTICES ENOUGH. SAFETY FIRST - SAFETY ALWAYS!
**WE AT FIREFOX ENTERPRISES INC. WISH TO DO WHAT WE CAN TO ENSURE THE SAFE AND LEGAL PRACTICE OF PYROTECHNICAL RESEARCH AND EXPERIMENTATION SO THIS ART CAN BE ENJOYED WITHOUT FURTHER RESTRICTIONS BY COUNTLESS HOBBIESTS AND EXPERIMENTERS OF FUTURE GENERATIONS YET TO COME. HELP US PRESERVE THIS ART BY USING ALL MERCHANDISE SAFELY AND STRICTLY WITHIN LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS.
This document is reproduced by kind permission from Gary Purrington of:
FIREFOX ENTERPRISES INC.
PO BOX 5366
POCATELLO, ID 83202
Last updated 8-23-1996