Nitrate-Based Strobes

Written by Lloyd Sponenburgh

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

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White Strobes by Ned Gorski

A question was asked on rec.pyrotechnics about formulations for strobe comps that do not use dichromate. Here are some nitrate-based compositions.

#1 works particularly well, and by tuning the amount of 200-mesh vs. 60-mesh MgAl, it can speed the strobe up to a steady burn, or slow it to one or two flashes per second, with an occasional “stop”, followed by self-relight.

It’s not a true strobe in that it has more of a shimmering, intermittent burn than a regular on/off strobing effect.

This material works best simply “settled” in a 5/16″ i.d. thin paper tube (lance tube).

Adding up to 3% air float charcoal will make it less prone to go out, and easier to ignite.

Simply replacing the strontium nitrate with barium nitrate yields an acceptable green version.

Various Nitrate Red Strobes

Chemical #1 #2 #3 #3b
Strontium Nitrate 51 51 51 51
Sulfur 19 19 19 19
Parlon 5 11 16 16
Magnalium, 60 mesh 9 9 6 12
Magnalium, 200 mesh 9 3 6 0
Potassium Nitrate 7 7 7 7
Dextrin 4 4 0 0
Total 104 104 105 105

#3 and #3b bound with acetone, but try/dextrin water.

I have used these formulations with good success and have even modified #1 with a little copper oxide and saran for a purple shimmering lance.

It should be pointed out that these are not products of my mind – I got them “off the web”. We should give credit to the anonymous original author.

This article is just one of dozens of great fireworks making projects in the book Best of AFN VI, from American Fireworks News. Thanks to Lloyd Sponenburgh and to AFN for permission to reprint.

Get all the chemicals you need to make these strobe compositions at

6 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Bert says:

    I think you’d better explain the “bottle tree”-

  2. Tom Dewille says:

    Back in the late 70′s, Mike Gill shared the simplest strobe formula I have ever seen. 60% Strontium Nitrate 40% Magnalium. Anything from 60 mesh MgAl to 325 mesh works. Made with 200 mesh is easier to ignite than the 60 mesh. The composition burns with a dim red flame between bright pinkish-white flashes. The flash appears white to the eye, but a photograph indicates that the Strontium emission is very present.

  3. James Moore says:

    Looks nice! Would make nice battleground effects for movie making.

  4. Buz Davis says:

    For Shame! Truncating “The Who” ? I was just mellowing out when the video quit (listened to it twice and may just rummage up an old CD).

    I might need some more sparklers for my thermite kit but don’t need $30 worth. I’ll pay reasonable shipping. My sister wants a bottle tree built from rebar, Can we negotiate a lesser minimum order ? Do folks in Virginia know about bottle trees ?
    This could be a whole ‘nother field for you!

    Buz Davis

    • Bert says:

      You need to explain “bottle tree”-

      • Don says:

        A bottle tree is a good luck/yard decoration thing where colorful glass bottles are stuck on the branches of a small tree. Problem is, the trees leaf out. Solution? weld up a rebar one. My guess is that he’s using the thermite to sort of CAD weld it. Which is why I got thermite, too. I needed a portable heat source for some unsophisticated spot welding on grounding rods and such.

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