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» The Geek Culture Forums   » Techno-Talking   » Hardware, Robots, AI, Geek Toys!   » Guide to home-made bottle rockets.

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Author Topic: Guide to home-made bottle rockets.
Alpha Geek
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Icon 1 posted June 10, 2006 13:25      Profile for maybe.logic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So you live in a place where flying explosives are illegal and/or expensive? Even when you want to celebrate your independence? Well, grab a seat and let maybe.logic show you an old Indian trick.

A bottle rocket can be constructed fairly easily for around $2. You need three main components: a rocket, a crackling ball, and some tape (I prefer electrical tape). Here's a picture of everything.

The rocket is easier to obtain than you might think. They are used in Estes model rockets, so they are sold at most hobby stores (and even at Wal-Mart). They are sold in packs of three for about $5 (U.S.). I recommend the A8-3 rocket, which is the one pictured in this guide. Here is a closer shot of the rocket by itself.

The hollow space in the top of the rocket is the payload area. After the rocket uses its fuel, it pushes out whatever is in the payload area, and exposes it to some heat as well.

The second main component, as I mentioned, is the crackling ball. Crackling balls are sold in six-packs at most fireworks tents at varying prices (usually between $1 and $2). Each crackling ball contains a piece of paper wrapped around large grains of something that resembles Fg black powder. (I'm not sure what it is exactly, but when you light it makes a bright flash and a loud "crackling" noise. For the rest of this guide, I'll refer to this substance as the "powder".) Here is a picture of a partially unpackaged crackling ball.

To construct the bottle-rocket, you need to pour the powder from the crackling ball into the payload of the rocket, so the rocket looks like this

Now, wrap up the end of the rocket with tape.

like this

Next, insert the left-over fuse from crackling ball into the ignition hole on the bottom of the rocket. Then shove an igniter plug in to hold it in place.

like this

Your final product should look like this

If you want to make it an official "bottle" rocket, tape a stick to the side of it. I prefer to light it and then drop it into a vertical pipe like a mortar.

The End

Posts: 345 | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged

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Icon 1 posted June 12, 2006 00:48      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A: This seems only usefull if you live somewhere you can buy "crackling balls" and not airborn fireworks. I don't know where this might be.

B: This man forgot to mention that static electricity can set off explosives. Do you have a static free room in your house to open fireworks in?

C: This is all around pretty lame. If you want big explosions, make two liter bombs, weigh them down so they will sink, and throw them in a lake. Much safer and you get bigger explosions.

"If they're not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and violent extremists, then why should I take the time to distinguish between decent, fearful white people and racists?"

-Assif Mandvi

Posts: 3093 | From: Switzerland | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged

Solid Nitrozanium SuperFan!
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Icon 1 posted June 12, 2006 09:13      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Fill a coke bottle with liquid nitrogen. Throw it in a trash can full of water.

You'll get a nice big boom and make a grand mess without risking any wildfires.

Note: I haven't actually tried this stunt; it was recommended by my boss after one of my labmates and I started throwing "eppie bomb" (microtubes with chunks of dry ice in them) into his office one day.

And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

Posts: 7670 | From: the lab | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged
BlabberMouth, a Blabber Odyssey
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Icon 1 posted June 12, 2006 12:27      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
You can explode small coke bottles with dry ice, you don't need to use nitrogen. We show school children this to make them think science is cool.
Posts: 2421 | From: That London | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
israel's anger
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Icon 1 posted July 06, 2006 20:37      Profile for israel's anger     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
anyone tried the mentos+diet coke trick?

for a less hazardous explosion.

Posts: 1 | From: usa. soon to be australia. | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged

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Icon 1 posted July 06, 2006 21:34      Profile for toobe   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Originally posted by israel's anger:
anyone tried the mentos+diet coke trick?

for a less hazardous explosion.

Yes we have.

Studies show reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.

Posts: 175 | From: Victoria, BC | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
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Icon 1 posted July 22, 2006 00:29      Profile for NeonChrist     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
check out this website..

i dont know if your the same guy or if one of you is plagerizing here but... just thought i might point it out. anyway for whoever wrote this good job, and for whoever stole this (if anyone) thats pretty low..

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Mini Geek
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Icon 1 posted July 23, 2006 11:27      Profile for AntonTakk   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
why not just buy a medium sized model rocket (like the Alpha) stuff an E9-9 engine in it, reinforce the body tube with...something (maybe tape), glue the nose cone on real good, and use a combination of ground solid propelland from another rocket engine and carefully ground magnesium (sp?) for the boom and the pretty?

`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!' - Percy Bysshe Shelley

Posts: 83 | From: Denver, CO | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged
BlabberMouth, a Blabber Odyssey
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Icon 1 posted July 23, 2006 12:09      Profile for quantumfluff     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
3 firecrackers stuffed fuse down into a booster stage model rocket engine. tape on a stick and let if fly.
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Newbie Larva
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Icon 1 posted July 24, 2006 00:03      Profile for serutan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My roommate and I used to make bottle rockets. We rolled our own tubes out of brown butcher paper, mixed our own black powder, filled the rockets using a special homemade jig, and even experimented with colored highlights. Here is what we did:

1) Assemble the filler jig:
Nail or screw a short piece of 2x4, standing on edge, to a small piece of plywood about 1 ft square. Drill a 3/4-inch hole about 2 inches deep into the 2x4. Using a dab of construction adhesive or some other very strong adhesive, glue a golf tee to the center of the bottom of the hole, sticking up. This will create a small hollow cavity at the bottom of the packed powder, in which to insert the fuse. We figured it was also sort of nozzle-like, but not being rocket scientists what did we know?

2) Make the rocket bodies:
With a 1/2-inch dowel or metal rod and a roll of butcher paper, start rolling the paper onto the dowel. Roll it tightly and keep rolling it until the roll is slightly under 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut the paper, and using Elmer's glue or something similar, glue the edge so it won't unroll. Slide the roll paper off the dowel or rod. You now have a 3/4 inch outside diameter tube with approximately 1/8 inch wall thickness. Using a table saw, band saw, hand saw etc, cut this tube into short pieces 3 to 4-inches long.

3) Make the black powder:
When we did this back around 1980 it was possible to buy saltpeter (potassium nitrate), powdered charcoal and sulfur easily at hardware and drug stores. We used a formula that was readily available in books, which if I recall correctly was 75% saltpeter, 15% sulfur and 10% powdered charcoal (by weight). Actually I think we scraped the charcoal out of the inside of a woodstove, because it was both free and of very fine texture. I have no idea how available any of these things are nowadays when everybody is a suspected terrist, but anyway that's what we did. We stored the powder in small containers such as plastic cottage cheese containers with lids to keep it dry, in a cool dry place (a workshop at the back of the house) away from all sources of flame.

4. Fill the rockets:
Place a tube in the filler jig. Spoon black powder into the tube a couple teaspoons at a time, gently tamping it down around the golf tee with a thin piece of dowel. We used caution and common sense here, never tapping too hard with the dowel (we did NOT pound it with a hammer), never looking down into the tube, and keeping the supply of black powder a couple feet away. I think we also wore heavy canvas gardening gloves. We figured that if the powder ever ignited from friction or something, it would probably flare out of the open top of the tube as opposed to exploding. But again, we weren't rocket scientists so what did we know?

When the powder is about a half inch from the top of the tube, seal it by crimping a few inner layers of the tube paper down over it. Carefully lift the tube out of the filler jig and insert a piece of fuse several inches long. Crimp a couple inner layers of the tube paper over it to hold it in.

Like the other stuff, we were able to just buy lengths of fuse at a hardware store back in 1980. But in our quest for cheapness we also experimented with making our own fuses by sprinking very fine black powder onto a single layer of 2-ply toilet paper that we had peeled apart, and then rolling the paper into a kind of stick between our hands. This worked, but tended to sputter and was not as reliable as the fuses we bought.

Anyway, that's your rocket body. Using a piece of scotch tape, tape the tube to a thin stick. We preferred those bamboo cooking skewers about 10 inches long for barbecuing stuff. They came in packs of like 100 at the grocery store and were really cheap.

Stand it in a bottle or anything that will hold it up without falling over, light the fuse and stand back. We launched at least a hundred of these things in our neighborhood without a single mishap. Many of them landed on neighboring roofs or out in the street. Yes we were idiots, but we were lucky and nothing bad ever happened.

Eventually my roommate got interested in making colored displays. He got some chemicals to produce different colors. The only one I remember was strontium nitrate, but there was copper something and nickel something and several others. Using instructions from some library book, we mixed the various chemicals with a little very fine black powder, which we ground in an electric expresso grinder. Yes, I kid you not. Again, no mishaps. Anyway we would mix these with a small amount of water, spread the mixture about 1/8 inch thick on a cookie sheet, score it with a knife so it would form 1/4-inch square pellets, and dry it in the oven on very low temp. Then we would scrape the pellets up with a spatula.

To incorporate the color pellets into the rocket we simply added the pellets into the last half inch or so of powder. The result was sort of pretty but not that exciting. The pellets would ignite and kind of fall away from the rocket when it got to the top of its flight. We never could get them to explode out in a shower.

The closest we got to a true exploding firework was when we bought some finely powdered aluminum, known then as "pyro" aluminum, which is the stuff they make silver paint out of. It is simply aluminum the consistency of talcum powder. We tried to make it by filing pieces of aluminum but there was no way we could get it fine enough so we had to buy it. That stuff was an order of magnitude above black powder. We had played with lighting thin lines of black powder and watching it burn like in old cowboy movies where they pour a trail of it along the ground and light it like a fuse. Well, where the black powder would fizzle along at a few inches per second, a strip of the pyro aluminum a couple feet long would ignite instantly in a flash. Not stuff to monkey with, unless you were as dumb as we were. We tried topping rockets with the color pellets in a teaspoon of pyro aluminum, but this proved too intense. The aluminum would flash and destroy the pellets before they could get thrown free. We found a mixture of about half black powder and half alumninum was good for throwing the pellets out in a nice pattern. Not like professional fireworks -- we never could get them to actually explode and make noise, but we did get some semblance of that colorful cascade at the top of the trajectory, which was pretty satisfying.

We never took our experiments any further than that. Possibly we got paranoid about starting fires, I'm not sure, or just lost interest, or ran out of materials. Anyway we took batches of these rockets to the beach with friends a few times and they were highly entertaining, especially the unsuccessful ones that flew off in weird spiral patterns, circled back to the ground, etc. I took time lapse pictures of some at night. There was one that went up about 10 or 15 feet, then swooped back down and corkscrewed horizontally through the group of people. I recall the picture because you can see the flight pattern as a bright yellow line and a few blurry people scrambling to take cover.

Somehow through all that we never suffered any lost fingers, property damage, or arrests.

Posts: 7 | From: Seattle | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged
Newbie Larva
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Icon 1 posted July 24, 2006 00:13      Profile for serutan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Footnote to the previous post -- it turns out that the solid fuel booster rockets used on the Space Shuttle are pretty much just giant tubes full of finely powdered aluminum, with a little something else added as a binder. I didn't learn this until years later. Little did we know what we were messing with!
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Icon 6 posted September 04, 2006 01:25            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Damn, I missed that long post. There is something to be said for fun being proportional to how stupid or naughty you are :P But still, sounded like a great laugh.
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