Homemade Signal Flares


The King of Random


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What do you get when you combine parts from an old battery pack with some common household ingredients? Mix them together and you get these .. A batch of super cheap, and easy to make, smoke flares. Most hardware stores have recycling bins for disposing of old batteries. That's where I got this one for free. I'm going to start by removing the screws, and these ones require a torx bit, so once I've found the right size, the 6 screws get removed and then with a little wiggle, the top assembly pulls right out. With that removed I've got access to the 15 cells that make up the battery pack, and I'm gonna need to get them apart. So the tape comes off and the connector bands are all removed so that I'm left with a total of 15 sub C Ni-Cd batteries. They're just over 1 volt each and some of them are still good, but it's actually the casing that I'm after. The battery easily pushes out now, leaving me with a clean casing that should work great for the body of my smoke flare. It even has a flat bottom that will come in handy later on. Ok, all the batteries are shelled, and I'm gonna use some cardboard for the next step, but before I do, I'll pack these batteries back into the casing, and send them back for recycling. Alright, to finish these casings, I'll add a bead of hot glue to the flat part on the bottoms, and press them down on the cardboard to cool down. That gets repeated with all the other casings, and I'm leaving a bit of a gap because these will need to be cut individually later on. Now it's time to make the composition that will give us our smokey flare. I'm using 60% KNO3 stump remover and 40% table sugar, being very careful to not mix them too much. This is poured very gently into a pan set on medium heat, and I've made about 400 grams of the composition in hopes that it will fill all the containers. After a few minutes, I'll begin to fold the mixture into itself because you can see the sugar on the bottom is beginning to caramelize. I'll continue folding in gently until the mixture has melted and absorbed all the white powder, and at this point it should be runny enough to pour into the casings. Ok I've readied this casing, as well as a piece of home made fuse cord that I made in a different project. Using a small spatula, the liquid is poured into the casing, and the edge of the pan wiped clean to prevent too much dripping. The last step is to add the fuse, making sure to push it all the way to the bottom, and now we can let this cool until it hardens. The same thing is done with all the others, and when they're cooled and cut apart, the batch is complete. This is a fairly slow burning fuse and will give me plenty of time to get away, so when it's lit I'll watch from a distance to see if our smoke fountain will work. Alright it looks like it is working, and now here comes the smoke. For it's size it actually puts off quite a bit of smoke, burning for around 15 seconds, until all the fuel is used up. The casing is completely toasted as well, but the cardboard base is intact, and its prevented the concrete from getting any scorch marks. Here goes another one, and you probably noticed I'm doing this outside in an open area. That's because there's plenty of ventilation for when the smoke starts to get thick. You don't want these going off in a confined area because you can see how a thick smoke could build and linger. Just for fun, I tried making another batch with a 60% ratio of sugar to see if it would burn slower. Unfortunately it burned so slow it was painful to watch. There was some smoke, but all in all, it kind of looked more like one of those black snake fireworks instead. Next I tried making a batch where the ingredients were mixed together extremely well, and experimented with various home-made fuses. I even tried adding saw-dust to see what that would do. Well it wasn't a good idea. I think the sawdust added air pockets that made them go completely ballistic. These were more like unguided rockets than anything, because they burned so fast I couldn't get them to stay still. So remember, to get a nice balanced burn with plenty of smoke like this, it's important that you have the right ingredients, the right ratios, and the right mix. Every batch is a little different, so be careful and be safe. Well there's the technique I used for some cheap home-made smoke flares. If you liked this project, perhaps you'll like some of my others. Check them out at www.thekingofrandom.com