How to Make Flash Paper

Written by larry parr
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Playing with flash paper is a lot of fun. It burns extremely brightly and quickly, and it leaves no ash whatsoever. It looks like magic! Making flash paper is somewhat dangerous and should be done outdoors. Protective clothing--such as a heavy jacket--should be worn, as well as eye protection. The standard recipe for flash paper calls for the mixing of sulphuric and nitric acids. These are extremely dangerous acids, and can be difficult to obtain. There is an easier and less costly way to make flash paper, which is what we'll be learning here.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • White Spirit
  • Road flares
  • Razor knife
  • Small cup
  • Small pan
  • Propane burner
  • Measuring cup
  • Table spoon
  • Glass baking dish
  • Teflon-coated baking tray
  • Toilet paper
  • Scissors

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  1. 1

    Purchase a bottle of White Spirit (also known as Stoddard Solvent), a paint solvent that should be readily available in the painting department of your local hardware store. Also purchase one or more standard road flares--the kind that look like red Roman candles.

  2. 2

    Slice open one or more road flares with a razor knife. Slice lengthwise over a sheet of newspaper. Exercise caution and do this step outdoors if possible. Inside the flare, you should find a white powder or small white crystals. Carefully scrape them into a small container and set it aside for the moment. Do not allow any heat source to come in contact with the white powder.

  3. 3

    Pour 1 cup of White Spirit into a small cooking pan. Put 2 tbsp of the white powder from the road flare into the pan as well. Place the pan on a small propane burner and set at a low temperature. Allow to simmer for 1 hour, gently stirring from time to time to make sure all of the white crystals have dissolved. At the end of the hour, there should be a syrupy solution floating on top of the liquid in your pan.

  4. 4

    Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour only the thick, syrupy part of the mixture into the bottom of a small glass pan. Carefully spoon out the syrupy mixture if that is easier for you.

  5. 5

    Cut up 2-by-2-inch squares of toilet tissue and place them into the bottom of the glass pan, where they can soak up the syrupy mixture. Let them soak for 10 minutes, then carefully lift them out and place them on a Teflon-coated baking tray. If there is more syrupy mixture left after the first batch of toilet-paper squares, add more squares, let them soak for 10 minutes and then place them on the baking tray as well. Cover with paper towels and leave in the sun for 2 hours to dry. Once they are completely dry, your flash paper is ready. A match, the tip of a cigarette or almost any heat source will set it off.

Tips and warnings

  • Use extreme care, especially when handling the White Spirit/road-flare mixture,which is extremely flammable.

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