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How 2 Make Thermite

So you want to make thermite?

Thermite is very hot. It can burn through a car if you have enough of it, but when used properly it is safe.

Fortunately, thermite is quite legal in the United States, but always check local laws before making it.

Making thermite is a simple process requiring only two ingredients (and an ignition source).

So what are you wating for? Let’s get started!

thermite burning

Step 1. Get powdered aluminum

Powdered aluminum is one of the main reactants. It is sold by weight. If you want to make a lot of thermite, buy a lot. Otherwise a pound or two is sufficient.

powdered aluminum

a. Order it off the internet

Sometimes it can be hard to find aluminum powder. If you’re having trouble, sites like ebay often have aluminum powder for sale. It isn’t really that expensive.

b. Break open an Etch A Sketch®

Etch A Sketch® uses pure aluminum powder to sketch masterpieces. If your children no longer use theirs, break it open and reap the reward.

a broken Etch a Sketch with aluminum powder

c. Go to a machine shop or paint store

A machine shop will likely work with aluminum. Often you can barter or buy aluminum powder from them.

Aluminum powder is used in pigment for paints. A paint store may sell you some.

aluminum powder is used as pingment in paints

Step 2. Make iron oxide

Iron oxide is the second reactant. More commonly known as rust, iron oxide is easy to make or find.

iron oxide powder

a. Submerge steel wool in water

In a jar put enough water to completely cover a piece of steel wool or a few, depending on the amount of thermite you are making.

b. Secure the steel wool with a magnet

The steel wool needs to be completely submurged in the water for this method to work. Securing it with a magnet is an easy way to make sure it stays under.

firmly secure the steel wool with a magnet

c. Add bleach and vinegar

Add 5 tbsp. of bleach and 5 tbsp. of vinegar to the water. If you are doing multiple pieces of steel wool and using more water, increase this amount.

add bleach and vinegar to the water

d. Wait 24 hours

Wait a day. If you increased the recipe, wait longer.

e. Filter the brown paste

Filter the brown paste through a coffee filter. Let it dry and voilà! Iron oxide.

filter the brown paste with a coffee filter

f. Buy it on the internet

If you're making lots of thermite, the best option might be to purchase your iron oxide online. Buy the triple the amount of your aluminum powder.

g. Scrape something rusty

If you have a lot of old, rusty stuff you can just scrape the rust off of that and then grind it into powder. Be sure to avoid paints and varnishes, though, as they can hinder the burning of your thermite and create toxic gasses.

scrape something rusty

Step 3. Mix the stuff

Assemble all of your ingredients. Find a large bucket or tub and something to mix with.

a. Combine ingredients in the bucket

Mix three parts iron oxide for one part aluminum powder. It is super important to do this by weight or the thermite will not burn properly. It will look like there is almost as much aluminum powder as iron oxide.

b. Mix thouroughly

The distribution is very important. Mix until it is a very even mixture to achieve maximum burn.

mix thourogly

Bonus Step. Moldable thermite

For more fun, mix 4 parts thermite to one part clay ot Play-Doh for moldable thermite.


Step 4. Prep ignition site

Thermite burns really hot and really high. Use an area with no low brush and no grass. Turn up the dirt or lay down terra cotta tiles. It will catch fire. Keep water nearby.


Step 5. Ignition

This it it. Time for ignition. Use something that burns hotter than a standard match such as magnesium ribbon (available online) and light it. Step way back.

magnesium ribbon

a. Caution

Do not look directly at the burning thermite, it burns so hot the light will hurt your eyes just like staring at the sun.

don't look at the light directly

Well, that's all! Hope you had good, safe fun. Remember to always burn safely.

Do not use thermite in ways that may cause damage to you or your property.

Check with the fire marshal before you ignite thermite in the city or a suburb.