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Salt Peter?

  1. Oct 6, 2003 #1
    I was reading a book known as the Anarchist's Cookbook recently (surely you've all heard of it) and in it, it mensions a way to make a smoke bomb with household sugar, and something called salt peter... Can anybody please tell me if salt peter is different from normal salt, and where I would be able to find it? I assure you, I have no intentions on using it for destructive, harmful purposes. Just a simple chemistry experiment in a secluded area.
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  3. Oct 6, 2003 #2


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    You mean saltpeter, which is a sodium nitrate. The main constituent of gunpowder (saltpeter, charcoal, sulphur). It can also be used as a food preservative. It seems to have two forms: NaNO3 or KNO3.

    I would just be very carefull with it since it IS an explosive and you could get yourself hurt not knowing the effects of this powder!
  4. Oct 6, 2003 #3
    It is apparently not an explosive, just a very strong oxidizer (cheat rocket fuel). I would really liket o know how I can obtain some of this... Is there a normal household item which would use it, etc?
  5. Oct 6, 2003 #4


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    Are you still in highschool? I'd go to your science teacher and ask if they have any experience in handling saltpeter and if he would agree in doing a little experiment.

    At my highschool they used to do things like that. One time he has this cup of oil which he heated in order to demonstrate what happens when you throw water on it. The result? A huge mushroom, and that was only very little oil and very little water. Very dangerous, but they have experience with it.

    These things are not to be played with.
  6. Oct 6, 2003 #5


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    This is what I got from a MSDS:


    It is not flammable, but it is very reactive as a strong oxidizer.
  7. Oct 6, 2003 #6
    Thanks for your interest Monique. I have been up and down the internet, and read the MSDS regarding saltpeter (AKA Sodium Nitrate and Potassium Nitrate) and although I found some interesting facts, I found nothing regarding how to obtain it...

    I have also though about asking my physics teacher if he can sell some to me (although I'm sure he would get rather suspicious).
  8. Oct 6, 2003 #7
    Anouther thought just occured to me: would it be possible to use a chemical reaction to produce NaNO3?
  9. Oct 6, 2003 #8


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    Well, if you had a dung heap, took the drainings and collected what crystalized from them you would have KNO3.

    At one time, not too many years ago,( around the time the Anarchist's Cookbook was first published) you could purchase Potassium Nitrate at the corner drugstore.

    But failing that, you would have to resort to a chemical supply house.

    However, I would caution you about playing around with incinerary devices, even if they are only smoke bombs, they still generate quite a bit of heat and can be dangerous.
  10. Oct 6, 2003 #9
    Guano (bat crap) is another source. It was/is used to make saltpeter. It was a valueable commodity. Spelunking, anyone?
    ...Quick, Robin, to the bat cave...
  11. Oct 6, 2003 #10
    Forgive me for feeling rather uncomfortable in using excrement in a chemistry experiment... Any other means to obtain this stuff?
  12. Oct 6, 2003 #11
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  13. Oct 23, 2003 #12
    You mean to the left, or the right??
  14. Oct 23, 2003 #13
    Used to listen to a chemist who did a radio broadcast, out of Montreal, Joe Schwartz, (Phd) Professor of Chemistry at Mc Gill University.

    He talked one day about salt peter, and Napoleon, and how in Napoleons day the need for saltpeter grew because of the need/demand for gunpowder for the cannons, hence Napoleon apparently DECREED it into law, that every male in every village had to go to a specified place to urinate, on a specific pile of hay (That's where they would get the developed crystals) under severe penalties for being caught doing 'that', anywhere's else.

    Ain't human history fun??
  15. Oct 23, 2003 #14


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    Yep ain't it?

    In the 18th century in Sweden the crown decreed that farmers should build walls beteen their fields out of dung. every few years the ministry of ordnance would come around and harvest.

    Black powder is made out of poop and soot and brimstone. Any wonder it took so long to discover?
  16. Jul 30, 2004 #15
    How to make t3h NITRATE

    Make it yourself-

    Potassium Nitrate is an ingredient in making fuses, among other things. Here is how you make it:
    Materials needed:
    -3.5 gallons of nitrate bearing earth or other material
    -1/2 cup of wood ashes
    -Bucket or other similar container about 4-5 gallons in volume
    -2 pieces of finely woven cloth, each a bit bigger than the bottom of the bucket
    -Shallow dish or pan at least as large in diameter as the bucket
    -Shallow, heat resistant container
    -2 gallons of water
    -Something to punch holes in the bottom of the bucket
    -1 gallon of any type of alcohol
    -A heat source
    -Paper & tape

    - Punch holes on the inside bottom of the bucket, so that the metal is"puckered" outward from the bottom
    - Spread cloth over the holes from the bottom
    - Place wood ashes on the cloth. Spread it out so that it covers the entire cloth and has about the same thickness.
    - Place 2nd cloth on top of the wood ashes
    - Place the dirt or other material in the bucket
    - Place the bucket over the shallow container. NOTE: It may need support on the bottom so that the holes on the bottom are not blocked.
    - Boil water and pour it over the earth very slowly. Do NOT pour it all at once, as this will clog the filter on the bottom.
    - Allow water to run through holes into the shallow dish on the bottom.
    - Be sure that the water goes through ALL of the earth!
    - Allow water in dish to cool for an hour or so
    - Carefully drain the liquid in the dish away, and discard the sludge in the bottom
    - Boil this liquid over a fire for at least two hours. Small grains of salt will form - scoop these out with the paper as they form
    - When the liquid has boiled down to 1/2 its original volume let it sit
    - After 1/2 hour, add equal volume of the alcohol; when this mixture is poured through paper, small white crystals appear. This is the posassium nitrate.

    - Redissolve crystals in small amount of boiling water
    - Remove any crystals that appear
    - Pour through improvised filter then heat concentrated solution to dryness.
    - Spread out crystals and allow to dry

    I urge you to use this for smoke bombs ONLY!
  17. Jul 30, 2004 #16
    Jesus christ man. KNO3 isn't hard to find. It's a fertilizer, I forget what the composition is (something like 12-45-12 or something) but it's easy bought in large quantites. You can buy KNO3 from drug stores as salt petre. You can buy it in some stump removers. You can buy NH4NO3 from instant cold packs by removing the chemical inside. You should always recrystillize this stuff though, especially the fertillizer. These aren't as dangerous as Monique says, MSDS's often will exagerate the dangers a bit to make sure no one gets hurt. I've boiled solutions of NH4NO2 down to saturation in order to crop the purified crystals and nothing terrible happened. The saturated solution hit the hot plate and smoked, no explosions. It does burn though if it goes on any open cuts, obviously, like my fingers, which I gnaw on like a damned rabbit.
  18. Aug 3, 2004 #17
    Another set of warnings,
    DON"T DO IT!!

    This stuff is potentially dangerous.
    Mix it with diesel, and you get the same stuff as used in the Oklahoma bombing, AKA fertilizer bomb.
    If you're in the US be double carefull, it would be a shame getting busted for terrorism while you were only making a smokebomb (and thus having the base materials for a bomb).
    And no i'm not going to give the ratio's.
    In the process of mixing the sugar and saltpeter you have to heat it.
    Just stating the obvious (at least i hope its obvious to you) USE ANE ELECTRIC HEETER!!!!!!

    Hope to see you on the forum after your experiment.
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