Magnalium Rockets

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER:  If you are underage, then consult with your parents or guardians before attempting any of this.  You are on your own - I'm not responsible for your actions or harm you may bring to others because of your actions.  Making the items described below  can result in injury or death to you or people in your vicinity. Some things mentioned here may be illegal to make in your city, county, state, or country so check the laws that apply to you before you attempt anything described here. These notes are not complete on purpose. If you are reading them and new to pyrotechnics, then you are making a mistake. Stop now - this page is not for you. Get a beginning book on fireworks (see Skylighter or American Fireworks News (very quick shipping)  for a start) and read up. You can't make any of this work without more information so read up or join a club or ask someone to help you.

Beauty Way to Go, eh?

This section is really a nod to others. Doc Barr first made these and then John Steinberg and Dave Stoddard made a version of Doc's - most of which I've copied here. They published a red mag and green mag rocket formula on Skylighter and in the PGI Journal and elsewhere that is quite a bit of fun to play with. There are other rocket fuel formulas that use similar ingredients - it was Dave's article that got me interested so I'm giving him most of the credit for the ideas on this page. However, Doc Barr did the original work.

To sidestep copyright issues and to simplify this page, go to and read what Dave had to say about this fuel. Nothing is better than getting the facts !

Note: these rockets must be pressed!

Here are the basic formulas and ideas (use a standard BP tooling set for these):

Red Magnalium

Strontium Nitrate                                      55 %
Magnalium, -325 mesh powder                 28 %
PVC powder                                            10 %
Parlon                                                         7 %
Vaseline (dissolved in Naphtha)                 +2 %

While Dave's instructions state that the composition must be slightly damp to chuff, I've found that it will chuff even if dried thoroughly - and I prefer the dry mix since it is the most repeatable procedure. I used a standard BP rocket spindle for these and fused them with fast Visco that had the tip dipped in NC lacquer and a bit of titanium. The reason for the hot fuse is that normal Visco (especially American) will not ignite the  core reliably. The fast Visco will get everything going quickly and the titanium tip makes sure it lights each and every time. The composition was pressed to about 3500 on the mix. It is important to use the same size magnalium each time. Different sizes affect both power and chuffing with smaller size magnalium making a faster rocket and little chuffing. Naphtha does increase the chuffing - click the picture below for a really wet red mag rocket - it required a whistle assist to get it going:

I used mineral oil instead of Vaseline. In addition, subsequent testing has shown that you can use 17% saran instead of 10% PVC and 7% parlon. There are other rocket formulas that have a slightly higher percentage of strontium nitrate so this version isn't cast in stone. However, I like it because it is a very solid color and super easy to make.

Green Mag Also Looks Nice. Click on Picture for Video

Green Magnalium

Barium Nitrate                                      60%  (poison - use protective gear)
Magnalium, -325 mesh powder             25%
PVC powder                                         9%
Parlon                                                    6%
(I still add +2 mineral oil)

Dave has also said that you can get away without any Vaseline or other phlegmatizer but I prefer a bit of oil in my mixes since it holds the dust down and makes the fuel bind easily. The substitution of saran for the PVC AND parlon works for the green, too.

Yellow Magnalium

Take the bits of stuff you have left over from the red and green magnalium versions and mix them in equal weights. This isn't a very spectacular mix. It really looks more like a BP rocket than a magnalium rocket.


These are modestly powered rockets and they can be improved a bit without drastically changing the fuel. First, put in about 1 1/2 increments of clay to start the nozzle. That limits the nozzle size a bit on a standard BP tooling set. Try to light the fuel high up on the core. Finally (and this is a secret - aren't you glad you read to the bottom?), press *one* increment of medium-speed whistle onto the nozzle before you finish the rest of the core with the magnalium mix. Your rocket will grow wings! See the second video below for an example of augmented ignition. 

Here is a standard take-off with modest fuel 

Here is an 'enhanced' take-off (ya gotta see this!) this is a two increment whistle augmentation - it is right on the cusp of CATO - indeed, unless you use really slow whistle, two increments will blow the motor up.  I've found a good mix is to make some 70/30 whistle using sodium salicylate as the fuel and iron oxide as the catalyst.  Then mix that with meal-D or equivalent at a 70/30 ratio. Finally, add +3 mineral oil to the entire mix. Use lacquer thinner or acetone as the wetting agent. Dry until it forms a ball in your hand and screen through a coarse screen. Dry thoroughly and treat with respect. The result is a dirt red/brown mix of very hot benzolift. This can be used to augment the takeoff without as much danger of CATO.  

If you decide to modify the red or green mag  mix, remember that you are on your own and in dangerous territory. The mix is really a flash formula that has been phlegmatized with a chlorine donor. Please be careful and follow the recipe.


Here are some procedural steps:

Make a clay nozzle 1 1/2 diameters if you want it a little fast. One diameter if you want a standard 'slow but cool' rocket. If you are augmenting it with whistle (recommend making some tame ones first) then put in an increment of whistle mix right after the clay is pressed. 


Add fuel to the top of the spindle plus 1 1/2 increments of fuel for delay. This fuel is slow so be careful on the delay grain! The red mag burns at about 9 seconds an inch. 1 1/2 increments will be about 9 seconds. Add a clay bulkhead since the delay grain is fairly short - and make a passfire as desired

Press each increment using hydraulics - don't pound or ram!

You did use your mask when making the green, right?