2 Easy Ways to Make Thermite (with Pictures)

Take Safety Precautions Make the Thermite Article Summary Video Questions & Answers Related Articles References

This article was co-authored by

Bess Ruff, MA

. Bess Ruff is a Geography PhD student at Florida State University. She received her MA in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016. She has conducted survey work for marine spatial planning projects in the Caribbean and provided research support as a graduate fellow for the Sustainable Fisheries Group.

There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

Thermite is a material used in welding to melt metals together. It’s a mixture of metallic aluminum and iron oxide (ferric oxide), which produces molten iron after a redox reaction. When the aluminum and oxygen in the mixture combine, the thermite will ignite, generating high temperatures.[1] It burns at around 2,200 °C (3,990 °F) and can melt through most metals. You can make it yourself, but you first need to take safety precautions because thermite is very dangerous. Then, you can make the thermite for use in welding or as an experiment.

Part 1

Take Safety Precautions

  1. Image titled Make Thermite Step 1


    Select your site carefully.

    Make sure there is nothing that can burn within a 4 meter (13.1 ft) radius of the reaction. Check that metals with low melting points, such as lead, tin, cadmium, or zinc, aren’t near your 4 meter (13.1 ft) radius, as well.

    • If you are working in a science lab, it’s safe to do this indoors as long as you take precautions. Wear protective gear and engage the lab’s heat screens.
    • Do not do this inside your home. It’s best to do this outside. Once you’re experienced in working with thermite, you may be able to do it in a garage or industrial space.
    • Clear your area of dry brush and other flammable items.
    • It’s best to use a heat resistant mat, if you can.[2]
  2. 2

    Use ceramic containers rather than metals to minimize fire risk.

    Since you’ll be burning metals, the thermite fire can burn through a lot of substances, including thick metals. Ceramics, such as clay ware, can hold the fire without melting.


    • Clay flower pots are a great option.
    • Look online for ceramics labeled as having a high heat point. Remember, thermite burns at 2,200 °C (3,990 °F).
  3. Image titled Make Thermite Step 2


    Wear a welding mask for complete protection.

    In addition to being extremely hot, thermite emits UV radiation that can damage your eyes if not dealt with properly. A welding mask provides the best protection because it’s designed for use with burning metals, such as thermite.


    • Do not look into the flame directly, use welder’s glasses. Looking at the flame directly could cause permanent eye damage.
    • If you don’t have a welding mask, you can wear a pair of dark sunglasses with full UV protection. However, the thermite can still damage your eyes if you look at it directly.
  4. Image titled Make Thermite Step 3


    Apply your safety gear, including gloves and a fireproof apron.

    Wear a pair of sturdy, heatproof gloves, and cover your body with a fireproof apron. As a precaution, wear thick sleeves and pants to cover your exposed skin. Also, wear a pair of close-toed shoes.


    • Thermite is very dangerous, so protective gear is essential.

Part 2

Make the Thermite

  1. Image titled Make Thermite Step 4


    Obtain finely powdered iron oxide (rust), aluminum powder, and a thin strip of magnesium.

    The iron oxide and aluminum will react to form thermite, while the magnesium will serve as the ignition material. For a basic thermite experiment, you’ll need 3 grams of aluminum powder and 9 grams of iron oxide.

    • Do not try to grind up the metals into powder yourself, as this is dangerous. Buy them in jars from a chemical company or online. Additionally, you can find aluminum powder in a paint store or in an Etch-a-Sketch.
    • If you don’t want to use magnesium strips to ignite the materials, you can also use a combination of potassium permanganate and glycerin, both of which can be obtained in retail stores and online.
  2. 2

    Dry out your iron oxide in an oven or Bunsen burner before starting.

    Set the oven on a medium temperature, such as around 200 °F (93 °C). Heat the iron oxide for 1 hour. If you’re using a Bunsen burner, place the iron on an evaporating dish over the flame for 1 hour.


    • Allow the iron oxide to completely cool before you do the experiment.
  3. Image titled Make Thermite Step 5


    Mix the aluminum powder and iron oxide on a sheet of paper.

    Add 3 grams of aluminum powder and 9 grams of iron oxide. You can swirl the metals together or shake them between 1 piece of paper and another. Continue to blend until they are fully mixed together.

    • You can increase the quantity of metals, as long as you stick to a 1:3 ratio of aluminum to iron oxide. However, you should not increase the amount of metal until you are experienced in working with thermite, as it is very dangerous.
    • Never mix them in a metal container, as this can contaminate the project or cause an unwanted reaction.[7]
  4. Image titled Make Thermite Step 6


    Pour the mixture into a ceramic container.

    You can use a dish or clay flower pot. Ceramics are less likely to melt with the heat of the thermite. It’s best to place the ceramic container into a second ceramic container, in case the first 1 shatters from the heat.


    • Lighting thermite on an ice block is highly discouraged, as it may cause a dangerous explosion. Ice is not an option for controlling the heat of the flame.
  5. Image titled Make Thermite Step 7


    Insert the magnesium strip, which you’ll use to light it.

    Make sure that your magnesium strip is long enough to provide you with the time necessary to get away.


    • If you’re using potassium permanganate and glycerin, put a fairly good size pile of potassium permanganate on the thermite, then drip glycerin onto the potassium permanganate. That is not very reliable so it’s best to use a magnesium strip.
  6. Image titled Make Thermite Step 8


    Light the magnesium strip from a safe distance.

    It’s best to use a long lighter or a stick like the ones used to light fireworks. Back away from the thermite to watch the reaction from a safe distance.

    • You can also use a sparkler to light the thermite.
    • Keep your safety gear, especially your eye protection, on at all times.
  7. 7

    Do not try to extinguish a thermite reaction using water.

    You’ll have to let the thermite burn out. Otherwise, use copious amounts of dry sand to extinguish the fire.


    • A thermite reaction is irreversible once it starts.

Community Q&A

Add New Question

  • Question

    What can you use Thermite for?


    Community Answer

    Making iron nodes. It used to be used to weld train tracks together. The military uses it to quickly destroy valuable information or equipment in a hurry during war.

  • Question

    Is it possible to use aluminum oxide instead powdered aluminum?

    No. Thermite is an oxidation of the aluminum powder to aluminum oxide and a concurrent reduction of the iron oxide powder to iron. The aluminum and iron oxidation and reduction, respectively, form the two half cells of the thermite redox reaction. If you start with aluminum oxide and iron, you have the stable products after a thermite reaction, not the unstable reagents needed to make a thermite reaction.

  • Question

    Can the thermite reaction cause an explosion or just cause spontaneous combustion?


    Community Answer

    For iron thermite it just burns violently. If you replace the iron oxide with copper oxide it explodes.

  • Question

    Is it illegal to make or use thermite?


    Community Answer

    In some places it is illegal, but as long as you aren’t putting yourself or other people in danger, it is probably fine.

  • Question

    Where do I buy iron oxide?

    You can buy iron oxide at a pottery supply store or online. You can also get it by rusting some steel wool.

  • Question

    Can I use fine aluminum shavings instead of powdered aluminum?

    Yes, as longs as it’s pure aluminum. Remember, the smaller the particles, the quicker the chemical reaction. In this case, fast is good.

  • Question

    Can i just use a long firework fuse instead of a magnesium one?

    No. The firework fuse wouldn’t burn at a high enough temperature to cause the reaction between the Fe203 and Aluminum. A magnesium strip burns at about 5000c, so it is plenty hot enough to cause the reaction.

  • Question

    Would a sparkler ignite the mix?

  • Question

    Where can I find pure iron oxide?

    Online, where you should be able to get a giant 5lb bag for just a few dollars.

  • Question

    Can I mix barium nitrate and magnesium?


    Community Answer

    Yes, that would actually be a thermate reaction instead of thermite. Be careful though, BaNO3 is a fairly powerful oxidizer and would likely create a flash powder like substance that would explode with a bright green flash.

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wikiHow Video: How to Make Thermite

Article SummaryX

To make thermite you’ll need powdered iron oxide, aluminum powder, and a thin strip of magnesium. Mix the aluminum and iron oxide powder together in a 27:80 ratio by weight, and pour the mixture into a cast iron container. Insert your magnesium strip, and then light it. Make sure you wear a welding mask, sturdy gloves, and sleeves during the process. To learn more about the safety precautions required before you make thermite, continue reading the article below!

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  • Don’t put it on ice or anything that is under room temperature; it will cause it to explode.
  • Consider putting a mold under the thermite to catch the resulting molten iron.
  • Igniting the Magnesium fuse can be difficult, so try using a Propane torch.
  • Avoid igniting thermite on public property or on streets, sidewalks, or other thoroughfares. Burning a hole through the surface may get you in trouble, and cause trouble for others, too.
  • This should only be done on your own property and with supervision.


  • Do not pour an extra amount of thermite on a thermite flame or on the hot reaction products.
  • Use only a very strong container, and don’t hold it while it burns.
  • Use of thermite is illegal in some regions.
  • This is a dangerous activity. Thermite burns at an incredibly high temperature and may cause burns.
  • If something happens call emergency services immediately.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby for secondary fires. You cannot put out a metal fire using a fire extinguisher!
  • Do not use cast iron for the ignition pit, it can burn through most metals, use ceramics instead.
  • Have a first aid kit handy, just in case.

Things You’ll Need

  • Powdered aluminum

  • Powdered iron oxide/ferric oxide

  • Magnesium strip or sparkler

  • 2 ceramic dishes or clay pots

  • Sand

  • Welder’s mask or sunglasses

  • Fireproof apron

  • Sturdy, heatproof gloves

  • Thick clothing

  • Close-toed shoes

  • Oven or Bunsen burner

  • Evaporating dish (optional)

  • Heatproof mat (optional)

Article Info

This article was co-authored by Bess Ruff, MA. Bess Ruff is a Geography PhD student at Florida State University. She received her MA in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016. She has conducted survey work for marine spatial planning projects in the Caribbean and provided research support as a graduate fellow for the Sustainable Fisheries Group.

Categories: Making Chemicals

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