Homemade Bombs and the Men Who Love Them...

Golden Gate X-Press
November 12, 2001
by Rich Butts

   They say everything you need is online. Everything. How about bomb making? Sure everybody has a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, and everybody knows it's a dud. But the information readily available now, even post 9-11, would blow you away.

   Texts like The Anarchist Cookbook, Home Workshop Explosives, and The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives jump off the internet pages, sit on alternative bookstore shelves, and show up on the  lists offered by every nutjob with the ability to make a website. Ingredient lists vary, as do the effectiveness of the bombs themselves. Some go BOOM, some go poof, and some don't do anything at all.

   Some of these authors and bomb builders are as scary as their work. Others, more dangerous ones, are humble men living humble lives. Men like Steve Preisler, aka Uncle Fester, an icon to the home bomb-making society, who says that with his books anyone can make a bomb with a simple mixture of ingredients available at the local hardware store.

   Unlike The Anarchist Cookbook, Preisler's text actually explains, step by step, how to blow up anything. So well does he relate his works that George Magazine proclaimed the pyrotechnic master "The Most Dangerous Man in America" in a Dec. 1999 article.

   Banned from traditional bookstores, Preisler made the move, along with a million other would-be bomb makers to the internet. The net has become a place where everyone can share their skills, or lack thereof.

   "That means more profits for me" he said in the George interview.

   Type in homemade bombs  on and 6440 matches pop up like so many land mines waiting for their kill. Try terrorism at, and 2139 book titles appear on the page. While some are more credible then others, with amazon's reader reviews, one can pick with near certainty which books about bomb making are duds, and which are more likely Da' Bomb.

   Now 45 years old, Preisler received his bachelor of science degree from Marquette U in Milwaukee WI in chemistry and biology. He says he got his nickname in collge because of his tendency to blow things up a la Uncle Fester in The Addams Family TV show. Now over a dozen books later, Preisler has made a name for himself among those who are serious about homemade explosives. But he doesn't see terrorists as the homemade chemist type.

  "I doubt we will see much in the line of explosives from them" he says "I think that if they went down to the co-op and ordered a few tons of high nitrogen fertilizer in broken English, they wouldn't make it out the door."

   "In order to take down something like one of the bridges, in my opinion it would take high quality explosives, and in fairly large amounts," Preisler adds. "Unless they managed to place the explosive on the actual suspension of the bridge."

   Nitric acid and high nitrogen fertilizer, two of the main ingredients used in making high-pwered explosives, are items most homemade bomb shoppers are unable to obtain, and for good reason as the stuff is volatile. Used by jewlers to mold and etch gold, nitric acid is sold under strict guidelines, and not readily available to the general public.

  " We don't even really use that stuff anymore." says Vic Kala, owner of a jewlery store in downtown San Fransisco. "These chemicals are no longer allowed on the store site. In the old days we would use it, but now it's all done at the refinery."

   High nitrogen fertilizer, like that used in the Oklahoma City bombing, is even harder to come by post 9-11. Preisler thinks another hijacking senario is more likely.

   "I think that probably the most likely senario out of them next will be something like crashing a tanker full of gasoline through the ground floor of a high rise and blowing it up," he says "It fits the kamikaze MO they have used, would be very spectacular on TV, and would be simple enough for them to do. God, I could go on and on and on."

   Simple things like pipe bombs and molotov cocktails can be made easily and quickly, but do little structural damage. In order to create the big boom, real danger is involved.

   Anyone can break apart shotgun shells and firecrackers and put the contents in a lead pipe, but when you want to blow up a building, or a bridge, you need serious ammunition. Things like ammonium nitrate/fuel oil mixtures, acetone peroxide or high nitrogen fertilizer can be used, but are complex to build without blowing fingers or entire bodies apart.

   "Ammonium nitrate mixtures are out for these people because they won't be able to pass themselves off as farmers growing a crop of corn down at the co-op," Preisler stresses, the other throw -it- together mixture, acetone peroxide is pretty easy to brew, but acetone has a strong solvent smell, so the bomb would have to be constructed in the countryside."

   The ammonium nitrate mixtures require a strong detonator, so one would need to get dynamite or make nitro-based explosives to detonate the mixture. To make these nitro-based explosives, nitric and sulfuric acids are needed. These are commonitems of commerce, but to obtain them through normal channels in drum quantities, Preisler believes one would have to set up a front operation.

   While the likelilhood of any of these books being the deciding factor in the next terrorist attack is low, it is still within the realm of possibilty. More likely, however is the truck hijacking Preisler speaks of.

   "We know for sure that what they try next will have to be spectacular, or it will seem anti-climactic compared to what they have done recently," he concludes. "The Golden Gate Bridge would be an inviting target. Dropping it would play on TV for weeks to come."

   Whether or not The Anarchist Cookbook is available for those seeking bomb making information, the fact remains that the information is indeed out there. It is in many, many forms, and many, many degrees of reliability. Some of these bombs go BOOM, but most do nothing at all.

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