How hard is it to make a bomb? Message Board: General Zodiac Discussion: How hard is it to make a bomb?

By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) ( - on Monday, March 25, 2002 - 05:00 pm:

We've heard quite a bit from firearms experts in the past few months; now how about some feedback from any explosives experts out there? In response to a discussion on another forum about the Oklahoma City bombing, I casually remarked that it would have been relatively easy to make a fertilizer bomb, although the electronics would have been more difficult. I was immediately attacked by a couple of rabid dogs who heralded my ignorance in no pleasant terms. So, electronics and detonating devices aside, how hard would it have been for Zodiac to make a fertilizer bomb? Would his "recipe," as elaborated upon in the 7-page letter, have proven effective?

By Scott Bullock (Scott_Bullock) ( - on Monday, March 25, 2002 - 08:28 pm:

I'm not an expert in this field, but from what I understand the bomb described in the 7 page letter most certainly would have worked. Explosives are not that hard to conceive of, or to get to work. Remember when a roll of 35mm film came in an aluminum canister instead of a plastic one? As a teenager, my friends and I would fill these canisters with match heads, screw the top on, and then "launch" the canister using a wrist-rocket. BOOM! Upon impact with something, these canisters would explode pretty hard. Now, I'm sure that we couldn't have been the only teenagers to create such a device; all it took was a little thinking and a will to be mischievous.

I have a friend who is a weapons sergeant with the 10th Special Forces Group. He once told me that the engineering sergeants (so called because they learn how to build things and then learn to blow them to pieces) in SF can easily construct demolitions with ordinary items found under any kitchen sink. My thinking is that it is not difficult to make explosives. All that is required is a bit of knowledge which, now more than ever, is readily available to anyone with the desire to find it. Remember Harrison and Klebold? I will forever be haunted by that particular incident because my wife and I only live about 2 - 3 miles from Columbine High School, and we know people whose children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces attented Columbine during the tragedy. The point is, those two idiots sought out to learn how to make explosives and did it. I see no reason why anyone with the same determination couldn't do the same.


By Esau (Esau) ( - on Monday, March 25, 2002 - 10:02 pm:

Douglas, I don't know whether or not you'll find an explosives expert on this board but I have a little experience in the field. I have a degree in electrical engineering and have some demolition experience, amonium nitrate in particular, from the military. The bomb is very functional in theory but one part makes me think I understand why it wasn't built. The photoelectic trigger would be very dangerous. A bird flying by or a cloud or dust in the air could cause it to be accidentally triggered. Even though he tried to compensate for this with a double switch I think it would just be doubly dangerous. Also, he would have to rely on an exact position of the sun every day to get the direct sunlight through the cardboard tube that would be required to trigger the photoelectric switch. Because of this if he wanted to arm the bomb for more than one day he would have trouble with the timer. Due to the position of the sun changing every day and the fact that the photoelectric switch would require direct sunlight through a small cardboard tube the bomb would be very unstable and he was probably afraid to be there to arm it.

By Eduard (Eduard) ( - on Monday, March 25, 2002 - 11:50 pm:

Actually it is really not very difficult to make a bomb. In Holland we had a bombmaker who used a quicksilver switch in his bombs. If a package was lifted the quicksilver in the switch made contact with a battery and a wire got hot by this.
Then the explosives in the bomb would be ignited (the explosives were made of illegal fireworks).
The costs of that bomb....under the $4.
The most scary of bombmakers is that every idiot can make one.


By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) ( - on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 03:27 am:

Thanks for the responses, everyone. Do you think that it would have been as simple as dumping a gallon of "stove oil" on top of a bag of fertilizer, then setting it off? Might there have been a problem with the proportion of flammable liquid to fertilizer?

By Curt (Curt) ( - on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 07:03 am:

Douglas Oswell wrote, "In response to a discussion on another forum about the Oklahoma City bombing, I casually remarked that it would have been relatively easy to make a fertilizer bomb, although the electronics would have been more difficult. I was immediately attacked by a couple of rabid dogs who heralded my ignorance in no pleasant terms.

I have no bomb-making expertise at all, but I have followed the Oklahoma bombing story to some degree and have listened to what some of the conspiracy theorists who believe that McVeigh didn't act alone have to say. My guess would be that you were attacked by the "rabid dogs" because many of those folks believe that McVeigh could not have built the type of bomb that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma. (That sort of thinking doesn't fit in with the idea that government agents were the actual bombers, you see).

But that is contrary to what I have always heard: that making a fertilizer bomb is very easy to do. (Just like what Scott talked about in an earlier thread, when I was 12 years old, my buddies and I made a small bomb out of turpentine and powdered pool chlorine that created quite a large hole in the ground. Pool owners: Please don't try that at home).

I would tend to agree that the electronics/detonator would be the hardest part. (I have always felt that Zodiac could just as effectively "terrorize" the public by simply stating that he had a bomb and I suspect that he never actually constructed it).


By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) ( on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 08:33 am:

Curt, I believe that's the case exactly, except that these particular individuals believe that McVeigh had some kind of connection to Al-Qaeda. Maybe so, but their knee-jerk reaction to any dissent from their theory doesn't do them much credit. Reminds me of the Flight 800 theorists who are so bent on proving a connection to the corruption of the Clinton administration that they can't see the flaws in their logic. As if anyone needed a conspiracy theory to demonstrate the corruption of the Clinton administration!

All that aside, I think I'll ignore the idiots on that other board and hold to my original assessment that the explosives were the easy part; the electronics far more difficult.

By Mike (Oklahoma_Mike) ( on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 09:10 am:

Douglas, using fertilizer and fuel oil as explosives is NOT difficult. In high school my best friend and I helped his stepdad blast stumps (It was not necessary to do lots of arm twisting to get our assistance) and it was easy. He used one small stick of dynamite as a trigger and I do not know what size blasting cap would do it by itself, but the actual mixing and applpcation is easy, or easier, than mixing concrete.

By Jim (Jim) ( - on Thursday, April 18, 2002 - 01:17 pm:

in the days before checking out such things it would have been easy to obtain various chemicals from store houses too, to get the required mixes to create an explosive device. it just could not have been that difficult at the time, honestly, who would have noticed back then??

By Jim (Jim) ( - on Friday, April 19, 2002 - 11:42 am:

if Z knew the area intimately then Z could have obtained materials for this bomb from the industrialized area in the hills around Benicia--refineries, car storages, old military bunkers, warehouses, etc. he could probably find materials with a hunt and peck method and been fairly successful with no suspicion heeped upon him.

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Friday, April 19, 2002 - 01:57 pm:

That's what Z wrote:"Tke nice part of it is all the parts can be bought on the open market with no questions asked."There were a lot of bomb making manuals at that time (and now!)and the radicals and others,were making full use of them.One of the things that was advertised was that the "parts" could be purchased at a variety of sources"with no questions asked."

By Jim (Jim) ( - on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 02:07 pm:

maybe he didn't have to order amything, maybe he found it for himself by kicking around the area? the ordering could have been a ruse to get the police searching elsewhere?