Making Black Powder


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ExtremeGunCare
January 10, 2011, 12:58 AM
Hello Everyone,

I have been a huge fan of black powder and have been hunting a few years in black powder. I am wanting to take it up another notch and make my own little batches of powder for target/hunting.

Yeah I know I could easily google a recipe and what not, but I want feed back for you all. I want to know your experience in creating black powder. I look forward for any advice. Thanks in advance.

Good Shooting

Jason Lumetta
ExtremeGunCare (http://www.extremeguncare.com)

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david58
January 10, 2011, 01:39 AM
My experience is to NOT.

Based on the fact that the folks at the factory, that know how to do it, blow up every couple of years, I figger I'll pass.

Homebrew, yes (and mine is better than Bud!). Home cooked BP, I ain't that crazy.

Prairie Dawg
January 10, 2011, 08:15 AM
That is my advise also.
The BP you will make will be quite inferior to what you can buy.
The risk factor is enormous.
There are other ways to take your hobby to the next level.
--Dawg

dtvburns
January 10, 2011, 10:03 AM
A friend and I tried making BP about 20 years ago or more... So we had no help from the internet. All we where able to get is a slow uneven burning powder that created a lot of smoke. Not very powerful or efficient. We wanted to make rocket engines, but we made smoke.

Shoot The Moon
January 10, 2011, 10:18 AM
My experience is to NOT.

Based on the fact that the folks at the factory, that know how to do it, blow up every couple of years, I figger I'll pass.

Homebrew, yes (and mine is better than Bud!). Home cooked BP, I ain't that crazy.
I read somewhere that one wall of a BP factory is always timber - and the control rooms are situated a long way away.... guess why? :eek:

(by the way, there's a fair bit of info on 'how to' here on THR if you really, really need to)

Loosenock
January 10, 2011, 10:39 AM
I'd stay away from it. Not only dangerous but the liability would be extreme. If you had a fire, your insurance would not cover it. Someone gets hurt you'll be sued and loose. Perhaps even criminal charges. In todays world picture yourself setting across a table from police or federal agents expalining why you were making black powder. I wouldn't risk it BP is $18 a pound and a bargain compared to the implications of something going wrong.

Just my thoughts, others will vary.
'Loose

Chawbaccer
January 10, 2011, 12:34 PM
THR members who have made it will likely link you to their threads here, or you can search.

VA27
January 10, 2011, 02:57 PM
I tried it back in the early 60's. Back then, even a kid could just walk into any drug store and buy bottles of sulfur and saltpeter.

I was determined to blast a tree stump in the back yard. I spent a coupla weeks working on it. I did manage to burn it off even with the ground, but never got an explosion.

If I'd been into primitive arms back then, I'd have known that you could just walk into a gun store and buy the stuff! And probably a lot cheaper than what I spent on chemicals.

But what would have been the fun in that?

Oddly enough, my dad and stepmom didn't seem to see anything at all wrong in what I was doing, and it did keep me occupied for a few weeks that summer.

As much as I hate to rain on your parade, I think that 'manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction' would draw more than a little unwanted attention.

It's your life, spend it where you want.

mykeal
January 10, 2011, 03:30 PM
'manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction' would draw more than a little unwanted attention. Well, yeah, but what does that have to do with this thread?

Pete D.
January 10, 2011, 04:55 PM
I made a pound of the stuff about a year ago. By the time you buy the purest ingredients of the finest texture (and I made my own charcoal), and a ball mill to mix the ingredients so that they are completely and truly incorporated.......you have spent more than you would have per pound if you'd just gone and bought Goex or Swiss and it's not as good as either.
The process is only apparently simple.
You have to have a ball mill for starters; you cannot make proper BP without one regardless of what anyone may tell you. (People mix the ingredients together in the proper proportions and the charcoal turns it black. They think they have black powder. They don't. They have what gets put into the ball mill....called green powder or polverone.) Then you have to find a safe place to let the mill run....and it needs to run for 8-16 hours. It is during this time that the process is most dangerous. You have a rotary mill running with ceramic elements tumbling the powder - maybe a full pound of it depending on the size of the mill. The mix starts off safe and damp but it doesn't stay that way. As it dries out - and needs to be dampened again - heat starts to build. Where can you put an enclosed cylinder loaded with explosive and a machine to spin it so that if an accident happens there will be no danger to persons or property? I had mine running many yards from the house out in the woods. I had a remote shut off and I kept an eye on the thing very often.
The next dangerous part is processing the stuff. Heck......it's all dangerous and it ain't worth it.
It was not worth doing twice. Not sure about even once.
Pete

GCBurner
January 10, 2011, 05:36 PM
I may be wrong, but I believe that nowadays making homebrew explosives is a Federal offense. If you have an accident that attracts the attention of the fire department or the police, are you ready to risk having your property seized by the BATFE and risk some time in jail? Not worth it, just for curiosity's sake.

HisSoldier
January 10, 2011, 05:56 PM
Here's a thread I started in another forum about this;
http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=435268

Do it because you want to, and would enjoy the process, learning how to produce it. Asking in a forum like this is fruitless I think because most people don't have the special desire it takes to do something like that. It's like asking the average person if they would like to build an airplane, it's something very few people would want to do, so there should be a special forum just for them. (There is! several in fact)

I want to do it for the reasons stated above, there are several points of safety, Do all mixing in small batches (Remotely if possible), do not allow any smoking etc anywhere near (Obvious huh?) store finished BP in tin screw lid cans plainly marked.
I can't remember all the rules, they are in a book I just got "Black Powder and how to make it" by Randy and Leigh Ellis.

Don't allow those who don't have the desire to do it stop you, if you think about it that's pretty obvious. Seek out those who have made it and done so safely. You will not be diminished by knowing how to make a valuable substance that most people cannot make.

Cosmoline
January 10, 2011, 06:09 PM
I'm not against learning how to do it, but the fact is you may well be diminished if something goes wrong. Making black powder isn't something that was *EVER* done on a backyard basis. So this isn't akin to making a plane or hooch. Traditionally, it was prepared in mills. Even Daniel Boone bought his by the pound.

Black Toe Knives
January 10, 2011, 06:23 PM
I may be wrong, but I believe that nowadays making homebrew explosives is a Federal offense. If you have an accident that attracts the attention of the fire department or the police, are you ready to risk having your property seized by the BATFE and risk some time in jail? Not worth it, just for curiosity's sake.
Making Black powder is not against Federal law. State and local Laws may apply.
Good source to supplies is Phil's farm store (http://www.ihaveadotcom.com/cart/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=72). But it just cheaper to buy it. Willow makes the best charcoal for blackpowder.

clutch
January 10, 2011, 06:34 PM
I bought the three ingredients for it from Skylighters years ago along with a book, "Black Powder Manufacturing, Testing & Optimizing" by Ian von Maltitz.

I just haven't got around to trying it. For a ball mill I was thinking of a Thumblers Tumbler rock polisher and some lead balls.

The project has fallen back to the level of when I get a round tuit.

For safety, I was thinking of keeping the batch to under 1/4 pound.

If you pour a little pile of black powder on the ground and toss a match on it there is a flash but not an explosion when I've tried it. Constraining it seems to get you the boom.

Too many things on my to do list, I probably will never get to this one until I retire and then I might have better things to do.

Clutch

jtscuba02
January 10, 2011, 06:50 PM
Try The Science Store for supplies. Also look for videos of ball mills on youtube. I would make a small amount at a time and test it until you get what you want. As far as a mixing container for the ball mill, try a sauce jar wrapped with 100mph tape and lead balls. There is a good tutorial on youtube about how to make a mill out of an old printer. Initial cost might be more than just buying it, but once you get the mixture right it should be cheaper.

Do you have a plan for the charcoal?

HisSoldier
January 10, 2011, 10:01 PM
the fact is you may well be diminished if something goes wrong.

That's true of many things we all do every day, shooting for example. People who are afraid to shoot don't do it, but there are ways to enjoy shooting without ever being hurt by it. You can be greatly diminished by shooting if you don't follow safe practices though! ;)

Making black powder isn't something that was *EVER* done on a backyard basis.

I'm pretty sure that small batches of black powder were a lot more commonly made than most folks are aware of, in the 1840's or 1850's it was common for a group of people to make their own BP. I doubt that there was ever as time when all the BP being used world wide came from large commercial mills. Plus, as I said, if you make sure you are following safe practices there is no good reason not to if you want to, unless it's illegal where you happen to live.

The goal is good black powder, not just something that goes "WHOOSH" when you light it, the goal is something that produces a minimum of excess soot and buildup. Take what BP is available commercially now for instance, I read recently that there is one brand that burns cleaner than all the rest, but is expensive (Swiss powder to be specific, I don't have knowledge other than what I've read.).

I don't want to produce any BP that fouls my guns up badly. We shoot cannons, and if you want a real good coarse granulation you may find that it's easier to make it than buy it, and in fact you can invent a super coarse granulation if you want to.

To anyone who feels that the risks are greater than the rewards, well, we still live in a somewhat free nation, no one is going to make anyone do it.

ontarget
January 10, 2011, 10:21 PM
I've been planning to try this myself. Only problem is ........too many interests, not enough time. All the naysayers might be calling the brave souls who dare learn the art when it ain't available through the commercial market anymore. If you know what I mean.

Pete D.
January 10, 2011, 10:58 PM
Y'know......the OP is asking for advice, advice from people who have done the research and made the stuff. I have. I'm glad to know how to do it but I have no plans to make any more in the foreseeable future.
There is no denying that it is a dangerous process under the best of circumstances. Y'know....ya only gotta be wrong once.
Perhaps the most difficult part is finding a place that is isolated enough that an accident would result in minimal damage. And....small batches....four ounces. Not much is it? Four ounces of Fg BP is enough to send a 16 pound bowling ball 400 yards. It makes quite a bang.
The current issue of Muzzleloader magazine - I don't have it with me or I'd quote it exactly - has an article about the early Dupont BP manufacturing facility. Dupont - the same people who brought you IMR powders and Jeff Gordon.
Well, they started with BP. They had a factory and they knew what they were doing. Nevertheless they averaged three accidents a year and almost every one of those killed someone. And they knew what they were doing.
YouTube....be very careful about what you see. Example...there's a video about "how to make BP" by a young fellow who proceeds to blend "green" powder (he calls it black)....he mixes it up in a glass jar. A glass jar.....
Pete

arcticap
January 11, 2011, 01:06 AM
Yeah I know I could easily google a recipe and what not, but I want feed back for you all. I want to know your experience in creating black powder. I look forward for any advice.

There's a sticky link at the top of the forum page that's titled "Making black powder" that has 8 pages of info. & feedback.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=347898

Cosmoline
January 11, 2011, 01:34 PM
I doubt that there was ever as time when all the BP being used world wide came from large commercial mills.

I suppose there could have been backyard operations, but this wasn't akin to casting your own roundballs. Jack Kelly's "Gunpowder" discusses the reliance on mills back to the 15th century. Before that it was an alchemist's shop. Many texts on our Revolutionary period describe the great difficulties the militias had in obtaining powder. They had few mills and the existing stockpiles were highly sought after. If rolling your own had been an option, one would have expected such home-grown operations to be encouraged. But I've never read an account of even a self-sufficient long hunter or frontiersman making his own black powder. It's possible this just wasn't chronicled, but I would think someone would have discussed such an impressive feat.

45-70 Ranger
January 11, 2011, 02:01 PM
I just keep thinking about the little Martian guy from the Warnner Bro's cartoons saying to himself "Where's my Kaboom? I want my Kaboom!" then he gets blown up! Guess a cartoon can get up after the explosion huh???

Wade

Joe in fla
January 12, 2011, 03:16 PM
First, I want to point out that this is an OPEN FORUM and is viewable to anyone on the net! That's includes the smut-slinging, sensation seeking, varmints laughingly referred to as "Journalists"! Posting the complete instructions on this site in this post 9/11, post-Tuscon world would not be a wise thing to do! Second, the actual making of bullet propellants vs using them is off-topic for this forum IMO.

However I DO have extensive experience making and using BP in pyrotechnics. We not only use granulated BP for lift charges but also it to make priming compounds, to coat onto rice hulls and the like as a bursting charge and to make black match, as well as many other uses. Since the finer material works much better than commercially granulated for those uses we do make a good amount of it. And ours is VERY comparable to the commercial grades. Even as a lift charge it's usually 95% as effective, if not more. And, no it's not particularly dangerous to make as long as you use some common sense. It's a LOT safer than making flash powder or using acids to make any kind of HE!

Anyway to answer your question, I will just say that mixing the three primary ingredients is just the beginning of the process to make acceptable BP. But just go look up the word "corning".

IF you're serious about making or using BP for anything other that a firearms propellant I'd suggest that you go join a GOOD, professional level fireworks group. Florida has probably THE best one in the country, the FPAG (Florida Pyrotechnics Arts Guild). You'll learn more about making and using BP than you ever imagined and have more fun than you can stand!

HisSoldier
January 12, 2011, 04:20 PM
. But I've never read an account of even a self-sufficient long hunter or frontiersman making his own black powder.

I have, and would see no reason to assume they didn't even if I hadn't read of it. They used to collect urine to pour over ashes to make saltpeter, I'm surprised that you haven't read that. As for sulfur, that would be the only ingredient that would typically have to be trekked in.

But even if it hadn't been commonly done (And I believe it was done a great deal more often done than you believe it was) that would not have anything to do with my decision to make it or not. Making anything that is commercially available is a positive thing toe, not being dependent on others. But I've always been that way, I've never accepted the statements that "You can't do that, it can't be done".
It can be done, and done well and cheaper than buying it, but even "done well" and "cheaper" aren't the deciding criterion for some of us.

Joe in fla
January 12, 2011, 04:54 PM
Quote:
. But I've never read an account of even a self-sufficient long hunter or frontiersman making his own black powder.

Go read the old FoxFire series of books. They describe life and crafts in rural Appalachia. Even at the time that these books were written (in the 1970s) there were still people making their own BP rifles and powder in that part of the country. These books contains descriptions, interviews, pictures, etc of the actual people and their crafts including gun and BP makers.

I used to live near Roanoke, Va and there's still an old saltpeter mine near there in one of the parks. Even before the revolutionary war it was supplying saltpeter for the locals to make black powder. Roanoke (called Big Lick, at the time!) WAS the frontier at the time!

I doubt a hunter would take the time to make powder since he would be constantly on the move and the ingredients frequently came from distant areas. But the settlers certainly did make their own powder. At the time (1760s IIRC), Dupont was just starting up it's black powder manufacturing in the US and they were located in the Brandywine Valley in Connecticut and their headquarters is still located in that area. A nearly impossible trip from the frontier in those days! Prior to Dupont, ALL BP in the US was locally manufactured except for very limited amounts of very expensive imported European BP. Somewhere I have an old book on the history of Dupont. It's very enlightening about the history and manufacture of BP, particularly in this country. In case you're not aware of it, the Duponts originally made BP for the French government but the US government made them a very good offer and the entire family moved to Connecticut and made ALL of the powder for the US government after that and up until WW I. BP was their original product and launched them to the position where they are today.

Cosmoline
January 12, 2011, 06:03 PM
I don't doubt that it was locally produced, buy my understanding is it was locally produced in mills, not on the hearth.

They used to collect urine to pour over ashes to make saltpeter, I'm surprised that you haven't read that.

I've read that, but not that the urine was collected for a backyard powder making operation. The powder was being made at mills. The saltpeter was created to fuel the mills. Indeed some of the very first colonial laws concerned the making of saltpeter and the founding of mills, precisely because it could not be done easily by individuals or families. It required a mill and dedicated craftsmen to have any kind of success.

I could be wrong about that, but if someone has a primary or secondary account of backyard ad-hoc powder making in the colonies or early Republic feel free to post it. My understanding is the interest in at-home powder making is pretty modern. Unlike, say, at-home hooch making ;-)

rusty bubbles
January 12, 2011, 07:21 PM
I was about to post a thread about a time traveller who has to make himself

a firearm for self defense-( just finished ol Mark Twain's "Yankee in King Arthur's court")-and my conclusion is: A flintlock, and homemade powder.

Not a matchlock-(no matches to light the fuse,only flint and steel in a tinderbox


Not a percussion weapon-( no potasssium chlorate for caps

The hardest part in building a flintlock of course would be the lock

My bro and I made our own powder using willow or dogwood charcoal,

Hard rock sulphur ground into powder

and of course saltpeter.

WE mixed a small amount with water and mashed it up-then spread the mess on a tray to the sun--afterwards crumbling the "cake"into smallish granules.

It worked fine in our old percussion pistol (not too packed down with the ramrod)

So to return to my marooned time traveller-the propellant can be made-

just need to figure out how to make a lock-but even for a skilled metal worker

it's pretty insurmountable--no machine shops back then-don't forget.

of course the Japanese used matchlocks with great success -even fitting boxes to cover the touch holes and slow match so they could shoot in the rain-even Cromwell's army couldn't do that

So what's the answer to our lone yankee's self defense problem-(any bullet will penetrate Chain Mail!)

LightningMan
January 12, 2011, 09:11 PM
IMO, don't try it, or you might be a Darwin award winner.

Pat M
January 13, 2011, 01:58 AM
I remember Capt. Kirk did it when he was alone on that planet, being chased by that lizard looking guy.....didn't seem that difficult.:D

Pulp
January 13, 2011, 09:16 PM
I've been making mine for about three years now, based on info from this thread: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=347898

Basically, if you can follow the safety rules of reloading, you can safely make small batches of black powder. I make small batches, and in spite of fears expressed above, I don't think a 4 or 8 ounce batch will level the neighborhood.

SAA
January 13, 2011, 11:43 PM
Why do many who have never even tried making black powder treat the subject as though the op asked about making nitrogycerin?:rolleyes:

Pete D.
January 14, 2011, 06:43 AM
I don't think a 4 or 8 ounce batch will level the neighborhood.
You are correct; such an amount won't level the neighborhood....but it would certainly get your attention if it ignited while you were breaking up a cake or while doing any of the close quarter handling.
I didn't blow myself up. You haven't. But.....there are safer activities.
Pete

robhof
January 14, 2011, 01:21 PM
I did it in high school for my kit gun and a .75 cal cannon I had and had no problems. I mixed the ingredients wet and dried on wooden boards, broke up and ground in hard plastic bowl with wooden pestal made from shovel handle. Of course this was over 40 yrs ago and times have changed, so it's too dangerous to do today...:cuss::cuss::banghead::fire:

Pete D.
January 14, 2011, 08:44 PM
Pulp: I am curious - in a good way. What is your cost per pound of powder, just materials?
Thanks,
Pete

Pulp
January 14, 2011, 11:00 PM
From Phil's Store www.ihaveadot.com

KNO3 5 pounds $11.95
Sulfur 5 pounds $21.25

+shipping

I make my own charcoal so I didn't price it. Note: you cannot use briquets. It has to be pure charcoal.

I've used up the first bucket of KNO3 and have had to order more. I've still got plenty of sulfur.

I make mine in 2000 grain batches, so the recipe is easy to remember:
1500 grains KNO3, 300 grains charcoal, 200 grains sulfur. That's approx 4.5 ounces.

Bluehawk
January 15, 2011, 10:44 PM
I've made my own for over 20 years for everything from skyrockets and 6-inch Italian cannister shells to propellant for my muzzle loaders in 500 gram batches. If you are trained properly and follow the safety and housekeeping rules you will most likely never have an accident. If you do have an accident and your ball mill is isolated, the damage will be nothing more than a destroyed ball mill!
Federal law does not disallow you from making your own BP but rather the regulations are strict about storage...that is where the license is needed.
Four good places to start is to join the Pyrotechnic Guild International and check out Skylighter.com for good advice...also check out American Fireworks News and Firefox.com

valkyriemc
January 20, 2011, 09:37 PM
Couldnt resist :-)

http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg61/valkyriemc/future.jpg

valkyriemc
January 20, 2011, 09:48 PM
"The most successful, well-known smoky replacement is Pyrodex, marketed for years as "the smokeless muzzleloading propellant." The Pyrodex patent application was filed on July 25, 1975. Pyrodex, developed by Daniel Pawlak and Michael Levenson, has not been without its problems. Dan Pawlak was killed in January 1977 when his powder plant exploded. The patent application was filed on July 25, 1975. So much for the safety of manufacture; it is a tragedy." Credit; R. Wakeman

mykeal
January 20, 2011, 10:59 PM
Credit; R. Wakeman
That should say everything necessary.

Bluehawk
January 21, 2011, 12:02 AM
what exactly does it say except the plant exploded? Exploded from what...manufacturing...storage...employee error??

Pyrodex is similar in composition to black powder, consisting primarily of charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate, but it also contains graphite and potassium perchlorate, plus additional ingredients protected by trade secret.

Since Pyrodex also contains potassium perchlorate (a sensitive oxidizer) and some secret ingredients, it can hardly be compared to the simple making of true black powder.
Every pyrotechnic knows it's highly risky to ever mix sulfur with either pot chlorate or perchlorate!!!

valkyriemc
January 21, 2011, 08:09 AM
Maybe this will be more palatable for you;

See page 10, Handloader Magazine, March-April 1977 Number 66,


http://www.riflemagazine.com/magazine/PDF/hl66partial.pdf


"Four Men Killed at Pyrodex Plant"

Capt. Redbeard
January 21, 2011, 09:48 AM
[QUOTE]Why do many who have never even tried making black powder treat the subject as though the op asked about making nitrogycerin?/QUOTE]
Because many people are afraid to think outside of the box. To quote a comedian, Left brain people like the box. They have their trusty tape measure, and know the dimensions of the box. They feel comfortable in the box. To leave the box is frightening.

Right brain people usually ask, there's a box??

I assume that the op is right brained. Good for him. Leave the box behind! Get out, explore!

junkman_01
January 21, 2011, 12:57 PM
And if it all explodes on him, he may be left with only half a brain! :neener:

Bluehawk
January 21, 2011, 10:06 PM
Experts who viewed the Scene said that something - the cause is not yet known - apparently caused part of the product being processed to ignite, which in turn ignited the remainder of the product in the building.

So it's a mute point since nobody knows what caused the accident.
Making up to 500 grams is hardly the same risk as making/storing/handling 9,000 pounds like that which was being done at the Pyrodex plant!

Have you got the articles about the .380 and the .30-30 that were shown in that magazine? I'd be interested in reading them.

valkyriemc
January 22, 2011, 01:34 AM
Blue, if your aiming your message at me, buzz off. If you arent disregard.

Bluehawk
January 22, 2011, 09:43 AM
Val
not aimed at you personally...just a response to the magazine article and homemade BP in general.
The only thing "aimed" at you was a request for the other two articles from the mag that I mentioned.

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