1. Post #1
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    I'm making my own black powder.
    Why am I doing this? A few years ago the Fed reclassified black powder as an explosive, not a propellant, this means you need a hazmat license to ship black powder and most retailers won't carry black powder anymore, they only carry this SHITTY SHIT called Pyrodex that is not only more expensive, but it doesn't perform nearly as well as real black powder. Pyrodex won't even work in anything other than a Percussion gun, and even then you need a really hot percussion cap to set it off, so if you want to shoot a black powder gun on store bought ammo, you're limited to Percussion guns and Inlines, and Inlines are the ugliest, most god awful shitty things to have ever been invented. The hazmat fee is $25 no matter how much powder you buy, and a one pound can costs about $30 now so the only way to get the best... bang... for your buck is to order in bulk and this easily adds up to a $400 order for 25 pounds of powder. Who did this hurt? It only hurt the people who use old fashioned guns, I'm talking cap and ball revolvers and muskets here, the kind you see in use for traditional hunting and in reenactments. If you're like me and shoot really big guns then you go through powder really fast. I guess they were afraid someone would blow up Congress by stashing a ton of black powder under the floor (Oh wait, didn't someone already try that and fail?).

    Gunpowder is just three ingredients.
    Saltpeter, which provides the oxygen and makes up most of the powder.
    Charcoal, which provides the fuel.
    And Sulfur, which is optional, all the Sulfur does is lower the ignition temperature. Without Sulfur, the powder will only work in a Percussion gun. Matchlocks, Wheellocks and Flintlocks won't fire without REAL black powder in them.

    It's really not an exact science, there are probably hundreds of powder recipes out there with different ingredient percentages, you just need to supply the right ingredients. Saltpeter and Sulfur are easy to get a hold of, Saltpeter is sold for model rocketry and for certain methods of drying meat. Sulfur is a waste material today and is super cheap, I have 5 pounds laboratory grade Sulfur right now, only cost $10 from Amazon.

    The Charcoal is where things can get tricky. Different kinds of wood have different chemical properties, so you have to get the right kind of wood, in this case Willow is one of the best kinds to use and a lot of people HATE Willow trees due to how much maintenance they require and they tend to have very invasive roots so you can get Willow no problem, just offer to trim someone's tree.

    Today I found an old paint can and I modified it to work as a charcoal tin by poking a small hole in the top and attaching a door to cover the hole.
    Basically the idea is to burn the wood without an open flame, if the wood actually catches fire the charcoal literally goes up in smoke. If you isolate the wood from the oxygen it needs to burn and apply a heat source, you get charcoal. While charring the wood emits wood gas, this is extremely flammable and burns with a bright flame, once the flame goes out you have charcoal.

    Here you can see the tin can in the fire, inside are bits of charcoal, the wood gas can be seen burning through a hole in the top of the can, it took about half an hour to turn the wood into charcoal.


    After the flame goes out, the door on the top of the can is swung closed to block the hole, this prevents oxygen from getting into the can and possibly igniting the charcoal. Once cool, the can is ready to be opened, at this point I had no idea what I would find inside.


    Closeup of the lid I modified, the door is held on with a bolt and has a small dimple in it to plug the hole in the lid.


    Anyway, the can opened it can now be seen that it was a complete success.



    Now that the charcoal is made, it will be ground into a fine powder with my mortar and pestle, I'll post pictures of this tomorrow when I make the first batch of powder. And then test it.
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  2. Post #2
    Oh no, what have I done!
    milkandcooki's Avatar
    November 2007
    21,617 Posts
    Any significance behind that can, or was it the only thing laying around?

    I also hope you make a good batch of powder, and not blow yourself up.
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  3. Post #3
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    Any significance behind that can, or was it the only thing laying around?

    I also hope you make a good batch of powder, and not blow yourself up.
    Well the can had to be made entirely of steel, no aluminum or plastic or the can would melt. You can't see it very well in the picture but the can is red hot. As a bonus, paint cans are air tight, which means the wood gas would only escape through the hole I punched in the top of the lid.

    Back in the day EVERYTHING was sold in either a fabric sack, wooden boxes/barrels or steel cans. Today most of that has been replaced with synthetics and finding those metal cans and wooden boxes is hard to do.
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  4. Post #4
    Dennab
    June 2010
    2,040 Posts
    cool. I never would have thought that they'd reclassify black powder as an explosive. Back in the day we used to buy powder to reload .308s, but it was a lot cheaper then (and that's the higher-yield stuff obviously).
    Then again, we have horrible firearms regulations. It's a shitload of background checks to buy an automatic rifle, but the semiauto that takes 2 minutes to mod doesn't even have to be registered.

    Good luck with it.

  5. Post #5
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    This is a lot different from smokeless powder though. Using smokeless powder in a black powder gun will actually cause the gun to explode and possibly kill you.
    There were a few incidents where people new to black powder bought guns and powder from a retailer, the salespeople had no idea about the proper use of a black powder gun and when asked for powder to go with a new gun, they were given 'rifle powder' which is usually smokeless powder for reloading. Two died and one was maimed for life because everyone involved was ignorant despite the warning labels on the packaging for the guns. Course the surviving family members saw fit to sue the gun makers rather than the retailers.

  6. Post #6
    Gold Member
    mike's Avatar
    October 2005
    4,316 Posts
    You seem pretty sensible but it bears saying for other people - be very careful when doing this - make sure you haven't got any naked flames where you mix or store it. Otherwise you could end up with unpleasant burns.
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  7. Post #7
    JumpinJackFlash's Avatar
    December 2010
    2,127 Posts
    Nice, you've used the same method I did when I was a kid. Hope your powder turns out just fine. :D

    Here you go, this will help you!
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Make...-in-5-Minutes/

  8. Post #8
    nox
    nox's Avatar
    March 2007
    2,199 Posts
    Another one of your very informative and interesting projects. Can't wait to see more of this.

  9. Post #9
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    Grinding up some charcoal in my big mortar.



    Tada, willow charcoal powder.


    The three ingredients together.


    Now it's looking like gunpowder, at this stage it's known as Serpentine powder or Meal powder. I tested a little bit of it and it does indeed work, and it burns nice and fast but I'll burn even faster once I corn it. I saved some of the Serpentine powder, I'll record it with my high speed camera tomorrow with the corned powder.


    Explosive burger patty.


    And corned, now to let it dry overnight and it should be good to go.
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  10. Post #10
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Did you just mix with water?

  11. Post #11
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    Did you just mix with water?
    Yup, but I may have ended up using a tiny bit too much. Next batch I'll use less and see if that makes it easier to corn it.

  12. Post #12
    coco911231's Avatar
    August 2009
    7,895 Posts
    Raptor the gunsmith.
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  13. Post #13
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    All done, the powder has dried and been filtered and I got some of it on the high speed. Each grain is about 1mm in size.



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  14. Post #14
    ashton93's Avatar
    August 2010
    1,384 Posts
    That looks epic, I feel like testing it out

  15. Post #15
    coco911231's Avatar
    August 2009
    7,895 Posts
    All done, the powder has dried and been filtered and I got some of it on the high speed. Each grain is about 1mm in size.



    Hot.
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  16. Post #16
    Played it for the plot
    Dennab
    October 2008
    14,789 Posts
    I know that was high speed but even then it looks like it burns awfully slow, I'd be afraid of the projectile leaving the barrel before all the shit burnt up


    also OP is a terrorist
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  17. Post #17
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    No, OP is just RR_Raptor.
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  18. Post #18
    Dr. Evilcop's Avatar
    May 2011
    2,968 Posts
    I know that was high speed but even then it looks like it burns awfully slow, I'd be afraid of the projectile leaving the barrel before all the shit burnt up


    also OP is a terrorist
    Mythbusters also tried making their own gunpowder, and it was slow burning as well.
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  19. Post #19
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    Yeah, commercial gunpowder is made on edge mills which weigh many many many tons so it's compressed and ground a lot more finely than I could ever hope for with my stuff.
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  20. Post #20
    Gold Member
    GyroburnerV2's Avatar
    December 2007
    1,039 Posts
    Wow I never knew how charcoal was made until now, it was always a mystery.

    I'd try this but I'm in the UK so I'd probably get life in jail or something stupid.
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  21. Post #21
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    There are of course a lot of other applications for that though. If you liked using charcoal for art, now you can get it for free. You can also make charcloth to use as a firestarter.
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  22. Post #22
    garry's Avatar
    September 2001
    12,375 Posts
    This was a cool read!
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  23. Post #23
    FreeBee's Avatar
    March 2007
    230 Posts
    It still is!
    Damn I'd like to make some myself. The only way I can get it now is by dissecting fireworks.

  24. Post #24
    Behemoth_PT's Avatar
    March 2007
    1,933 Posts
    I have a question.

    After you corn the powder, how do you get from this:



    To this?



    Do you do it with your hands or do you use something?

  25. Post #25
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    The wet ball is just rubbed/pushed through a wire strainer and allowed to dry overnight.
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  26. Post #26
    Gold Member
    jaredop's Avatar
    September 2005
    2,446 Posts
    Have you ever thought of making your own ball mill?

  27. Post #27
    Gold Member
    RR_Raptor65's Avatar
    February 2006
    3,243 Posts
    Yeah, once I find a recipe I like I'll build a ball mill to make a higher volume of powder. I could also build a pretty decent sized edge mill which would be better for this sort of thing.
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