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.