I have recently begun to make my own black powder. We have a little wood lot behind us with buckthorn alder. I cut it as it is invasive. I’ve made my charcoal with it as that is what Swiss is made with. I sent some wood to a fine fellow in Gettysburg who was kind enough to give me a couple of his books. One of these is titled, “ Like Fire and Powder” by the self same Brett Gibbons. He gives thorough directions and safety considerations pertaining to making one’s own powder at home. Long and short of it is this stuff I’m making is working very well! It isn’t as clean burning as I would like but it is good and strong as well as accurate. I’m mixing 75% potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal, and 10% sulphur. This is the common accepted rate. Has anyone else done this?
Homemade black powder
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- Last Post 06 April 2022
... back in the '50's most of we high school boys were making black powder ... we could buy all 3 ingredients at our local drugstore !!
... i think all efforts went toward using it to make various rockets ...
.... of course, one of my buddies insisted on assembling a glass jar rocket ... luckily he left the lid off ...
I’m ball milling and corning mine with a hydraulic jack. It’s less dense than commercial powders at 1.5 grams per cc as opposed to 1.7 . This is supposed to be what was used through the 1860’s. To get 70 grains by weight through my little brass adjustable measure I need to set it at 85g. This KICKS!
Thank you for sharing the book title and author that you have been using. I just bought it in Kindle version for $5. Skimming through it, it looks to be very interesting!
I have read some of it three times. I’ve been doing internet and YouTube research for a while. The book has made the most sense.
What form of potassium nitrate are you using? Like someone said, we used to buy it from the drug store back in the 60's. I've hear of people using stump remover. If you're buying pharmaceutical, do you get it online?
We were altar boys and we'd get these little charcoal discs from the church. They were used for burning incense. You could powder them nicely on a wood rasp.
You can buy KNO3 on Amazon, eBay and several other sites from the internet. Doesn't have to be pure, just technical grade works just fine. Look for lamp black for charcoal, and buy the sulphur at the lawn and garden store.
I got some potassium through Walmart. 10 pounds for 30 bucks. I purified it myself by dissolving it in boiling water and skimming the crystals as it cooled. My next purchase will be a 50 pound bag of 99.8% pure. The cleaner the ingredients the better I’m told. I have about 4 dollars a pound in it now in materials.
Making your own black powder brings back a lot of childhood memories, some much more pleasant than others. I am again considering making my own black power, a much better product than the ones that I made earlier in life.
Like ken said, I never did try to shoot the stuff that I made, but made lots of firecrackers. my worse experience was when I let a quart glass jar almost full of powder ignite and the jar burst, of course, and landed on the top of my foot. Thankfully the shoe was a slip on and I could get out of it quickly.
My dad had a big wood auger with a big wood T-handle on it. I would take the auger and drill a hole in a tree(we hated Elms) and make a tapered plug and cut a grove along the side of the plug for a fuse. I made fuses from some of my Mom's yarn. I would rub it full of black powder and put it in the groove that I had cut in the tapered plug. Fortunately, I was smart enough to experiment with how long a fuse was required for me to escape to a safe distance , or I probably wouldn't be telling this story. I forgot to mention that I would drill the hole at a downward angle which enabled me to get a lot of powder in the hold. I would take a big ballpeen hammer and drive the plug in as deep and hard as I could. I then, would climb down out of the tree and light the fuse and run like HE double toothpicks.
I hope there are not any impressionable boys or girls that read this story. It was, quite spectacular however.
David a. Cogburn
I’m going to try that for splitting fence posts.
70g of my powder by weight (85 on the adjustable measure) was giving me 1025 to 1050 fps yesterday. 75 and I got 1065 1085, and 85 got me over 1100, all with the Lyman 577213 cast of 30-1 and sized to .577”. The fouling was about like Schuetzen fff and melted like sugar when I hit it with a dripping water wet patch. I’m pretty encouraged and I’m looking forward to shooting a lot of this.
Been there done that and lived to tell about it. Rockets, lots of them, great fun, some made better firecrackers. Several pistols and a 10 gage electrically fired shotgun. It took 5 minutes to load as the wire leads had to be routed out the breech plug. I proofed it with a double charge and thought it safe. I used it bird hunting and shudder to think about it now.
A high school friend was killed when a cannon about the same size burst on firing. Kind of put the damper on the home made fusel fun.
Note: Lower density means more porosity, larger surface area, faster burning. Equivalent velocity to commercial powder does not mean equivalent pressure. Be careful!
I think it would be interesting to tell us what kind of a setup that you are using to make your charcoal. I've been studying the ones on U-tube and haven't come up with any idea of what would be the best setup to try.
David a. Cogburn
I’m using an old spray paint pot that I burned out to clean. I cut a hole in an oil drum’s bottom to hang it in. Turned the barrel upside down with a door at ground level to build a good hot fire. The retort that holds the charcoal wood needs to be airtight with the exception of a small vent hole for the escaping gasses. I also punched a hole for a length of stove pipe to help it draw. I lit the gases from the vent occasionally and when the flame stopped being yellow I pulled the retort and plugged the hole. If air gets in the retort the charcoal will ignite. I was able to jam the retort into a snow bank for cooling. Otherwise I would have let it cool overnight. It’s best to not over cook the charcoal I’ve read. It took a couple hours to make. I peeled all the bark and eliminated any bad wood or knots. These make klinkers and cinders that can cause a flare up when loading.
Thanks, good to know. I will keep an eye on the caps.
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