4-Ounce Black Powder Rockets

4-Ounce Black Powder Rockets

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

“4-ounce” rockets? What does that mean? Well, if you’re interested in the history of the term and some further background information on rockets in general, you can find it in the Introduction to Rockets article. But if you’re more interested in getting started, let’s go!

Specifically, in this project we are going to make a 4-ounce (1/2-inch ID), nozzled, cored, stick-stabilized, black-powder skyrocket with a bag-shell heading.

Here’s a diagram. You’ll see references to it throughout this project.


Black Powder Rocket Diagram
Half-inch rockets are small enough that they don’t use huge amounts of materials. They can be made quickly, and can be flown in many back yards.

But they are large enough to be really impressive, with that black-powder-rocket “whoosh”? as they launch. They can also carry a nice payload of stars or other garnitures into the air. Working with them will provide plenty of experimentation, experience, research and development, and plain old fire-working fun. This is one “Quarter Pounder” you won’t have to drive to McDonalds to get!

Continue Reading: 4-Ounce Black Powder Rockets…

54 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Molon Labe says:

    How do you keep from getting air pockets in your fuel grain when you have rocks for fuel granules? These are like lava rocks. Invariably I get pockets of air in my fuel grain because as I ram the rocks, miniature pockets of air get trapped within the grain.
    Then the typical catastrophic end of flight takes place somewhere along the way… ” ‘Kabluey’ Houston, we have a problem!”

    • Harry Gilliam says:

      When you granulate black powder for making rockets, no binder is added. So the grains of black powder have almost no strength and crush to a powder under the force of your fingers. Granulate of rocket powder is to keep the dust down when hand ramming.

  2. wayne says:

    Black powder ca be tricky if using black powder for
    black powder guns the 75 /15/10 usual mixture is very touchy. i would not recommend ramming it at all
    i am thinking about getting your sugar type rocket kit knowing that this mix is safer then most as far as power I have seen a half pound of black powder take a old car apart ,back in the 70′s I have respected it very much after seeing that usually your first mistake can be your last mistake tho old estes rocket motors are black powder and some one i knew took them apart it almost cost him his life he did loose a hand this stuff must always be respected and not messes with without some chemistry knowledge and most of all common sense
    Thank you for the info and the enjoyable reading stay safe
    P.S I have a neighbor 14 years old who is into this, i may order your sugar rocket kit and work with him with it
    Thanks for the interesting reading
    also is it legal to make your own black powder with out any type of license ?

  3. alfred says:

    Hey Ned.
    I know a little about fireworks and chemicals.
    And i wantet to make my own rocket so badly.
    You’ve really help a lot, but when i buys it where can i get it and do there come stars in the kit. Oor can you make them yourself? :-) i live in denmark so i was wondering about you know some places?

  4. PopPopH says:

    Howdy, Well in my novice pursuit of making these 1/2″ ID Rockets, I took a bit of information from the “Nozzeless Rocket” info and made 4 oz of the mineral oil fuel, it didn’t go well even though I added a bit more Potassium to the mix. One Rocket flew the others just stood on the pipe like a Fountain (after 5 rockets I am not impressed with my ability). I just made one with my Red Gum BP and a bentonite nozzel and that Critter took off and went straight up out and out of sight……….Now thats some good Shits and Giggles. The next batch will have some 3/4″ long hand wound headers made with newspaper wound around a round pensil and masking tape and visco fuse filled with flash powder………………that little bit makes a good bang that can be clearly heard a 200 plus feet high.

  5. Vince says:

    The other thing you can try is adding air float charcoal to the gun powder. Mix a half pound of the powder with 5 percent air float, if that doesn’t work try 10 percent. You’re going to have to wet the mix with some alcohol or water, mix it really well then screen it and let it dry. You can dial in the burn rate of the powder this way and get your rockets to really fly.

  6. Dale Burrows says:

    Blowing up like firecrackers!!!!!
    I want to make rockets fly.
    I am using the hollow core rocket tooling set for the 1/2 inch black powder rockets, am using the tubes from the plasma cutter fountain project. I have packed the powder from moderate with a rawhide mallet to hard as ceramic grain on a gear press. I have eliminated the clay nozzle, They still blow up. I am using German made Schutzen powder 3f grade that I got a deal on 20 pounds a few years ago. I have blown a pound of it already and get nothing but boom, no fly….HELP

    • Vince says:

      Dale, it sounds like you have to slow that powder down a bit. Try adding some mineral oil to it. You might be able to make end burning rockets instead of hollow core with that powder also. The rockets described in this article are being made with home made powder that is typically not as fast burning as commercial powder. Experiment, experiment, experiment. That’s the fun of this hobby.

  7. Henry J says:

    Yes…I use a Thumblers Tumbler “B” Model and mill the nitrate, sulfur, and airfloat charcoal together for 12 hours in 500gram batches. I simply add the 80 and 36mesh charcoal afterwards (not ball milled) by screening it all together through window screen, three times. When I’m ready to make rockets I dampen several cups of the fuel with 50/50 mix rubbing alcohol/water…just enough so it sticks together (like damp beach sand…not dripping wet)…then I hammer ram the fuel increments
    I don’t use bentonite clay for nozzles…I use sanded tile grout (Home Depot) which works wonderfully and I don’t make a bulkhead over the last increment (time delay) …4-ounce rockets don’t need them!.
    You can vary that formula by using this for a VERY long sparkly tail!
    60 kno3
    9 s
    20 af
    6 80m
    5 36m
    Let us know how it works out.

  8. Henry J says:

    Harry
    Here’s a great formula for 4oz rocket fuel that I always use:
    Pot Nitrate 60%
    Sulfur 9%
    C AF 20%
    C 80mesh 10%
    C 36mesh 1%

    gives a nice sparkly tail

  9. Harry Balls says:

    It has taken some time and a lot of money, my efforts are paying off. I succesfully launched my first 4 oz. bp rocket. I will continue to use my ball mill to create my fuel. All the info I have read screen powders to create bp. If you have recently decided to make rockets and have a ball mill use it. WHY GET ANY MORE DIRTY THAN NECESSARY. I purchased a small ball mill from skylighter it works great. I will be altering the 60-30-10 standard increaseing the ratio of af charcoal by 10%.. It came to this by adding 5% af charcoal remilling for 4 hours x 2 to get a rocket to fly.

  10. Lonny says:

    Hey Ned,
    I love the whistle rockets that you showed us how to make. They have never failed to impress all who see them! My question is do you think I could lift a 3″ or 4″ ball shell on top of one of these bad boys? My rocket tooling is a Wolter extreme 1 lb whislte rocket set using your fuel formula. I want to have more success with pattern shells!!
    Thanks Ned

    • ned says:

      Hi, Lonny.
      I’m glad to hear you’re impressin’ the crowds with the whistle rockets. Whistlers and Strobers are sure to catch one’s attention when they fly.
      Are you making 3/4″ ID motors?
      I would think you could lift a 3 or 4″ ball shell with one of those, if the fuel is tuned to the tooling for good thrust.
      As usual, my advice is “try it, and see how it works”…within reasonable safety guidelines, of course.
      The nice thing about lifting headings on rocket motors is that if the heading’s display is timed correctly, the shell’s display will always be “flat” to the viewing angle of an audience. This can be especially advantageous for pattern shells.
      Good luck and let us know how they go.
      ned

      • Lonny says:

        Thanks Ned,
        Yes they are 3/4″ ID motors. It sure looked to me like the they could do the job but a second educated opinion is always better. I tried the pattern shells from your project, everything was straight forward and with in my skill set but man is it a heart breaker when it opens on edge and everyone says ” Oh no Lonny I totally saw it, good job picaso.” any how I can’t wait to get crackin on some prototypes!!!

        Thanks again Ned!!

      • Lonny says:

        Howdy Ned,
        Tried a 3″ ball shell on one of my whistle rockets, worked great!!! lifted it easily and the happy face opened up just right for all to see. far as I can tell a 4″ shell should’nt be a problem. Something else new I tried, vacuum sealing my rocket motors. As you know whistle mix is hygroscopic. I have a standard counter top vacuum sealer and thought, hey that would keep moisture out during storage. works like a champ!
        Thanks for the advice Ned

        • ned says:

          That’s great, Lonny.
          Whistlers are real attention-grabbers.
          And, the nice thing about lifting pattern shells on rockets is that you can pretty well guarantee that they at least break “flat” to the earth. They might be upside-down, but they won’t break sideways to the viewers.
          I like the idea of vacuum sealing those motors.
          Some folks carefully stretch wrap them..some bag them with packets of dessicant.
          Be careful when using an electric-pump sealer, though. If it sucks any dust into the unit, it could cause “problems”. Whistle motors aren’t dusty, but there’s always that possibility when working with electric kitchen appliances.
          Ziplock does have a little hand-manual-pump vacuum sealing process, with a pump that looks like the one you’d pump up sports balls with, and bags that have a special “fitting” on them which allows air to be pumped out, but not back in.. The bags might be reusable in this situation. You might check them out.
          Keep having fun and stay safe,
          ned

          • Lonny says:

            Hey Ned,
            Thats a good idea. Had’nt thought of the zip lock ones, they would be perfect. The rocket motors I dont mind doing but stars would be out of the question because there will alwys be dust presant. The zip locks will work great for that perpose. Thanks for the good advice Ned.
            Lonny

          • Lonny says:

            Howdy Ned,

            I was wondering if you had ever made any smoke stars for daylight shells? I have found a couple of formulas’ on line but they either use chlorates or chemicals I’ve never heard of before. I’ve wanted to try this every since I saw a daylight dahlia shell on you tube, it was pretty impressive.

            Thanks Ned,
            Lonny

  11. Henry J says:

    You really don’t need the CA glue…if you hammer ram the delay over the spindle properly, and your fuel is about equivalent to mine, the delay column works just fine and ignites the garnishments perfectly!
    CA glue is much too expensive to waste like that!!!!!!

  12. Vince Tassone says:

    I don’t use a bulkhead on my rockets either. I usually make 50 rockets in a sitting. I line them up and use a drop of CA glue in each for a bulkhead. I get the CA from Tower hobby. The thin stuff. If you want a delay just pound a bit of slow burning powder then CA that. It burns through great.

    Please use this at your own risk. I am NOT a chemist nor am I a “pyro” expert. I only know that I have used this for 100″s of rockets and it works for me. Any comments welcome.

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