At some point fairly early in every pyro career we realize we need to be able to make good black powder (BP) from scratch. BP is used in aerial fireworks shells as lift and burst powder. It is also used, in one way or another, in almost every other pyrotechnic device and component–mines, stars, black match, and the list goes on.
Sources of commercially manufactured BP are becoming harder and harder to find. Most sporting-goods stores and gun shops have stopped carrying real black powder. Instead they deal in BP substitutes such as Pyrodex® and Hodgdon Triple-Seven®. These products won’t work as shell lift powder. And even when real commercial black powder is available, it is relatively expensive.
So, availability and expense are the primary motivators to develop an ability to make your own high quality black powder. Add to this the desire that lurks in the heart of every pyro to “do it yourself” rather than rely on commercial sources, and it is downright irresistible.
The purpose of this project is to demonstrate a simple technique by which anyone with access to a few tools and the appropriate chemicals can easily produce high-quality granulated black powder. For use as lift and burst in aerial shells, and for many other uses, BP produced by this method is as good as or better than the commercial product.
Quality Black Powder that is Easy to Make
Good quality granulated black powder simply is that powder which suits our needs in our fireworking hobby. The primary requirements are performance (power) and durability (hard enough grains) that compare favorably with commercial granulated black powder.
There are many ways to make black powder, and the project here has an overview of some of them. You’ll also find there a method to test black powder and compare it to certain standards.
But, we’ll be focusing on a simple, easy way to make high-quality BP that is not mentioned in that project…