What’s your most “burning” question about making black powder?

What’s your most “burning” question about making black powder?

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: How to Make Fireworks

This is the time of the year when all of us start making black powder for our 4th of July projects.  And with Skylighter’s incredible deals on potassium nitrate this year, now you can make BP cheaper than ever.

Since we’ve been swamped with questions on making black powder, we figgered it was time to compile the answers into a recording for you.

We’re putting together a “Podcast” with solutions to every black powder problem you may have.

A “podcast” is internet-speak for a recording you can download and then play on your computer, ipod or smartphone whenever you want.

Think of it as an on-demand radio interview.

So, quick… tell us what you want.  You’ve got until noon Tuesday.

After that we’ll start making a 20-30 minute podcast for you.

Submit your question in the “Comments” section this post

We’ll take all of your questions, consult with our notorious team of 17 International Black Powder ninjas and 1 ninjette, and record their answers for you.

Ask me quick!  I cain’t wait to hear from you!!!

P.S. As soon as it’s done (in about 7 days or whenever we get to it), we’ll send you a link to download everything you want to know about making black powder—free.  No strings attached, no crass commercial hucksterism (arghhh, I HATE it when I don’t sell you something!)

P.P.S. If you have a question about troubleshooting your BP’s performance, or how to improve it, be sure and tell us everything about how you’re now making it–so we don’t have to ask you first. Remember, most of us still cannot read your mind–at least not YET!

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

  1. Ralph says:

    Howdy guys, I had some creosote left over and it occurred to me that maybe a ground display might work so I tried the above. Made a small one that worked ok, nice orange sparks with some of the white / bluish
    sparks thrown in. Burned up the casing as it went so I have no idea how much the cardboard tube added to the effect. Any way I am done with it my clothes, tooling and everything else that came in contact with the stuff reeked of creosote. I know this stuff is  carcinogenic so I used my home made respirator along with my commercial one with did a very good job of filtering out the smell of the creosote.
    My home made respirator is from my wood shop days. It’s very easy to make so here it is. You will need natural sponge or close cell foam at least 1/2 inch thick, elastic band and some leather scraps.
    1. Cut the sponge to fit across your nose and wide enough to cover the nostrils.
    2. Attach the leather to the sponge with needle and thread
    3. Make slits in the leather just big enough to have a slip fit for the elastic band.
    4. Mark one side with permanent marker and always put that side on the same way.
    5. Wet the sponge, strap it on and breath in with the nose exhale out the mouth. It was great in the wood shop as I could chew tobacco  and not have to remove anything to spit. When you need it again just run water over it to clean and strap in on.

    This is what I tried

     Weingart Gerb #1

    mass percent parts component
    285.714 57.14% 24 Potassium Nitrate
    119.048 23.81% 10 Steel (filings)
    47.619 9.52% 4 Creosote
    47.619 9.52% 4 Sulfur

  2. To : Tavis Frier,

    If you are a member of Pyro Masters with Skylighter, the materials have several BP articles, the most critical is Ned’s (I believe) end-to-end discussion of making your own charcoal and BP, setting up for comparative analysis and seeing for yourself that if you do not mind getting messy, you can do it as well or better than the commercial manufacturers. Ned states, “1600 PSI is the highest pressure necessary” before the marginal return for more pressure is equal to zero or is negative. In POE, Ball mill dust with 10% water and anything over 1600 PSI is a waste of energy and it is really important to be sure that the pressure is equally applied across the surface. Since few to none of us have access to equipment that WE own where the insurance for the Business allows for the manufacture of explosives, we might want to take Ned’s advice and stick with red gum as a binder and a 4 mesh screen, grading out the 2, 3 and 4F granuals in rough fashion to get the right surface area contact with the granules to the surrounding air.

    I found that smashing some of the ball mill powder, mixed with Methanol and 1% red gum, can make a nice mix of 3/16″,or so, flat powder granules that can be broken up into different sizes (carefully, as it is fragile). I am searching for a way to create a ridgid ring with enough thickness that it does not cut into my rolling pen, but allows me to smash, add, smash, add until compression is maximium and thickness is consitently abuout 1/8″ thick. I have considered a very hard rubber “O”-ring with a 5-6″ diameter and a 1/8″thickness. (I have some O rings for an under-water camera that might work but they are expensive.)

    Has anyone else attempted a puck with less than the high tech. that a professional pyro manufacturing business can legally use and had good reason to own? Us aammmaterrs are limited to creative solves.

    My Buddy is going to engineer a way to use his bench vice, and I will be interested in watching that one…from a distance….Hehehe.

    AGM, Sparky Productions

  3. Why would one use Dextrin as a binder when red gum leaves no real residue in a 1% mix? I may be pie in the sky, but the cleaner the burn, the higher the discharge, the better the powder. Burn pressure is under MY control. If dexrin is better, and if I am using a 100 mesh mix going INTO the ball mill, what wieght percentage of Dextrin is optimal for maximum binding and minimum burn residue and how much better is it than red gum as a binder? I prefer 2-3Fg equivalent results against FFg GOEX, or WANO, or whomever.


    AGM, Sparky Productions

  4. After reading all of the great materials that you and Ned put out there, I went into the countryside and camped out for a couple of days to make charcoal from a pine tree cut from a neighbor’s yard. Not even kiln-dried wood from home depot or Lowe’s for that matter. Two cans about 80% full w/ 20% head space for smoke and flames in 1 gallon paint cans. Mind you that you need three smaller holes in the bottom and three larger holes in the lid for proper draft. The pine burned down as black as shiny coal with no ash, and it took about 4 hours because it was not kiln dried. Got enough for 4-5 lbs. of powder. Chopped it up in a coffee grinder, chopped the KNO3 in a different grinder to pass a 100 mesh screen. The sulfur went through the 100 mesh too. The charcoal would barely pass a 10 screen but the ball mill takes care of that. After about 2.5 hours of milling a 1 lb. batch, I added 1% red gum with an appropriate amount of Denatured alcohol. Next go, I will ball mill the red gum into the mix. The results gave me some 4-7, 8-9, 10-19 mesh particles and throw-back base mix in about a 50, 25, 15, 10 ratio. So 50% 2Fg, 25 3Fg, 15 4Fg and the rest for rockets or what- ever. In side by side tests with Goex FFg, the results were interesting. The pine mix did well. Especially what I smashed with a pin roller between two pieces of wax paper. Just as good as FFG with less weight. The granular, grain for grain was more powerful, the FFFg being the best. ALL of the pine home mixes required a small amount wadding to build the pressure, as they all burn slower than commercial BP, but put off less smoke, and create more gasses upon burning. Building the pressure is where it matters. In Ned’s tests, he used a baseball tight enough that wadding was probably not necessary, and in smaller guns, it is…for example star test guns. Do not forget to put the stars UNDERNEATH of the wadding!

    I am here to testify that Ned and Harry are NO BULL Sh%T when they tell you that,
    A) you NEED a ball mill…really…no shit….
    B) grind the crap out of the KNO3 BEFORE you ball mill, as with any other component. ( just try to get air-float charcoal from a paint can!!!!)
    C) Red Gum is cool and the highest pressure you can likely press safely with a rolling pin gets results better than chunks from a 4 mesh screen for me. NOT 10% water, …. I mean ball-mill dust with 1% red gum in alcohol under what MIGHT be 300-600 PSI depending upon how many times you go to McDonalds every week. This is the best when made into 2F to 3F particles for me.
    D) Do NOT underestimate the power of the product. It burns very differently than GOEX….and so what…just use some wadding.
    Thanks for the detailed instructions, experiment results and guidelines for doing as well as the commercial guys…by the way, unless you do this for passion, go by GOEX. No possible way this is a money maker, but it is GOOD to know how it make it when the Feds cut people off from GOEX at the sporting goods store! Then, it will be worth your time.

    Sparky Productions,


    • I failed to allow the reply option when I posted the article about making pine charcoal on March 7th. So if you have suggestions, ideas or questions, reply here if the option is not available on the main post.


      A. Glenn Maynard
      Sparky Productions

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