Is This a Breakthrough in Black Powder Making?

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: Uncategorized

Ready to experience a black-powder-making religious conversion?

I urge you to read the whole article that my friend Jason Land wrote on “Polverone Revisited.” (Polverone is just another variety of black powder.)

Here is a “new” old technique for making large quantities black powder (BP) faster and cheaper that could make a huge difference to your fireworks making.

If making black powder has been a problem for you, you really need to see Jason’s description of this game-changing method for making BP.  In fact, the technique he describes was developed and adopted by the leading fireworks club in the US, the Florida Pyrotechnic Arts Guild (FPAG).  This club contains the highest concentration of expert fireworks makers in the US, perhaps even in the world.

I consider it a very, very important milestone in making black powder for amateur fireworkers.  Why?

Because it makes the process so much easier, less expensive, and waaaaay less time-consuming.

Now the method doesn’t churn out low grade BP whose quality is compromised by any means.  It is every bit as powerful and effective as commercial powder.

But you get commercial quality BP, while drastically reducing the amount of time, effort, and equipment needed to make it.

Say you need to make 2FA (grain size) black powder (particles about ¼ inch in size).

  • Need to buy and customize an arbor press or hydraulic press?  Forget it!
  • Buy a comet pump and press your fine black powder into “pucks” and let them dry for weeks?  Forget it!
  • Break the pucks up and granulate them?  Fageddaboutit!

These used to be time-consuming and expensive steps.  But they were important, because…

Well, because black powder is the engine of the whole pyro-universe.

And having an unlimited supply of cheap, powerful, black powder in different grades (particle sizes such as 2FA, 4FA, etc.) opens the door for you to an unlimited array of fireworks.  But without those grades of BP, you’re limited in the kinds of fireworks you can make.

What FPAG developed was a method of making BP that all of their geographically dispersed members could use to make the SAME, consistent quality of black powder, no matter where they lived.

You see, they HAD to find a way to do this.

They needed a process by which more than 100 expert fireworkers could each make BP which would perform the same for all of them.

Why did they need to do THAT?

Because this collection of extraordinarily accomplished fireworks makers produces fireworks in such huge quantities, and of such size that they need hundreds of pounds of BP for the fireworks displays that they periodically create.  They even make and donate commercial quality fireworks displays to worthy causes.  Not to mention the amazing displays they create just to amuse themselves.

Their shows contain dozens and dozens of world-class, professionally made shells and other fireworks. And a big shell might need 30 pounds of BP in it!

So, they developed a method that anyone with a ball mill could use. And it yields the same grade and size black powder for everyone. And their BP costs a tiny fraction of what commercial BP costs—even tho it is just as powerful.

If you need BP for making fireworks, read this very important article by Jason Land. It will change your fireworking life.

Commercial black powder will cost you between $12 and $24 per pound delivered.  If you need to get black powder in large quantities, then consider Skylighter’s Black Powder Kits.

Be sure and download Jason Land’s “Polverone Revisited” black powder making article right here, and learn how you can make commercial quality BP cheap, easy, and with waaay less equipment.

And tell us what you think of his article in the comments below.  Feel free to give us your questions, too. We’ll help you.

–Harry Gilliam

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

  1. john geyer says:

    Can black powder (moist or dry) be pressed into a tube with a hydraulic piston instead of pounding it? – John

  2. Jim Favier says:

    I made black powder, using hot water sugar coalpower potassium nitrate

    and potassium chlorate. Granulate by rubbing across a window screen for

    break.Or rub through a 3-mesh screen for lift 2FA grain.

    It has some power.

  3. Brian says:

    I have a question about the different types of potasium nitrate, I have some slightly clumpy powder from sky lighter that has a dirty sock smell to it and some prilled nitrate (also from skylighter) that I grind up in my magic bullet that has no smell to it at all. Does the smell have anything to do with the quality of the potasium nitrate and effect the power and speed of my ball milled black powder?

  4. Mike says:

    Hi, Just wondering if you can mill ahead with this process,and then make the potatos and process later, I keep the milled powder in a dry, cool, enviroment, with my smokeless reloading powder.
    Thanks,
    Mike

  5. Ron McCann says:

    Which publication did the article appear in?

  6. RUSSELL PAGE says:

    I do not understand why light is required in the drying box for Polverone as opposed to just heat.

  7. Eric says:

    What are the savings in say buying a 1.75″ complete shell (lift,stars,burst charge everything)and making one yoursellf

  8. Jason says:

    A couple of addendums to the article since I published it so long ago.
    1> Champion AG grade KNO3 is no longer available. SQM stopped making it several years ago, right after the jacked the price to $1/lb. I have yet to find it’s rival in AG grade KNO3, yet the lower grade KNO3 kept the hefty price tag. For my money, I’ve been getting the better quality KNO3 since Champion left us high and dry.
    2> Harry didn’t mention much about the charcoal benefit, which was, in our experience, one of the biggest benefits of this method. You can make it entirely with commercial air float charcoal. Of course, commercially available air float charcoal is highly variable, so ymmv. However, a serviceable lift/break can be made from quality KNO3 and commercial air float charcoal. Making part of your charcoal the good stuff, can make polverone far “hotter” than any other black powder. I like 25% hot charcoal to 75% commercial air float for most things. If I am making a hot meal for fast spollettes, I’ll make it with 100% hot charcoal. Need a hard hitting break for smaller shells? 50% hot charcoal. The options are seemingly endless when you add in advanced methods.

  9. jim f says:

    what are the thoughts on this polverone versus ned’s red gum/alcohol method? Ned’s seems to work well for me without all the subjective ‘potato’ making and finicky drying. i guess i’ll have to make a tester to see how it compares to the 5-6 second flight times listed as desireable. Perhaps someone has already done this???

    • Jason says:

      I haven’t made Ned’s, as we developed this stuff before Ned started making his red-gum-flavored rice hulls. As always, it’s whatever works for you and what you have. I think that’s the important idea. It all works, and some if it works better for some things than others. No perfect solution and all.

      That said, the polverone method can achieve a high degree of variability. From Lift and break for large and small shells, to break for inserts, and even lift for large bore roman candles. Combine that with the lessended need for specialty charcoal, and you have a great product, with less cost, and fantastic variability.

      One other possible difference, I say possible because I haven’t done the testing, is the difference between ball shells and canister shells. FPAG builds alot of canister shells. Polverone is great for this application. You can make green meal for the filler, hot for the break in the center, and goex power for the lift. All that changes is the grating technique or the amount of hot charcoal.

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