by James Walton
Would you believe that this powerful propellant, that has changed the world as we know it, was made as far back as 142 AD?
With that knowledge, how about the fact that it took nearly 1200 years for us to figure out how to use this technology in a gun. The history of this astounding substance is one that is inextricably tied to the human race. Imagine the great battles and wars tied to this simple mixture of sulfur, carbon and potassium nitrate. Mixed in the right ratios this mix becomes gunpowder.
In this article, we are going to talk about the process of making gunpowder.
We have just become such a dependent bunch that the process, to most of us, seems like some type of magic that only a Merlin could conjure up. So, we will lift the veil on gunpowder.
Gun Powder Formula:
- 75% Potassium Nitrate
- 15% Charcoal
- 10% Sulfur
RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE GUNPOWDER
- Digital Ounces Scale
- 2 Glass or Plastic Mixings Containers
- Plastic spoon
- Blunt object for smashing potassium nitrite (I used the handle of a small tack hammer)
- Fine mesh sieve
- Potassium Nitrate (Salt Peter) / Stump Remover
- Activated Charcoal
- Powdered Sulfur
A little safety first before we get into steps and instructions. Sulfur can kill you and the gas it gives off when burned can kill you. Potassium nitrite is no picnic either, it can damage your vision and poison you if ingested. Gunpowder is highly flammable/explosive and could cause you great physical harm.
- Wear eye protection
- Use gloves
- Use a dust mask
- Work in a well-ventilated area
- Most importantly use common sense
PROCEED WITH CAUTION!
How To Make Gun Powder:
Gather your ingredients and measure them based on the black powder formula above. Whether you are making 1lb or 10lb the breakdown will be the same 75% Potassium Nitrate, 15% Charcoal and 10% Sulfur.
Next mill or grind your saltpeter. Most recommend doing this in a ball mill but I wanted to do this all by hand to get an idea of how it would work without conveniences.
Once the potassium is ground add the measured charcoal and sulfur and begin to mix the ingredients thoroughly.
As you can see in the photo above the mix was not completely smooth so I ran it through a mesh sieve to remove and potassium nitrate that had not been ground fine enough. This process created a much finer powder and helped incorporate the three ingredients.
It worked so much better than hand mixing I just ran it through the sieve again. You can really see it becoming something at this point. The sieve was crucial to this process if you are going to be doing it by hand. The finer the sieve the better.
The final product looked something like this. I was very happy with the consistency achieved in such a short amount of time. This whole process may have taken 30 minutes. Most people recommend you run the ingredients in a ball mill for 12 hours! That said, their black powder is of a superior quality in comparison to what was created here by hand. Still, this stuff would get the job done.
#Step Seven (Optional)
I folded a small piece of paper in half and laid that on a rock before lighting it. Light this stuff from a distance with a torch or a long piece of paper. Especially the first time. You will not know how good your black powder is and you don’t want to find out by having it scorch your face.
#Step Eight (Optional)
If you want to make it more powerful here are two great tips for powering up your gunpowder:
- Add water to the mix and stir it into a paste then allow it to dry. This really gets the three powders to mingle thoroughly.
- Add (isopropyl) alcohol to the mix depending on batch size and this will make it really angry when the fire hits it.
Making gunpowder at home is one of those cheap and easy endeavors that will surprise you. It’s also puts you in contact with a process that changed the course of history! Just be safe and smart as you are creating a highly combustible substance!