Introduction: Gunpowder

Picture of Gunpowder


This is an instructable for how to make gunpowder from its basic chemcials. The cost is initially expensive for the scale and ballmill (a little over 100$) but once you have those parts all you need is the chemcials which are relatively cheap.

Step 1: Parts List

Picture of Parts List

There are three basic chemicals in gunpowder Potassium Nitrate, Charcoal powder, and Sulfur powder. Gunpowder would be a lot simpler to make if you could just mix the three chemicals together in the right ratio and have the final product, however chemistry dosent always work that way. If you look at a piece of charcoal under a microscope you can see very tiny holes called pores. Even when the charcoal is ground up into a fine powder each particle of it still contains microscopic pores. To properly make gunpowder the particles of charcoal must be ground together with the potassium nitrate and sulfur, the process of grinding them smashes the potassium nitrate and sulfur into the pores of the charcoal creating a subastance that will readily burn when ignited.

Parts list:

1. Ball mill ( Can be bought at for 70$, if you buy it someplace else or decide to make it, make sure you also buy lead grinding media (ceramic media can also be used) as it is the only metal that wont give off sparks when ground together)
2. Scale ( I prefer the electronic ones which can be bought on e-bay fairly cheap, less then 20$, make sure it has a capacity of at least 200 grams, otherwise you will be making gunpowder in very small batches)
3. Potassium nitrate, Sulfur powder, and Charcoal powder(All obtainable on e-bay) When buying try to buy as close to 5x as much potassium nitrate as charcoal powder, and 2/3 as much sulfur as charcoal ( I will explain the ratios later)
4. Wire spaghetti strainer
5. Old newspapers
6. Tupperware container
7. Calcuator ( To measure the amount of chemical to use)

Step 2: Mixing the Chemicals

Picture of Mixing the Chemicals

As long as you always follow the 75:15:10 ratio of potassium nitrate:charcoal powder:sulfur powder you can make any amount of gunpowder necessary. First either determine the necessary amount and mix the chemicals accordingly, or you can make a large batch and save it for future use (I do it this way). A decent sized batch would be 300 grams potassium nitrate, 60 grams charcoal powder, and 40 grams sulfur powder.


1. If you are using an electric scale, place a container (I use dixie plastic cups) on it to measure the chemicals into. Then press and hold the "tare" button and it will take the added weight into account and set itself to zero (meaning the weight of the cup wont be taken into effect when you measure out the weight of the chemcials)
2. Measure the proper amount of each chemical, one chemical at a time, into the cups and then empty each cup into the ball mill.
3. When all 3 chemicals are in the ball mill grinding chamber seal it and turn it on.

Step 3: Turn It on and Wait

Picture of Turn It on and Wait

The title of this step says it all. Two hours is the standard amount of time to let it grind for, however you can leave it on for longer to get a slightly higher quality powder (I suppose you can also grind it for a shorter amount of time with diminished results if you need it fast, examples of this would be if you were in some sort of gunpowder making contest or if your hometown was invaded by aliens and you needed fast gunpowder)

Step 4: Sift Out the Powder

Picture of Sift Out the Powder

After 2 hours you will turn off and remove the gunpowder from the ball mill, and store it in a container.


1. Lay out a couple of sheets of old newspaper.
2. Hold the spaghetti strainer over the newspaper and pour the contents of the ball mill into it.
3. Gently shake the strainer until all the gunpowder has fallen through the holes to the newspaper and all the lead balls remain.
4. Put the lead balls back in the ball mill, close it up, and store it for another day.

Step 5: Store for Future Use

Picture of Store for Future Use

Pour the gunpowder from the newspaper into a tupperware container. Seal the container tightly and store for future use. Make sure the container is airtight so the gunpowder will not absorb moisture from the air.


TheGreenRuskie (author)2017-08-12

Can the ball mill used in this handle more the 400 grams? if so would it be wise to double the amout from 75:15:10 to 800 grams 150:30:20?

And where would there be any good places to buy the ingredients; at the local market? online? And what would be a good substitute if you don't have the plain ingredient like sulfur or saltpeter?

GeorgeB242 (author)2017-07-06

I really like science. Thanks for the info.

DEEJAY642 (author)2015-10-27

cool but how reactive and explosive is it or does it just react like KNO3 and sugar?

NigelD21 (author)DEEJAY6422017-05-02

Sulphur is added because it reduces the ignition temperature of the carbon, thereby ensuring a more facilitated (and violent) reaction. But if you're making sugar rocket propellant rather than and explosive, stick to KN03 and sugar.

DEEJAY642 (author)2015-10-27

also can the charcoal you use b premium activated (used for teeth whitening)?

NigelD21 (author)DEEJAY6422017-05-02

Yes. It works fine, perhaps even better. Activated charcoal has a greater surface area across which the reaction can take place, and this accounts for its use in absorbing certain poisons But it's an expensive way to do it!

StevenH70 (author)2016-03-24

Will this work in a modern rifle or pistol?

NigelD21 (author)StevenH702017-05-02

If you mean, will it fire a bullet, then yes. However, the carbon in the powder produces soot. A LOT of it, so whilst this is fine for cannons, using it in a modern firearm will cause jamming after about the 4th or 5th round fired. You then need to strip down the gun to fire another few rounds.

dude5999A (author)StevenH702016-12-15

In a shotgun shells maybe, but if you have a black powder you can use it.

dasta (author)2007-11-08

thanks for the info , i'm kinda on a low budget, and motors are expensive here, even from the scrap yard. although sulphur is relatively cheap and easy to obtain from hardware or gardening shop (called rubbing sulphur or flowers of sulphur. just say ur a coin collector and they'll understand). i found a different way of making the powder using 2 buckets and a cloth, but i'm still gathering the money for 2 and a half litres of whiskey to test it... in the other recipe it says you should use wood charcoal. btw, completely off topic, where or how can i get aluminium powder????

ThreeFifty (author)dasta2008-01-12

Dasta I'm also from SA, here's the deal if you don't have the time/energy/inclination to make a ball mill. Take a empty baked beans can or some such container, put your material in, chuck in a few balls or weights or whatever, close it with one of those can seal plastic lid jobbies, tape it up so it don' fall of, and roll it around under your feet while you on the net or whatever. Takes time but hey it's easy! (Of vat jy net jou spice blixem en donder die vokken goed deurmekaar;)

BOXHARD (author)ThreeFifty2008-02-09

NO!!!! don't use metal to make a ball mill.... I work in the trade and I had a buddy litteraly lose a hand over it. He was stupid enough to put glass marbles in a metal can with flash powder because it was caked up.... you know the rest, and yes, glass on glass does spark. You a plastic paint can or bucket, and use either ceramic ball bearings or aluminum, it has a much lesser chance of sparking.

osmonde (author)BOXHARD2009-03-28

Actually ceramic has a risk of sparking, lead is apparently the only metal ball that will not spark.

TristanC15 (author)osmonde2016-12-27

aye brass doesn't spark. (author)osmonde2011-01-02

not only, just cheapest and most abundant.

d.hatchell15 (author)osmonde2010-04-16

could i use fishing weights as the balls because they are made out of led right?

The Fallen (author)ThreeFifty2008-02-02

hmm, yes thatt would work, but i think it would take a ridiculous amount of time in order to get better gunpowder, and i'd be worried about static buildup. In most cases, i would be glad for a cheap alternative, but with higher level projects involving danger, i'd prefer to use a device designed for that specific purpose

parasarb121 (author)dasta2015-12-21

take a aluminium rod and start grinding it over a paper and you will get fine powder of aluminium, even you can cut the pipe using a saw then the powder will be less

KEYBOARDISBROKEN (author)dasta2009-07-08

grind down aluminium drinks can

godhanger (author)dasta2009-07-08

lol i love the smell of thermite in the morning

lil jon168 (author)dasta2009-05-02

osmonde (author)dasta2009-03-28


ah, aluminum powder. this can be bought at a paint store as tint, or, use a coffee grinder and some pop cans. its soft enough that it wont ruin your coffee grinder. good luck making that thermite :)

aluminum foil in a coffee and always available

You can also use an aluminum core and a metal lathe.

agitate (author)dasta2008-05-30 or both have it, I think northstarpyro has a better selection though

DinkleB (author)2016-03-03

is this smokeless powder or black powder

dude5999A (author)DinkleB2016-12-15

Black powder, smokeless contains lots of other chemicals and is hard to manufacture.

DanielJ183 (author)2016-08-03

can you use a blender instead of a ball mill?

dude5999A (author)DanielJ1832016-12-15

You can use a mortar and pestle. Make sure not to make any sparks or else, BOOM!

Some people also prefer to use water in the mix it makes it less likely to explode, it also is said to have more power.

JoeF45 (author)DanielJ1832016-08-10

Sounds like a good idea but the steel blades might spark and ruin your whole day.....

DevinTheDino (author)2016-10-31

How did people in the 1400's make it

Silverfieldwolf (author)2016-06-20

how do I know if the lead balls are actually lead?

Mr.Brownstone (author)2016-06-19

The old way actually calls for a wooden mortar and pestle so you actually didn't need to have the expense of the ball mill. It has to be wood to not spark

gokahnd (author)2016-03-11

MarkC418 (author)2015-11-05

After taking a good look at the chemical reaction (2 KNO3 + S + 3 C → K2S + N2 + 3 CO2) and calculating the molar mass of the ingredients I noticed you rounded down the ratio's too much. The correct ratio's are:

74.8% KNO3

11.9% S

13.3% C

Rounding these values down can extremely affect the quality of the reaction.

DEEJAY642 (author)2015-10-27


fancypants23 (author)2015-07-25

I recommend making your charcoal, as for sulfur it can be bought in bulk at about 98% purity from just about any place that sells gardening fertilizers and supplies

MarkC27 (author)2015-06-10

Do you need to add any alcohol or water

xfox44mag (author)2011-02-04

the olny thing i gring is potasium nitrate and chracoal for griding your stuff you can use a coffe grinder it works grate just never grind it all at the same time and clean it every time you swich to grind outher stuff
ok now win you mix it do not use water that kills black powder or gun powder in the old days thay use alcohol 100% or 90% i use everclear lol you do not need to use a lot just a nuff to get it damp the reson for this is so you do not blow your hand off it keeps the powder fom exploding till it drys out makes it a bit stronger too but not a lot i ues this mix in my guns and i need 0.7cc more then the storng nonsmoking stuff you can buy in the gun shop the mix i ues is 75% potasium nitrate 10% sulffer 15% charcoal use a soff wood chracoal and the more you put in the faster it will brun i made a fast mix with this form 70% potasium nitrate 10% sulfer 20%charcoal if you look for some were to buy stuff you can get it a lows stump remover is potasium nitrate just shaks the can to make sher its dry stump remover on the same rack look for sulfer dust for killing mights o and on the buttom of the can a big cap lol now you can make the chracoal just burn some soff wood i use balsa i build r/c planes so i have a lot of scrap it works beter then pine makes it burn to slow
o and BQ charcoal not the same thing and you do not need a ball mill i have made it bouth ways and the mess of the ball mill not worth it i just mix it in a coffe can with a stick i ues this in my cannon too works grat and buy fuse form a fire works sulpier its a lot cheper you can get 50ft for under 20 bucks i got 150ft for 35 on sell just shop around thers a lot out ther you just got to look and if your in can you can still get the stuff you just got to know what to look for

spark master (author)xfox44mag2015-06-04

I hope this gets forwarded to you , but for others as well, (your post is 4 years old).

The making of explosive powders is dangerous and should not be done carelessly and w/o parents/teachers helping out. If you are an adult, others should know what you are doing in case of accident.

Alcohol may be used to extract nitrates if you make them from enviromental sources, and you DO NOT need Everclear. 95 % pure methanol will do just fine and a smidgeon of the cost.

I read several long treatises here on the web years before your post , and they all mention mixing the stuff with alcohol so they could really grind it well, using a stone or bronze-brass( both are a NON SPARKING METAL), mortor and pestle. They mixed the ingredients together, and then ground them, you then push the wet mass through a screen onto a plate and allow it to dry. Then they regrind it. ( in a non sparking ball mill). The finest grind was used in powder horns as flash powder. Different sized screened bits have different burn rates and are used in different applications.

Kno3 is hydroscopic, but not horribly so, and in the middle ages they used urine as a wetting agent as well as alky spirit. Dry time is much slower as spirits dry very fast.

Urine adds a stinkyness to the stuff and contains various nitrates salts as well as others. The British Crown had the right to come to your farm/ptoperty and remove all the crytalized nitrate salt from barns for use in powder making, (and while Bow and Arrows were the weapon of choice, you were not permitted to randomly cut down ewes, which can grow tremendously large, as they were use to make the very powerful and famous English Long Bow!)

As My chem teacher always said...Poof, no more freshman!

pastaking (author)xfox44mag2011-05-31

You're right about not grinding it all at the same time. If it sparks - POOF! Shrapnel everywhere, including in you.

BenM10 (author)2015-02-19

Any idea on how much grinding media should be put in the mill?

paulmigdale (author)2013-08-29

If I can figure out how and where to get the 3 chemicals from, I will gladly purchase this ball mill.

phleagle07 (author)paulmigdale2014-12-27

Just bought 3 lbs of the potassium nitrate and a lb of sulphur powder from "ebay" for about $15, they also have charcoal powder but I haven't gotten to that one yet.

DGmoN (author)2014-10-21

I went a different way, after making the powder I "cooked" it making a crystal. Whilst cooking it formed a past with the excess sulfur evaporating. When the crystal was lit it burned fast and flew across the room, it was about 2x3cm in size

spawnos3717 (author)2011-12-30

could one put a static pad on or in the mill to absorb static and discharge it safely away from aparatus?

stoobers (author)spawnos37172013-01-26

It isn't a "static" issue so much as if you use steel balls to grind the powder, a steel back will strike another steel ball and make a small spark. BOOM!

ancaf33 (author)2012-02-05

How do i get the gunpowder to grains?

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