Picture of Make German Dark Aluminum Powder in Bulk
This instructable will guide you step-by-step on how to EASILY produce large quantities of extremely fine German Dark aluminum powder.

For those of you that don't know, German Dark aluminum powder is a special type of aluminum powder that has charcoal added to it. The charcoal prevents the aluminum from oxidizing into aluminum oxide when the aluminum is of a very fine grain. Preventing this makes the powder considerably more reactive, and, not to mention dangerous.

DISCLAIMER: I CANNOT be held responsible for any harm, injury, or death caused by misuse of this material. By following these instructions, you must be aware at all times that you are risking the safety of yourself and others.

Here's a video of me igniting a bit of the powder because I was bored. I sound like Justin Bieber in it due to the fact that I was 14 at the time.

Okay then, let's make some of the stuff!

Step 1: Get the Ingredients and Supplies

Picture of Get the Ingredients and Supplies
The materials you need are:

  • Aluminum Foil
  • A Rock Tumbler
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered charcoal
  • About 25 steel balls, for the grinding media
  • A Large Magnet (Not pictured)
  • Sheets of paper (Not pictured)
duct tape4 years ago
This page is the #1 hit on google for the search 'aluminum powder'.
Berkin (author)  duct tape4 years ago
Not for me, but it's on the first page.

Still pretty awesome, I admit. :D
The screenshot doesn't lie!
Additionally, the belt on my ball mill broke. :(
Berkin (author)  duct tape4 years ago

Sorry to hear about your ball mill belt, hopefully they don't cost too much to replace.
AldoS4 months ago

Can I use hardend lead-antimony non-sparking media, I'm a little scared of using a sparking media like steel?

kodama8 months ago

What's the 'official' ratio of charcoal to aluminium, gram for gram?

sgfidlin2 years ago
I put the aluminum foil through a paper shredder. That worked great.
raa7 sgfidlin1 year ago

I did too and it works fast ! I knew my paper shredder was good for something besides just shredding paper :D

raa71 year ago

I like your process, it's well thought out and easy. Thanks for sharing that ! :D raa7

i am planning on making a smaller batch than what was made in this instructible so does anyone here know the ratio of charcoal to aluminium?
cant wait to make this! too bad i have school today
nhealy1 year ago
my rock tumbler barrel leaks and it brand new and not broken. do you know how to fix it
Anyone who is actually going to make this needs to use lead grinding meadia, otherwise the steel could cause a spark
inthefrey2 years ago
Just a note to all you Ball Millers out there: If you use the RED, Harbor Freight, 3lb. rock tumbler, you will need to add something (piece of plastic, etc) inside your container to keep the 1/2" steel balls from lining up and basically stopping the milling process.

After the 4th day of milling, none of the bits of aluminumin my Harbor Freight tumbler were getting any smaller. A closer examination of the tumbler used in this article revealed a few raised areas or "speed bumps" in the rock container. The container supplied with the Harbor Freight tumbler is completely smooth.

The thin plastic insert shoud span the inside diameter of the H/F container (side-to-side) and leave enough room for the steel balls and aluminum to escape around the insert. This creats a lifting and falling action that amplifies and shortens the milling process exponentially.

Hope this helps!

patriot7773 years ago
I noticed that your video is private. If you are putting this information out publicly, why is your YouTube video on the subject private? Can you help, please.
Thank you, with respect-
He made that private so his mom wouldn't see that vid.
ilpug3 years ago
A great source of charcoal powder is old respirator cartridges. Break them open, and pour out the contents, then grind it into powder.
Langarulz3 years ago
can i just make aluminum powder with this not dark german?
ilpug Langarulz3 years ago
Dark German has charcoal which coats the particles to keep it from oxidizing. Normal is less reactive, and more easily electrically charged.
bjohn295 years ago
dude! that is so fohshizzle too bad i threw out my rock tumbler
Berkin (author)  bjohn295 years ago
Get another one! :P
bjohn29 Berkin5 years ago
tru, u should get like a mini blender and blend the little strips of alfoil so that it doesn't take so long (do the charcoal seperately.)
Berkin (author)  bjohn295 years ago
Blenders are a no-no. You have to use a ball mill.
Why are blender's a no-no?
ilpug pyrochris3 years ago
I think he means using a blender to tear the foil up before you put it in the tumbler.
A.C.E.3 years ago
I've known about this instructable for awhile now, and now that im finally getting into making flash powder and seeing how expensive aluminum is, im considering making it this way. Do you know what the mesh/particle size is when you grind the aluminum for a week? And if you grind it longer will that number continue to decrease? Im looking for something under 6 microns. Thanks!
Please tell me what size steel shot to use in my ball mill, I am about to order one right now.  3/4 diameter, or 1/2 inch diameter.  I am considering using activated carbon from aquarium supply stores for my "dark" adding.  What do you think, mr Berkin.?
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
I used 1/2 inch balls.
I have tried your method.  I failed miserably.  I wasted a hundred dollars on equipment.  I am reverting back to purchasing aluminum powder instead.  It just seemed to take damn near forever to crush the confetti down.  Plus, noisy, and I anticipated burning the motor out on the ball mill eventually
If one could combine a standard mill with something like 'jpoops' setup, (a set of driven wheels under the mill container in addition to the main drive motor), it should balance the power between the two and augment speed as well
@randyclark747 what size steel balls did you use? If it took forever to crush down the confetti, is the foil too thick? I put a bucket over the tumbler to reduce the noise.
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
Holy crap. That sucks. :(

I can only say that the same method does not work for everyone, I do apologize for wasting your time.
Pyro74 years ago
How is this more cost effective than say buying Star Molecule (military grade aluminum powder), Eckart Super H, or an off indian blackhead powder?

Serious question if anyone can answer. I have never seen anyone beat an Eckart Super powder, and not even come close to Star Molecule with a homemade powder. Did i miss something?
I'm guessing that these military grades are so volitile and the ingredients are highly regulated that even if one were to top intensity, their freedom could be at stake. The government hates competition and no potential martial law would be possible without superiority.
Berkin (author)  Pyro74 years ago
I am not saying that my method of producing powder is "superior" over all others, as that would be an outright lie. I posted this as a fast means to get good quality powder that burns well, and suits the average hobbyist's needs. I never suggested that this be used in any professional applications or commercial fireworks.
darkmarc3 years ago
could you use shaving from lets say a cnc machine or if you were to drill AL the shavings from that
Berkin (author) 4 years ago
Almost 20,000 views, dang...

Thanks guys!
xXLab_ManXx4 years ago
What kind of charcoal is this?
Is it like BBQ type or burnt wood?
A.C.E.4 years ago
Nice tutorial, now i have a good source for aluminum powder hehe, if i cant find my old rock tumbler though, ill have to go and buy one somewhere :p where could i get steel balls (or another grinding medium) locally? would places like Lowes or a hardware store have anything suitable?
Billdo224 years ago
What about the moister from ones breath? could that be enough to ignite it? i had a respirator on that channeled it downward towards what i was working on and i nearly lost my shop just now.
Berkin (author)  Billdo224 years ago
Why are you asking me to confirm what you already know? Of course moisture poses some threat, but it depends on how fine your powder is, and what safety precautions you are taking while handling such materials.

Another user told me that putting your material in a plastic bag before milling it was a good idea, not only because it can keep your mill cleaner, but also because it's safer for when you extract your powder from the mill. If you're considering grinding up another batch, keep the hint in mind.
Ball mills are not common in my country. In fact, I could translate it but have no idea of wtf it should do or look like because I've never seen one. I've tried viewing the youtube video, but it won't play because it's a private video. So, I was wondering if I could make a ball mill which would produce aluminum and iron powder. I want aluminum and iron powder to ignite thermite, then drip the molten metal into custom-shaped plaster, so I could design my own metallic parts. Any idea?
DIY cast Iron Very clever man, you need to make instructable for use to try
Berkin (author)  elias.alberto5 years ago
If you don't know what a ball mill looks like, there's always Google Images. :)

I have heard of people doing very interesting things with thermite, but your idea is unheard of to me. But I wouldn't say no to you trying it.
I've been into a mining company recently and I've seen what is a ball mill! They have some huge ones to make powder from the material they extract.
Berkin (author)  elias.alberto4 years ago
JFYI Thermite was invented for casting and welding, and is still used for welding railroads together
Berkin (author)  steveastrouk5 years ago
I know that.
were did you get the charcoal powder i dont want to get it online do they got in in ace hardware???
Berkin (author)  Don,t try this at home5 years ago
It's gardening charcoal.
i just went out made a fire and got charcoal and im powdering it in the rock tumbler will that work
Berkin (author)  Don,t try this at home5 years ago
To get charcoal powder just look at the bottom of your bbq briquette bag
bbq charcoal may not be pure but it'll work
Berkin (author)  TheBlackSharpie4 years ago
If you're aiming for better purity, I would not advise using briquette powder. Most often times, manufacturers will add other chemicals to the charcoal to enhance burning. However, that might not be bad either...
Could i use activated charcoal For the charcoal ??? I have some spare and was wondering if i could use it
Berkin (author)  stephenniall4 years ago
loki11384 years ago
One problem, adding the charcoal doesn't remove the oxidation that occurred in the ball mill. Almost all of the aluminum will already be oxidized as aluminum oxidizes so rapidly. To make real german dark, you have to heat the aluminum powder anaerobically in the presence of a carbon source. Put the aluminum in a semi sealed container with charcoal and heat. The result is that the oxide from the aluminum form CO2 and escapes as a gas, leaving pure aluminum and carbon. But be careful, heat too much and it will burn fast!
Berkin (author)  loki11384 years ago
Thanks for the tip. I don't think it'll be too much trouble if someone does it either way, because my powder burns pretty well even on it's own.
loki1138 Berkin4 years ago
That's true, aluminum is pretty awesome by itself. Ekhart does the heating process but adds a styrene coating so it doesn't spontaneously combust when you expose it to air. Your method is much safer and perfectly fine for flash powder and thermites!
sillypig5 years ago
how much tin foil should you add to 1 teaspoon of charcoal in grams
5% carbon by weight.
Berkin (author)  sillypig5 years ago
I didn't measure in grams. But you'll find a foil-to-carbon proportion in the comments, if you look.
olao995 years ago
I have tried this way, but when i finally open the ball mil, it is all rusty, the grinding media, the barrel, how can i avoid this?
Berkin (author)  olao995 years ago
I've never heard of that happening before, but it sounds like you got water vapor in your mill drum.
jpoopdog5 years ago
has anyone else had the probolem of where the powder is made normal in the first go but then the second time it just clumps up and doesnt turn into powder, instead just small pellets? i noticed that in the first go with my pvc ball mill that the aluminium foil stuck to the sides of the mill and the bits became smaller and smaller untill overnight they became powder. but now it wont work and they dont stick onto the sides anymore because of the alum powder smushed into the inner pvc. will the ziplok bag work if i put the stuff in now, because i realy need alum fast for cracker night which is 12 days away from now for me
sillypig5 years ago
i have made 500 grams of aluminium powder what % of charcoal should i add to make it german dark thanks
Nice, I am definatly going to try this And also United Nuclear says "If you are doing high purity work and are concerned with contamination from the barrel, several customers report they get good results by placing the media and material to be ground into a heavy (freezer type) zip-loc baggie, then placing the baggie in the barrel. The material will be ground and reduced to a powder within the baggie and never comes in contact with the barrel itself."
jpoopdog5 years ago
i found that turning the shredded foil into 8mm by 8mm squares helps it grind quicker, and for an even faster milling process, put 1-2 teaspoons of aluminium powder into the mil before use, instead of taking 2 days to break down the quares into sand sized squares, it did it over night.

as for shreeding the foill, just use scissors, but be sure to wipe the blade every 4-5 cuts becuase aluminium powder builds up on them and that prevents a clean cut, instead it just tears the foil .

by the way randyclark747 what kind of mill did you use? did you halve fill the barrel with sbb's and did you reduce the gear ratio, becuase running a dc motor with a barrel capable of grinding the alumiunium foil, with gears only reduced to halfe speed will almost always burn out, unless its a lego/gear head motor which has stepped down 4-5 times inside itself

if your looking for motors with gears built inside look at jarcar.com they have huge torques, but im not sure how exactly you make the mill from that, just have a go, they have 50kg@55rpm torque and only cost about $20

if possible, you can attach the barrel directly to the motor and it will run fine no probs.

by the way, i am making an instructable on making a 1L capacity lego ball mill from lego and a pvc pipe, keep a look out its nearly finnished, the way it works is like an upside down car with the barrel rolling on the tires

 |O  O|

thats basicly what it looks like , with the barrel being the top "O"
joeismydad5 years ago
Wait, so for every handful of aluminum you add, do you have to add a tablespoon of charcoal or do you just add one table spoon of charcoal and the rest is aluminum?
Berkin (author)  joeismydad5 years ago
The first one you said is right.
Berkihttp://  Check this out:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIlJ2NQdqZQn;  or please go to you tube, and type aluminum grinding machine.  This machine mass produces your product in no time.  I bought the ball mill at 62 dollars even.  I am using heavy steel nuts for grinding media.  There are no ball bearings around my town so I substituted.  I am using activated carbon for aquariums.  The process is very, very slow, and I do not know if it will ever complete.  Concern is ball mill motor may burn out from long hrs.  Tell me what you think.  Alternate more accurate email acct for me is hicksbryan9@live.com
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
It only took me a week to get a really fine powder. I didn't stop the motor once inside that week. You should be fine, just set the ball mill in a cool area so minimize heat absorption.
The advantage to the machine on you tube Berkin, is that any piece of scrap aluminum will work, whereas the ball mill approach requires aluminum foil.  Aluminum foil is calculated cost of roughly 6 bucks a pound.  My idea when mass producing this stuff is to keep costs down as low as possible.  A piece of scrap aluminum sells for .40 a pound at a salvage yard.  I am still saving money, however incorporating your method, since I only need a pound or two of aluminum.  I am using steel nuts for grinding media.  Do you think it is slower than ball bearings with this method?  I was wondering Berkin, what size steel ball bearings are you using in your photo?  It is unclear to me, whether to get 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch shot for a 3 lb ball mill.  Commercial production of this stuff, could make you lots of money, product being sold online. 
Berkin (author)  Berkin5 years ago
I should also point out that not everyone can afford such an elaborate machine such as the one in that YouTube video. Smallish ball mills (Such as Rock Tumblers, which do the job just fine) are relatively cheap, and can be easily made from simple supplies if people don't feel like buying one.

But, I am not saying that using complex apparatus is bad, either.
Do you think it would be possible to just add charcoal to pre bought aluminum to create the german dark and if so how much does your batch weigh so i can add the same amount of charcoal? Thanks.
I have no scale to weigh my powder with at the moment.

Store-bought aluminum powder might not work, because it can oxidize when there is no carbon added to it.
oh one more thing you do not need to open the barrel every once in a while because of the carbon which prevents the oxidizing of the aluminum, because with regular aluminum it will set on fire if exposed to oxygen correct?
a scary thought occured to me.  I have about a pound of flash powder made, but the aluminum is not dark.  Does this make it more unstable?
no it doesn't make it more unstable than it already is. It matters on the type of formula you are using. If ur powder is made from pottasium perchlorate and aluminum then it is one of the safest flash powders out there. Adding sulfur to the mixture however will make it A LOT more SENSITIVE to FRICTION and IMPACT just be careful with flash because it is a high explosive and i wouldn't recommend keeping large amounts in one container because you might not have a place to live if it goes off. Use common sense and be safe.
Actually, flash powder is a low explosive not a high explosive.

It may be low explosive, but it is easily made, and relatively safe to handle.  It can also blast through concrete in amounts of 150 grams or more, so I think it is powerfull. 

It varys on the flash powder formula.
That's why when you go to the hardware shop and ask for a safe, you ask whether it's fireproof from the INSIDE :D:D
Berkin (author)  agent harmsy5 years ago
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
No, not at all. He is simply stating that the aluminum slowly consumes all the available oxygen in the grinding chamber, so if you don't periodically open the container through the grinding process (this wasn't necessary in my case), when you open the container, the very fine powder will spontaneously ignite in the sudden abundance of oxygen. This is never good, as it burns extremely hot.
I think what you are saying is airbourne aluminum dust, even when mixed with oxidizer can catch fire by itself, which is a very scary thought.  I have felt a 4 oz salute with flashpower heat up and steam, spontaneously, just because there was a little water in the container. 
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
Ah, so you are saying that the water vapor in the air contributes to the premature combustion? I thought I might have forgotten something.
It is very possible water vapor can cause an accidental ignition.  Humid environments like mine in the midwest, I can imagine cause problems with accidental ignition of pyrotechnic mixtures.  What do you think?
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
Sure, it's possible. What else can I say?
I just talked to a pro, this homemade aluminum can be very reactive to air, because it does not have a stearin coating on its particles, like store bought pyro grade dark aluminum.  I think anyone who makes homemade german dark might be at risk for accidental fire because of the lack of this coating.  I could be wrong however. 
              I did a small experiment to discover risk of fire by placing a small amount of aluminum powder in a pop bottle cap, suspended in boiling water with lid, so only water vapor could get to it.  Nothing happened,  hence I think aluminum powder is only a fire hazard when airbourne. 
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
...Therefore, you can reduce the risk of fire by removing the lid on the mill drum as slowly as possible to avoid creating airborne particles.
No, just keep it closed until it's done grinding.
.... see i was right about letting the aluminum breathe... when i opened up my ball mill all the aluminum ignited into a very hot and bright fire. Luckily i saved the barrel and media. So if you are going to mill it for a while I recommend opening it up each day for the al to breathe...
You must have not had any carbon added into your powder, otherwise it would not have combusted.

My aluminum powder was mixed with carbon, which keeps it from oxidizing. And, obviously, carbon is one of the main ingredients in German Dark, so I usually add it in with the aluminum foil strips.

This is very convenient for me, because I only need to open it once, when it's done grinding. And it won't explode.
I am waiting for your reply
Berkin (author)  jonnyb03815 years ago
As long as the carbon is pure enough, it should work.

If you are using briquettes, I suggest reading the bag to check what's in them first. You never know...

As for your other question, I am not familiar with the sciences of Horticulture. I suggest doing a bit of research to see if the carbon you have in mind will work. And I will do mine. ;)

Best of luck.
Thanks for your help!
Hay, I hear all this talk on carbon adding.  I went to the store and tried finding commonly available equivalents.  I found an activated charcoal used in aquarium pump filters.  IT sells for 7 dollars a pound at wal marts.  Is charcoal, and carbon interchangeable?  Now, since I live in a small town, materials for a homemade ball mill are hard to get.  Where can I salvage Steel balls?  About 3/4" diameter?  I could not find gardening charcoal anywhere.   I also noticed buying aluminum foil to make aluminum powder, can get costly.  I think a roll of foil sells for 5 dollars, and is probably less than a lb only.  Considering market price of aluminum is only .50 a lb, thats a Jip.  Will my aquarium charcoal work?  Whats the difference between charcoal, and carbon, and the activated versions of each.  I am tempted to just grind up some charcoal briquettes from a barbeque, and call it good.  What do you think?
"charcoal" briquettes aren't any good for pyrotechnics. They've got all sorts of impurities, binders, and fillers in them to make them hold together and burn well for your grilling. (some even include things like sand) In short, briquettes are lousy (believe me I ignored the advice and tried it out . . .no good)

You can take a bunch of willow (many argue willow is the best but lots of woods work) twigs and seal them in a can then put a couple of small holes in your can and put it over the grill or in your fireplace. A flammable gas is created the burns out of the holes in your can. once this gas is no longer burning you can let the fire go out, let the can cool, and open it up for some easy and mostly free (if you were lighting the fire anyways) charcoal. Simply grind this up to get powder. there's a more detailed instructable on this if you're interested. It's a much larger scale but the info is applicable.
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
I salvaged my steel balls from a magnetic toy.

I think it would be easier for you to make your charcoal instead, and save some money. There are plenty of instructions all over the Internet that show how to do it.

As for aluminum, I'm afraid the only option I can think of is to buy it. As long as you can get everything else for less, or for free, you are technically saving money.

Good luck!
It wont explode anyways. It will however, catch fire if you don't either add stearin or carbon to it. Although I'm not familiar with the carbon process
By adding carbon to the aluminum does is making it more reactive or just darker in color? Also will horticultural charcoal work for the carbon? thanxs
i did have carbon i don't have a use for any more regular aluminum since i already have 5 pounds of it
Did you get the proportions right?
yep did axactly what u said
When I opened mine, it did not set on fire. And I never gave it air while it was grinding.

You must have done something different.
other than using a ball mill not a rock tumbler and extra media i didn't do anything different. I had it runing for a week to get a fine powder nothing more.
What type of media did you use?
lead media and the second batch i made didn't ignite.... thats weird i don't know must've been some freak accident...
ok thanks
Diclonius5 years ago
 will this work with ceramic media instead of steel balls? or are the steel balls just because theyre easy to remove with a magnet ?
Berkin (author)  Diclonius5 years ago
You need heavy media, that's why I went for steel. Otherwise, it won't grind.
Actually it will. I made some with very light-weight glass marbles. It just takes longer to do with lighter media
Berkin (author)  dachemist5 years ago
I'd imagine you'll have tiny fragments of glass in your product then. NOT good if you're aiming for good-purity powder.
 I have carbon steel balls now. They do work better

Berkin (author)  dachemist5 years ago
 you get 50 3/4 inch carbon steel balls for $14.00 at www.mcmaster.com
barley85 years ago
I just opened the mill and filtered through a window screen. There are lots of large particles that did not get ground, and the stuff that came through had some small particles but a lot of sand-sized particles Do you think that the thick pieces didn't get ground?
Berkin (author)  barley85 years ago
Thicker pieces take longer to grind. You should never have foils with different thicknesses mixed together in your ball mill.

Common sense, really.
barley8 Berkin5 years ago
Ok thanks! I put it back in the tumbler and I'm going to let it grind for a while and sift out more powder. Then I'll start over.
Is this a 3 lb. size ball mill?  I am about to try this for I am sick of paying 22 dollars a pound for aluminum powder.  Berkin:  What size steel shot are you using, so I can replicate your method?  Is 1/2 in diameter shot sufficient, or do I need to go larger?  I am ordering a 3 lb ball mill.  The drum shall be about 3.5 inches in diameter, by 4 inches long.  What size steel balls do I need?
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
As long as you're not using bowling balls or something for your grinding media, I don't see any problem with your method. Try what you think suits your needs.

I imagine using too small of media, can be a problem likewise.  I shall use 1/2 inch steel shot.  I calculated cost of foil at 6 dollars a pound, way more economical, than buying al powder.  I hope I can get it down to a very fine powder.  I will let you know. 

Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
Cool, I'll keep an eye out for your update.
3lb ball mill, 1/2 inch steel shot, all on order online.  Do you think my plan will work?  I will take photos of my product and show you somehow.  I got a camera phone, that posts pictures quite well.  I worry somewhat of safety of homemade aluminum powder, for it lacks a stearin coating.  We'll see what happens.  I am sure the aluminum of years back did not have a coating either, so maybe I am trippin.  I would like to discuss with you binary pyrotechnic mixtures.  I plan to use aquarium activated charcoal to darken mix.  hear is my email:  randyclark747@yahoo.com
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
Knowing that my own batch did not instantly roast me when I opened the ball mill, I think you'll be fine. Though, that is no reason not to take normal safety precautions. :P

I am currently busy with school, so it might take me a while to be able to email you.
barley85 years ago
I started grinding on saturday and it's tuesday now. The foil looks like 1/4" flakes and has shrunk a lot, almost to a quarter of the barrel. Is this good? I also taped the barrel shut with duct tape, and the tape is coated with powder in a 1/4" band.
Berkin (author)  barley85 years ago
With grinding materials into very fine powders, there will almost always be the issue where a little bit of powder escapes.

Just keep grinding, I did a week and got pretty good results.
Billdo225 years ago
no offense but their is something wrong with your You Tube video it wont let me see it.
Berkin (author)  Billdo225 years ago
I am aware of the problem. I made it private due to certain issues I do not wish to discuss here.

If you have future questions, consult the comments on this instructable to see if that question is answered before asking.
barley85 years ago
I layered the foil sheets on top of each other when shredding and some of the shreds stick together. Will it still grind?
Berkin (author)  barley85 years ago
If you are still able to rip apart the pieces with your hand, the ball mill can still handle them.
pyrorower5 years ago

Is there any benefit in using German Dark Aluminum powder rather than charcoal-free aluminum powder?

Berkin (author)  pyrorower5 years ago
Read the entire Instructable carefully, and you'll find out.
hyudryu Berkin5 years ago
What can be an alternative other than a rock tumbler?
Berkin (author)  hyudryu5 years ago
A ball mill.
sindaear5 years ago
Why would you post a video that no one can see and then tell people to watch it?
YoungPyro195 years ago
Thank you for posting this.
I'm going to try this.
Berkin (author)  YoungPyro195 years ago
Go for it. :)

Tell me how it goes!
I'm going to start tomorrow.
I'll let you know how it goes in a week.
PKTraceur5 years ago
 Wouldn't ceramic be non sparking unlike steel?
Berkin (author)  PKTraceur5 years ago
Ceramic is also lighter, which would lengthen the grinding time.
 They should make a lead ball covered by ceramic. 
Berkin (author)  PKTraceur5 years ago
That would be nice.
If you don't have the reccomended grinding media (like me) a handful of medium-large bolts works quite well.
Berkin (author)  The Ideanator5 years ago
You tried that?
Yep, it works wonderfully
Berkin (author)  The Ideanator5 years ago
How much powder did you make...? :D
I didnt finish it, the container kept leaking but it was crushing it up nicely.
Berkin (author)  The Ideanator5 years ago
Better fix it. :P
bowmaster5 years ago
How big is your rock tumbler?
Berkin (author)  bowmaster5 years ago

I really don't know the exact dimensions.
At least guesstamate.
its a small craft store model
elmarchi5 years ago
i cant watch the vid it says its private
Berkin (author)  elmarchi5 years ago
Yes, and it's private for a reason. I don't feel like sharing.
welderman425 years ago
exactly how flammable is this stuff?
Berkin (author)  welderman425 years ago
Watch the video and you'll find out.
danlab5 years ago
Would lead (plain lead not lead-antimony) work as a grinding media for aluminum or would it be too soft? I already have a bunch of 1/2 in. lead balls and would prefer to not have to buy grinding media if I don't need to.
Berkin (author)  danlab5 years ago
I wouldn't know. Try doing a bit of research and find out.
thedog4585 years ago
this may sound dumb but can u use this in thermite (if that's how u spell it)
Berkin (author)  thedog4585 years ago
Of course you can use it in thermite.
charlie c5 years ago
is this like black powder? or is is just part of fireworks? if i put fire to it would it burn?
Berkin (author)  charlie c5 years ago
Are you being serious with me?

Black powder is a mixture of 75% Potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal, and 10% sulfur.

German Dark is simply a different kind of aluminum powder that burns differently.

These two materials are entirely different. I'd imagine that if you're a pyrotechnics hobbyist, you'd know how black powder's made.

Please look on Google and Wikipedia before asking questions.
DON'T use steel balls in a ball mill.
Use a non-sparking media like lead.

Sure it may work, but it's just disaster waiting to happen.
Berkin (author)  owenthelostboy5 years ago
Mine never sparked... maybe they're coated with something.
pyrodust5 years ago
Does it matter  what size steel balls to buy  I'm guessing half inch? 
Berkin (author)  pyrodust5 years ago
That sounds about right.
pyrorower5 years ago

How did you go about shredding the foil?

Berkin (author)  pyrorower5 years ago
Paper shredder!!! :D
Can I use steel nuts instead of balls, since they are commonly available?  Plus, what is a commonly available source of charcoal powder?  Crush up some charcoal briquettes?  Aquarium activated charcoal?  Any ideas on these?
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
I use gardening charcoal. It burns nicely, and is easy to grind.

I have my doubts about nuts working, but you are free to try and use them.

Be sure to tell me what results you get!
I am trying to get ahold of a ball mill to start this thing, and am considering a home made version.  I imagine one can tell by the end color of german dark if the right amount of charcoal is added.  My idea is all cerebral right now, and not in action, unfortunately.  To find a motor that has high torque, steell balls, and the right source of carbon are my main obstacles.
            Not only this, I am considering manufacturing black powder to make money from a ball mill.  This to cater to old timers that like muzzle loading firearms.  However, black powder manufacture can be very hazardous using a homemade ball mill if using a drum out of wrong material, like pvc. 
Try k'nex? it's (relatively) cheap, and I've seen videos around the web on various k'nex mills, but haven't tested one myself... For charcoal, balsa wood is one of the best, but it is also quite expensive (even if you DIY). To make charcoal all you need is an old soup can (remove the label and keep the lid) which you punch 5 or so .5 cm holes into, put about 1cm cubed chunks of balsa wood in, then stick it on top of a BBQ side burner, rotating it every 2-5 mins or so until the smoke stops coming out. You can get steel balls from those kids' sets with the steel balls and magnetic ended plastic sticks (magnetix or similar). Hope this helps! :D
Take a sheet of paper, set it on fire, and collect the black carbon behind, what would be the difference???
I think basically you are roasting wood until there is nothing left but black soot, which is the end product desired, right????
Berkin (author)  agent harmsy5 years ago
That's where I got my steel balls!

You obtained steel balls from a magnetic toy, Berkin?  I am still looking for this hard to obtain item.  Does anyone in here know how to manufacture a chlorate cell?  And making of potassium perchlorate?
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
What you should do is electrolyze a saturated solution of saltwater with PURE carbon electrodes (NOT graphite), with about 5V, 1A. Let the solution electrolyze until the anode goes to pieces.

Then, take your electrolyzed solution and pour it through a coffee filter into a separate container. Boil down the solution as much as you can until you obtain a slush-like material. This is a slurry of sodium chlorate. Pour into a clear glass container and allow excess water to evaporate away.

The final product is hygroscopic, so it will always have a bit of moisture in it.

I have not been in a chemistry lab in about 14 years.  I was wondering if I could electrolyze potassium chloride solution instead, to make potassium chlorate.   Do you know where I can get pictures of the setup online for free?  Also do you know how to convert potassium chlorate to potassium perchlorate?  I hear potassium perchlorate is superior to sodium chlorate, since it is less hygroscopic.  You don't want moisture in your oxidizer at all when making flashpowder, it reacts with the aluminum, giving off heat. 

               In the cell you mentioned, where do I get carbon electrodes?  Also, I hear the whole apparatus makes poisonous gases, like chlorine.  The top of the whole deal I think needs to be airtight while electrolyzed,  right?.  Anode means positive, cathode, negative?

Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
Of course, you can always use potassium chloride to make potassium chlorate. Potassium chlorate is much less hygroscopic than sodium chlorate is.
Potassium perchlorate, from what I've read, is actually made from the electrolysis of potassium chlorate. I am not certain about this fact, it was from the Internet. But it would not hurt to test it out. :)

Carbon electrodes can be obtained from dry-cell batteries. They have a carbon rod in the center, which is very pure, and perfect for use in an electrolysis cell.

Yes, the cell does generate chlorine gas, which IS poisonous. However, it is a crucial reactant for making potassium chlorate. Go ahead and seal the cell when running it.

If you're using a plugin power supply like I am, positive is the anode and negative is the cathode.

I hope this helps.

Berkin:  In a chlorate cell, I think the solution becomes very corrosive.  I beleive stainless steel rods will work for electrodes, are commonly available, and resist corrosion.   You can obtain them at any welders shop.  What do you think of that Idea?  
               Now two other technical problems arise in a chlorate cell.  One is obtainin a power supply that exactly matches 5v, 1A like you mentioned.  Can I substitute a car battery charger instead, and flip the switch to 6 volt, and trickle, to make an output juice of 6V, 1A.  Would this be ok.?

                   Last technicality:  I don't understand really what difference it makes if your cell is sealed on top or not, do you?  Does it make a difference?  I think in the end, your potassium chlorate crystals are dissolved in the liquor, or do they precipitate?.  I need to try this someday.  Potassium chlorate oxidizes to potassium perchlorate when melted, by itself in an old raggady toaster oven, I hear.  Research it before you try it.  If you are an amateur pyrotechnician like me, it is worth looking into.  Potassium perchlorate is superior to potassium chlorate.  I hear it is less sensitve, and more oxygen packed. 

ok, in the making of charcoal by your method,  It is hard to envision making a soup can that would work.  It seems that it has to be airtight, except for the tiny exhaust holes you mentioned.  If the cubes of balsa are larger than the exhaust holes, How will I get the cubes of balsa wood in the can in the first place.  
             It seems I would have to get a tomatoe soup can, and puncture holes in the lid, then drain all the soup, rinse it with water.  Now, how to get the cubes of wood in there if the exhaust holes are smaller than the wood, thats the trick.  Here is another idea.  A small frying pan with your balsa wood in there.  Cover the whole pan with foil, and puncture the foil with a fork.  make tight the foil, pan seal.  Give me some ideas to make the soup can thing work please. 
How about you take the top off first with a can opener? No offence, but DUH! Then you just leave one bit attached at one end, so you can bend the lid up, but it's still attached.
alright, I guess that would work, but it would not be airtight.  Sorry pal, just couldn' imagine it. 
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
I wish you best of luck!

Yeah, making black powder can be dangerous. I suggest making it by hand.
Aluminum foil can even get costly.   I am trying to produce a ball mill.  What is difference between gardening charcoal, and charcoal briquettes?
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
Briquettes can have additives that will affect the quality of your powder. Gardening charcoal is more pure, with little or no additives.
 you have to get the all natural charcoal briquetes cause the other ones are 25% clay
you can use lead shot(for shotgun reloading) if that is any esier or you can probly go to your local mechanic shop and ask if they have any lose ball berings , from there they will most likeley be free or very cheep
You should add PPE at the bottom of your hazmat logo To symbolise to use a respirator or a dust mask whilst using the powder
Berkin (author)  stephenniall5 years ago
Thanks for the tip, but I already have warnings on there advising the use of such apparatus.
i use adobe fireworks and A hazmat diamond converter
Can i use a ball mill with this ?? and have you got any substitutes of cheap ways to get the steel balls i dont fancy paying for them!
Berkin (author)  stephenniall5 years ago
Sure, use a ball mill.

I used steel balls from an old Magnetix set.
Ahh the neyodonium magnets From the magnetix sets ..

I used to love them sets .

I love blackpowder and aluminium powder more !!
will that melt glass?
Berkin (author)  herbert.andy5 years ago
I never tried.
What proportion by weight or volume of aluminum to carbon adding Mr. Belkin?  I use german dark regularly in flash salutes.  I am thinking of ball milling potassium perchlorate to a very fine dust, as it is only shipped at 400 mesh.  The aluminum is shipped many times finer.  I think if all particles, oxidizer, and fuel were separately ground to very tiny pieces, that it would make the flash powder more powerfull.  Compression would add more power as well.  Store bought pyrotechnic german dark has a stearin coating by the way and comes so fine, that it just floats in the air when you open the bag.  I think the stearin prevents accidental ignition by water, or air.  400 mesh potassium perchlorate is not nearly as fine as german dark aluminum you make, and I am wondering if you think  it would help if I ball milled the KCLO4. 
Berkin (author)  randyclark7475 years ago
My proportions are about 1 tablespoon of carbon to every third of a cup of aluminum powder. But you may need to adjust the proportions, depending on how fine your aluminum will be.
And yes, I think grinding the potassium perchlorate to a fine powder will allow your pyrotechnic mix to burn easier. But please, use lead grinding media as a precaution. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Balsa charcoal (one of the best): check.
Steel balls: check.
Aluminium foil: check.
Can anyone tell me? (Can't get one from ebay on account of not having a credit card/paypal account :S)
Berkin (author)  agent harmsy5 years ago
Some sellers on eBay will give the option to pay on delivery. I suggest keeping an eye out for that.
hahaloll135 years ago
Can i use a coffe grinder  instead of a ball mill?
Berkin (author)  hahaloll135 years ago
The fastest way is not always the best way. Grinding it will give you either crappy-grade powder, or a coffee grinder that has aluminum strips tangled in the motor axle.
bjohn295 years ago
why can't u use a blender
Berkin (author)  bjohn295 years ago
The fastest way is not always the best way. Grinding it will give you either crappy-grade powder, or a blender that has aluminum strips tangled in the motor axle.
flamesami5 years ago
can you use this in thermite (alum powder and rust powder) with the same effect as "plain" alum powder? if anyone knows, please answer
Berkin (author)  flamesami5 years ago
I don't see why not.
if german dark powder is ignited inside a container,e.g.:a bullet case with the end covered, wil it function like black powder,flash powder, cordite... and explode? (with a big "bang")
Berkin (author)  flamesami5 years ago
No. You need an oxidizer.
sharlston5 years ago
how did you shred your foil up?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
Paper shredder. :D
darn ive clogged my shredder up im putting a link to your ible in my ball mill ible thats coming up dont mind do you?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
I give you permission to use it in that certain post, yes. Try and only shred one sheet of foil at a time. Don't put in more than one sheet at a time!
oh all my foil went to one side was yours a hand crank one?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
I have an automated electric shredder...
ill try that then is the aluminium supposed to smell weird?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
Like what?
like ..well i dont know to descripe it ,its just weird
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
It's still usable. Go ahead and keep following the instructions.
yay i left it on over night and theyve turned into little flakes good sign?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
Yes! Keep grinding!
yay its turning into powder the window is full of powder (i mean the tumbler window)
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
Lol Did you add charcoal? That's pretty much the entire point of making German Dark aluminum powder.
no i didnt add charcoal im just making alum powder
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
You need to add charcoal! Otherwise, the powder will oxidize, and become absolutely useless. It will NOT burn if it oxidizes.

You need to add charcoal!!!
ok its a bit late now ill sell it onto a friend and when he asked why it wont light ill tell him his doing it wrong
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
It's not too late! Add it quick!
its been abandonedby my dad who says its posinous to breath in alum dust
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
That's why you don't breathe it in.

Wear a mask.
ok is charcoal ok to breathe in and did you make your charcoal with a ball mill?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
I powdered my charcoal by hand. No kind of dust is completely safe to breathe in. Just try and avoid making dust, or wear a mask.
how did you make your charcoal by hand? i normally make mine with my dremel ill post a ible soon
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
I take chunks of garden charcoal and grind them with a hammer on top of a metal plate.
cool does it have to be really fine or just like sand?
Look up tutorials of it on youtube - I make pure stuff by the truckload. Its easy and super powerful.
whats your method i couldnt find any on youtube
Get an empty soup can, clean it. Fill it with chopped wood of your choice. Put aluminum foil over the top and make sure its held on securley. Poke a small hole in the top. Place in the hottest place you can find in a wood burning fire. Smoke should come out of the hole and eventually igninte. Thats okay. Once the smoke stops coming out of the top (usually around half an hour with a large soup can) Remove it from the firepit. Set it aside to cool for about an hour. Then take off the aluminum foil. You'll be left with little sticks of pure charcoal. Its very brittle, by ball milling it you'll be left with airfloat charcoal.
ok so far ive made about 2 pints in 3 hour
i mean charcoal pwder
Just throw it in the rock tumbler with the balls in it and you'll have top notch charcoal powder.'
cant you se store bought charcoal
Store bought stuff is full of sand, grit, clay, additives, etc. Totally rubbish for pyrotechnic uses.
Berkin (author)  I_am_Canadian5 years ago
I use garden charcoal, it ignites very easily.
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
As fine as you can make it.
xgibsonx5 years ago
Where can you find an inexpensive rock tumbler that will get the job done? I had a small tumbler when i was younger, but gave it away to my cousin.
if youre in the uk theres a national geographic one in the argos catalogue for £35
i wish... i was just there about 2 months ago.
Berkin (author)  xgibsonx5 years ago
You can get them from a lot of stores around Christmastime, otherwise they might have them in hobby shops, or online.
This is great! Is there any other way to shred the foil? I went up to my family's study with the foil to shred and realized that we had thrown it out years ago :-p
i cut them into sqaures about 2 inch and they went into balls at first then in the next few days they went to tiny shreds
Berkin (author)  I_am_Canadian5 years ago
Well, you could also use scissors. But that takes longer. :P Best of luck with your batch, man!
Okay, thanks very much!
KentsOkay5 years ago
Good job dude!
Berkin (author)  KentsOkay5 years ago
Kaelessin5 years ago
I read a while back that ball milling aluminum could be dangerous when opening it (if done while it's still hot) due to the sudden rush of oxygen into the chamber . . .could cause a fire no? Something about the aluminum eating up all the oxygen in the mill and becoming pyrophoric? Brilliant instructable though! now I won't have to buy the aluminum!
Berkin (author)  Kaelessin5 years ago
I let my mill sit for 5-10 minutes before opening. The risk of fire is low, since it takes so long to light the plain powder in the first place...
westfw5 years ago
I have difficulties believing that this actually works... If it were that easy, the pyro books would be full of similar recipes. If it DOES work, people should be aware that finely-milled metal powders (of less ductile but somewhat more active metals) have been known to self-ignite when the jar they were milled in was opened...
so if i just ground some aluminuim like this with no charcoal will it ignite?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
what about if i lit it?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
If it doesn't have any charcoal, lighting a stationary pile of aluminum powder will not yield any interesting results, except maybe a few tiny sparks. Plus, it would oxidize very fast.
is oxidisatoin dangerous?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
No. But your aluminum powder will not burn if it's oxidized.
ok if i milled alumium foil for a day with steel bearings it wil not accidently explode or burn?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
No. Did you add charcoal? If not, additional grinding will cause the powder to oxidize and become useless without it.
Berkin (author)  Berkin5 years ago
And by the way, you still need to grind it a while longer. ; )
ok i have one of those national geographic tublers i picked u for a couple of pound i had to rip out all the circuits and wire it up diewctly to a lantern battery how long will it take if its on all the time?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
It will take 7 days.
darn its gonna take a long time and it makies a lot of noise where do you put yours when its running?
Berkin (author)  sharlston5 years ago
I put it in my garage. Once the powder starts to get finer, the noise will get quieter. However, it is not an indication that it is finished.
westfw Berkin5 years ago
Powered magnesium (even relatively coarsely powder) burns very much like that when ignited "gently." Aluminum/Carbon reactions have been proposed as explanations for some pretty complex pyro effects (glitter, IIRC), and it's interesting to see some evidence for such reactions in an easily duplicated experiment. Can you get similar behavior out of more ordinary Aluminum powders if you add some charcoal? How did you ignite it for the video, anyway?
Berkin (author)  westfw5 years ago
I used a normal butane lighter. It took about 10 seconds or so to light.
i'm not a pyrotechnician but a simple google search results in a lot of hits with basically the same recipe....charcoal and aluminum....and quite a few locations that sell the stuff premade i also don't see any reason why it wouldn't work....aluminum powder (especially atomized as it would be after this much grinding) will light with minimal effort....i believe (as stated) the charcoal is just to prevent oxidization during storage so it should have no effect (or little in these amounts) on the final result of burning the aluminum i don't have statistics but self ignition in straight aluminum powder is rare (still possible) if oxidization has been prevented
> i also don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. The problem is supposed to be that Aluminum is too ductile to reduce the particle size much by traditional ball milling. You just get balls wrapped in Al foil, or a layer of Aluminum plastered to your mill jar. Still, I don't have a rock tumbler, and I haven't tried it, so I'm merely doubtful rather than incredulous. Six days is a long time. > (especially atomized as it would be after this much grinding) "atomized" has a technical definition when used in conjunction with metal powders, and it's not what you'd get here. "Little round bits like you get when you spray molten metal into an inert cooling atmosphere", or something like that. You get different particle shapes from grinding, and yet another shape from milling. Real "german dark" is a milled/flake shaped powder, BTW.
that's actually a couple of my bads there... #1...i should know better than to try to correct you hehe #2...when you said you questioned the recipe i thought you were questioning the final product's efficacy (i.e. will it burn) not the method used to create the aluminum powder #3...using the word atomized...i was using the generalized concept of being a fine powder like talc as to the use of the ball mill....i work in an aluminum casting facility and we have some shot blast machines (sand blasting with ball bearings) that are used to clean up parts....the shot reduces the excess aluminum to a VERY fine powder, much like talc.....i'd assume that this is similar to an accelerated ball mill procedure since it's basically just hitting the parts with steel balls... interesting side note on our shotblast procedure.....we're blasting steel shot at aluminum parts in a machine that's lined with magnesium...end result? 50 gallon drums of thermite
Holden_vy_s5 years ago
There is so much cool pyrotechnic things to make with a ball mill. I need to buy one, or make one.
Berkin (author)  Holden_vy_s5 years ago
Buy one. They're better than improvised ball mills.
Mr.L5 years ago
Do you thing ceramic balls would work, like the kind they sell as pie weights at bed bath and beyond?
I think the ceramic balls smashing together would cause a fair few chips.
Berkin (author)  Mr.L5 years ago
It needs to be heavy grinding media, for maximum powder quality.
Tombini5 years ago
Where did you get your ball mill?
Berkin (author)  Tombini5 years ago
Google "Rock Tumbler".
Tombini Berkin5 years ago
Is that the brand? Did you make it yourself? Or purchase it? I know what a rock tumbler is I am asking specifically about your one.
Berkin (author)  Tombini5 years ago
It doesn't matter what kind of Rock Tumbler it is, as long as it works like a ball mill.
Berkin (author)  Berkin5 years ago
Yes, it was purchased.
Tombini Berkin5 years ago
For how much and where from?
Berkin (author)  Tombini5 years ago
I don't know. They're available all over the Internet for varying prices. You should have a look around Google.
Camisado5 years ago
Dude, why so serious? I was just kidding.
Camisado5 years ago
Whoah, dang, he's everywhere...
Berkin (author)  Camisado5 years ago
Get over it. You can't evade Jake.
Camisado5 years ago
This is actually amazingly good to a point where it should be featured.
Berkin (author)  Camisado5 years ago
If only, my friend...
Camisado Berkin5 years ago
You should ask Jake to feature it.
One does not ask to be featured...
Then he should ask Jake to view it instead, and don't mention featuring.
Berkin (author)  DJ Radio5 years ago
He already saw it. I don't mind if it's featured or not..
=SMART=5 years ago
Nice ! I like the rock tumbler :)
Berkin (author)  =SMART=5 years ago
It's a bit dirty from previous batches. :D
buirv5 years ago
Good instructable and video. Where did you get the large ball bearings? Any references for those?
Berkin (author)  buirv5 years ago
I got them from a Magnetix toy. The toy goes by a different brand name now, though.
jj375 years ago
Nice vid. Do you think it gets as bright as the Flashing fireworks?
Berkin (author)  jj375 years ago
This isn't meant to be burned on its own.
jj37 Berkin5 years ago
I was wondering what your oxidizer was lol Thanks.
Berkin (author)  jj375 years ago
The video shows me burning the plain powder, it's not mixed with anything.
jj37 Berkin5 years ago
cool, wonder what happens when you mix it with potassium nitrate?
Berkin (author)  jj375 years ago
That is a known fountain composition.
5 stars for a great instructable and for not wearing those funky monster hands :-P
Berkin (author)  thermoelectric5 years ago
Lol, thanks!
austin5 years ago
will the aluminium still grind to the powder consistency without the charcoal?
Berkin (author)  austin5 years ago
The charcoal is a necessary part of the powder. Unless you want a batch of useless aluminum oxide, that is. ; )
Berkin (author)  Berkin5 years ago
But yeah, it would still grind to a powder.
austin Berkin5 years ago
its useful for thermite
Dandeman3215 years ago
Can I use my Lead Ball Media? Or does it need to be steel?
Berkin (author)  Dandeman3215 years ago
Lead works, too.
denona5 years ago
this is so cool I will have to try this as my rock thing got put in the corner for years because i ran out of stuff for it
Berkin (author)  denona5 years ago
What's cooler, you can reuse metal grinding media! So you can make GIGANTIC amounts of powder! XD
yokozuna5 years ago
Good pictures.
Berkin (author)  yokozuna5 years ago