Introduction: Making Black Powder.

Picture of Making Black Powder.

This instructable shows you how to make black powder for use in rocket motors and shells.

Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment.

Picture of Ingredients and Equipment.

the things you will need can be bought in supermarkets or garden stores.
And a ball mill can be constructed easily, if this goes down well, i might enter a ball mill instructable.

1.Potassium nitrate/KNO3/salt peter
2.Sulfur/flowers of sulfur/dusting sulfur
4.Ball mill
5. scales

The KNO3 is a garden fertilizer and can be bought at most gardening centers, as is the Flowers of sulfur, (its used to kill mites and acidify soil, so make sure you de-acidify it!)
Charcoal can be bought. Or if you have fireplace, or campfire the black brittle stuff is charcoal

Step 2: Grinding and Prep.

1.Put 75g of KNO3 into the ball mill and run until twice as fine, about 2 hours.

2.Empty mill. Crush 15g of charcoal between 2 pieces of paper and then grind in ball mill until powdery.

3.If using Flowers of sulfur, mix 100g with 10g of stabilizer to remove acidity (like ground calcium carbonate (chalk) or lime chloride) because if acidic the BP may spontaneously combust.

4.Then combine the KNO3 with the Charcoal, and 10g of the sulfur mix in the ball mill until at a consistent fine-ness, about 1 hour.

5. in short, 75g of fine KNO3 with 15g of fine charcoal, with 10g sulfur powder=BP

Step 3: Bentonite Clay.

Picture of Bentonite Clay.

Although not black powder, this bentonite clay can be used in rockets as an efficient way of crating a nozzle and bung in a black powder powered rocket.

Put 1 cup of the Cat litter (must be in-organic clumping type) in a ball mill and grind for 2 hours, or grind in other machine until powdery. When rammed this will become solid, because this Cat litter is mainly Bentonite clay.

This isn't nearly as difficult as it may sound. and because this doesn't expand when rammed or contract later, and sets hard quickly it is a cheap and quick way of creating bungs and nozzles.


poopercooker (author)2011-09-04

the de acidifying process doesnt make alot of sense please reply

You only need to de acidify if you are using flowers of sulfur. If you are then mix 100g of the sulfur with 10g of ground calcium carbonate (chalk) or lime chloride). As in put 10:1 parts sulfur to stabilizer together, mix them with a spoon, and you're done.

Other cheap sources of calcium carbonate is eggs shells.

troubledJoe (author)2012-03-17

I was wondering if I can use a Ceramic DURAMEDIA for mixing black powder in a 3lb tumbler?

Dhunter1469 (author)2012-01-09

Why cant u just buy it from a firearm(gun) store I live in sa so I Canot just buy it but I know you can in America

poopercooker (author)2011-09-04

how do you de acidify the sulfur please respond fast i is in a hurry

TheTicklemehellmo (author)2011-08-29

Nice 'Ible! I saw this in a book, but i was too scared to try it :P

P.S. You should probably put a disclaimer, because some idiot is probably going to blow his hand off.

samstocker (author)2011-04-10

you do know that if you keep grinding it, and then place it in cheese cloth or pantyhose and running water over it, it'll make the powder much more powerful and quick burning

charlie c (author)2010-02-20

 can u use sodium nitrate insted of potasium nitrate?

xfox44mag (author)charlie c2011-01-25

hay use sodium nitrate for making blasting powder olny

ToddisI (author)charlie c2010-08-12

Yes you can, many people do.

I very much doubt it. Although it is the Nitrate functional group which is essential for this reaction, the parent molecule is also important as sometimes they may interfere with the reaction. At the very least it would mean different amounts and ratios for a working reaction. I do not suggest you start experimenting with chemicals you are not familiar with either, because that is really a job for an expert. If you can't get your hands on KNO3 or a reliable recipe with NaO3 as the oxidiser then please do not attempt black powder.
Oh, and for the record, if you did make some combustable material with NaO3, it technically wouldn't be Black Powder, meal powder, or gunpowder.

xfox44mag (author)2011-01-25

grinders are olny use to grind not to mix and let it diy for 2 days in a can or on paper not in a bag mix right it will burn just like hodgdon pyrodex RS

xfox44mag (author)2011-01-25

O for got do not use fertilizer that kind stupi win you can buy the stump remover and its cheper at lest for me

m5industriesinc (author)2009-10-01

dude where do get actual black powder

Buy it at a gun shop

thank you but how much is it and whats the name of the store

runs 20 buck for rs most places

Sorry I don't but I'm sure you could find it in your local telephone directory, just call around.

xfox44mag (author)2011-01-25

ok FIRST OFF DO NOT USE WATER TO MIX BLACK POWDER USE ALCOHOL like everclear or some thing thats 190 or 100% and you do not need to use a lot just a nuff to damp it the olny reson this is done is so you do not kill your self it makes it not light off y your mixing it you can mix dry but it dose work a bit beter mixing with alcohol i have made a tons of this stuff and trid a lot of combos DO NOT USE HARD WOOD OR PINE GET REALY SOFE WOOD CHRCOL WORKS GRATE i use balsa i build r/c planes so i have a lot but you can use adler wooks good to i make blasting powder with the balsa it flash faster then adler i made some with pine be for to see what it do and it bruns like crap
you can change the burn rate by mesing with the chrcol % add to make it burn faster it at less it works for me i shoot guns with it and some rockits i use this mix 75%potassium nitrate 10%sulfur 15 chrcol and thats where i start at now to get the potassium nitrate you can buy at lows spestracide stump remover and grind it in a coffe grinder till its realy fine works good and fast its 90% potassium nitrate i buy my sulfur dust ther too it on the same shelf lol o and if you flip the can over thers a biger cap on the outher end i found out after cuting the top off lol a ball mill ok but not need i use a can and a stick for i do not whant to die never use steel in a ballmill use led or coper brass never steel AND DO NOT USE THE COFFE GRINDER TO MIX IT OLNY TO GRIND THE potassium nitrate i saw a guy lose a hand so be safe win mixing

RocketPenguin (author)2011-01-12

could i use a blender

I would strongly advise against it. Blenders could produce sparks against the materials which may cause ignition. Also, it wouldn't yield the required consistency, making the result useless. Ball mill or mortar and pestle only.

Zem (author)2009-11-12

Do you have to use a ballmill? or can you use a pestle and mortar? 

oldmanbeefjerky (author)Zem2010-11-30

you can use a mortar and pestle, however, to get the powder fine enough for the carbon particals and potassium nitrate particals to bond, like they do in water , it may take a while, unless you have very fine flour like powder to begin with.
i tried both, and found that the mortar and pestle powder didnt work as well when milled, plus, in the ball mill the powder turned properly black, wheras, in a mortar and pestle, after grinding hard for an hour and a halve, i couldnt get ti to go any darker than medium grey (normal grey).
essentialy im saying yes, you can, but it will be better and easier in a ball mill, as the proccess takes time, which isnt always the best thing , when you need to put in alot of effort you cant give.

oldmanbeefjerky (author)2010-11-22

hm, i see a problem with this, you se i have tried many a time to make black powder without neding to mix it with water(aka a dry mix like this one), and it never seems to work....EVER!!!
apparently the chemicals cannot properly mix unless they are mixed together in hot, steaming water and alcohol, as the nitrate is absorbed fully into the charcoal, and the sulfur undergoes some kind of reaction also to bond with hydrogen and such.
please, dont lie when you answer this, but is this actually as good as proper, homemade, black powder using the traditional, methods of mixing and disolving in water then drieing out in crystaline grains?

Thank you for your comment. Of course, you are right. This instructable aims only to teach in the mixing of black-powder like propellant for the use in rocket motors. It would be unsuitable in, for example, black powder guns. This method does not fully absorb the nitrate into the charcoal, but with proper milling some level of absorption does occur. This is a quick, easy, and reliable way of making a combustible powder that happens to be black. NB: This may in fact be more effective than SOME home-made dissolving methods, and equally as likely be worse than others. It is important to remember that some methods are unreliable.
This Instructable is an option for those who don't want to spend a lot of effort, but still want a satisfactory result (see my other instructable for demonstrations)

well, i just tried it again, and to your specs, this time i took the time to make and use proper charcoal, and this time, when i made the black powder, i did it by weight not volume like i did before when i had no mini scale.
and im glad to say the stuff works, but not so great as i though, not even alum will bring the stuff any better :C.
however, i do see it fit for use as rocket propelant, and right now i am mixing half with steaming hot water, to mix in the nitrate, i will make another batch but i will add 5% potasium chlorate, to see if the results better. and for the other half (the first half was for two batches), i will reserve it for direct use as fuse gunpowder, which i will mix with dextrin to make a fuse, once my dextrin comes on off ebay!
im also happy to say that if compacted realy hard, and forced into granules that way, this works just as well as crushed rocket propelant, that i use in my mini pocket cannon, that is the size of a pencil, and ill let you know, only good smokey explosives like gunpowder and rocket propelant work in that, and this powder did work in it, and , fortunately, is incapable of shoting the small solder ammo very hard, so its safer to use on my tank . yay

thankyou for making this instructable, i am glad you have shown me how to make tis kind of bp

lastly ill point out, unlike bg from rocke engines or fireworks, this leaves very little odour, compared to others, so ill be able to use it in re-useable rockets, and not have them stink up any more.! :)

gwarboy2000 (author)2009-03-10

ok everything was good prior to him saying, "Then combine the KNO3 with the Charcoal, and 10g of the sulfur mix in the ball mill until at a consistent fine-ness, about 1 hour" no offense but DONT DO THAT, Its very dangerous to mix an oxidizer and charcoal together, there is a risk of explosion!

this is not true, this is the only way to prepare an "explosive" mixture and if done with lead balls (which do not spark) in plastic with static proofing then there is no risk.

actually proper exploding black powder cannot be made using these 3 ingredients alone as black powder, of this grade cannot possibly burn quick enouh to explode.
to make exploding black powder, you must make the mixture in the original method which is to bond the chemicals together in hot water( charcoal chemicaly bonds with kno3 in hot water, making it imposible to remove or extract later), but then you must also add the equivalent of 5% potassium chlorate, of the complete mix, prior to putting in water, so if you have 100 grams of black powder mix ready to wet, add 5gram potasium chlorate.
this will make the black powder that little bit more unstable, allowing it to explode, while not becomeing some kind of touch explosive, like chlorate charcoal mixtures, though, if put into a ball mill, it will explode. this is what is added to comercial grade black powder, to make it that much more explosive.
to make this mixture into firecracker powder, without wetiing it, you can add 5% aluminium powder, along with an equal amount of kno3, to make a hot instant explosive powder

Very right Mr jpoopdog, It was a distinct intention of mine to only instruct in the mixing of this, less dangerous, powder. This is not designed for the gunpowder barrel bombs of cartoons, it is a pyrotechnic aid and that is all.

this is very true, but if you know the chemical background of KNO3 you'll know that it is unstable when combined with charcoal or aluminum. I know this from many sources including one of the biggest fireworks makers of our time, zambelli. I live in new castle pa. I contacted zambelli on this issue ages ago when I first started making fireworks. zambelli promptly told me that in fact it might be somewhat safe but there is a huge risk of explosion that isn't worth ballmilling. I have also contacted the batf (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)as well as my local state fire marshal. I'm not trying to be a know it all, but I want people to have the correct information. if you don't believe me, call the batf or your local fire marshal they will tell you.

x133tx0n3x (author)gwarboy20002010-05-17

 You do know that black powder doesn't explode?

jessiebryant (author)gwarboy20002009-05-04

yeah hes absolutly right and ther is a proper way in order to do this but be extremely careful.

if you have lead media you can ball mill the entire thing together. Don't add kno3 and charcoal first. Just put everything in together. Sometimes you might want to grind the charcoal and sulfur together first so they are combined well. Then mill the KNO3 with the charcoal sulfur mixtrure. ONLY use LEAD media when milling black powder or any other explosives. You DO NOT want to turn your mill into a bomb.

FlaScubaMan (author)2010-07-29

Lead balls are best for the tumbler. An easy source is Walmart. Go to the fishing dept, and buy the large 1 inch lead egg sinkers. They have a hole which gets plugged with powder after first use, buts thats OK. I would recommend tumbling new sinkers with disposable sand or charcoal for an hour to remove the zinc coating on the sinkers.

Foaly7 (author)2010-04-27

On a scale of one to ten, how explosive is this?

m5industriesinc (author)2010-03-13

can you put a picture of the ball mill you used

m5industriesinc (author)2010-03-13

How much does the potasium nitarte (KNO3) cost ? 

thedog458 (author)2010-02-22

ok so i read the comment below and i still wanted to ask what about ammonium nitrate? 

Whitedude0728 (author)2009-12-30

if you buy spectracide stump remover thats 100% kno3. o and i noticed when i went to stores to buy some in california all the ingredients were removed :(

the "wow shammy" (author)2009-12-26

saltpeter is comonly used as a stump remover too.

m5industriesinc (author)2009-10-04

where do you get the sulfur stuff

home a and garden center. they have it. i think in my town its home depot that sells the sulfur but lowes that has KNO3

rownhunt (author)m5industriesinc2009-11-18

Go to a pharmacy or drugstore its usually quite cheap and comes in a fair sized bottle.

Gnutella (author)rownhunt2009-11-22

 in what form? powder?

rownhunt (author)Gnutella2009-11-30

yes powder usually just shake the bottle first to make sure

dacker (author)2008-04-19

My youngest brother, a machinist, Revolutionary War reinactor, musket and cannon maker, made some black powder many years ago. He showed me how poorly it compares to commercial black powder he uses in his muskets. He laid down a 3' line of each an lit one end. The homemade black powder took about 3 seconds to burn, sputtering and sparking, just like in the movies. The commercial powder burned in less than the blink of an eye. POOF! That said, I'm sure he did not have a ball mill or other device to make the materials super-fine. The speed of burning is closely tied to particle size.

Kiteman (author)dacker2008-04-19

The stuff sold as "black powder" for firearms is not gunpowder, it's something different.

I don't know what it is, but when I scrounged some powder and cordite off a local gunsmith (I was giving a lecture on combustion), he would give me cordite, but not gunpowder.

He said he wasn't allowed to give me gunpowder because it requires a licence to own and use, but he could give me "black powder", which was classified as a propellant, not an explosive. It looked the same, but burned faster, with a whiter flame and less smoke (he lit small piles of it on his workbench to show me).

Looking back, I realise that he never asked my name, or tried to check that I really was a teacher - what a trusting age 1995 was...

dunhillsharp (author)Kiteman2008-04-20

There is a big difference between black powder and cordite. Cordite is a now obsolete smokeless powder that was used by the British from the late 19th c to WWI. It would be extremely dangerous to put cordite down the barrel of a firearm made for black powder... probably would explode.

A common modern substitute for black power is Pyrodex, but it is harder to ignite.. In the USA you can buy black powder at your local gun store or by mail order.

check out this site:

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