Introduction: Gunpowder

About: Working wireless-ly.


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

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

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

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

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

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.



    • Backpack Challenge

      Backpack Challenge
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • BBQ Showdown Challenge

      BBQ Showdown Challenge

    555 Discussions

    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?

    1 reply

    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?

    I really like science. Thanks for the info.

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

    1 reply

    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.

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

    1 reply

    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!

    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.

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

    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????

    9 replies

    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;)

    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.

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

    not only, just cheapest and most abundant.

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

    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

    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