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black powder charcoal Answered

I'm making charcoal for BP using macadamia wood in a tin on a BBQ fire. The smoke is PISSING out the 1/4" hole i made in the lid but won't ignite. Any ideas/suggestions welcome.


In your initial post you made no mention of sulphur. I thought that was a big part of the BP mixture to lower the ignition temp.

Two thoughts. One, it's to early and most of the smoke is steam. Two, the hole is to small to mantain a flame-the pressure blows out the flame before it can get settled.

Thanks dude. That makes sense coz even when the smoke was at its strongest it wouldn't ignite, made a flame thrower type effect but as soon as I withdrew the lighter it died. I made a dry mix with said charcoal and KNO3 but when it burns it forms brown liquid over the burn area and kills it. HELP!

Try a much softer wood ground very fine. It sounds like the KNO3 is melting and covering the charcoal before it can burn. Hard woods don't grind as well as softer ones, the cell walls must be denser and don't have as much surface area. You may want to try one of the pyro forums, I don't remember the name of it, but the british one is good.

Yeah I will, I think ur talking about http://www.pyrosociety.org.uk ? This charcoal when I ground it was bitch hard, like you couldn't snap a stick with less than a 1" diameter by hand, and the wood didn't reduce much even though it was much lighter and black/brown all the way through

That's it. Most pyrotechs recommend willow or vine. Even pine would be much softer than a hardwood.

Thanks dude. I made a wet->dried->crushed mix with the ingredients I mentioned, and it burned decently (say ffg rate) but took a few seconds to light with a lighter, and when it burned it gave off a strong smell of ammonia afterwards and as it burned it formed a big pool of white liquid in the cotainer which bubbled and hardened in its bubbly state afterwards, very light and flaky. Any explanations?

That's pretty common for homemade black powder. I'm pretty sure your white liquid/solid is mostly potassium carbonate and/or potassium oxides (see if it fizzes with a bit of vinegar.) It's a sign of incomplete combustion, or combustion along undesirable paths, and minimizing the "slag" is one way of "optimizing" home made BP; when you get it made just right burning will leave behind less slag.

Westfw you must have crawled out of your dad's rectum because you are the SHIT. It fizzed with vinegar, you were right. Any suggestions or further explanation so I know how to minimize it? If it's an in depth thing, feel free to e-mail me at princeoftheloo@yahoo.com. Thanks for your help man you've been a great one, and you jtobako.

The problem is that to get good BP, you have to get your ingredients, and especially your charcoal/KNO3 very intimately mixed. Traditional hobby methods involve milling (remotely) in a good ball mill with ceramic weights for a couple hours, or using a rock tumbler and some lead balls for several days. However, just getting a good charcoal will help a lot.

You may have noticed assorted fireworks formulas that call for a certain percentage of "meal powder", as well as calling for C, S, KNO3 and wondered why they didn't just adjust the chemical ratios and use all "pure" ingredients. Well, that's because by the time commercial BP is milled, pressed, and etc, it's become a homogenious ingredient that behaves rather differently than a mere mixture of the ingredients.

For instance, if you'd managed to make GOOD BP, you'd have a burned thumb about now :-) At least get a bababcue lighter!

P.S., My BP is also quite hard to ignite, taking between 3 and 10 seconds by lighter. Part of the same problem? And the slag only forms when the powder is actually burning, not while I'm still trying to light it. See my vid.

"Black/brown" isn't the right color for charcoal. That indicates your wood didn't completely reduce to coal - no wonder you were having a hard time grinding it. If it's not pitch black, it's not charcoal, and you should leave it in longer. This may also explain why you seem to have an excess of KNO3 in your mixture. If you use wood that's not fully reduced instead of charcoal, you'll get less carbon by volume or weight.

Thanks man I thought there might be something up with my charcoal, yeah some pieces still looked vaguely "woody" inside and were hard to break but I thought maybe it was supposed to be like that. As for the smell of ammonia given off and the white crap that forms, nobody seems to know. Ulrich Bretscher of www.musketeer.ch says I may have Ammonium Nitrate instead of KNO3 but I doubt it, I bought it from a chemist and I don't think medical grade stuff can be wrong. By the way anyone interested in BP should check his site out, it's the best I've found so far.

just buy(or steal) pure willow vine charcoal at a art supplies store. its not compressed or anything because it is still in the shape of a vine.


10 years ago

You don't HAVE to ignite the effluent gases; it's just a convenient way to get rid of most of the smoke. They'll probably ignite once the flow rate goes down.

BP is black powder... I don't know how you couldn't have figured that out but anyway you CLEARLY can't help me. Thanks for the comment anyway, g'day.