How To Make Black Powder at Home – Part 1

Bonfire night is coming up and I’ve been chatting to a mate about fireworks and the like and we decided to try our hand at making black powder (gun powder to use the more common laymans term).

Actually, it’s always been a whistful dream of mine to make fireworks when I retire. I did some serious investigation of it last year, joined a few forums, read up a bit and discovered that the laws in the UK pretty much prohibit this as a home hobby. Apart from it being hard to get the ingredients, it’s an extremely unsafe hobby and I don’t have the facilities to manufacture and store the ingredients and gun powder (also known as black powder) safely.

That’s not to say that it’s illegal, even in this day and age, would you believe it is actual perfectly legal to make gun powder at home? It’s covered by the Manufacture and Storage of Explosive Regulations 2005. The relevent section is: Part 3, Section 9 which carries the title “Explosives not to be manufactured without a licence“.

However paragraph 2 details some exceptions to the requirement to have a license. It states you do not need a license for:

(a) the manufacture of explosives for the purpose of laboratory analysis, testing, demonstration or experimentation (but not for practical use or sale) where the total quantity of explosives being manufactured at any time does not exceed 100 grams

There you have it, you are perfectly entitled to manufacture black powder at home “for experimentation” without a license, providing you don’t make more than 100g at a time. Slightly tedious maybe, but I guess the line has to be drawn somewhere.
Having established I’m perfectly legally entitled to make some, let’s crack on with what and how exactly. First off, what’s the different between black powder, gun powder and flash powder?

Black Powder and Gun Powder are essentially the same thing and is defined in the legislation nicely as:

an intimate mixture, with or without sulphur, of charcoal or other carbon with potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate, whether the mixture is in meal, granular, compressed or pelletised form

Flash Powder is made completely differently and comprises potassium perchlorate and aluminum powder, usually 70% potassium percholorate and 30% aluminium powder.

Getting back to Black Powder, the ideal ratios of engredients are 75% potassium nitrate (also known as KNO3), 15% charcoal and 10% sulphur. 3 elements are key to the quality of the final gunpowder:

  1. The purity of the ingredients.
  2. How fine the ingredients are (course is bad).
  3. How well the ingredients are mixed.

Of course there’s the small part of where to source the ingredients from, using for the most part household ingredients, which is something I will deal with in part 2.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Vicky Weeks 27 December 2008, 1:13 am

    can you find potassium nitrate (also known as KNO3), charcoal and sulphur in household objects??

  • Vicky Weeks 27 December 2008, 1:14 am

    can you find potassium percholorate in any household objects??

  • Colin McNulty 28 December 2008, 6:22 pm

    Sadly I gave up Vicky, I just couldn’t get it to work. I manage to make a mix, but it was barely combustible.

  • Sulphur Powder 26 November 2010, 6:49 am

    If you ball mill the ingredients together then it works much better.

  • MICHAEL STERN 1 September 2012, 8:10 pm

    I HAVE THE BASIC FOR BLACK POWDER BUT ALL I GET IS A SLOW FIZZ CAN YOU GIVE ME THE RIGHT MIX I GOT THE STUFF FROM AMERZON

  • DanofColinmculty.com 8 October 2012, 6:20 pm

    Its quite amusing that you can find all these ingredients on Amazon, but i was wondering about two things:
    – Will amazon notice if I buy all these ingredients and stop me?
    – And is it possible to make gunpowder by simply grinding them together (in a pestle and mortar, for example). I an unable to get hold off a ball mill, or any expensive machinery, so I need to do it at home

    Thankyou!

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