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View Full Version : I have been thinking about making black powder for a few years and too the first step


silvercorvette
October 28, 2010, 04:17 AM
I bought the chemicals a few months back and waited for the ball mills to be in stock.

There don't seem to be many places to buy a small mill so I have been checking THIS (http://unitednuclear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=25_35&products_id=363) site almost every day trying to buy a ball mill. They had some in stock and I placed an order but by the next day they were sold out.

I ordered it with non-sparking LEAD BALLS (http://unitednuclear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=25_35&products_id=366) and on running a very small batch to start out.

I am waiting for it to stop raining because I plan on running the mill in my driveway about 20 to 30 yards from my house.

Had anyone used a ball mill, and if so any hints or tips?

PS I did read the hints and tips thread but I am interested if anyone has experience with this type ball mill.

ofitg
October 29, 2010, 01:31 AM
I got interested in homemade BP a couple of months ago and bought a Lortone 3A rock tumbler to use as a ball mill. About the same size as your machine, with a rubber barrel (it looks like your machine uses a rubber barrel too). I have been using it with .451 lead balls.

It kinda upset me at first. Some of the material got packed into the inside surface of the drum. I tried cleaning the drum, and ran another batch of charcoal/sulfur in the thing.
Then it really freaked me out - the material coming out of the drum weighed more than the material I had put into the drum. Maybe it was some of the leftover stuff from the first run? Or maybe the balls were abrading rubber particles from the drum's inner surface? I don't know.

I finally got some 3" plastic pipe fittings and made a little container which fits inside the rubber drum. Now I am sure that I'm not leaving any material behind, and I am absolutely sure that I'm not abrading the inner surface of the rubber drum.

silvercorvette
October 29, 2010, 01:45 AM
Thanks any suggestions are appreciated.

Ideal Tool
October 29, 2010, 02:39 AM
WOW! Plastic pipe, Sealed rubber tumbler drum, Black Powder & .45 Lead Balls! Sounds like an IED to me!:eek:

silvercorvette
October 29, 2010, 07:25 AM
Please explain, you need a spark to set it off, as far as I know rubber, plastic and lead do not make sparks.

I plan on making very small batches and putting the mill in the driveway far away from my house

Rifleman1776
October 29, 2010, 08:41 AM
You know it is dangerous but still plan to pursure the project? :eek: Hard to understand. At least your widow will have a home.
Sparks are unreliable for igniting BP as they are often too 'cold'.
But almost anything else can set it off. Heat, compression, shock, fire are the common igniters.
There really is no point in doing this. As was pointed out in another recent similar thread, you may also be in violation of ATF regs and laws for manufacturing explosives and/or bombs.
Bad idea all the way around.

noelf2
October 29, 2010, 09:00 AM
I would make BP if I had to, and I can understand how it would be a fun project but I wouldn't plan on making BP on a continuing basis. Using ball mills of the right type are not dangerous if you practice safety, and sounds like you are by having it away from your house and only making small batches in a mill designed for making BP. You will probably never, no matter how good the ingredients, make anything as good as the worst commercially available BP. As a fun project, I'm interested to see your results, but this practice won't save you money or improve your aim (IMHO). Have fun though, and post videos on youtube!

noelf2
October 29, 2010, 09:38 AM
But almost anything else can set it off. Heat, compression, shock, fire are the common igniters.

I'd take shock and compression out of there, unless they produce the heat/fire to set off BP. Some think that static electricity will set off BP as well, but only if it produces heat while passing though something other than BP. BP conducts electricity because of all the carbon in it, and will not get hot by static electricity.

There really is no point in doing this. As was pointed out in another recent similar thread, you may also be in violation of ATF regs and laws for manufacturing explosives and/or bombs.
Bad idea all the way around.

That's ur opinion. There's a point in doing this if he feels like it. It's an experiment, perhaps in survival. There's no need to hunt either, or shoot black powder firearms. Most of us do these things because we like to, or want to. Also, I haven't seen a legal precedent where someone was found to be violating law by making small batches of black powder for use in antique/reproduction firearms. Now, if there's proof that the intent was to make bombs, that's another story.

silvercorvette
October 29, 2010, 10:13 AM
noelf2 summed it up well, since I made a choice to shoot BP I want to get back to the basics. I have a few other things that will keep me too busy to use the mill so don't expect any reports for a while. The mill will be set to a timer so I will not be near it when I turn it off or on, I will be inside a brick house a couple hundred feet away while it is running.

Rifleman1776
October 29, 2010, 10:35 AM
eoelf2, the comment about laws was qualified. I stated it was mentioned in other threads. My opinion is nowhere to be found on that subject.
As for heat, compression, shock, this has been tested with published results in the National Muzzle Loading Association magazine Muzzle Blasts several times over the years. I did not make it up.
But, you are not the first I have encountered in nearly a half century of using muzzle loaders and black powder who will defend unsafe practices until their dying breath.
Your right, I guess. Make sure your life insurance premiums are paid up.

silvercorvette
October 29, 2010, 10:42 AM
Rifleman1776 I asked for suggestions to improve my safety margin, I already listed the precautions I intend to take could you please point out anything I may have overlooked?

ofitg
October 29, 2010, 11:38 AM
Silvercorvette, my main interest is learning how to do it, so I'm sticking with small batches too. Two ounces of finished product per batch. What's working best for me is to run two ounces of the charcoal/sulfur mixture in the ball mill with eight ounces of lead balls. That doesn't drag the machine down at all. Eight hours of tumbling time seems adequate.
Two ounces of charcoal/sulfur is enough to make four 2-oz batches of BP.

Other tips? People with a lot more experience than me are emphatic that the type of charcoal is critical. I'm using willow charcoal.

For safety's sake, don't ball mill the potassium nitrate together with the charcoal/sulfur. In fact, I have decided against ball-milling the potassium nitrate at all.
The preparation method which seems to work best for me might be described as an "abbreviated precipitate" method. In a small 1-qt saucepan, I mix 200 grains of the charcoal/sulfur with 300 grains of water. Not as easy as it sounds - the stuff does not want to mix - I tamp on it with a wooden dowel for 10 or 15 minutes until it reaches a "thick liquid" consistency.
Then the pan goes on a hotplate - when the liquid starts bubbling, I stir in 600 grains of potassium nitrate (at a temperature of 212F, 300 grains of water will dissolve up to 750 grains of potassium nitrate). This is why I don't bother with ball-milling the potassium nitrate.
I pour the hot liquid onto a wide Pyrex dish - as it starts to cool, it turns into a sludge immediately - I spread the sludge out across the dish, about 1/4-inch thickness, and let it dry.

We don't have those 20-ton metal wheels to compress the powder, so the homemade BP will not be as dense as the store-bought stuff. One CC of my homebrew powder has about 3/4 the weight of one CC of Goex 3Fg. However, on a weight-for-weight basis, the homemade BP seems to be about as energetic as the store-bought stuff.

Keep us posted. I'm just a beginner too, and I'd like to compare notes.

noelf2
October 29, 2010, 12:04 PM
Rifleman1776 said:

But, you are not the first I have encountered in nearly a half century of using muzzle loaders and black powder who will defend unsafe practices until their dying breath.

Which unsafe practices am I defending? Making black powder? It's not any more "unsafe" than reloading ammo. Follow safety precautions and you mitigate what would be unsafe. I think you are confused. The OP has decided what he wants to do. Now he's doing the research to ensure that he does it safely and legally. I don't see how either of us are helping him in his research, so I'll be leaving now...:rolleyes:

silvercorvette
October 29, 2010, 12:13 PM
Thanks for the info, I bought the charcoal from the same company I bought the mill from. This was copied and pasted from their site

Charcoal - Granulated
chemical formula: C
( granulated powder )
Top quality granulated Charcoal from the Willow tree, approximately 36 mesh. Mainly used in pyrotechnic formulas, this coarser Granulated Charcoal produces very long lasting orange sparks in firework pieces. Ideal for adding a long spark trail effect to Fountains, Stars, Rockets, etc.

I have been waiting months for them to get the mills in stock and when I placed my order they were literally out of stock again over night. I am just happy I was able to get the mill even though I won't be using it for a while so don't expect any reports for a while.

ClemBert
October 29, 2010, 12:40 PM
You know what I like about you silvercorvette? You are an AmeriCAN not an AmeriCan't like some folks. As long as you follow safe and proper practices I don't see why this can't be a fun and satisfying project. Don't let the flamethrowers get to you with their "hit-n-run" comments. They typically add little to no value to the topic at hand. With their thought process mankind would still be living in caves. Many of them lack that AmeriCAN pioneer spirit that made this country great. Others boldly go where mankind has never gone before while the AmeriCan'ts let others pave the way for them.

p.s. I find the following previously posted comment to be outrageous and uncalled for. Very disturbing! That person should retract the comment and offer you an apology.

"At least your widow will have a home."

silvercorvette
October 29, 2010, 12:50 PM
noelf2 than you for the private message

Had I know I could have saved some money

mrappe
October 29, 2010, 10:49 PM
Which unsafe practices am I defending? Making black powder? It's not any more "unsafe" than reloading ammo. Follow safety precautions and you mitigate what would be unsafe. I think you are confused. The OP has decided what he wants to do. Now he's doing the research to ensure that he does it safely and legally. I don't see how either of us are helping him in his research, so I'll be leaving now...


noelf2 said it well. I have made my own BP for rocket engines about 20 yrs ago in a Lortone tumbler wit 8 lbs of 3/4" brass rod cut into pellets and have lived to tell about it. Was I cautious ... you bet, I enjoy having all my members. I was taking the precautions from a book about the the subject plus using common sense. It was fun and educational but it was vastly inferior to what you can buy. It was more suited to making a pyrotenic volcano. The rocket motors that did not have the right chemistry (not enought suphur) were taken (rocket motor in paper tube turned upside down and stuck in the ground) and used for fireworks and just burned like one of those prepackage cones. They made a nice long burn. BP in the open does not detonate but deflagratates. You are more likely to have a fire than an explosion (not that that is not dangerous). The kind that you would make with a small mill will most likely not burn a fast as what you can buy in a can.

I used tecnical grade potasium nitrate, lab sulphur and air float characol. Use brass or lead balls and I would not use plastic with it since plastic can cause static. I have never seen BP in plastic cans. All of the cans of BP that I have pruchased were in metal ones.

silvercorvette
October 29, 2010, 11:04 PM
I bought every thing from this site

http://unitednuclear.com/

, mill, balls and chemicals. After 9-11 they stopped selling Potassium Nitrate and just started a short time ago. I had the chemicals but had to wait for them to get mill in stock. They have been around for a long time and I believe they have chemicals that are good quality.

I am doing this as a fun experiment, by the time I add up the cost of the lead ball, mill and chemicals I am sure I could have bought better quality BP for a lot less but that isn't the reason why I decided to do it. Heck for what I paid for the balls and mill I probably could have bought enough powder to supply my shooting needs for the rest of my life.

mrappe
October 29, 2010, 11:04 PM
WOW! Plastic pipe, Sealed rubber tumbler drum, Black Powder & .45 Lead Balls! Sounds like an IED to me!

Wow.. You know with this line of thinking it will soon be against the law to shoot popguns for fear of putting out someone's eye. I guess I am just old but it is scary to see how far down the tubes we have gone in the past 40 yrs or so. We are loosing freedoms each year in the name of safety and political hay.

If safety is our god then we will never have enough of it.

Just my opinion.

silvercorvette
October 29, 2010, 11:25 PM
Wow.. You know with this line of thinking it will soon be against the law to shoot popguns for fear of putting out someone's eye. I guess I am just old but it is scary to see how far down the tubes we have gone in the past 40 yrs or so. We are loosing freedoms each year in the name of safety and political hay.

I agree with you 100%. I survived riding in cars before seat belts were invented and back when they had metal non-padded dashboards. My parents did not smoke but the smoke in my friends house was so thick you could cut it wit a knife. Believe it or not we rode bicycles without helmets and we put old lawnmower engines on bicycles that had brakes that barely worked and used to ride our motorbikes behind the trucks that were spraying a DDT fog for Misquitos. So if I made it this long I guess a few ounces of chemicals in a ball mill won't get me.

mrappe
October 30, 2010, 09:27 AM
I agree with you 100%. I survived riding in cars before seat belts were invented and back when they had metal non-padded dashboards. My parents did not smoke but the smoke in my friends house was so thick you could cut it wit a knife. Believe it or not we rode bicycles without helmets and we put old lawnmower engines on bicycles that had brakes that barely worked and used to ride our motorbikes behind the trucks that were spraying a DDT fog for Misquitos. So if I made it this long I guess a few ounces of chemicals in a ball mill won't get me.

Same here. We washed the grease off of our hands and car/bike parts with leaded gasoline too. Gasoline also is flamable. We had the real kind of chemical sets where you can actually make gunpowder and other nasty things.

Hawg
October 30, 2010, 10:06 AM
If safety is our god then we will never have enough of it.


I'm with you. I'm safe enough for my own satisfaction but I'm not anal about it like a lot on here are. I do things that make a lot of people cringe but to do it their way takes ALL the fun out of it. If they don't wanna shoot with me that's fine. I didn't ask them to.:D

ofitg
October 30, 2010, 12:14 PM
It kinda surprises me that people are having such knee-jerk reactions to the idea of running a couple ounces of charcoal & sulfur in a ball mill. I took a spoonful of ball-milled charcoal/sulfur mix and tried to ignite it with an open flame. Not very exciting. It smoldered & smoked a little where the flame hit it. Smelled like sulfur.
Hey, guess what, it's not blackpowder without the potassium nitrate!

In the few weeks I've been experimenting with it, I've tried three different preparation methods. Some are better than others. I chronographed a couple of shots with each batch, comparing them to Goex 3Fg. The best homemade powder was right up there with the Goex, on a "weight" basis (eg, 20 gr of homemade vs. 20 gr of Goex).

The biggest difference I can see is that the homemade powder is less dense than the Goex. A powder measure designed for 40 gr of factory BP will only throw 30 gr of the homebrew stuff. In firearms like percussion revolvers and breechloading rifles (eg, Sharps, Smith) where chamber volumes are constrained, the reduced density of homemade BP might be an issue.... in this respect, I would agree that factory-made powder is superior.... however, I can still pour 30 gr of homebrew into the chamber of my Uberti .44 Remington's cylinder, and the "fluffy" homebrew powder compresses easily.

I don't know anything about loading blackpowder into rocket engines. It sounds like it might be a lot more complex than firearms powder. Just for the record, the last blackpowder I purchased from Graf & Sons came packaged in plastic containers.

mykeal
October 30, 2010, 07:44 PM
silvercorvette and mrappe - yes, you guys, and me too, survived what many would today howl about being unsafe. Unfortunately, others didn't survive, and they aren't here to tell about it. Your survival, and mine, doesn't by any stretch of logic mean that it's actually ok to continue to intentionally pursue unsafe practices.

That being said, it's certainly possible to manufacture black powder safely. Understand the physics of the materials and the process and there's no reason why it can't be done safely and efficiently.

zxcvbob
October 30, 2010, 08:17 PM
I made 2 half-pound batches of BP a couple of years ago. Used a rubber-drum rock tumbler and a bunch of .46 balls that I cast from hard lead for the ball mill. I used crude garden chemicals for the KNO3 and the sulfur, and I cooked my own charcoal using white cedar. I mixed it all up (including the saltpeter) and milled it for about 24 hours, then dampened the powder with some watered-down rubbing alcohol and pressed it thru a metal kitchen sieve.

When it was thoroughly dried, it worked pretty well in .45 Colt cartridges. The first test was less than spectacular (but it worked) because the powder was still too damp.

I think the limiting factor for my powder was the stump remover that I used for saltpeter. The sulfur is the least important ingredient, so 90% S from the garden center should be fine.

The charcoal is the most important ingredient.

I thought there was a sticky thread around here somewhere about homemade BP.

HisSoldier
October 30, 2010, 11:30 PM
It's just not politically correct. :D

I feel sorry for people who figure out every possible reason why they can't do what our ancestors did as a matter of course.

Is it possible that people are worried about getting sued by saying anything other than "Don't do it!"?

olmontanaboy
October 31, 2010, 07:20 AM
I survived riding in cars before seat belts were invented and back when they had metal non-padded dashboards. My parents did not smoke but the smoke in my friends house was so thick you could cut it wit a knife. Believe it or not we rode bicycles without helmets and we put old lawnmower engines on bicycles that had brakes that barely worked and used to ride our motorbikes behind the trucks that were spraying a DDT fog for Misquitos. So if I made it this long I guess a few ounces of chemicals in a ball mill won't get me.

Well said, were being turned into a nation of frightened sheep by an ever growing number of bureacrats.

silvercorvette
October 31, 2010, 07:34 AM
it reminds me of this quote

A coward dies many times before his death. The valiant never taste of death but once

Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare)

mrappe
October 31, 2010, 11:05 PM
I would never say that making BP is as safe as gardening. Just, that it is probably not as risky, if you understand how to handle it with some education of the subject and common sense. I would read up as much as possible on the subject first. I am assuming that we are not talking about a teenager stuffing BP into a metal pipe or other truly risky things. If you do it right I don't see how it would be any more dangerous to mix small batches than it would be to handle a 1 pound can of Goex. You can certainaly hurt yourself with a can of commercial BP if you are not carefull. Lets put the risk into a reasonable perspective.

Hardy
November 5, 2010, 08:41 PM
Interesting:D Now, it has been 40+ years ago but I remember doing something then not knowing exactly what I was doing. I took 2 concrete blocks and separated them about a 1/4 inch apart. I laid charcoal on top of them and ground them with a brick and let the particles fall within the 1/4 inch separation into a pan. I mixed it w salt peter and sulfer from the World Book encyclopedia on ratio. IT WORKED in my home made cannon. I think scraping the charcoal across the rough blocks made them kinda prism like and that helped. Never tried it again but might now since I'm 58. Tell me no:rolleyes: