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Thread: Sensitivity of Black Powder to Static Discharge

  1. #21
    Boolit Master
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    There is a lot of bad information that comes from ignorance, tradition and old wives tales. Most people don't know enough to know the difference.
    EDG

  2. #22
    Boolit Master
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    There is a considerable difference between grain dust or BP dust mingled with and confined in an atmosphere replete with oxygen and a hard grain of powder, smokeless or black. Both are combustible/explosive but the difference is akin to gasoline fumes as compared to crude oil.
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  3. #23
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by sharps4590 View Post
    There is a considerable difference between grain dust or BP dust mingled with and confined in an atmosphere replete with oxygen and a hard grain of powder, smokeless or black. Both are combustible/explosive but the difference is akin to gasoline fumes as compared to crude oil.
    Yeah I get that - but the blowups in powder plants is what the naysayers keep pushing in our faces as evidence of how dangerous our blackpowder is - seeing you mentioned gasoline - I would way rather have a leaky can of blackpowder in my garage than a leaky can of lawnmower fuel - yet nobody bats an eyelid handling gasoline - different ? yes for sure - but I reckon a lot of politics involved in the rules around powder.

  4. #24
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    I couldn't agree more, joe, on all counts.
    "In general, the art of government is to take as much money as possible from one class of citizens and give it to another class of citizens" Voltaire'

    The common virtue of capitalism is the sharing of equal opportunity. The common vice of socialism is the equal sharing of misery

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  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by indian joe View Post
    Yeah I get that - but the blowups in powder plants is what the naysayers keep pushing in our faces as evidence of how dangerous our blackpowder is - seeing you mentioned gasoline - I would way rather have a leaky can of blackpowder in my garage than a leaky can of lawnmower fuel - yet nobody bats an eyelid handling gasoline - different ? yes for sure - but I reckon a lot of politics involved in the rules around powder.
    Yes, gasoline and various common solvents, or their vapour, are liable to come sneaking out looking for trouble, while powder stays where it is put. Gasoline combines with the oxygen from about nine times its weight in air too, so a pound of it far more energy than a pound of powder, which contains its own. The phrase "bat an eyelid" takes me back, for more than forty years ago I was involved in a gasoline fire (someone else's fault, honest!) on a boat. My burns turned out trivial in the extreme, but I had a half-minute or so coming to terms with blindness before I discovered than my eyelashes were fused together. That is what quick reactions get you. Clean living, I shouldn't wonder.

    Politics, and some obscure civil servants sitting in back rooms making a good living more easily than most of us, do come into it. In the UK black powder requires a licence which smokeless powder doesn't, the reason apparently being that when smokeless was invented, Gladstone had just solved the Irish problem. We have recent controls on "explosives precursors" such as high-concentration ammonium nitrate, sodium chlorate etc. They aren't unduly troublesome for the conventional user, but a great nuisance for someone who just wants a one-time gun bluing solution. The point is, the IRA got beaten with them freely available and in murderous use.

  6. #26
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    There’s also the considerable difference in a material’s behavior that associates with the scale of operations. Nobody thinks of grounding when they put ten gallons of gasoline in their car, but the trucker who puts 10,000 gallons in the gas station tanks grounds his setup well.

    A re-enactor can carry a horn full of black powder around for days, even though the sloshing around in the horn generates static. The manufacturer who is blending 2500-lb batches had better have his grounding checked monthly.

    Static electricity is a surface phenomenon, and surface area relates to quantity available. The fact that somebody can’t set off a little bit of the stuff does little to comfort someone who has to handle large quantities. And, of course, there are those things that just can’t be brought into laboratories and made to do their trick over and over again, like trained seals...

    The weirdest one I heard about was black powder that CIL was using in their safety fuse. This stuff accumulated static (as does everything that touches something else, over and over), but some property in the composition did not allow it to dissipate. It held the static charge, which was insulated in when the wrappings were put over the powder train in the safety fuse.

    A roll of CIL fuse was thus a long, skinny capacitor. When a length of it was burned, the static would migrate into the unburned portion of the powder, and, as the column got shorter and shorter, the potential would go higher and higher. Eventually, a spark would jump from the end of the powder to the initiator in the top of the blasting cap, setting it off prematurely. For somebody who had cut a nice long length of fuse to enable a leisurely walk out of the danger zone, this early explosion was not a pleasant surprise.

    So a law was passed that any lengths of capped fuse sold had to have a metal staple through the end touching the blasting cap, which safely drained off the potential before a spark could form. Even after the static problem went away, as mysteriously as it had arrived, the staple still had to be there. I’d see occasional samples of CIL capped fuses with the staple, and this was the explanation I got.

    The prudent practices for handling energetic materials have, literally, been “written in blood,” and for the express purpose of getting workmen through a career in handling such stuff. You can get away with something on the basis of what somebody has “proved” he can’t do for a long time, if you’re lucky. I stick to the established procedures, myself. The only thing I’m convinced of is that anything can happen, given enough time.

  7. #27
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post
    There’s also the considerable difference in a material’s behavior that associates with the scale of operations.
    Darn good point.

  8. #28
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  9. #29
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    Many years ago I worked at a military base towing helicopters to and from maintenance. Each time I towed one out of the maintenance hangar it had to be refueled. Each time the pumper had to attach a grounding cable to prevent a fire hazard.
    EDG

  10. #30
    Boolit Master Harter66's Avatar
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    I saw a similar video demonstration to this . The individual was working out a piezoelectric discharge ignition for an in line ML design . As I recall his demonstration of the pass through and over was done with a few kernels and a volume of something like 70-80 gr of powder and forcing conduction through the pile .

    2 points of interest .
    First is the graphite conductor argument . IE the polished and/or graphite impacted powder or otherwise flow/anticling/misc coatings keep the charge on the surface of the powder . In doing so they prevent core heating .

    Second and I'm sure there is a physics guy here handy to make science out of mechanics .
    The electric spark lacks mass and longevity relitive to any powder heavier than heavy dust . So the ignition of it until it actually reaches and retains ignition temp and a spark won't happen . Meanwhile a barely visible shard of sand/glass/iron from a frizin , cap or primer is more than enough because of the temperature and contact duration . Effectively the hot "spark" is a red to white hot flame vs hot gas plasma that loses heat on discharge while it's still trying to build heat .

    If an electrode like a very cold deep reach spark plugs were used and discharged through a raw dust powder inside something like a pyrodex pellet the electric spark might work better .

    The thing about our static discharge is that it lacks mass and duration in even a full pound of powder . Scale that up to 5000# and a lighting strike with dust in the air at possibly ignition levels and you have a totally different situation that will most likely woof , bang or boom .

    For what it's worth based on life experience , the Civil war BP plants aren't nearly as different , in terms of gross design , as you would like to think from 1990s built explosives handling facilities .
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  11. #31
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    As a kid I witnessed a grain elevator explosion. For the non-rural types grain elevators are large storage silo's. Grains of wheat are barely flammable. Wheat dust on the other hand is highly flammable/explosive. While I am not interested enough to do the test I would be interested to see how black powder dust reacts to static discharge.

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by M-Tecs View Post
    As a kid I witnessed a grain elevator explosion. For the non-rural types grain elevators are large storage silo's. Grains of wheat are barely flammable. Wheat dust on the other hand is highly flammable/explosive. While I am not interested enough to do the test I would be interested to see how black powder dust reacts to static discharge.
    While its fun TALKIN about all this stuff - at the loading press is no place to be conducting experiments - somebody commented a while back "if you still chicken......." well hell yeah I am chicken enough to be careful. I believe the static electricity ignition thing has been way overstated for blckpowder - same for impact - bash it with a hammer - nothing happens - but I have lit the stuff with the spark from an angle grinder at twenty feet.

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by indian joe View Post
    While its fun TALKIN about all this stuff - at the loading press is no place to be conducting experiments -
    Who stated anytime about conducting tests at the loading press????????

  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by M-Tecs View Post
    Who stated anytime about conducting tests at the loading press????????
    If you are still chicken find some stainless steel screen and cut a piece to line your plastic powder hopper.

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by M-Tecs View Post
    Who stated anytime about conducting tests at the loading press????????
    If you are still chicken find some stainless steel screen and cut a piece to line your plastic powder hopper.

  16. #36
    Boolit Master
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    Let me chime in here please. Threads as this go all over the place & confuse people. So lets make this as
    simple as possible cause it is. Heat is what sets off black powder. This started out with static electricity.
    You all know it generate very little heat. My tig welder uses high frequency to start the weld. HF is like static
    & generates very low heat. I have tried many times to ignite BP but can,t.

    What generates heat in electricity is amperage not Voltage. Like a stun gun it generates a lot of volts that
    will knock you down. But will not burn you. The light switch deal Indian Joe brought up shows what I,m saying.
    The switch is only 110 volts but with a lot of amps. We have all seen the heat a 110 v extension cord or lamp cord
    can generate when shorted out. BP is safe if you keep it away from heat, like hot sparks. Hot sparks are what ignites
    flintlock rifles. (wink) Hope this clears this up some.

    Fly

  17. #37
    Boolit Master



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    Quote Originally Posted by indian joe View Post
    If you are still chicken find some stainless steel screen and cut a piece to line your plastic powder hopper.
    What is your problem?

  18. #38
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by M-Tecs View Post
    What is your problem?
    Didnt realise I had one

  19. #39
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fly View Post
    Let me chime in here please. Threads as this go all over the place & confuse people. So lets make this as
    simple as possible cause it is. Heat is what sets off black powder. This started out with static electricity.
    You all know it generate very little heat. My tig welder uses high frequency to start the weld. HF is like static
    & generates very low heat. I have tried many times to ignite BP but can,t.

    What generates heat in electricity is amperage not Voltage. Like a stun gun it generates a lot of volts that
    will knock you down. But will not burn you. The light switch deal Indian Joe brought up shows what I,m saying.
    The switch is only 110 volts but with a lot of amps. We have all seen the heat a 110 v extension cord or lamp cord
    can generate when shorted out. BP is safe if you keep it away from heat, like hot sparks. Hot sparks are what ignites
    flintlock rifles. (wink) Hope this clears this up some.

    Fly
    good answer !!!

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