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Thread: My homemade black powder

  1. #6121
    Boolit Master

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    Do you guys cook charcoal in a doublewall setup like the youtubers? Or is there a simpler way for us?

  2. #6122
    Boolit Master

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    Ok. Just like youtube. A can in a can.

    For YOUR setup, do you pile the burn wood up the sides of the charcoal can or just below the grid?

    Or do you start it under the grid and add more on the sides through the process? Curious how you personally do it.

  3. #6123
    Quote Originally Posted by Whiterabbit View Post
    Ok. Just like youtube. A can in a can.

    For YOUR setup, do you pile the burn wood up the sides of the charcoal can or just below the grid?

    Or do you start it under the grid and add more on the sides through the process? Curious how you personally do it.
    That's a good question and I'd also like to hear how others pile the burn wood.

    I'm not using a burn barrel but instead placing my one gallon paint can on one of those round charcoal grills. If I only put the burn wood under the can I find that when the bottom half a can or so is done the top half is underdone. I've had better results by having burn wood both under the can and piled against the sides. As the fire burns down I add more burn wood against the sides as needed.

    I thought that using one of those propane burn rings would be easier but again I found that having the fire all at the bottom of the can didn't cook the upper part enough. I even tried propping the can at an angle on the propane ring and rotating it a quarter turn every 15 minutes hoping that would cook the top better but that didn't work well either.

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  4. #6124
    Boolit Grand Master Nobade's Avatar
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    I've been cooking charcoal whenever I burn a brush pile and have a good bed of coals left over. I mostly cover the can with live coals so it has heat all around it. Some day I'll come up with a kiln like a couple of you have. That would be ideal.

  5. #6125
    This is my set up for making char.
    https://youtu.be/9UdeWl26o6Q

    The crock pot method is very economical. I get a high yield and it only costs me a quarter bag of cheap briquets from the store.

  6. #6126
    Boolit Buddy
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    Over the years on this forum, the question has been asked a few times, if Mimosa makes good charcoal. I have a bunch, and have wondered myself. I waited for someone to test it and nobody ever said they did. So....
    This Spring, early, I took some green debarked twigs and burned them up and got high ash content, but have been waiting all summer, to get another assay on the dried wood, to double check.
    This afternoon and evening, I cooked a quart can of very clean, very dry, small diameter sprout wood and checked it again. The charcoal came out beautiful and I was really hopeful on the ash. The wood only lost 46.5% weight to make charcoal.
    I took an average small piece, from the middle of the cook and broke it and ground it down and weighed out exactly 5 Grains. Burned it down completely and weighed the ash; which yielded .25 Grains. Exactly 5% ash.
    So if anyone is still interested as I was, there it is. Mimosa sprouts are on the outer limits of acceptable ash content, by my reckoning.
    The quart can made 206 grams of charcoal. So enough to make 3 pounds of powder. Too much time and effort, to waste the charcoal; because it did come out pretty. I'll make one pound and test it. It may work great. I'll try compensating on the ash content and see how it does. Maybe try screening half and pucking half. When I get it tested, I'll post results.
    I swore I was not going to test any more wood, last year; but just had to do one more. I wanted to answer the question, which has been asked a few times. The wood looks like it should make great powder. AND, it still may.
    Carry on!
    Last edited by DoubleBuck; 09-26-2022 at 11:30 PM.

  7. #6127
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    Indian Joe;
    Where I live must be a good climate for Acacia trees. They and Mimosa trees are everywhere. Another great import from The Land Down Under! And, yes, I think you're right that they are related. I don't think I've ever handled Acacia.
    Mimosa sprouts are real straight, but not one directional. They spread pretty wide, for their short height. They grow as much as about 6-8 feet in a summer but only for the first year or two, and the wood is really light density and medium soft, I would say. Their fast growth and light density have made me wonder for awhile, about their usefulness in making powder. In the stove they burn fast and hot, and I thought they had little ash, but it may be that I've only burned small pieces and never saw how much ash they actually had. They don't live long and they winter kill pretty easy. Part of mine died last winter.
    I really did have high hopes for the Mimosa. It looks like it would make great powder. I'll get some worked up and give it a try. The price was right. I will give an update soon on it.

  8. #6128
    Boolit Mold
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    This thread has been so helpful to me for learning this process that I made an account for this forum. I've only read up through page 80 and am working my way through the rest, but for now I have a few questions.

    My process is as follows: I cooked aspen chips in a paint can retort then ball milled the charcoal and sifted any chunks out. I mixed the charcoal with spectracide stump remover and lab-grade sulfur and ball milled that for about 3 hours. My ball mill is the harbor freight double drum with 200 .50 cal lead balls in it. I took the green powder and drizzled some 70% isopropyl alcohol over it to wet it and then pressed it in a 3" die in a 12 ton press. My pressing process is to compress it until I can barely push the jack handle, wait 5 minutes then do it again, wait another 5 minutes, then release. My pucks come out of the die with just a touch of wetness on the surface and feel like ceramic. I let them dry for a few hours or until they stop smelling like alcohol, then I use wire cutters to snip them into manageable chunks and run through a ceramic-bladed coffee grinder. I have the grinder set so I yield about 50% fines, 30% 2Fg, and 20% 3Fg.

    My first question is whether that's a normal ratio for yield or if I can improve it. Nearly half my BP by weight ends up as fine which I then have to re-wet and re-compress. If I could get more to grain to 2-3Fg I would be happier.

    I also checked the density of my powder compared to commercial BP. To do this I set a volumetric powder measure to 100 grains and weighed a few samples of each to compare their weights. I have Schuetzen 3Fg on hand and in three samples of 100 grains volume it averaged 100.95 grains. My homemade 3Fg measured to 100 grains volume weighed in at 79.29 grains.

    My second question is how do I make my BP density better match commercial BP? 80% is close enough that it'll work but I'm a perfectionist and want to do better. My initial thoughts are I need to leave the powder compressed in the press longer, or that I need to mess with the amount of alcohol added, either reducing or adding to it.

    My last question is what others think of aspen as a charcoal precursor. I picked aspen because I could get wood chips of it at the store and because if it works well I have access to tons of it at my family's cabin in the mountains of Arizona. I'm a little limited on wood choices locally because I'm in El Paso; trees don't really grow here. I haven't shot my BP yet but if aspen works well I have a free charcoal source. If it doesn't work I'll need to find a cheap source of a wood that is viable.

  9. #6129
    Boolit Master

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    When you cook charcoal you make airspace a minimum right?

    I have a 5 gallon metal barrel I got with a clamp on lid that seems maybe fit for purpose except it is actually king of huge for my needs! But how well it seals makes me think…

  10. #6130
    Quote Originally Posted by Smart_Guy_Factor View Post
    I have the grinder set so I yield about 50% fines, 30% 2Fg, and 20% 3Fg.

    My first question is whether that's a normal ratio for yield or if I can improve it. Nearly half my BP by weight ends up as fine which I then have to re-wet and re-compress. If I could get more to grain to 2-3Fg I would be happier.
    I take it you are considering anything smaller than 3f as fines? You're not saving any 4f? I'm kind of the opposite as I don't want anything bigger than 3f, but will take all the 4f I can get. So I re-grind anything bigger than 3f.

    At any rate I checked my yield a couple times and it always comes out around 65% 3f, 15% 4f, and 20% finer than 4f. My fines percentage is probably kicked up a bit by my re-grinding what could have been used as 2f so I do think your 50% fines could be improved on quite a bit.

  11. #6131
    Boolit Master
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    Not sure if anyone watched Hazen Audel on on Prime Survivor last night but he was walking through the Laotian Highlands above the Mekong River and visited a "musket hunter" tribe, who basically use what looks like a .410 muzzleloader with a side caplock for most of their hunting. They make their charcoal in an open wok and simply cook it in air until done. The actual mix recipe is "a secret" and apparently hasn't changed much since they learned it from the Chinese millennia ago. The powder master did a burn test in open air and it was very fast - clearly good enough for gun powder. They do not screen the powder but broke it up with a mortar and pestle. The shot looked about like #4 buckshot and they probably dumped 25-30 pellets into the barrel, and the powder was well tamped prior to dumping the balls. The villagers kill all sorts of animals with this arrangement, up to wild boar in size. They let Hazen shoot a tree and the pellets obviously penetrated with a decent pattern.

    Very interesting to see what people can achieve so far away from civilization with minimal tools.

  12. #6132
    Boolit Mold
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    Thanks all for the advice. I was using alcohol largely because I saw it recommended in a few places, and partly because I knew it would dry faster than water. I'll try a batch with distilled water and see if that helps the density.

    I've been pressing my pucks to about a 1/4" thick so it helps them dry faster and they're easier to cut up.

    Interesting that overcooking charcoal has a negative effect as well. My charcoal cooking setup is fairly primitive so I'll have to think through how to control that better. Right now I'm using a couple quart size paint cans with a 1/4" hole drilled in the lid. I set those in a camp fire and let them run until the exhaust gases stop burning. Since I'm using aspen wood chips they cook fairly fast, and I assume fairly hot. There's a lot of surface area with wood chips even when I pack the cans as full as I can.

    Quote Originally Posted by mmb617 View Post
    I take it you are considering anything smaller than 3f as fines? You're not saving any 4f? I'm kind of the opposite as I don't want anything bigger than 3f, but will take all the 4f I can get. So I re-grind anything bigger than 3f.

    At any rate I checked my yield a couple times and it always comes out around 65% 3f, 15% 4f, and 20% finer than 4f. My fines percentage is probably kicked up a bit by my re-grinding what could have been used as 2f so I do think your 50% fines could be improved on quite a bit.
    I use 2F in my .58 cal muskets and 3F in my .50 flinter and .44 revolver. I'd be happy with a 50-50 mix of those two grades or something close. I haven't been keeping the 4Fg so I was counting that as fine. My yield percentages would probably look better if I caught the 4Fg and counted it as product instead of fines to be re-pucked. I'll try backing the grinder off a few notches to see if that helps as well.

    As far as screening mesh goes, I hope I'm on the right track with sizes. I'm using a 16 mesh to catch any pieces that are too big, then a 30 mesh to catch my 2Fg, 50 mesh to catch my 3Fg, and I have a 100 mesh if I want to catch 4Fg. Are these about right? I see varying opinions for which size mesh correlates to grain size depending on source.

  13. #6133
    Quote Originally Posted by Smart_Guy_Factor View Post
    As far as screening mesh goes, I hope I'm on the right track with sizes. I'm using a 16 mesh to catch any pieces that are too big, then a 30 mesh to catch my 2Fg, 50 mesh to catch my 3Fg, and I have a 100 mesh if I want to catch 4Fg. Are these about right? I see varying opinions for which size mesh correlates to grain size depending on source.
    I also saw varying information on what screens correspond to what grain size. This is my screen stack which appears to make my interpretation of 2f, 3f and 4f grains be a little larger than yours. In mine the top 16 screen catches anything that's much too big, the 20 screen catches 2f, the 40 screen catches 3f, the 60 screen catches 4f and the bottom is a pan that catches the fines. This has worked very well for me.


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  14. #6134
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmb617 View Post
    I also saw varying information on what screens correspond to what grain size. This is my screen stack which appears to make my interpretation of 2f, 3f and 4f grains be a little larger than yours. In mine the top 16 screen catches anything that's much too big, the 20 screen catches 2f, the 40 screen catches 3f, the 60 screen catches 4f and the bottom is a pan that catches the fines. This has worked very well for me.


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    Where do you get your screens?
    Ill keep my guns money and freedom you keep the CHANGE!!!

  15. #6135
    Boolit Master
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    I got my screens on line.
    They are smaller diameter than what is shown in his pictures and they have green plastic housings.
    They were listed in sites related to gold mining.
    They work well and we're not that expensive.
    Just look up or Google " Sifting Screens "
    Or " Sieve Sets"
    Mine are the 6" stackable
    I only bought the sizes
    10, 20,30,40,50,and 60
    They have worked great for me.
    Last edited by LAGS; 09-30-2022 at 11:55 PM.

  16. #6136
    Boolit Master
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    One thing I found that works pretty good for making more 2 and 3 F per batch is.
    The stuff you sift out and won't pass thru say a #10 screen or what is 1F.
    Don't run it thru your grinder.
    Instead,
    Put it back in your tumbler Without any Media and retumble it for a while.
    It will reduce the size a bit and turn a lot of it into #2 or 3F.
    It won't turn All the 1F into 2 and 3.
    But for the most part I haven't had it reduce that much into 4F unless the powder is not that dense.
    I have only done this on Corned Powder and am not sure it will work as well on screened powder.

  17. #6137
    Boolit Buddy
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    Great information LAGS! Anything to reduce fines is a good thing!

    Indian Joe, I bet you're right on the commercial. I actually use <12 >24 for 2F. and <24 >50 for 3F. Just because those are my best screens. ha
    Last edited by DoubleBuck; 10-01-2022 at 03:36 AM.

  18. #6138
    Quote Originally Posted by glockky View Post
    Where do you get your screens?
    I bought those screens on Amazon and they are really nicely made stainless steel, but they were also almost $50 each.

    I shake the stack on the modified brass tumbler in the picture and it makes the sifting quick and easy.

  19. #6139
    I have a new project for myself. I want to increase my 4f percentage, decrease my 3f percentage and hopefully not significantly increase my fines percentage. With where I have my mill and grinder set now I've been getting 65% 3f, 15% 4f and 20% fines. Anything bigger than 3f gets reground. Here's why I want to make a change:

    I have two flintlocks that work much better with a 4f charge than with a 3f charge. I get way too many pan flashes with 3f on those rifles, but they do much better with 4f. I've noticed this a while ago and since I'm kind of a compulsive record keeper I was able to get solid conformation by looking back through my spreadsheets on range data.

    Using 3f with the mountain rifle I had 38 pan flashes out of 313 shots which is 12%, but with 4f I had 3 flashes in 59 shots for 5%, a significant improvement.

    The difference is much more pronounced with my kentucky rifle as with 3f I had 36 flashes out of 211 shots for 17%, but with 4f I had only 1 out of 115 shots, so less than 1%.

    Since I already have a good bit of 3f made I'll try regrinding that first before I try different grinder settings with a new batch of powder.

    If nothing else it'll give me something to play with this winter as I try to fine tune my granule size percentages.

  20. #6140
    I like 2f down the barrel but I've tried that, 3f and 4f in the pan. I get way better ignition with the 4f. Almost 100%. Also I bump the stock after priming to drift the priming powder toward and into the vent. I screen for the 2f, regrind anything coarser than that and anything finer than 2f gets reprocessed unless I need some 4f for priming powder and that will get screened out.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check