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Thread: My homemade black powder

  1. #3961
    Boolit Buddy
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    I pressed some more pucks last night to prep some powder for my charcoal temperature experiment. My aluminum pie plate was destroyed last time I made pucks, I cut an aluminum can to create a pressing sheet to go over the steel press plate. I thought it might create a little better seal at the bottom of the dye sleeve. It does seem to have worked a bit better, but it destroys the aluminum sheet every round of pucks I press. I noticed that you need to have the piston going in to the sleeve as straight as possible if there is any can't to it at all, it tends to allow the pucks to flow out the bottom of the sleeve on the side where the Piston is a little higher. Itwill start to flow out a bit over the first 10 minute press, and then releasing the pressure and repressing just allows that process to get worse.

    Since I don't have metal machining capabilities, I was thinking that maybe I could make a fixture to hold the sleep down tight to the pressing plate surface. I'll start with just using a hole saw on a piece of wood and then slipping that piece of wood over the top of the sleeve and use a c-clamp on each side of it holding the wood and the sleeve firmly onto the pressing plate. I'm not sure if the wood would be able to stand up to the forces on it after I start pressing, but it's a start.

    As for my experiment, I used a cedar picket from the hardware store and made some charcoal from it with the flame as low as possible, and this is what gave me the charcoal with some of it being a dark brown. That charcoal was a yield of 40% by weight. I also took some of that same picket and made another round of charcoal at a really high temperature, to wear the can was glowing a dull red. This charcoal was done cooking much faster, and gave a 30% yield by weight. I read in one of the links above that a yield of around 25% by weight usually contains little to no volatiles. So, this should give a decent view on how the two extremes would affect velocity and dirtiness when shooting.

  2. #3962
    Boolit Man
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    I'd like to make a huge shoutout, to Paramax, and VettePilot, and HighUintas, as well as anyone else, bringing up the pressing of pucks, without water!
    I pressed a half pound of pucks, yesterday afternoon and last night, using no water. I did four ounces per press, with a divider in the middle, which I made out of a two gallon Rotella oil jug. They worked very well. I pressed them with a 20 ton press pretty well maxed out. I checked them every 15 minutes, and would add a pump, or more, as needed. I left them for one hour and 30 minutes. They were so tight, I had to press the pucks out of the die. You talking about hard pucks!!!! They were nearly mirror shiny and the hardest pucks I've ever pressed!
    I just got done, grinding and screening the smallest one, and it took me longer than any one I've ever finished. The grains are so hard, I got down to a half teaspoon and had to grind them four times, to finish. I'm highly impressed!
    HighUintas sent me some Paulownia wood, to see if it would work for me. I can't wait to see what it does. We'll see soon!

  3. #3963
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleBuck View Post
    I'd like to make a huge shoutout, to Paramax, and VettePilot, and HighUintas, as well as anyone else, bringing up the pressing of pucks, without water!
    I pressed a half pound of pucks, yesterday afternoon and last night, using no water. I did four ounces per press, with a divider in the middle, which I made out of a two gallon Rotella oil jug. They worked very well. I pressed them with a 20 ton press pretty well maxed out. I checked them every 15 minutes, and would add a pump, or more, as needed. I left them for one hour and 30 minutes. They were so tight, I had to press the pucks out of the die. You talking about hard pucks!!!! They were nearly mirror shiny and the hardest pucks I've ever pressed!
    I just got done, grinding and screening the smallest one, and it took me longer than any one I've ever finished. The grains are so hard, I got down to a half teaspoon and had to grind them four times, to finish. I'm highly impressed!
    HighUintas sent me some Paulownia wood, to see if it would work for me. I can't wait to see what it does. We'll see soon!
    Glad it worked well for you. Be aware that the humidity in the air is a factor as well, so you might want to make note of what it was when you made this batch. (Weather history for your area for when you did the pressing?)

    How did your density come out?

    Vettepilot
    "Those who sacrifice freedom for security, have neither."
    Benjamin Franklin. (A very wise man!)

  4. #3964
    Vettepilot - My die set is very similar to your picture. Of course I don't have the set screws, but I also don't have the step on the bottom puck, either. For me, it works better without the step. When it's done pressing, I'll put the whole thing on a bearing separator, stick it back in the press, and press everything out of the bottom of the sleeve. The "lip" between the bottom puck and the sleeve gives me something to rest the bearing separator on. I'm not saying it's the best way - just the way I made up as I went along. I'm just putting it out there for information.

  5. #3965
    Boolit Man
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vettepilot View Post
    Glad it worked well for you. Be aware that the humidity in the air is a factor as well, so you might want to make note of what it was when you made this batch. (Weather history for your area for when you did the pressing?)

    How did your density come out?

    Vettepilot
    I ran out of my Graf and Son's Swiss powder, about three months ago, and don't have a way to compare the density, by a volume/weight. And every puck I made was not uniform. Two have a concave on one side and flat, on the other, with varying edge heights. Pretty hard to tell, without dressing up the edge, until it is flat on both sides. My brother has some Graf powder I got for him, and will pick up some, for this purpose, when I go see him, hopefully sometime soon. It is from the same lot, that I had, when I used it as a benchmark for my early tests. Then, I can at least use a comparative. I may get industrious and see if I could straighten up one puck and try to get an accurate measurement. After thinking about it, I had one one ounce puck, that was very uniform, because it was on bottom and I turned the piston, on top of it, to level it out. Of course, that is the one I broke up, instead of measuring. Until then, I would be merely speculating, on density.
    I do monitor the temp and humidity. When I started it was 78 and 50%. When I finished, it was about 71 and 63%. I also put all the pucks in the dehydrator, at 160 for three hours, and the nearly 8 ounces of powder lost 1.3 grams of weight. I left them in for one more hour and they quit dropping weight, so I assume they were dryer than the atmosphere. They are most definitely the hardest pucks I've ever broke up.
    I have video and pictures of the three burn rate tests, that I make on most of my powder, and clean tests I make. I guess this site won't let me post them, without a link. So, if you take my word for it, I can tell you it was slow green meal and fresh dried and screened was much faster, but the finished powder was the third fastest I've ever made and cleaned up a great deal. I can't wait to shoot a group and check them out, which may happen tomorrow.
    On my linear tester, it burned in 1.7 seconds. The fastest powder I have made burned in 36 frames, at 30 Frames per second. My second fastest burned in 1.3 seconds and my third in 1.4. So, the Paulownia is definitely quick. It has some big shoes to out perform my Sassafras, and the Balsa, but it is right up there!

  6. #3966
    Boolit Master
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    We'll be waiting on those shooting tests! Nice work.

    Wow. Balsa? That stuff is expensive, and it must take a ton of it to get a usable amount of charcoal!! I have heard it's fast though...

    My brother in law has a bunch of old sun shades lying around here, made of very small diameter bamboo. (Think coffee stir stick diameter.) I keep eyeballing those things, wanting to turn them into charcoal. They just might "disappear" one of these days! ;~)

    Vettepilot
    Last edited by Vettepilot; 06-05-2021 at 07:15 AM.
    "Those who sacrifice freedom for security, have neither."
    Benjamin Franklin. (A very wise man!)

  7. #3967
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vettepilot View Post
    We'll be waiting on those shooting tests! Nice work.

    Wow. Balsa? That stuff is expensive, and it must take a ton of it to get a usable amount of charcoal!! I have heard it's fast though...

    My brother in law has a bunch of old sun shades lying around here, made of very small diameter bamboo. (Think coffee stir stick diameter.) I keep eyeballing those things, wanting to turn them into charcoal. They just might "disappear" one of these days! ;~)

    Vettepilot
    I think I read somewhere that someone tried it and it was no good. But, their process may have been no good!

  8. #3968
    Boolit Master
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    Yeah, I've read that bamboo is mediocre, but everytime I see those rolled up sun shades lying around here gathering dust, I'm still tempted to try it.

    Perhaps you're right; they didn't use it properly. Because it seems to meet that broad general description of a light, fast growing type of wood.... who knows?

    ;~)

    Vettepilot
    "Those who sacrifice freedom for security, have neither."
    Benjamin Franklin. (A very wise man!)

  9. #3969
    Boolit Man
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    VettePilot;
    I also read the bamboo was weak, but that wouldn't keep me from trying it. The block of Balsa I was given was 4" x 4" x 6". I only used about half of it, to make a batch. It is expensive, but my next step is to get with a factory, in Colorado and see what they do with their saw dust and waste, at the mill. If a guy could by 10 or so pounds of dust... I also saw that Balsa is not all what we see model airplanes, etc. made from. They say the center is no good and the density runs from very light, to pretty heavy. So, I don't know what part my block is made from. It is very light, in your hand, is about all I know. It makes some killer fast powder and will power a bullet, for sure.
    I pressed one puck, from the Paulownia, and tried to make it as uniform as possible. I let it set for the hour and 1/2, with 20 tons on it, and made some measurements with Micrometers. It is still a few thousandths thicker or thinner, in places on the edge. So, I took five thickness measurements on it and averaged them, weighed it, then plugged in the formula. I got 1.6163 Grams per CC density. That may not be exact, but I'm thinking pretty close. I'm going to break one more puck up and see if I can at least shoot 10 or so, this evening. I hurt my back yesterday and have been laying around feeling sorry for me, today. haha

  10. #3970
    Boolit Mold henryinpanama's Avatar
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    "a light, fast growing type of wood"
    Bamboo isn't wood, it's a grass. Maybe that makes a difference. I have a few ounces of bamboo charcoal, and plan to give it a try.
    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

  11. #3971
    Boolit Master
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    Have any of you guys that make charcoal out of different woods done any testing to see how the different woods compare to each other as per Weight to Volume.
    That possibly could be a way of selecting your wood for charcoal.
    We compare the finished powder to others by weight to volume.
    So why not compare the charcoal.
    That could end up being a factor in the finished product comparison.
    IE.
    Does Willow charcoal weigh the same per volume as other woods
    The lighter the charcoal , could be more volume .

  12. #3972
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by LAGS View Post
    Have any of you guys that make charcoal out of different woods done any testing to see how the different woods compare to each other as per Weight to Volume.
    That possibly could be a way of selecting your wood for charcoal.
    We compare the finished powder to others by weight to volume.
    So why not compare the charcoal.
    That could end up being a factor in the finished product comparison.
    IE.
    Does Willow charcoal weigh the same per volume as other woods
    The lighter the charcoal , could be more volume .
    There was some discussion on that wayyy back in this thread. I don't know if it provided much conclusion on that relationship though

  13. #3973
    Boolit Master
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    Meanwhile.... Indian Joe, (and likely others), are sitting back, shaking their heads and thinking "JEEEZZ!!" "Just make it and shoot it for Pete's sake!!" "KISS" (Keep it simple Stupid!)

    And they would be right. Entire wars were fought with powder made simply. But it IS fun to experiment and play....

    Looking forward to more shooting test results. It's WAY too hot to do anything at all outside here now already. Hopefully soon I'll have some things done and will be able to pack my daughter and I up to head to the high country for some camping and serious shooting---> If the fire season doesn't start first and put the "squash" on that plan!!

    I hate the southwest, and REALLY need to head to parts much farther north to live. It's just that it's a daunting thought/prospect being a disabled old fart now... :~(

    Vettepilot
    Last edited by Vettepilot; 06-05-2021 at 08:24 PM.
    "Those who sacrifice freedom for security, have neither."
    Benjamin Franklin. (A very wise man!)

  14. #3974
    Boolit Man
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    Quote Originally Posted by LAGS View Post
    Have any of you guys that make charcoal out of different woods done any testing to see how the different woods compare to each other as per Weight to Volume.
    That possibly could be a way of selecting your wood for charcoal.
    We compare the finished powder to others by weight to volume.
    So why not compare the charcoal.
    That could end up being a factor in the finished product comparison.
    IE.
    Does Willow charcoal weigh the same per volume as other woods
    The lighter the charcoal , could be more volume .
    LAGS;
    I have not actually weighed the wood, before cooking. Silly of me, in one way, because, I always weigh the charcoal, to see how much powder it will make. HighUintas told me the other day, that he weighs both the wood and the charcoal, because he is experimenting with how high temps and low cooking temps affect the charcoal. I bet he can add more to the subject. It's a worthy question. I do know, that, by volume, the Balsa charcoal was dang near airfloat, when I took it out of the retort. You could blow on a piece, and roll it around, easy. When grinding it up, which I do by hand; it had to be done with nearly zero air flow, because a breeze would blow it away, right now. It made me a pretty good mess, in Mama's kitchen, and took me a minute to clean up, afterwards. A month later, she was cleaning a shelf and showed me the sponge, which was supposed to be light yellow and was pretty close to black. ha. I've since switched to the well house, to do almost all my powder steps. Now, she's trying to wean me off her best strainer, which works perfect for the first screen. If I sneak it out, she don't seem to miss it.

  15. #3975
    Boolit Master
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    Happy woman= happy marriage. Except nobody's ever figured out how to keep them happy!!

    ;~)

    Vettepilot
    "Those who sacrifice freedom for security, have neither."
    Benjamin Franklin. (A very wise man!)

  16. #3976
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleBuck View Post
    LAGS;
    I have not actually weighed the wood, before cooking. Silly of me, in one way, because, I always weigh the charcoal, to see how much powder it will make. HighUintas told me the other day, that he weighs both the wood and the charcoal, because he is experimenting with how high temps and low cooking temps affect the charcoal. I bet he can add more to the subject. It's a worthy question. I do know, that, by volume, the Balsa charcoal was dang near airfloat, when I took it out of the retort. You could blow on a piece, and roll it around, easy. When grinding it up, which I do by hand; it had to be done with nearly zero air flow, because a breeze would blow it away, right now. It made me a pretty good mess, in Mama's kitchen, and took me a minute to clean up, afterwards. A month later, she was cleaning a shelf and showed me the sponge, which was supposed to be light yellow and was pretty close to black. ha. I've since switched to the well house, to do almost all my powder steps. Now, she's trying to wean me off her best strainer, which works perfect for the first screen. If I sneak it out, she don't seem to miss it.
    I make decent size batches of stuff then stash it for later - one cycle per year keeps us shooting - charcoal I grind in a meat grinder then to airfloat in the ball mill , then it goes in airtight screw top containers - fill em up, lid on, dump it down to settle contents, rinse and repeat several times - I cram as much air float coal in there as I can get, seal it with duck tape, come back six months later and ........that stuff has settled down and now theres two inches of airspace at top of the container ......I dont reckon weighing the wood or the pressed pucks is much advantage - I check weigh a 45/70 case full to the top - drop tubed, tapped down ten times, vs same with commercial powder (I have Goex 5FA from way back when = before they blew the Moosic Pa plant )

  17. #3977
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vettepilot View Post
    Happy woman= happy marriage. Except nobody's ever figured out how to keep them happy!!

    ;~)

    Vettepilot
    Happy is an internal thing .... no one can make someone else happy - thats a game that never ends - and each test we fail leads to another, and another bigger than the last. In the end you hand over over your cojones on a plate and its still not enough. Man up at the start and pass the first test - life gets easy. I got lucky at the start. (she hates guns - happily does the secretary treasurer job for our blackpowder club) - none of the above is a licence to be an a$$ O ----------------------I bought my own strainers and figured out how to lube boolits without stinking up the kitchen

  18. #3978
    Boolit Master
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    Yep!! What he said!



    Vettepilot
    "Those who sacrifice freedom for security, have neither."
    Benjamin Franklin. (A very wise man!)

  19. #3979
    Boolit Master
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    Amazing! I had read a couple of times, somewheres, that they really don't quite understand exactly how black powder works; performs it's magic, even today. I thought bullcrap! Somebody knows! A compound that's been around for over a thousand years!!?? With today's advanced scientific analytical techniques?? Gas spectrum imaging, electron microscopes that can image at the atomic level, super high speed photography, data analyzing via super computer, etc., etc., etc.??? I don't believe we don't understand the magic of Holy Black, even today!!

    Well, apparently it's actually somewhat true!! Digging into GOVERNMENT, "no holds barred" studies, reveals that basically we still don't actually understand it fully. What makes it work so well, what makes it better or worse in manufacture and exactly why, etc., etc. That's amazing!! Maybe it truly is "Holy".

    It's really quite illuminating reading the government studies on BP, and how far in depth the studies are in trying to divulge the secrets of this over one thousand year old miracle compound! Wow!

    Vettepilot
    "Those who sacrifice freedom for security, have neither."
    Benjamin Franklin. (A very wise man!)

  20. #3980
    Boolit Man
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    I think someone took my joke as a serious marital flaw.

    This is my new puck processing system. These new no water pucks are too hard to bust, without making that mess I was talking about. They shoot shards ten feet. So, I saw someone talk about making one of these, and they are the drizzlin's. Cost me seven bucks for the caps and I had the PVC laying by the shop.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by DoubleBuck; 06-07-2021 at 03:52 AM.

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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