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Black Powder

First made by the Chinese for use in fireworks, black powder was first used in weapons and explosives
in the 12th century. It is very simple to make, but it is not very powerful or safe. Only about 50% of
black powder is converted to hot gasses when it is burned; the other half is mostly very fine burned
particles. Black powder has one major problem: it can be ignited by static electricity. This is very
bad, and it means that the material must be made with wooden or clay tools. Anyway, a misguided
individual could manufacture black powder at home with the following procedure:
MATERIALS EQUIPMENT

potassium clay grinding bowl
nitrate (75 g) and clay grinder

or or

sodium wooden salad bowl
nitrate (75 g) and wooden spoon

sulfur (10 g) plastic bags (3)

charcoal (15 g) 300-500 ml beaker (1)

distilled water coffee pot or heat source
1. Place a small amount of the potassium or sodium nitrate in the grinding bowl and grind it to a
very fine powder. Do this to all of the potassium or sodium nitrate, and store the ground powder
in one of the plastic bags.
2. Do the same thing to the sulfur and charcoal, storing each chemical in a separate plastic bag.
3. Place all of the finely ground potassium or sodium nitrate in the beaker, and add just enough
boiling water to the chemical to get it all wet.
4. Add the contents of the other plastic bags to the wet potassium or sodium nitrate, and mix them
well for several minutes. Do this until there is no more visible sulfur or charcoal, or until the
mixture is universally black.
5. On a warm sunny day, put the beaker outside in the direct sunlight. Sunlight is really the best
way to dry black powder, since it is never too hot, but it is hot enough to evaporate the water.
6. Scrape the black powder out of the beaker, and store it in a safe container. Plastic is really the
safest container, followed by paper. Never store black powder in a plastic bag, since plastic bags
are prone to generate static electricity.