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Making black powder (meal powder) in the UK


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#1 James

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 09:23 PM

Hi all,

I'm really hoping some of you can shed a light on all this. I understand in the USA it seems quite legal to do some personal pyrotechnic experimentation - there are many website supply raw ingredients. My question is regarding the UK specifically.

Some time ago I was in a position to set up my own fireworks display company - but finding the ACTUAL legal requirements for this were near on impossible - it was certainly impossible to get a concensus view of the requirements. The were conflicting answers from local council - the firebrigade and many other sources.

I have a heavily scientific backgroup (PhD in Biochemistry) and have always loved pyrotechnics. I have always wanted to make a 2" or so shell with blue stars/ willows (which I love when they have really long trails) and have always fascinated at the chemistry involved. Britain seems to have gone 'terror mad' and it's a real shame that politics in Britain seems to be excluding people with genuine intention to make some lovely home made fireworks.

My question is; it's really easy to get hold of KNO3, sulphur and carbon sources, and indeed a ball mill - the process of making black powder can be done quite safely with enough care - but IS THIS LEGAL IN THE UK?

I researched this some time ago and I did get a hint that making a small quantity WAS in fact legal - but there were no definates or documentation to say how much (at least as far as I could find). I was tempted to just make a bit and if the men with black coats turn up at the door - just see what happened next - as this seemed like to only REAL way of getting the TRUTH about whether it was illegal or not.

I'm a little bit older now, and more maturer and would love to do this as a little hobby - but I don't want a TERROR label on my head and get 'banged up'. Incidently I'm British born and would probably not get the racist-driven label as a terrorist.

However - is it true that in the UK we CAN legally make a bit of black powder - pack it into a tube with some glitter or something - make a fuse - pop it in - and enjoy a bit of home-made pyro.

If so - HOW much am I legally able to make? Frankly due to safety I would never make more than I need - so let's say I wanted to make a 2" shell with blue stars - would this be legal? Let's say I wanted to make a 4oz skyrocket - would that be legal?

PLEASE shed some light on this - as my hobby has been on pause for a very long time and I'd really like to develop this art form.

Best Wishes to you all, I look forward to your replies.

James :)

PS. All advice and information specifically to the above would be appreciated - also any information about clubs/ societies/ organisations that I should join would also be appreciated. I live in Manchester, UK

#2 TheExplosionist

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 10:59 PM

You can make 100 grams for experimentation without licenses.
With a license you can effectively store 25kg of blackpower in a suitable container.
If you set them off on the official events no-one could tell if its homemade unless its insanely powerful.

#3 James

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 12:09 PM

You can make 100 grams for experimentation without licenses.
With a license you can effectively store 25kg of blackpower in a suitable container.
If you set them off on the official events no-one could tell if its homemade unless its insanely powerful.


Hey - thanks for the reply - that's fantastic news!

option 1) Does this mean that I can make 100g of black powder - make a firework with it - and then make another 100g of black powder and make another firework.

option s) Or does that mean - make 100g - make a firework - set it off... and then make another 100g.

I am guessing that option 1 actually constitutes 'storage' of the black powder in a firework so isn't legal? Please could you clarify this for me - am I correct in assuming there would be no legal way of making a whole fireworks display worth without a licence?

If so - how do I get such a license - who do I get in touch with.

to be honest - initially I have no intention of making over 100g at a time - as I reakon a nice firework can be made with that and personally with fireworks for me - small and beautiful is as good as big and powerful.

Please enlighten me - this forum is EXCELLENT!

Thanks
James

PS. I have read on this forum Inoxia is a good place for raw chemicals - is this a legit good site to buy from or are there better sites?

#4 portfire

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 02:30 PM

Hi james and welcome to the forum :)

I afraid the 100g limit (no more at anyone time) is for explosive substances only.Putting it into a tube it becomes an explosive device which im afraid to say is illegal,even if it's a nice fountain.

Also in the eyes of the law the 100g you've just made cannot be stored (i think),as it dosn't constitute as being an experiment.

these links should help
http://www.hse.gov.u...rms/exguide.pdf

http://www.opsi.gov....05/20051082.htm

I hope i havn't ruined your day.My advice is mix only what you need and work on a make/shoot basis.The law is not after the hobbyist,there after people who just want to "blow shit up",(i remember one member putting that in his interests) with no thought for safety or the science behind the art of making fireworks.

I hope iv been of some help
regards
dean :)

Edited by portfire, 27 March 2007 - 08:54 PM.

"I reject your reality and substitute my own" Adam Savage

#5 James

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 09:56 PM

Thanks so much for the information Dean and thanks for the welcome. This forum seems to be filled with true pyro enthusiasts who have very honest intention - and that is to simply enjoy the wonders of small scale chemistry with reference to fireworks.

To be honest - I'm not up for blowing myself up - let alone anything else. I'm quite sure 100g will be quite enough to make a nice fountain.

Am I correct in saying then that it IS legal to make 100g of black powder - make a small firework out of it - and enjoy the fruits of careful labour by lighting it and enjoying it?

... and then make another 100g of black powder and try to make a better fountain with it?

ONE more question please. Would it then be legal to make a fountain who's weight it say 150g of which 100g is black powder (say there is 50g of glitter composition in it). Does this 100g literally mean - just 100g of black powder and then you can ADD whatever you want to that to make it more pretty/colourful/interesting?

Would such a fountain then be illegal IF the glitter composition CONTAINED black powder in it?

Best Wishes and thanks for your advice - I really look forward to learning all this stuff from the forum.

Thanks
James

#6 BrightStar

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 02:41 AM

ONE more question please. Would it then be legal to make a fountain who's weight it say 150g of which 100g is black powder (say there is 50g of glitter composition in it). Does this 100g literally mean - just 100g of black powder and then you can ADD whatever you want to that to make it more pretty/colourful/interesting?

Hi James. It's good to see another scientist on the forum!

Regarding the dream of making a complete display, this is not currently possible. The UKPS aims to lobby the HSE for a waiver allowing small scale manufacture, so I do suggest joining the society to support this.

The reference to the unlicensed manufacture of 100g composition comes from the UK MSER regulations, intended to facilitate university and other research. Yes, you can legally mix this much composition. No distinction is made between BP and other fuel/oxidiser mixes, so this is a total mass including any additives. You are not allowed to store or practically 'deploy' but can test it. I think you could successfully argue that consolidating it into a tube is a necessary part of the test, as would be repeated attempts at improvements over time. As you say, 100g is plenty when starting out (see my 12g titanium gerb in the fountain formula section as an example).

Within the complex UK legal framework, the amateur pyrotechnician is certainly working close to the limits of what is possible. The UKPS is working hard on a guide to this. In the meantime, be open and honest with the powers that be, take all possible safety precautions, join the society and enjoy the hobby - cautiously!

Edited by BrightStar, 29 March 2007 - 08:45 PM.


#7 c-lab

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 05:10 PM

Hi James. It's good to see another scientist on the forum!

Regarding the dream of making a complete display, this is not currently possible. The UKPS aims to lobby the HSE for a waiver allowing small scale manufacture, so I do suggest joining the society to support this.

The reference to the unlicensed manufacture of 100g composition comes from the UK MSER regulations, intended to facilitate university and other research. Yes, you can legally mix this much composition. No distinction is made between BP and other fuel/oxidiser mixes, so this is a total mass including any additives. You are not allowed to store or practically 'deploy' but can test it. I think you could successfully argue that consolidating it into a tube is a necessary part of the test, as would be repeated attempts at improvements over time. As you say, 100g is plenty when starting out (see my 12g titanium gerb in the fountain formula section as an example).

Within the complex UK legal framework, the amateur pyrotechnician is certainly working close to the limits of what is possible. The UKPS is working hard on a guide to this. In the meantime, be open and honest with the powers that be, take all possible safety precautions, join the society and enjoy the hobby - cautiously!

I would just like to add that yes it is legal to make 100g of bp without a licence it is rather dangerous. Storing bp is very risky due to accidental ignition or its quality deteriating. I do advise all who are considering this that they think again!

#8 Wyvern

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 06:14 PM

I would just like to add that yes it is legal to make 100g of bp without a licence it is rather dangerous. Storing bp is very risky due to accidental ignition or its quality deteriating. I do advise all who are considering this that they think again!


I would totaly disagree with this, as long as the proper safety precautions are taken making BP it is not as dangerous as you make out, as for storage i disagree again as long as you store the BP in a safe manner away from any form of ignition in an airtight container to keep the moisture out. BP also doesnt degrade over any short period of time (i had some bp stored for over 7 months and there was no degradation in the burn rate). Some of the devices we make can use 100g at a time.

#9 Skarphedin

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 07:46 AM

I would just like to add that yes it is legal to make 100g of bp without a licence it is rather dangerous. Storing bp is very risky due to accidental ignition or its quality deteriating. I do advise all who are considering this that they think again!


BP does NOT detoriate quickly. I have recently used BP that was stored about 50 years (used in a muzzleloader shotgun by my grandfather). It was stored in the paper tubes from the manufacturer (100 gram packages) in a shed with temperatures probably in the range -30 to +30 degrees celcius over the years and with variable humidity.

BP is also very stable. Just keep it away from sparks, flames, areas with lots of static electricity. Store it in a lightweight container made of paper, cardboard, plastic bags (some think it is a static risk), or lightweight metal containers designed for bp storage. Do NOT use glass, thick walled metal, heavy plastic. It is also a good idea to store it in a non inhabitated building where children and no one but you have access.
You may have problems with insurance in case of a fire if you store BP in your home (not to mention the risks of those that try to stop the fire).

#10 Rip Rap

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 08:30 AM

I would just like to add that yes it is legal to make 100g of bp without a licence it is rather dangerous. Storing bp is very risky due to accidental ignition or its quality deteriating. I do advise all who are considering this that they think again!


Quantities of B.P. have been stored for centuries (literally) at a time & when tested, have shown little or no deterioation. As long as the storage conditions are correct, deterioation isn't an issue. You should stop giving advice about subjects you have little knowledge. Pyrotechnics is definately no place for people with limited experience, handing out "advice".

Edited by Rip Rap, 25 May 2007 - 08:31 AM.

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