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Making Black Powder


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#31 starseeker

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 05:32 PM

hello to you all again... i've tried to go one step better by using willow instead of hardwood decking which is what i've been using until now. i went to a public park, while it was dark and raining, chopped teh branch of a willow tree and dragged it home. i chopped it into foot long pieces, about 2" diameter, and put four of those pieces in an airtight metal tin, threw it in a fire for hours until it stopped smoking, then let cool, and crushed the charcoal. i mixed some new BP using this willow charcoal, i milled fo rabout an hour, just to see if it was going to prove more efficient or not, and when i went to light, it wouldn't. i lit with a blowtorch and is burned for about 10 seconds, a marble sized pile.

i did my process exactly the same as normal, just with different wood. i'm thinking maybe it may have been a few remaining bits of bentonite, as that's what i was milling last, or perhaps that i cut it off a tree, so it was still too alive. throw your ideas at me... thankyou.

By the sounds of things,you probably cooked you charcoal for to long,once the vent stops smoking,block the vent and allow to cool.Over cooking your charcoal will ruin it.

Vince.

#32 Gazza

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 07:01 PM

Out in the sticks, where wild trees are abundant, you have a much smaller chance of getting caught hacking down trees. I source my willow charcoal from a local fishing lake in the Wealden area of East Sussex, in the middle of nowhere. I use the bark- I have made fantastic BP, H3 and KP from it.
Apparently, the bark should not be used, as it contains all manner of impurites, but I have produced my best charcoal from willow bark.
I have also tried carbonised sugar, but it was crap-the product had properties closer to graphite than charcoal. Another good charcoal material is rye straw.
When you 'cook' your charcoal, do so at a relatively low temperature, in the absence of air. When no more smoke and gasses are produced (by the way, it is best to ignite the gasses, because a major product of charcoal pyrolysis is carbon monoxide!), plug-up the air holes and leave for a couple of days to cool.

#33 W.P

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 08:13 PM

I source my Willow and Alder from a place which creates high quality charcoal: http://www.charcoaldust.co.uk . That way I don't have to be running around parks with panel saws like the rest of you madmen!

#34 Techohead

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 08:21 PM

Us aussies 'are' a bunch of madmen running around with panel saws, because here we can't "just duck down to our local hardware store and buy a few kilo's of BP" or "go to our local pharmacy and ask for 10kilo's of permanganate." We've got to do all we do from scratch... because in australia, noone helps us with pyro, except each other, (fellow pyros)

When i obtain more willow... i think i will strip the bark, and leave it in the sun for a few days, to well and truly kill it first, then cut into pieces and charcoal. i shall let you all know if i have more luck than last time...

Edited by Techohead, 29 October 2007 - 08:22 PM.


#35 Arthur Brown

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 08:25 PM

From an old text, the charcoal should be about 80% carbon, the rest is the heavy aromatics that give each type of wood it's own character as charcoal. There really is lots on here and elsewhere about the historic significance and uses of types of charcoal. Beware anything with rye charcoal as this is called cocoa powder and is more sensitive to accidental ignition, -that's why it isnt used commercially any more.

Please research the subject deeply, buy at least one book, some online sources are less accurate than others.
http://www.movember.com/uk/home/

Keep mannequins and watermelons away from fireworks..they always get hurt..

#36 W.P

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 08:44 PM

If you ask nicely most pyro shops will actually import chemicals into Australia for you and label them accordingly as to pass through customs. However, you must realise how illegal that is.

#37 Andrew

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 09:41 PM

www.charcoaldust.co.uk


That's ludicrously expensive. I'm glad I make my own now!

The author of the web site also says that Alder is "faster" than Willow????? Alder is far more consistent than Willow, but the best Willow is "faster" than Alder. At those prices you'd expect the author to know what they were saying! :blink: On the whole, I've found that if you have the patience to sift through the Willow wood you've collected and make sure you only use the 'reddish' coloured wood, your Willow quality will be fantastic, no matter how hot/long you cook it.

#38 Mumbles

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 05:33 AM

I've seen more than one source state that the best alder will out preform the best willow. I suppose it may just depend on the sources available to said authors. Truth be told it depends on waaaaaaaay too many factors to definitively state one is better than the other. The over 300 willow species aside, there are even more variables than that. Willow grown near where I live will in theory be slower than willow grown, in say the south of the US. I live on a giant limestone bed, thus increasing ash content, a large detractor of speed.

I still don't get the big deal about X charcoal is faster than Y charcoal. When you get to the high end of the scale as the charcoals we're talking about here, the extra 1/20th of a second of one charcoal as opposed to the other reallly makes no difference.

Edited by Mumbles, 30 October 2007 - 05:49 AM.


#39 W.P

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 05:43 AM

That's ludicrously expensive.


I understand that however I don't have the patience nor the time to find specific trees to cut branches off. It's more like paying for the convenience.

I've seen more than one source state that the best alder will out preform the best willow. I suppose it may just depend on the sources available to said authors.


That's certainly the case with their charcoals, their Alder out performs their Willow. When making 4 oz core burner motors using green mix with alder charcoal I have to have a nozzle no smaller than 2/3rds the the case ID. I'm tempted to mill together a batch to attempt one of DJ's nozzle-less motors but need to turn the appropriate tooling.

#40 Andrew

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 11:13 AM

I've seen more than one source state that the best alder will out preform the best willow.


I've seen many too. In my experience of running found with an axe :ph34r: Alder is far more consistent, in that the wood itself is very uniform; charcoaling the whole lot make no difference to quality. With Willow, only the outer red wood makes good charcoal for BP. This is more mature, harder and dries faster. Willow has a large pith like centre, that is more prone to not drying, then sprouting mushrooms! I've found that charcoaling the whole lot detracts from the quality. Being picky makes good charcoal, when making it commercially though, this is not economically viable; this along with greater repeatability gives the preference to Alder.

The best/fastest BP I've ever made is by using Plum Charcoal. Unfortunately Plum grows very slowly.

#41 Gazza

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 01:04 PM

I've got a plum tree close to me; I think I'll sneek out tonight armed with my chainsaw and chop it down! :D
Has anyone experimented with the more exotic woods for their charcoal? How about eucalyptus?
Conifers-pines, spruces, firs, cedar, etc?
Other broadleaved species- oak, lime, maple, beech, etc?
From my school work experience at Kew Gardens, I know that there are thousands of possbilities.
Who knows, there could be a yet-to-be-discovered wood out there that produces a charcoal far faster than willow or alder?

#42 Gazza

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 03:54 PM

Tonight, I am going to have a try making some charcoal from eucalyptus wood. I have 3 eucalptus trees in my garden- all three are different species (they're the hardy type that can tolerate the cold of the Northern Hemisphere). The smell of the eucalyptol, eugenol and other essential oils....mmmm, nice! They're highly flammable, so I wonder what effect that they would have on the charcoal?
Any Aussies down under who have tried eucalyptus charcoal, please let me know how good (or bad) it is.

#43 Asteroid

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 06:02 PM

I'm guessing that highly flammable part will dissapear with the pyrolysis, and iirc it's quite a high sap content too? Let us know how it goes.

#44 rocket

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 06:37 AM

Iíve never tried eucalyptus, but I donít think it will be any good for BP though I may wrong. Itís the leaves that are flammable as they contain the oils, because of this when thereís a bush fire about you gotta watch out for the fire shooting along the tree tops.

#45 Andrew

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 09:46 AM

I've got a plum tree close to me; I think I'll sneek out tonight armed with my chainsaw and chop it down! :D

Try a saw, it's quieter! :ph34r:

Has anyone experimented with the more exotic woods for their charcoal? How about eucalyptus?
Conifers-pines, spruces, firs, cedar, etc?

Don't know about eucalyptus but these all have very high resin contents. This slows the speed of burning. These are however ideally suited to making orange spark effects, like fountains and tiger tail stars.

Other broadleaved species- oak, lime, maple, beech, etc?

Oak is not too good, the others I don't know.


The perfect charcoal for BP has numerous qualities, to mention a few:
1. Low ash content
2. Low resin content
3. Abundant, sustainable and fast growing source
4. Fast burning
5. Easy to mill
6. Consistent results

A trade off between all these and more will give a 'Perfect' charcoal. However, there will always be room for opinion.




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