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Testing of Two Different Black Powders

Black Powder Pyrochemsource Charcloth Comparison Testing Video Picture

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#1 yardarmwheeze

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Posted 03 March 2021 - 11:32 AM

Hello! For this test I wanted to compare the "airfloat" charcoal from pyrochemsource which I deemed not worth my money, vs something that is common survival and bushcraft knowledge which is charcloth. Charcloth is 100% cotton denim that is charred, this char cloth that I utilized was char cloth that I had created a few months back strictly for the outdoors and fire starting when camping. However, I wanted to know how it would perform as black powder. Charcloth can go up with a single spark, and has a low density. I obviously know that charcoal is a better option via cost and a better quality for a higher quantity, but I was just curious and wanted to do an experiment today. The ratios were the typical 75-15-10 and I do not have a ball mill. Due to this I used a mortar and pestle for 20 minutes straight on each mixture (timed). I then took a half gram each (its on the spoon in the image, notice the lower density of the char which is the bigger pile same weight) and I made a line approximately a half centimeter wide by 18.7 cm long. I put it on paper which probably was a mistake, but since I live at my parents house and I would be a senior in hs (in community college, but I would be a senior right now) I can't just use my fathers boards for building raised beds or anything else in my house since I would get in trouble :glare: (don't worry they let me do this stuff, we got a big backyard) . The black powder did burn at a very constant rate (as I shook it in an enclosed plastic container for five minutes before taking the half gram) and the airfloat mix wasn't affected by the burning of the paper behind it. The pyrochemsource airfloat burned on average around a rate of 2.07cm per second. The other charcloth blackpowder started about at 8 seconds and ended around 12.9 seconds (guesstimating), this is a rate of about 3.82 cm per second. This is honestly straight up doodoo, but I only used the mortar and pestle for about 20 minutes because I didn't want anything going too fast since it could get hard to measure with the course adjustments of Photo Booth. (I need to learn video editing and frames and such, that would be more accurate). Anyways please don't buy that airfloat junk, dropping large quarter dollar (measured accurately by weight of course) chunks of charred denim in a mortar and pestle did almost twice the speed of that trash pre milled airfloat (that was also mortared and pestled). The charcloth wasn't amazing or anything as cotton fiber does contain some oils that aid in burning, but honestly pure cotton denim is overpriced as heck, vs just collecting some softwood around a tree. One stick from a pine tree probably weighs more that 12 bucks per yard of denim. Any other sources of cotton such as cotton balls will give you very little weight or yield back via charring. Cotton sourced char gives bad yield and is expensive to get lets say 1 pound of cotton char vs 1 pound of pine or softwood charcoall. 1 pound of charcoal costs very little to make and gives a better percent yield of stick to charcoal. Imagine the cost of buying 8-12 bucks per 10 ounce yard of 100 percent cotton denim that is probably not as good as pine or willow in terms of bp, and then you get a worse yield of cotton to char, you spend more and get a less quality product. So why did I do this experiment??? Well I had a crap pair of old jeans that were 100 percent cotton and I wanted to show how bad that airfloat stuff is. Also I was bored lol.

 

 Attached File  Pyro Chem Source Charcoal.mov   26.65MB   9 downloads

Attached File  charcloth-test_Eiex3k8F_XSkM.mov   6.14MB   8 downloads

 

Edit- Please wear thick fire retardant gloves when using a mortar and pestle on black powder. You should only do it in small quantities of 10 grams or less preferably. The chances of ignition are still low with a mortar and pestle but better safe than sorry since if it would ignite and you were mixing your hand would be cooked to high hell.

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Edited by yardarmwheeze, 03 March 2021 - 11:57 AM.


#2 SharkWhisperer

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Posted 03 March 2021 - 12:12 PM

If you have a large back yard, then you likely have a grill or firepit, with which you could easily make hot charcoal using a gallon paint can as a retort (sealed oven to bake off. One of the faster charcoals that's easily made (and almost powder when finished instead of sticks is to use the Eastern Red Cedar (ERC) pet bedding chips from Walmart etc. Super cheap for a big bag. Make sure it's ERC-it'll say so usually, it'll have some red chips, and will smell good--or you're probably getting pine. Hot charcoal will cost you a buck or two per pound in the end. Takes about  an hour to  retort an packed gallon of wood chips. There's several tutorials available here and elsewhere and many threads to review. Undercooked=wood pieces intermingled; overcooked or poorly sealed=burnt white ash that has no use. Decent pine charcoal is  easy to make cheaply from Home Depot SPF (spruce/pine/fir) cheap construction-grade 2x4s, and many do. Depending where you are in TX, there's plenty of options for hot burning woods available. You either make your own super hot or sparky stuff yourself, or you pay through the nose to buy from vendors (when available). Even the crummy hardwood airfloat has utility as a slow-burning prime and possibly as fuel in some of the charcoal-based star compositions, but I'd never consider it for rocket fuel or lift. You really need a ball-mill, even a cheapo from Harbor Freight (get the 2-barrel for $10 more). Mortar/pestling will get very old, very fast. Appreciate the folks don't want you spinning complete BP batches near the house, but they're good for safely quickly turning individual powders into dust for screen mixing or, gasp, mortar & pestle mixing of the final compound.


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#3 yardarmwheeze

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Posted 03 March 2021 - 12:36 PM

If you have a large back yard, then you likely have a grill or firepit, with which you could easily make hot charcoal using a gallon paint can as a retort (sealed oven to bake off. One of the faster charcoals that's easily made (and almost powder when finished instead of sticks is to use the Eastern Red Cedar (ERC) pet bedding chips from Walmart etc. Super cheap for a big bag. Make sure it's ERC-it'll say so usually, it'll have some red chips, and will smell good--or you're probably getting pine. Hot charcoal will cost you a buck or two per pound in the end. Takes about  an hour to  retort an packed gallon of wood chips. There's several tutorials available here and elsewhere and many threads to review. Undercooked=wood pieces intermingled; overcooked or poorly sealed=burnt white ash that has no use. Decent pine charcoal is  easy to make cheaply from Home Depot SPF (spruce/pine/fir) cheap construction-grade 2x4s, and many do. Depending where you are in TX, there's plenty of options for hot burning woods available. You either make your own super hot or sparky stuff yourself, or you pay through the nose to buy from vendors (when available). Even the crummy hardwood airfloat has utility as a slow-burning prime and possibly as fuel in some of the charcoal-based star compositions, but I'd never consider it for rocket fuel or lift. You really need a ball-mill, even a cheapo from Harbor Freight (get the 2-barrel for $10 more). Mortar/pestling will get very old, very fast. Appreciate the folks don't want you spinning complete BP batches near the house, but they're good for safely quickly turning individual powders into dust for screen mixing or, gasp, mortar & pestle mixing of the final compound.

Yeah I have a neighbor who was giving out some pine firewood. I might ask for some. I do have some paint cans and I was thinking today before you replied about making some charcoal in my grill. I know how to make char cloth pretty well (take the tin off the flame when there is no flame shooting out of the hole that was punched in the side of the tin, cuz it will start to burn after that, mine went up with one spark) so I will do most likely pretty well with making charcoal. You were right about the airfloat does have a purpose with it's slower burn.You were right about individual compounds, I will bring that up with the folks and they might say yes to that, I know I need a mill bad and I really want one.


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#4 SharkWhisperer

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Posted 03 March 2021 - 01:36 PM

Yeah I have a neighbor who was giving out some pine firewood. I might ask for some. I do have some paint cans and I was thinking today before you replied about making some charcoal in my grill. I know how to make char cloth pretty well (take the tin off the flame when there is no flame shooting out of the hole that was punched in the side of the tin, cuz it will start to burn after that, mine went up with one spark) so I will do most likely pretty well with making charcoal. You were right about the airfloat does have a purpose with it's slower burn.You were right about individual compounds, I will bring that up with the folks and they might say yes to that, I know I need a mill bad and I really want one.

If you can make decent charcloth then you can make decent charcoal. Be sure not to make a mess of your parents' grill, though! You probably know that if you poke a single airhole in the lid, you can minimize smoke (sometimes smelly--neighbors...) release by turning the can upside down so the vapors burn off as they're released. Apart from a cool jet engine sound, it also adds some extra heat that assists the charcoal making process. I aim for moderate temps and a slow controlled conversion, especially with packed ERC chips, so you get complete conversion through to the center of the container without turning the outer layers to ash. Your retort cans won't last forever, but a lower heat will help them last an extra burn or two versus torching them over maximum heat... Pine is good. And useful. But not the fastest. You'll  probably want something a little faster (storebought ERC chips--cheap) or collected woods from nature. Peel sticks before cooking. Standing or downed deadwood (already pretty dry) up to 2" diameter max is what I use, though you  can chop pieces to size. Best results with uniform-sized pieces. Easy. ERC chips go straight to the mill and take no time to turn to dust. Bigger wood pieces need to be hammered in a doubled up gallon (or larger) ziplock or contractor bag to more manageable sizes (including powders) to reduce milling time to get smaller particles. If you can't hammer it to pieces, it's still undercooked wood and won't work for much of anything. For generic airfloat charcoal, commercial lump charcoal is great--Cowboy brand or cheaper Royal Oak. NOT briquettes. Solid lump charcoal--fish around the bag for the lighter/less dense pieces. Works great for star comps, and BP primes, and might even surprise you in burn speed after milling or screen mixing BP. Both companies switch out what woods they source from several countries--country of sourcing is usually listed on the bag's bottom. Occasionally wood type is listed, too. A $10/$20 pound Royal Oak charcoal bag (a little more for Cowboy, that I prefer) will make a lot of generic airfloat charcoal and still leave you some leftover for grilling steaks and burgers. Commercial hardwood airfloat is usually the scraps from the briquette making industry.


Edited by SharkWhisperer, 03 March 2021 - 01:47 PM.

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#5 yardarmwheeze

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Posted 03 March 2021 - 04:32 PM

If you can make decent charcloth then you can make decent charcoal. Be sure not to make a mess of your parents' grill, though! You probably know that if you poke a single airhole in the lid, you can minimize smoke (sometimes smelly--neighbors...) release by turning the can upside down so the vapors burn off as they're released. Apart from a cool jet engine sound, it also adds some extra heat that assists the charcoal making process. I aim for moderate temps and a slow controlled conversion, especially with packed ERC chips, so you get complete conversion through to the center of the container without turning the outer layers to ash. Your retort cans won't last forever, but a lower heat will help them last an extra burn or two versus torching them over maximum heat... Pine is good. And useful. But not the fastest. You'll  probably want something a little faster (storebought ERC chips--cheap) or collected woods from nature. Peel sticks before cooking. Standing or downed deadwood (already pretty dry) up to 2" diameter max is what I use, though you  can chop pieces to size. Best results with uniform-sized pieces. Easy. ERC chips go straight to the mill and take no time to turn to dust. Bigger wood pieces need to be hammered in a doubled up gallon (or larger) ziplock or contractor bag to more manageable sizes (including powders) to reduce milling time to get smaller particles. If you can't hammer it to pieces, it's still undercooked wood and won't work for much of anything. For generic airfloat charcoal, commercial lump charcoal is great--Cowboy brand or cheaper Royal Oak. NOT briquettes. Solid lump charcoal--fish around the bag for the lighter/less dense pieces. Works great for star comps, and BP primes, and might even surprise you in burn speed after milling or screen mixing BP. Both companies switch out what woods they source from several countries--country of sourcing is usually listed on the bag's bottom. Occasionally wood type is listed, too. A $10/$20 pound Royal Oak charcoal bag (a little more for Cowboy, that I prefer) will make a lot of generic airfloat charcoal and still leave you some leftover for grilling steaks and burgers. Commercial hardwood airfloat is usually the scraps from the briquette making industry.

Ok thank you for letting me know some easier ways of sourcing charcoal. I will definitely get the eastern red cedar. Whenever I grill I usually use lump charcoal and never briquettes so I can get those brands as well. Thats some really good advice that I will take advantage of and probably archive so I can use it next week. Yeah we actually are getting a new grill because it is on its last leg and they might hand it off to me for charcoal purposes so they won't care if it gets a little dirty. I am going to go on a charcoal spree next week and try out 6-7 of the methods you gave me and measure the burn rates again. Thank you for the advice as it really helps to have somebody that can answer the finer points of fireworking and pyrotechnics.

 

-Wheeze

 

Edit- we got a lot of paint cans from the raised bed project as well that I can clean and repurpose into retorts


Edited by yardarmwheeze, 03 March 2021 - 04:33 PM.


#6 SharkWhisperer

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Posted 04 March 2021 - 10:01 AM

Edit- we got a lot of paint cans from the raised bed project as well that I can clean and repurpose into retorts

In my hands, gallon paint cans don't last all that long, but if they're free/used up then that's a good price! And you'e re-using instead of landfilling them straight away. Be sure to wash inside well; maybe even cook them alone for a few minutes to get rid of any can liner if present. New 1-gallon EMPTY paint cans at HD/Lowes cost $5 last time I checked, which is kind of silly. I've gotten max 6 burns from paint cans before they've completely fallen apart, usually only 4-5 sessions.


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#7 yardarmwheeze

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Posted 04 March 2021 - 11:44 AM

In my hands, gallon paint cans don't last all that long, but if they're free/used up then that's a good price! And you'e re-using instead of landfilling them straight away. Be sure to wash inside well; maybe even cook them alone for a few minutes to get rid of any can liner if present. New 1-gallon EMPTY paint cans at HD/Lowes cost $5 last time I checked, which is kind of silly. I've gotten max 6 burns from paint cans before they've completely fallen apart, usually only 4-5 sessions.

Yeah I checked Lowes also, I feel like they always have a bit more than Home Depot when it comes to pyro purposes. But for now I don't need those



#8 Mumbles

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Posted 04 March 2021 - 11:59 AM

Once you get your wood source figured out, and your BP process down a lot of people gravitate toward larger cookers.  A common variety is a Top Lit Updraft cooker (TLUD).  They're fairly fast, pretty clean, and lend themselves to larger batches.


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Just so you guys quit asking, here is the link to the old forum. http://www.xsorbit2....forum/index.cgi

The sky is my canvas, and I have 2,113 pounds of powdered paint in the workshop.

#9 Arthur

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Posted 04 March 2021 - 01:25 PM

Start with an approximation that green wood yields about 10% charcoal and dried timber yields more like 25% charcoal.


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#10 yardarmwheeze

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Posted 04 March 2021 - 08:08 PM

Start with an approximation that green wood yields about 10% charcoal and dried timber yields more like 25% charcoal.

For sure, thanks for the tip



#11 ronmoper76

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 02:27 PM

I been contemplating this also,i have eastern red cedar and i definitely notice the difference. i just not sure where to buid the fire, my woodstove is fairly large and would easily fit a paint can,im considering giving it a shot,the worst i might do is catch it on fire. and i feel you on the ball mill,i bought a medium sized one immediately,i can't imagine not having it,i just milled 10 lbs of benzoate prills,what a nightmare that would have been without,its my most valuable tool


Edited by ronmoper76, 05 March 2021 - 02:41 PM.


#12 ronmoper76

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 12:48 PM

Well here is my first batch of charcoal,super fast and easy in a wood stove with a paint can!

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#13 dlking59

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Posted 07 March 2021 - 07:30 PM

Charcoal looks good. What type of wood did you use ? Let us know how it works.



#14 dlking59

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Posted 07 March 2021 - 07:46 PM

Like SharkWhisperer stated I use ERC from Wal Mart. I did get a bag of Aspen wood chips/bedding from Amazon that was on sale with free shipping for $7.45 for 7 CF. I figured for that price I couldn't go wrong. I haven't tried any of the Aspen but I did read that in tests it did quite good.







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