Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Gunpowder & Muzzle-loading Guns.


Making gunpowder, also known these days as Black powder, was a very dangerous occupation in the 17th & 18th centuries. So dangerous in fact that gun powder mills in the New World were often simple wooden structures, because if the mill exploded, these wooden structures were easily reconstructed with little labour.

I have made my own gunpowder, but I cannot recommend that anyone else tries it. I made some because I simply wished to know if I could make a product that was good enough to use in my flintlock fusil. I mixed the ingredients wet and used no metal objects whatsoever. I used a wooden mortar & pestle. Subsequent batches were made in a marble mortar & pestle.

The gunpowder I made worked very well. I used a much smaller charge than usual as the powder I made was very fine and not graded into corns. It worked well for priming & as a main charge.

An historic gunpowder mill set in beautiful parkland. The Royal Gunpowder Mills date to at least the 17th century, and possibly earlier. We do not know when the first mills in the area started producing gunpowder, but we do know that in 1662 a local curate boasted that mills in his area had blown up 5 times in the last 7 years. http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=3933

A Kent gunpowder mill circa 1730ad.

Further information on gun powder production in the 17th & 18th centuries:







An original gunpowder tin that I purchased many years ago. It still has the original cork plug which was broken off and it sounds like there is still a little of the original powder inside. This is Chilworth gunpowder of London England.

A gunpowder flask I bought many years ago.

The first powder horn I ever made.

This is a powder horn I made and have used for many years now.

My marble mortar & pestle.

My gunpowder wallet or bag. I covered this item in a previous article.


Gorges Smythe said...

DuPont's early powder mills were brick on three sides and lumber on the fourth, so that side would blow out easily and preserve the roof and the other three walls. The fourth wall always faced the nearby river, so when there was an explosion, the men working in that building were said to have "gone over the river" or some such phrase.

Le Loup said...

Thanks for the extra information Gorges, appreciated.

John B. Todd said...

Side note for U.S.A.: It is now illegal to make your own gunpowder in the States without a federal license just as it is to distill any amount of alcohol (not including beer and wine)without a federal license.

Le Loup said...

Thanks for the information John, much appreciated.

Le Loup said...

Thanks for the information John, much appreciated.

Roxy said...

Do you know what a god substance would be for faux 18th cent gunpowder?
My son who is 8 likes to do reenactments. We just bought him a powder horn and he is keen to put something in it. Don't want him to have real explosives though- for obvious reasons.

Keith H. Burgess said...

Good day Roxy,
I consulted my youngest son, & he suggests black craft sand which is available in craft shops. Sounds like a very good idea to me.
Regards, Keith.