How to Make Gunpowder: 8 Steps (with Images)

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How to Make Gunpowder: 8 Steps (with Images)
How to Make Gunpowder: 8 Steps (with Images)

Gunpowder, also called black gunpowder, is a simple mixture of saltpeter, sulfur and coal. The trickiest part of doing it is finding these three elements. Once you find them, you mix them and create an explosive black powder. Be extremely cautious when handling it and store it away from heat and flame. Read on to learn more about making gunpowder.


Part 1 of 2: Collecting the ingredients

Step 1. Get some saltpeter

Saltpeter is the common name for potassium nitrate. In the days when black powder was widely used, it was made from bat guano or made from horse urine and other "soil fertilizers." Saltpeter is used in many fertilizers, as part of science projects and in certain recipes. You have several options for acquiring saltpeter:

  • Buy online. If you do a search for saltpeter, you will find many results and you can easily get a bottle of it.
  • Do it yourself with a cold compress. The cold compresses, those found in the pharmacy itself, contain the necessary ingredients to make saltpeter.
  • Do it with urine. This is definitely the most difficult way to make saltpeter, but some black powder enthusiasts prefer to make it from scratch. For this, the process is to fill a drum with manure trapped with a drain, valve and a filter at the bottom. Urine on it, then cover with water. After about 10 months, dry the compost on trays.

Step 2. Get charcoal

You can use standard barbecue charcoal, which will need to be ground into a fine powder. If you're a Puritan, make your own charcoal by filling a metal drum with two-inch pieces of pine or other wood; then place it in a fire with a loose lid on top (to allow airflow). Keep the fire burning for 4 to 6 hours and then open the drum. The wood will have been carbonized into fine pieces of homemade charcoal (ideal for use in gunpowder).

Step 3. Obtain elemental sulfur

This naturally occurring substance is often used to acidify the soil, so you can find it at garden stores or from internet sources that sell garden supplies. Elemental sulfur occurs naturally and is extracted from beds in Texas, Louisiana, Italy and elsewhere around the world.

Part 2 of 2: Mixing the ingredients

Step 1. Finely grind the ingredients

Use a pestle to grind each ingredient into a fine powder. Grind the ingredients separately, cleaning the pestle between uses.

You can use a ball mill to grind the components if you plan on making a lot of gunpowder. It is used to safely grind and mix powder

Step 2. Measure the powder components

Using the right proportion of ingredients is very important when making gunpowder. Calculate percentages by weight, using a small scale to weigh the different ingredients. Here's how much you need:

  • 75% saltpeter (5 parts).
  • 15% charcoal (1 part).
  • 10% sulfur (2/3 of 1 part).

Step 3. Mix the ingredients

Put them all in the pestle and grind them together for 10 minutes or more. If using a ball mill, first grind the charcoal and sulfur together for 4 hours, then add the saltpeter and continue mixing for another 24 hours.

Be extremely careful around black powder. Do not smoke or light any flame anywhere near it (keep it away from any heat source)

Step 4. Add water

Some say that adding up to 8% water can improve gunpowder burning. Continue mixing it, adding water in small increments until it has a thick clay texture. Form a ball when finished.

  • If you mix the gunpowder with water, you will need to granulate it or break it up into small pieces. Pass the powder ball through a kitchen sieve to break it into small pieces, then let them dry on a piece of paper.
  • Again, be extremely careful around gunpowder. Exercise caution at each stage.

Step 5. Store the black powder safely

Place it in a special container designed primarily for this. Store it in a fireproof box in a shed or other area outside your home. In any case, store it in a stable area where it will not come into contact with a flame or be exposed to high temperatures.

  • You can buy gunpowder containers at hardware stores or online.
  • Some recommend using empty (unused) paint cans to store black powder.


The longer the ball mill is used, the stronger the black powder will be. The general rule of thumb for all pyrotechnic mixes is "the finer the gunpowder, the faster it will burn"


  • Keep flying debris, such as rocks or metal, away from the mill as it could hit you in an explosion.
  • Wear heavy clothing.
  • If working the ball mill on a table, remove the nails; just use glue.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Only use media that do not produce sparks in the ball mill, such as lead.
  • Do not smoke near gunpowder.
  • Do not use this gunpowder to modify fireworks; this is illegal and very dangerous.
  • Do not use a metal bowl and spoon (sparks could ignite the mixture).
  • To protect yourself, place sandbags around the mill so an explosion will be directed into the air.

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