Author Topic: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's  (Read 29180 times)

John Boy

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Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« on: October 06, 2005, 09:38:38 AM »
Compliments of w44wcf



As some of the pards have indicated, there were numerous b.p. mfg's. in the 1800's and each sought to produce a superior product.

As far as multiple shots go, I have seen a record of tests performed in 1866 using a Henry Repeating rifle. At 300 paces, 30 shots were fired. 27 grouped into a 12" x 12" area with 2 shots 4" below the main group, and one 4" above. All shots would have hit a man sized target with ease. This was done with no wiping between shots and the .44 Henry cartridge only has 1 grease groove!!!

In Winchester's 1875 catalog there is an illustration of target fired by E.H. Pardee, M.D. His rifle was an 1873 Winchester using the .44 W.C.F.Cartridge - 40 grs. of b.p. under a two grooved bullet.

He fired 30 shots at 110 yards and the total group size is only a little over 4"!! He said "The firing was done without wiping which proves the Winchester to be steady in her performance......"

From a Black Powder article......
What many modern shooters might not know is that black powder of the 1800's era was highly developed. Produced in England, Curtis & Harvey
« Last Edit: February 06, 2007, 11:11:51 AM by John Boy »
Regards
John
SASS ~ Darkside WartHog ~ SBSS (OGB, w/Star) ~ SCORRS
GAF Bvt 1st LT, Atlantic Division Scouts
Devote Convert to BPCR

w44wcf

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2005, 06:26:51 PM »
John Boy,

In addition, here is some interesting information regarding the types and ballistic strengths of black powders in the 1800's written by William A. Knight.

Powder Types.
"During the 19th century a black powder shooter had 3 types of black powder available. These being: Sporting type, Rifle type, and Musket type. Today, the shooter in the U.S. has available one brand of musket type powder and one brand of rifle type powder. I should point out that type of powder has utterly nothing to do with grain size. It is not uncommon to find those who think that the difference in powder types during the 19th century was nothing more than grain sizes. In actuality, each type was formulated and processed to yield a specific burn rate and therefore specific ballistic strength. The ballistic strength having, at that time, been described as "expansive force". Each type was best suited for use in a particular range of calibers.

Sporting type - This was the fastest burning of the three types of small-arms black powder. The fast, "hot" burning sporting types gave diminishing returns at about 1 grain (volume) per caliber. In effect, 45 grains in a .45 caliber bore. It is about 10% hotter (faster) than the Rifle type b.p. Sporting type powder was usually found as an equal mixture of our present 2f and 3f sizes.

Rifle type - Somewhat slower in burn rate, rifle powder give diminishing returns above 1.45 grains per caliber. In effect, 60 grains in a .45 caliber bore.  It has a ballistic strength about 10% greater than the Musket type powders. Rifle powders were also usually an equal mixture of 2f and 3f.

Musket type - The slowest burning of the three, musket powder gives diminishing returns above 1.6 grains per caliber. In effect, 70 grains in a .45 caliber bore.
"

B.P. history sure is interesting!

w44wcf
 

 
aka w30wcf
aka Jack Christian SASS 11993 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
aka John Kort
NRA Life member
.22 W.C.F., .30 W.C.F., .38 W.C.F., .44 W.C.F., .45 Colt  Cartridge Historian

w44wcf

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2005, 07:12:10 AM »
"NO WATER REQUIRED FOR CLEANING." (!)

I was reading a Hazard Powder Co. advertisement in the back of an old IDEAL catalog printed in the early 1900's when that statement caught my eye.

Under the Hazard brand of "ELECTRIC"
« Last Edit: December 03, 2005, 07:14:57 AM by w44wcf »
aka w30wcf
aka Jack Christian SASS 11993 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
aka John Kort
NRA Life member
.22 W.C.F., .30 W.C.F., .38 W.C.F., .44 W.C.F., .45 Colt  Cartridge Historian

Lars

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2007, 07:47:05 AM »
Just visited the BP reference library for first time in months and am happy to see this really nice thread!

Lars

Dutch Bill

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2007, 10:18:57 AM »
Just sort of blundered into this thread this morning.

Nostalgia  is a fun thing.

In the first post by John Boy.

Under, "From a black powder article."
"Produced in England, Curtis & Harvey's (C&H), Diamond Grade was the best in the world, likely because of a superior charcoal rootstock and extending blending time.  Folklore has it that C&H charcoal came from a certain type of willow that grey only in one locale."

Actually C&H used buckthorn alder charcoal which they charred "in-house".  At the time there were plantings of this buckthorn alder in some areas of England.

I have a copy of a reprint of:
"A Handbook Of The Manufacture and Proof Of Gunpowder, As Carried On At The Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey.
By Captain F. M Smith, Royal Artillery, Assistant Superintendent.

This was the 1870 version.  There is one version from around 1850 but the 1870 is the one to get if it can be found.  A goldmine of info!


In another posting in this thread by w44wcf:
"Apparently this highly developed black powder left no residue to attaract moisture.  Therefore no immediate cleaning required."

This story starts back about 20 years ago.  At that time we had only Moosic GOEX to relate to.
I was dealing with a shooter by the name of Ben Johnson who lived at Bath, PA.  Ben wrote for Baird's Black Powder Report magazine.  Ben was a first class gentleman and shooter.  No product pimping, none of that nonsense.  He passed away a few years ago.
One day he wrote me that he had bought a 5 pound "keg" of Laflin & Rand's "Orange Express" powder in 1F grain size.  He loaded some .38-55 cartridghes with it and shot them in his single-shot bp cartridge rifle.  He was amazed at this powder.  Fire a shot, open the breech, pulled the spent cartridge, blow down the barrel through the breech and then load and fire another round.  He commented that when he would eject the spent case he would see a very thin film of white powder in the bore which would disappear with a few breaths blown into the breech.  The dust would quickly turn to a liquid film in the bore.

Once the Swiss sporting powder hit the U.S. market I was able to look at this.  Since around 1984 I had talked about old time sporting powder to shooters I knew from the Gunmaker's Fair.  Did a lot of reading on them from 19th century sources.  A few shooters handed me the nonsense that I was spouting theory.  The idea being that Moosic GOEX was state of the art in powder making technology.

What Ben had been looking at in the L&R powder was a really good rifle burn rate powder.  While a number of American powder manufacturers claimed their powders were "moist-burning" I could find no evidence that they were up to European sporting powder standards in regard to a true moist burning.

In my ml rifles I looked at bore fouling with different powders once the Swiss powder became available.  I had found that a good bit of what a shooter perceives as bore fouling is something of an illusion.

I had set up a way of recovering fouling from the bore of my ml test rifle and weighing the powder residue left in the bore.  In theory, with bp, you will expect to have about 55% of the original charge weight as solid particulate matter after powder combustion.  Some of which is retained in the bore and some is ejected from the bore by the spent propelling gases when the bullet leaves the muzzle.
I compared GOEX, Elephant, Swiss, etc., and found that on any given day there was little difference between them in how much of the original charge weight was left in the bore after firing the gun.  The biggest difference was found to be governed by the ambient air temperature and the barrel temperature.  But as far as comparing one powder to another on the same day, little difference.

What was different between the powders was the physical form of the fouling. 

I had found that on any given day the Swiss powder left a bit more residue in the bore.  But when you would load another round into a fouled bore it felt as if there was nothing in the bore.  This was the result of the "moist-burning" of the powder.  It gave wet fouling and the illusion that the bore was nearly clean.  No resistance to running home another patched ball.  Dry or hard fused fouling gives resistance to reloading.  The wet film fouling did not.  In the patched ball rifles some of my best most uniform chronograph data came from repeated shooting with the fouled bore.  If I swabbed between shots the ES would go up.  In the Lyman Trade Rifle with the moist-burning Swiss powder I was looking at ES data of 5 or 6!  As soon as I would swab the bore the ES data would jump up to 15 to 20.

At first I was puzzled by the Swiss powder giving me slightly more residue in the bore.  Then it dawned on me that the powder produced water as a product of combustion which simply cut down on the amount of residue being ejected from the bore with the spent propelling gases.

That caused me to think about some of the old writings such as those w44wcf is quoting in his postings and the how and why of the old shooters observations.

One bp made in England was unknown in the U.S.  I have a booklet on Chilworth gunpowder.  Made in the latter-half of the 19th century in England using German "technology".  This Chilworth gunpowder was as good or better than C&H small-arms powders.  At first Chilworth had an technical edge on C&H in how one polishes the powder grains in the glazing/polishing step of the powder making process.  Chilworth had come up with the idea of blowing moist air into the barrel in which the powder was being "polished"  This kept the surfaces of the powder grains damp during the early stage in the polishing process.  The powder grains developed a better polish as a result.  This better polish reduced perceived bore fouling and improved accuracy.  C&H ended up literally copying Chilworth's powder polishing process.

John Boy

  • Territorial Marshal
Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2007, 12:54:35 PM »
Bill, as always ... Thanks for sharing your vast knowledge with all here on TOR!
Here's a snipet about Chilworth Gunpowder Works 
Last year, I read somewhere they used 'German Technology', so I dug out my re-print of the ALFA Catalog of Arms and the Outdoors, circa 1911.  It lists 2 German black powder manufacturers.  Here's what I pulled off the Internet about these companies back then

... Cramer & Buchholz Pulverfabriken - (Dana-Pulver) brand
http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.oberwipper.de/oberwipper_cont/marienheide/mhd_geschichte.html&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=7&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3DCramer%2B%2526%2BBuchholz%2BPulverfabriken%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1B2GGGL_enUS177US207
1765 Marienheide Powder mill With the explosion of a powder mill (Johann Hermann Cramer) 5 workers are heavily hurt
1820 Marienheide Powder mills  Within the range between Marienheide and Ohl approx. 20 powder mills of the company Cramer & Buchholz produce and supply world-wide shooting, blowing up and military powder.
1898 Gogarten Dynamite factory  The dynamite factory of the company Buchholz explodes. Several coworkers die. Heavy metal parts are hurled a kilometer far by air.
The remainders of the factory are torn off into the 1930er years, built there later the fairy tale forest Gogarten, which was still a goal of families with children, popular into the 1970er years.

... Koln - Rottweiler Pulverfabriken - (Extra bestes Scheibenpulver mit Nassbrand) brand
http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.rwbilder.de/frame/Themen/1999/Dezember1999/GewerbeparkNeckartal/frame.php&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=2&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3DKoln%2B-%2BRottweiler%2BPulverfabriken%2B%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1B2GGGL_enUS177US207
1918 Gogarten Powder mills The powder mills to the Wipper are sold to the united Cologne Rottweiler powder factories
1920 Powder mill  With the explosion of a powder mill a worker is killed
ca.1930 Gogarten Powder mills  Black powder production is stopped.

Other Powder Information on the oberwipper link
ca.1620 Ballenbr
Regards
John
SASS ~ Darkside WartHog ~ SBSS (OGB, w/Star) ~ SCORRS
GAF Bvt 1st LT, Atlantic Division Scouts
Devote Convert to BPCR

Dutch Bill

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2007, 08:10:35 PM »
John Boy,

The other week I looked through my Elephant folder for photocopies of pages from an old German shooting supplies catalog.  There were several pages of various German-made black powders.  Most were described as sporting powders.  The reason I had thse copies centered on Elephant black powder having been sold in Germany early in the 20th century.  Shown as a budget priced musket powder.

The last powder in your previous post.
"Extra bestes Scheibenpulver mit Nassbrand"

Acht, Himmel!
Extra best target powder with moist-burning.

There were a number of German sporting type powders shown in the shooter's supply catalog described as "mit Nassbrand".

Funny part is that this thing about "mit Nassbrand" was a big mystery in the powder industry until I got into the thing about retained creosote in the charcoal.

Lars

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2007, 07:28:46 AM »
Funny part is that this thing about "mit Nassbrand" was a big mystery in the powder industry until I got into the thing about retained creosote in the charcoal.

Dutch Bill,

Does the quoted comment pertain to only the vestigal USA powder industry or also to specific other parts of the industry too?

Thanks,
Lars

Dutch Bill

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2007, 08:56:19 AM »
Lars,

My buddy and I in Australia were discussing the "mit Nassbrand" thing back around 1987-88.  We were working on charcoal at the time.  He had sent me a box containing pieces of various woods he had collected near his house in NSW.  He was planting willow trees around his pond.

He sent me a book that had been published by the forestry dept. of NSW.  The book went into a great number of woods and how they were or could be used in the charcoal industry in NSW.
When they went into the subject of the fixed carbon contant of charcoal they wrote off the remaining portion of the charcoal as "tarry matter".  In other words if you had a charcoal at 75% fixed carbon content the other 25% was simply what they called "tarry matter".

So I began to run extractions on different chars to see what this so-called "tarry matter" consisted of.  I used a variety of solvents.  Found out that the "tarry matter" concept  was nonsense.  But what I did find was that with acetone as the solvent I could extract something from some samples of charcoal.  I quickly identified the extracted liquid as creosote.  The form of creosote produced during the charring of wood.

The project then proceeded to look at the different woods traditionally used in black powder through the 19th century.  Charring them under different conditions.  I found that some woods produced more creosote than others and that charring conditions determined how much remained in the wood versus how much went out the vent stack on the charring cylinder.  Out of that came the thing that the most desireable woods produced the most creosote.

Then I went back into the writings of Noble & abel.  Their charcoal chemical analyses.  Specifically the amounts of hydrogen and oxygen in the charcoal samples.  Their work showed that if the woods were charred at 300 C the amount of hydrogen and oxygen would be certain amounts.  If the charring temperature was allowed to go to 350 C, or higher, the hydrogen and oxygen would almost disappear completely.

NONE of the old sources on powder manufacture in the 19th century went into the subject of any retained liquid hydrocarbons in the charcoal.  All the sources pointed to some powder companies shooting for a certain fixed carbon content at a certain charring temperature but not why.  They knew that for the best powder they had to prepare the charcoal by a certain method and not to deviate from it.  But as to specific charcoal properties there was not much to be found.  They went by physical appearance and how the charcoal sounded if you dropped a piece of it.

Then my Aussie buddy sent me something out of an explosives book published in England early in the 1900's.  The writer talked about an acetone extractable liquid hydrocarbon, in the charcoal, that would speed up the combustion of the powder.  He did not identify this liquid hydrocarbon as creosote.  He gave his view of how the liquid hydrocarbon would work during powder combustion to speed up the combustion process.

So both my buddy and I played with adding creosote to a charcoal we thought to be sub-standard as far as good sporting powders go.  Not the creosote from the hardware store.  We had to char wood and then extract the creosote from it to "doctor" other charcoal.

In our experiments we found that the creosote made the difference between a "moist-burning" powder and one that burned dry.  Meaning no water as a product of combustion.


Not letting it rest at that point.
When the Swiss came on the market I had known for years that it was a moist-burning black powder.  I had their specifications and charring methods in my files for some years.
So I set up an experiment.  I took several ounces of Swiss 2Fg and placed it in a jar with acetone.  Left it soak in the acetone for 30 minutes and then decanted off the acetone.  Air dried the powder to remove any remaining acetone and then dried the powder in the oven at 130 F.
Then headed to the range on another day.  Shot the Swiss from the can and then that which had been acetone extracted.  The Swiss from the can burned moist.  Nice soft wet bore fouling.  When I shot the acetone extracted powder it shot dry.  Hard to tell the bore fouling apart from that of GOEX.
Funny part was that I was shooting over the chronograph.  The powder that had the acetone extracted was only 20 fps slower than that from the can.  That was shooting in the range of 1600 fps out of the .50 patched ball rifle.
That told me that the acetone did not really play any part that speeded up powder combustion.  It simply provided water as a product of combustion to give the moist burn.


Nowhere in any of my old powder plant records was there ever any mention of charcoal specifics relating to moist burning powders. 



Lars

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2007, 09:12:31 AM »
Thanks Dutch Bill!!

Having spent my life with and around folks that insisted on knowing verifiable reasons "why", on basic chemistry and/or physical basis, it is wonderfull to see the "whys" of BP performance so clearly laid out.

Lars

Dutch Bill

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2007, 09:38:20 AM »
Lars,

Before I retired in 1997 I worked for 30 years in a PVC polymerization plant.  Worked QC and R&D.  Had my own lab.  Though, the only one in the lab in the pilot plant section.  All sorts of neat testing equipment.

Around 1985 I was privileged to join up with a man by the name of Robert Howard who was Curator Of Industry And Technology at the Hagley Museum And Library.  He became one of the driving forces in my work on BP.  I had been collecting and reading papers on BP published by the Ballistics Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.  I looked at their work as something of a high priced joke.
Rob would pick things out of old records and ask me to look into them and explain them.

For instance.
The old idea was that during the powder-making process you had to impregnate the pores of the charcoal with potassium nitrate.  From my work on charcoal I had thought this nonsense.  In a good fast burning sporting powder you are grinding about 65 to 70% of the charcoal down into particles that range in size from one micron on up to 20 microns.  In some of the English sporting powders I had looked at I found that they were reaching a sub-micron particle size with a good bit of the charcoal in the powder.  That would eliminate the pore theory in the charcoal.
So I set up a simple experiment.
I took large test tubes with distilled water.  To one I added ground sulfur.  In another I added ground charcoal.  These ingredients simply sat on top of the water and actually climbed the sides of the test tubes on the surface of the water.  Ground sulfur is extremely hydrophobic.  I hooked up a vacuum pump to the tube with the sulfur.  As I pulled the air out of the test tube the particles of sulfur would sink to the bottom as indiviual particles.
Then did the same thing with the charcoal.  Same results.  As air was removed from the test tube the individual particles of charcoal would quickly sink to the bottom of the tube.  Then once it had all settled to the bottom there would be a few thin streams of air bubbles rising to the surface.  But very little air was actually being drawn out of the charcoal  relative to the amount of charcoal.  Charcoal is also hydrophibic.  This hydrophobic property varies with the charcoal.  Chars high in creosote being more hydrophobic than chars totally lacking in creosote.

This simple show and tell proved something to Rob and myself.  That the idea of porosity in the charcoal was highly overstated.

One of the old Du Pont powder plant managers had once written a paper on why it took heavy wheel mills to make the faster burning type of black powder.
When I took the charcoal and sulfur in the test tubes of water I noted that if you tried to simply push the stuff under the surface it would clump and hold huge bubbles of air around the mass.

Relating this to a wheel mill or the old stamping mills.
To get the faster burning types of black powder you must grind the ingredients down into specific particle size ranges.  You must also be able to gain maximum uniformity of dispersion of the ingredients within the mass.  Working with two ingredients that are rather hydrophobic and will clump up rather than disperse as individual particles.
Both the wheel mill and the stamp mill are mulling machines.  Particle size reduction and dispersion within the mass being the result of both pressure and smearing actions.  It takes a good bit of pressure smearing to strip away the surface film of air that these ingredient particles will encapsulate themselves in.  If you can't strip the air film encapsulation you can't get "intimate contact" between the particles of ingredients within the powder and this will drastically slow burn rates.

This is why newer methods of powder manufacturing that did away with traditional wheel mills have failed.  The newer "Jet-Mill" process will produce black powder but nothing faster than a blasting powder.  Ball mills can produce black powder but not up to the standards of powder made in wheel mills or stamp mills.

Dutch Bill

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2007, 09:51:01 AM »
The work has had some lighter moments at times.

I had been reading the papers of Noble 7 Abel.  They had been working with a large number of powders.  I had noted that in their small-arms black powders they had some really high velocities with some Spanish-made sporting black powder made with "hemp charcoal".
Hhhmmm!!
The Spanish navy used hemp rope.  Once the hemp fibers had been removed from the hemp stems the rest of the stems were by-product waste.  The stems being mainly a soft pithy material.  Very easy to grind down into a sub-micron particle size.
So I discussed this with my buddy.  Not having hemp plants available near him he had to settle for cannibis stems.  After all, hemp is a cannibis.
The powder produced by this cannibis stem charcoal burned very fast but not moist.  Annual growth does not produce the lignin that would yield creosote in the charcoal.

Then I started with the humor.

We would set up chairs down wind from the charring retort and sell tickets.  Keep the retort stacks short for this.  Could probably make more money selling seats at the charring building than we would actually making powder.

If you make black powder from cannibis stems the powder will have a distinctive odor when fired.  You could not shoot this powder on any range shared with police!!

In reading about the attempted Spanish invasion of England in the mid-1500's there are comments about the smaller English ships going in close under the guns of the Spanish ships.  English sailor bravery??
Was the Spanish navy using cannon powder made with hemp stem charcoal?  Keep in mind that one these ships the smoke from the cannon firing could get rather dense and usually dropped down near the surface of the water.
I could just picture it.  The Spanish ship captain speaking to his admiral.  Sir, the English are demanding we give them another broadside.
While down in the English ships the sailors have these silly smiles, "awesome mate!"


My other joke was that if we made black powder from cannibis stem charcoal we could have turned even Bill Clinton into an avid black powder shooter.  Hhhmmm!  I shot but I didn't inhale!

Lars

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2007, 11:26:26 AM »
Dutch Bill,

I love those "alternate explanations" of conditions driving historic events!!

Now, it would seem that the hemp charcoaling thesis be applied to side effects of the eradication by burning of plants related to hemp. I have sometimes wondered about the actual "driving forces" at play in these actions.

Thanks once again for posts both informative and entertaining!!

Your telling of the roles of air adhesion to sulfer and charcoal particles in making BP reminds me of sorta similar "goings on" in the milling of ores, which was very much a "black art" in the heyday of gold, silver, etc. ore milling in the western USA.

Lars

Lucky Ed Pepper

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Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2007, 12:03:11 PM »
Dutch Bill
That makes sense to me that with the higher concentrations of creosote( a short chain aromatic hydrocarbon, a greasy oily liquid)

 would decrease water absorption but not air adsorption (maybe altering the electrostatic charge characteristics) of the carbon .

Ed Malinowski
Best Wishes
Ed Malinowski
"Shade Whisperer" First Class.
SASS 75748

John Boy

  • Territorial Marshal
Re: Numerous Black Powder Manufacturers in the 1800's
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2007, 12:16:44 PM »
Bill, I just backed up TOR database.  Why?  Cause if it went down and your information got lost ... I would be one unhappy person.  Great information.

Now for a technical question:  Swiss while making their own charcoal in-house, runs the kiln "300 to 320 degrees Centigrade for 8 hours which gives a fixed carbon content of about 65% in the finished charcoal."  Somewhere I read (and if correct), Wano sporting powder is 75-80% fixed carbon content.  Yet, when I shot the FFg and FFFg Schuetzen powder before the cold spell set in ... the foul didn't 'appear' to be more hygroscopic with a RH that day of 47%.  Any thoughts why not more hygroscopic?  Possibly micron size of the charcoal?
Regards
John
SASS ~ Darkside WartHog ~ SBSS (OGB, w/Star) ~ SCORRS
GAF Bvt 1st LT, Atlantic Division Scouts
Devote Convert to BPCR