Before we start our study of black powder manufacture, let us discuss the proportions of the ingredients of black powder. While it is true that many countries had settled with the proportions of 75% saltpeter, 10% sulfur and 15% charcoal by the 18th and 19th centuries, this wasn't always true in all countries. Moreover, the proportions also varied a bit, depending on the use for the black powder. For instance, powder intended for military rifles differed in composition than powders intended for sporting applications, which differed from powders used for blasting purposes, powder used for fireworks etc. We have some information about the composition of powders made in various countries, courtesy of Oscar Guttman's book "Manufacture of Explosives" from 1895 (note that some of the countries have different names now)
|(a) Rifle Powders:|
|(b) Cannon Powders:|
|(c) Sporting Powders:|
|(d) Blasting Powders:|
Similarly, some blasting powders in England were made of different proportions (e.g.) 65% saltpeter, 20% sulfur, 15% charcoal.
Powders manufactured in Belgium had the following compositions depending on the purpose:
|Slow Powder or Pulverin||70||13||14 & 3% wood meal|
|Slow Powder in cartridges||70||13||14 & 3% dextrine|
In France, "pulverin" was also manufactured for use in fireworks and contained 75% saltpeter, 12.5% sulfur and 12.5% charcoal mixed together.
In the next couple of posts, we will study the grain sizes of black powder in the 19th century.