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SOURCE: Various

COMMENTS: The term "general" is applied loosely here, referring to any black powder composition that was not designed for a specific purpose (or if it was, then the specific application wasn't given).

Black powder is the one composition in pyrotechnics that varies greatly from type to type. The most important component of black powder is charcoal. Special attention should be given to the charcoal used. Charcoal is best obtained by pyrolysis of soft wood. Preferred types of wood are willow, grapevine, and laurel. In general, all young, thin soft woods without hard knots can be used. These types contain many volatiles (oxygen and hydrogen) to increase the speed of burning. Bear in mind that if the charcoal is not very reactive the black powder will merely fizzle and burn slowly. Examples of unreactive charcoals are activated charcoal and barbecue briquettes (which usually contain clay).

Simply mixing the three components together does not give good results. It is usually wise to "impregnate" the charcoal with the potassium nitrate by ball-milling the two chemicals together for several hours, or by the precipitation method where the potassium nitrate is dissolved in hot water and charcoal is added.

Although several different compositions are used for several purposes, the following composition is used most often.

PREPARATION (parts by weight):

Potassium nitrate0.750