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Blackpowder Rockets

By GhostOfTiber in Science
Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 08:28:58 AM EST
Tags: Rockets, Black Powder, Explosives, Don't Try This At Home (all tags)

It's almost that time of year when Americans contribute to global warming setting off rockets and other explosives. Instead of setting off the store-bought ones and paying a small fortune for the fun of a few seconds, how about learning something about rockets and having some fun in the mean time?

Playing with rockets is dangerous. Use your head. If you blow your hands off, please video tape it so I can post it on the internet. Do not hold K5 or myself responsible for your dumb mistake. If someone dares you to hold a rocket in your hand, show them how much of a man you are by holding it in your mouth.

The rockets we're going to build are composed of common parts and black powder. I happen to have a bunch of black powder lying around and this guide will focus on this material for a propellant.

Required Ingredients

  • A type 3 fire extinguisher. Do not screw around with this. Water won't cut it.
  • Eye protection.
  • Aluminum foil
  • Black Powder (FFG burns slower, FFFG burns faster, start with FFG). If you're having trouble finding black powder, you can buy it online but will have to pay extra for shipping.
  • Clay
  • Fuse material
  • A wide open field
  • Long, straight sticks

For larger rockets only:

  • PVC pipe or any lightweight tube
  • Skewers from the supermarket for making a center channel in your propellant. (Prep these by covering them in wax if they are porous).


  • A road flare (color)
  • Iron filings (color, smoke)
  • Flour (smoke)
  • Clumping kitty litter (packing)
  • Plastic bag with string (parachute)
The only hard part to find is the black powder. You need to find FFG black powder and only FFG black powder. When you feel confident with FFG and actually have a few successful launches, you can start using FFFG. FFFG burns much faster and requires better rocket design, so start with FFG. Do not use smokeless powder, pyrodex, 'black powder gel' or pellets. You may use pellets in small rockets only. Smokeless powder burns far too quickly and you will have an awesome explosion (but this might be what you want for the finale). Pyrodex does not absorb water and does not pack well. Black powder gel is just weird and doesn't work consistently. Pellets work only in smaller rockets.

Fusing material can be just about anything with a consistent burn rate. Keep in mind that the fuses really should burn in the absence of oxygen which means either legitimate fuses or you can take a string and roll it around in the blackpowder. You always need to test whatever fusing material you have for both burn rate and suitability. To test for burn rate, prep your fusing material and cut a 1ft length of it. Set one end on fire. You need however much material takes 10 seconds to burn to give you plenty of time to run away. You should always assume your rocket is going to be a colossal failure and explode on the ground. The next test will be to take fusing material you're happy with and take a small piece of foil about an inch long. Fold it over and take a pair of pliers and clamp it down hard over your fuse. Your fuse should burn from one end of the other of the foil without snuffing out. Does that work? Great, you have something you can use for rockets.

If all else fails, try a stick of incense you can buy at a head shop or ask the sporting goods store you bought your blackpowder from if they also carry match-lock supplies. You can use sparklers for larger rockets, their metal rod also makes a decent prop for your rocket but may be too heavy for smaller rockets and poppers.

Small Rockets

These are the most fun for small poppers and let you get a good grasp of the concepts.

  1. Take your aluminum foil and pull out about a 3 inch wide strip across.
  2. Fold the strip over three times (1 inch strip).
  3. Put a pea-sized ball of blackpowder into a detent on one size of the foil. Cut a small bit of fuse (enough time to get your hand away) and make sure it lies in the powder to the top of the ball. You can experiment with this, putting the fuse to the bottom of the ball results in a longer but less powerful burn. Putting it more toward the top results in a quicker, more powerful burn.
  4. Roll the ball and fuse up in the foil.
  5. Using your pliers, fold over and crimp the top of the popper as hard as you can. Crimp the bottom also but don't fold it over. You've now made something which you can light and will spin on the ground. Try crimping the fuse to one side.
  6. To make a rocket: Tape the popper fuse down to a long straight stick. Usually your local supermarket will sell skewers for BBQing, the thinnest ones are best. You can also use spaghetti on the small rockets, it only needs to hold it upright long enough for launch.
  7. You can either launch this by sticking the stick into the ground but it's much easier to use a soda-can or bottle. Put the stick in the mouth of the bottle (jet pointed out the mouth of the can or bottle) and light it. The little foil popper will go screaming off. Try twisting the crimps to make fins for your rocket!
Large Rockets

The secret to large rockets is getting the propellant packing to work. The easiest packing is simply pouring black powder into a tube and tamping it down either with a smaller tube or a wooden ram. Pack by hand, the diameter of the tubes doesn't have to mate exactly. Faster rockets have a hollow channel in the center but are harder to pack.

To get the mix right, take a small portion of your blackpowder and mist it with water. Using your fingers (being careful about static and open flame), try to form a ball with the powder. Once you can form a ball and the powder is sticky, you have about the right amount of water. Right now the powder won't fire and if you let it dry over night, it should retain its shape. After you let it dry, it will fire, and you must treat it with respect. If you're having trouble getting your powder to clump (keep in mind that powder is generally designed for use in firearms and not for rockets, it may be coated in wax or other chemicals), add very small amounts of clumping kitty litter until it does hold it's shape. Make notes of the ratios of litter/water/powder for particular brands of powder and litter. The more litter you use, the less evenly the powder will burn, the less reliable your engines will be. Use the litter sparingly. You can use your test balls to make small poppers or rockets, which will also give you a decent idea how well it burns.

Wash your hands thoroughly after handling powder.

Building the Tube

  1. Take your PVC tube. The reason why we're using PVC is because it's rigid, forgiving to accidents in packing (usually a hole burns in the side before the pipe explodes), lightweight and easy to cut and drill. Do not use glass bottles ever or metal pipes until you're more familiar with powder. Try to find thin walled PVC without threads. At minimum, it should be 1:3 (one inch inner diameter to 3 inches tall) and after 1:5 the rockets seem to nose over.
  2. Take your aluminum foil and roll it three times (or four or five) over the outside of your packing dowel. Slip it inside of the PVC tube. This provides insulation against the heat of the engine. Use your packing dowel to roll the foil against the inside of the PVC pipe. You might try using double-sided tape on the inside of the tube at the top and bottom to give the foil something to hold onto. Air-gaps will result in the foil trying to expand inside the tube and tearing in flight which will cause your tube to explode or wander. Do a good job here or don't do it at all and pray your tube is thick enough to put up with the propellant. It won't be, but the sulfur smell and burning plastic smell is sweet perfume to some of us. (If you find your rockets always explode at launch, you're either not using enough foil, you need to cut the powder more with your litter or did not pack the foil properly. Check to make sure you're using FFG powder and not FFFG which I have found is much harder to control).
  3. If you're using a parachute, drill a hole in the "top" of your rocket through the foil. Tie the string through the hole and fashion a parachute out of your plastic bag. Use an equal length of string to your rocket. If the rocket is 5 inches tall, use 5 inches of string. Take a very thin layer of clay, ball up the parachute (do not wrap the string around it, loose is better), and use the clay as a stopper between the tube and the parachute. You do not need a nose-cone. You need just enough clay to keep the parachute away from the propellant, so pack it thin. Turn the rocket nose (parachute) down and let the clay dry. Consider this part a learning exercise, the PVC gets cooked in a few launches but people generally don't like having PVC fall down in their neighborhoods. Use your head and use a parachute if your situation warrants it.
  4. If you're making fireworks, skip the parachute and just cap it with as thin a layer of clay as you can pack. You can also cap it with foil, but I've found that you either need to rubber band the foil on and hope the charge is enough to burst it or just use clay since the clay becomes brittle.
  5. A: For solid charge engines: With the tube "bottom up", pour blackpowder into the cavity. This is where the fun happens: If you're making fireworks, dope the blackpowder with flour for a trail or iron filings for color and light. (Iron filings which have rusted will also burn brightly and hotter, making more fuel for the engine). If you want, you can take a road flare and crush it. Putting the crushed flare in with the powder will make a tail for the rocket and packing it whole into the nose (before you pour any powder in) will make a brilliant burst of color when the engine burns through. The body of the rocket will still be carried upwards through the burst by inertia. Do not fill the rocket to the top with propellant, leave some space to build a clay nozzle. You want enough space to pack enough clay to make the rocket balanced or tail heavy.
  6. B: For hollow charge engines: Using your water/litter/powder mix, drop the skewer into the clay at the 'nose' of the rocket. It helps if the clay is still a bit moist. The rod should be centered in the tube as much as possible. Pour your mixture into the body of the rocket and tamp it down with a smaller dowel that can fit between the hollowing rod and the body of the rocket. People who do this as a hobby actually have special tools with a center-drilled channel matching a rod but since we're just doing a small throwaway rocket here, just try to keep things uniform. Let it dry overnight. Do not fill the rocket to the top with propellant, leave some space to build a clay nozzle. You want enough space to pack enough clay to make the rocket balanced or tail heavy.
  7. Take your clay and a dowel. Thicker is usually better. Push the dowel to the propellant (or use the dowel you didn't pull if building center-channel propellant) and fill the bottom of the tube with a thick layer of clay. This provides two things: A nozzle and a counter-weight to keep the rocket pointed up. Don't be afraid to use too much clay as too little clay will cause the rocket to nose-over. Let this dry over night.
  8. Push your fuse into the nozzle (this is where a sparkler works well).
  9. You can launch there from a post in the ground taped to the side or come up with some kind of fins. Experiment!
Fun Things To Try:

  • How does the shape of the nozzle affect performance?
  • How open does the center channel of propellant need to be?
  • How open does the nozzle need to be for optimum velocity?
  • Try different mixes of FFG and FFFG blackpowder. How does adding rusted iron filings help the rocket?
  • What other items can be packed into the nose of the rocket to generate different effects?
  • What other materials will put up with the heat and force of the propellant?
  • How does putting a clay ball on the launching stick affect the flight of the rocket?
  • Nuntius contributed About.com's coloring fire and alternate smoke formulas.
  • HackerCracker suggested for yellow bursts, use sodium chloride (salt). For green, use barium nitrate from a chemical supply shop. For blue, use copper sulfate scraped from an old copper pipe. White is found in aluminum sulfate obtained from an old corroded aluminum pipe or pan. For a fuse, he suggests string soaked in potassium nitrate (saltpeter).
Remember, safety first. Keep the fire extinguisher handy. Make sure your fuses are long enough you can get a safe distance away. Make sure you have enough area that your rockets can come down safely.


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I will build...
o Rockets 3%
o Fireworks 7%
o Taepodong-2s 88%

Votes: 26
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o buy it online
o Nuntius
o coloring fire
o alternate smoke formulas
o HackerCrac ker
o Also by GhostOfTiber

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Blackpowder Rockets | 100 comments (77 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
T1ber, goddamn you... (2.66 / 3) (#2)
by lamppter on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 12:01:57 AM EST

I love the stuff you write. Keep it up...+1 FP dude.

Naive Bayes Classification and K5 Dupes
My son and I (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by lamppter on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:29:23 AM EST

are going to make one this weekend. It will be fun. I did this when I was a kid and hadn't really thought about sharing it with my kid until reading this.

Fuckin' A...explosions and stuff!

Naive Bayes Classification and K5 Dupes
[ Parent ]

LOL (2.60 / 5) (#18)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:32:29 AM EST

OK, just supervise the kid.  Adults are smart enough to say HAY THIS MIGHT BE DANGEROUS, the kids have no idea until they see their first smoking crater from an improperly packed rocket.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

OK, I will let ya know (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by lamppter on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:59:22 AM EST

if I blow my fuckin hands off. LOLZ

Naive Bayes Classification and K5 Dupes
[ Parent ]
Make sure that camera is HIREZ $ (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by HackerCracker on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:34:50 AM EST

[ Parent ]
I will I already built (3.00 / 2) (#30)
by lamppter on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:39:06 AM EST

a pressure bomb those are way fuckin cool too.

Naive Bayes Classification and K5 Dupes
[ Parent ]
what is it? (nt) (none / 1) (#55)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:08:43 PM EST

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

OK here is HOW YOU MAKE A PRESSURE BOMB (3.00 / 2) (#60)
by lamppter on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 12:44:38 AM EST

2 liter plastic soft drink container.
Purchase enough baking soda to fill  exactly half of the container.
make a water paste of the baking soda that you measured.
Freeze this mixture in your freezer.
Purchase a gallon of white vinegar

Take the frozen baking soda paste out of the freezer.
Now quickly, fill up the 2 liter container with the vinegar, cap it tightly and throw it or what I do is drop it about 20 feet.

The purpose of freezing the baking soda paste is so that it takes about 5 seconds for the vinegar to finish neutralizing it thus releasing the gases which builds up the pressure to explode.

It makes the loudest fucking noise/explosion you can imagine. It causes no fire it is relatively safe (you wouldn't want to hold it while it is releasing gases and bursts). But damn what a noise!. I made one once that I released at 3:00 in the morning and it echoed off the mountains around here. Plus it probably woke up a bunch of neighbors.

Naive Bayes Classification and K5 Dupes
[ Parent ]

Terrorist (2.62 / 8) (#3)
by greengrass on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 12:09:46 AM EST

Ergo, +1 FP (n/t) (none / 0) (#66)
by palfrey on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 10:54:22 AM EST

[ Parent ]
+1 FP, explosive goodness (2.66 / 3) (#8)
by HackerCracker on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 12:47:10 AM EST

Celebrate the birth of your country by blowing up a small piece of it!

You can also make a fuse out of a length of string that's been thoroughly soaked in a solution of potassium nitrate and left to dry out completely. Nice, slow controlled burn. Dunno if it would pass the foil test, tho (it should, since the KNO3 supplies the bulk of the oxygen).

Quick 'n' dirty color guide:

Strontium nitrate: Red
Sodium chloride: Yellow
Barium nitrate: Green
Copper sulfate: Blue
Aluminum sulfate: White

I will add these (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:31:07 AM EST

if you can find a common, easy to find source for it.

The black powder is the tough one, I don't want to overly complicate things.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Ok, here goes... (none / 1) (#31)
by HackerCracker on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:57:50 AM EST

Potassium nitrate is also known as saltpeter and is available at just about any pharmacy (probably OTC, IIRC). Also used as a diuretic for livestock(!).

Strontium nitrate is commonly found in road flares. Sodium chloride is found in the salt cellar. For those nice greens of the barium salts you'll have to consult the chemist. Copper sulfate is pretty much the same, though you might have some luck grinding up some old copper pipe or (if you're really desperate) an old penny. Aluminum salts are another trip to the chemist, though an old grinding up an old aluminum frying pan (carefully!) will more than likely do the trick.

[ Parent ]
Out of idle curiosity (2.75 / 4) (#10)
by godix on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 04:36:58 AM EST

Does anyone know the technical legality of this? I know that for some strange reason the government tends to be somewhat strict about this that go boom. Especially recently.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
The NRA will un-elect any politician (3.00 / 8) (#16)
by Adam Rightmann on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:29:42 AM EST

who tries to crack down on black powder (for black powder rifles) or reloading supplies. This may not be the intended use of black powder, but only a commie Lie-beral would ask what you intended to use the black powder for, and they don't get hired by gun shops.

[ Parent ]
black powder (3.00 / 5) (#19)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:37:14 AM EST

Blackpowder is a restricted explosive in America.  The posession limit is 50lbs.  What you would actually do with 50lbs of black powder is beyond me, but I suppose if you wanted to blow up a stump or something, it would work.

Since you really should only be using ounces of it per rocket, 1 pound will go far and is the minimum order most places.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

The rub (none / 1) (#61)
by adiffer on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 01:17:14 AM EST

Where you are likely to run into issues is with the local police or fire marshall, but only after you fire it off.  Depending on where you live, the officer responsible for public safety or fire safety might see you as a dangerous loon.  If you know these people and can convince them otherwise in advance, it is a good precaution.  If they believe you intend to have fun safely and not violate laws they must enforce you avoid the aftermath.
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.
[ Parent ]
You've been harassed for firing rockets? (none / 1) (#64)
by GhostOfTiber on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 09:56:37 AM EST

I lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia when we were firing off rockets.  So long as the field we were using wasn't occupied, they couldn't care less.

Now, times have changed since after Sept 11th, but I can't imagine having them harass you too much for having a fire extinguisher handy and firing things in a safe direction.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

manufacture of fireworks also restricted (none / 0) (#90)
by iggymanz on Fri Jul 07, 2006 at 12:36:04 PM EST

legally, you need a pyrotechnics manufacturing license.  Better to take that black powder and ram it into the barrel or chamber of a black powder weapon as God intended, plug in "nipple", cock and fire to make impressive column of smoke, flame and noise to impress.  In multichamber weapon, be sure to use wadding and grease to prevent chain fires.

[ Parent ]
"manufacture of fireworks" is too broad (none / 0) (#91)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jul 07, 2006 at 01:24:34 PM EST

There's a lot of things that are illegal to manufacture, such as explosives or liquor, but are OK to posess in small quantities.  

Hence the 50 lbs limit on black powder.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

sorry (none / 0) (#93)
by iggymanz on Fri Jul 07, 2006 at 03:59:05 PM EST

You will find quite specific categorizations of fireworks and the licenses needed to produce them.  Also, any single device made with that 50 lbs. of black powder would be a "device of mass destruction" by the BATF's rules.  

[ Parent ]
a good starting point: class 13.G (old class B) (none / 1) (#94)
by iggymanz on Fri Jul 07, 2006 at 04:11:35 PM EST

Educate yourself on whom may make, buy, sell, possess, transport or explode class 1.3G both by federal law and by state/local laws.  Look at the definition of 1.3G versus 1.4G (consumer), look at the quanties of powder involved (consumer tops out in milligrams). The rocket described in this article is illegal for most people in the U.S.A., either to make, use, possess, transport, sell, buy, or use in a fireworks display.

[ Parent ]
blah blah blah go fuck yourself (2.00 / 3) (#95)
by GhostOfTiber on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 01:39:36 AM EST

Are you an ATF agent?

Do you know what Class B fireworks are?

Do you, most importantly, know what people are building with this article?

I believe you will find the answers to your questions under section Fuck subsection Yourself.

No ATF agency in their right mind would arrest someone for making homemade rockets in any small quantity.  The entirety of the code is written for the intent to make a fireworks display.  Building a few rockets for yourself isn't going to come close to qualifying as an infringement.

If it were, I'd have been arrested already.  Being the office "gun nut" and "explosives nut" leads to a lot of conversations about this.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

+1FP when this goes to voting (2.75 / 4) (#11)
by daveybaby on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 05:52:45 AM EST

Anything that encourages members of k5 indulge in activities that will likely result in blowing their fingers off (and thus render them unable to type for ever more) gets my vote.

Remember this (2.50 / 4) (#12)
by United Fools on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 08:07:55 AM EST

Uncle Sam is watching over you!

We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
THAN HE SHALL BE PLEASED. (nt) (3.00 / 4) (#26)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:44:43 AM EST

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Have you read any Willy Ley? (2.66 / 3) (#21)
by Adam Rightmann on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:48:44 AM EST

He goes into a lot of detail on the troubles with solid fuel rockets in Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel. For those who don't know, he worked with Werner Von Braun and other German rocketeers but left Germany when he realized what the Nazis were really like.

no, but I'm curious (none / 1) (#22)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:02:04 AM EST

Is it about rockets or more about their space programs?  I actually got interested in rocketry by the film October Sky which one of my favorite, forward thinking highschool teachered showed us.  I spent some time playing with A, B and C class rocket engines as a kid but felt the whole thing was more about selling engines and stupid looking rockets rather then building and educating.  My interest waned and I went back to rifles, which my father knew well and taught me plenty about reloading.

A year ago I had an inspiration that the same concepts used in flintlock weapons could be used in building rocket engines and I read non-stop on the subject.  Most people want you to mix your own blackpowder also, but I found it was inconsistent and hard to get the materials in any quantity since some of them are extremely explosive.  My first blackpowder rocket was an aluminum tube (stupid, I know, for a first rocket) packed with blackpowder like a rifle and a simple, thin clay plug at the bottom rather then a nozzle and it didn't fly far, but it did work.  I was hooked after that.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

It's mostly the history of rockets (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by Adam Rightmann on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:30:34 AM EST

starting from the Chinese, ending around 1947 or so, with a chapter on future trends and space stations.

He goes into detail on how grain size matters, how the shape of the solid fuel matters (for a weapon, you want a constant burning area so thrust is constant), the darkness of the fuel, the long term stablity of the fuel (why cracks in the solid fuel are very bad) and all sorts of other things.

The liquid fuel parts are interesting, too, the story of the V-2 is always exciting.

[ Parent ]

nice! (none / 1) (#25)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:37:42 AM EST

I will pick it up now, it sounds like a geek's guide to rockets.

Incidentally, that's why I suggested using foil inside of a PVC pipe for the first rocket.  If you get a hot-spot from a crack in the semisolid fuel, it burns out the side rather then turning into a bomb.  ;)

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Brings back model rocket memories (2.50 / 2) (#32)
by rlazur on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:58:53 AM EST

I used to be a model rocket nerd over a decade ago, and got to the point that I built my own rockets (not the package models). One thing we used to do for fun is stuff blackpowder inside our rockets above the propellant, and then launch them sideways at cows. It also involved fun jaunts to Chinatown to buy firecrackers to dissassemble so we could get the powder. Yes, it was illegal in California.

One tip is to test the aerodynamics of the rocket. I vaguely remember tying a piece of string around the center of gravity of the rocket tube and swinging it around in a circle to see if it flew straight. A couple of searches on Google will lead you to a document on Estes' site, which I have not been to before Today.

Why cows? (none / 1) (#37)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 01:40:04 PM EST

They get scared at the pop of the blackpowder ejection?

What did you use for your engines?

Is this all still illegal in Cali?  That's such an incredible waste also, the west has a lot of open land.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Not wanting to get caught... (none / 0) (#81)
by rlazur on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 11:12:30 PM EST

... we would go to large open fields where the only targets were bovine.  Luckily we didn't start a fire on the easily ignitable dry grass.  I think as guys we just liked seeing things explode.

As for the engines, we used the Estes types.  Making your own propellant sounds more interesting to me.

[ Parent ]

what i always wanted (2.00 / 2) (#34)
by actmodern on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 01:18:02 PM EST

and i hope to do this one day:

see every road runner episode and meticulously reconstruct the various rocket augmented contraptions. especially the rocket skates and skateboard.

LilDebbie challenge: produce the water sports scene from bable or stfu. It does not exist.

DO IT (none / 1) (#36)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 01:32:02 PM EST

Next weeks article is ACME SUPER DUPER RUBBERBANDS AND THEIR USE and will include a road-runner recipe  just for you.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

+1 FP: legal liabilities <3 <3 <3 % (2.50 / 2) (#39)
by creative dissonance on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 04:11:25 PM EST

+1 FP, instructive, interesting, and dangerous $ (2.50 / 2) (#42)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 04:52:49 PM EST

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
t1ber... (3.00 / 3) (#44)
by terryfunk on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 06:25:22 PM EST

absolutely timeless, essential and great article. I very much enjoy all the articles you write.

A real pleasure...

I like you, I'll kill you last. - Killer Clown
The ScuttledMonkey: A Story Collection

It's essencial, huh? (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 06:27:34 PM EST

Thanks for the compliments.  Does essencial mean you're going to be blowinng stuff up this July 4th?  

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Absolutely I will be.... :) (none / 0) (#52)
by lamppter on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 08:29:32 PM EST

Naive Bayes Classification and K5 Dupes
[ Parent ]
Think for the fools (none / 1) (#48)
by United Fools on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 07:07:04 PM EST

Do not try this at home.

We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
someone set us up the bomb! $ (none / 0) (#74)
by newb4b0 on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 03:03:33 PM EST

http://www.netmoneychat.com| NetMoneyChat Forums. No Registration necessary. Ya'll.
[ Parent ]

Interesting, though it (3.00 / 5) (#49)
by livus on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 07:23:21 PM EST

makes me glad there was no internet when I was a kid or I'd probably have no hands by now.

We used to make the weirdest rocket things out of ordinary fireworks, masking tape, bamboo poles, and candle-wicks. Also if you wrap many plastic bags and some odds and ends around a stick, prop it up it high and light it on fire, it makes the coolest vroosh vroosh waterfall of blue fire.

Ah, nostalgia.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
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I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

You've seriously glossed over the safety issues. (3.00 / 3) (#53)
by Wise Cracker on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:42:09 PM EST

For instance, you mention using a wooden ram to pack the powder, but you don't explain why ( metal-on-metal can create a spark that blows up the rocket ). And then there are the inherent problems of black powder. Rocket Manual for Amateurs, by Capt. Bertrand Brinley ( written well before this book ) is a terrific book for rocket makers who want to homebrew their propellants. He mentions black powder rockets in passing. I think it's worth quoting:
This is the oldest known explosive mixture and also the most unstable. It is so unpredictable and tricky to handle that it is no longer used professionally for any serious purpose. A mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur, it explodes readily when subjected to heat, friction, shock, or an igniting spark. Small amounts of it may be used successfully for a more stable propellant or as an explosive charge to separate stages or eject a parachute device. No more than a few ounces of it should ever be mixed.

He then goes on to describe propellant combinations made from readily available materials ( zinc + sulfur, KNO3 + sugar, etc. ) that can be used safely by the amateur. Or if they don't have enough bang for you, then try building a liquid rocket.
Caesars come, and Caesars go, but Newton lives forever

You can't be serious (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by GhostOfTiber on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:06:54 PM EST

It is so unpredictable and tricky to handle that it is no longer used professionally for any serious purpose.

Which is why you can readily buy it in any sporting goods store?

Which is why it's used by hunters and reenactors?

You realize the sides of my flintlock are metal.  And you realize the end of my fiberglass ramrod for that flintlock is also metal.  And you realize that most people have some kind of brain, right?

I mean, I appreciate the warnings, but you can't buy a tin of blackpowder without getting the large warning label of how not to handle it.

Yes, you're right, he absolutely pays the merest lip service to it.  Failing to explain the differences between FFG and FFFG is glossing it, as it failing to distinguish between smokeless powders and actual blackpowder.  As far as it exploding when subject to shock, are you really taking this guy seriously when its been stored in a traditional powder-horn and measured with a brass tube then beaten into position with a ram for the last 100 years?  

I put it to you to google the sites offering supplies and taking a peek at the assortment of rams and tools.  All of them are metal.  All of them suggest packing it.

Should you be smoking when making rockets?  Probably not a good idea.  Are we adult enough to know that things which make awesome rocket engines are probably also awesomely dangerous?  I should hope.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

I am serious. And he's talking about rockets. (3.00 / 2) (#57)
by Wise Cracker on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:03:47 PM EST

I should have included additional context. He's talking about propellant combinations for solid rockets; he makes no mention of powder for firearms. And the amount of powder required to reach any interesting altitude is a whole lot more than goes in an antique muzzle-loader. And those things had a bad habit of blowing up. Yes, powders today are safer, but there are easily available propellants that are safer to build, safer to store, and have higher Isp to boot.

For instance, the KNO3+sucrose rocket: you can melt it on the kitchen stove with appropriate precautions and pour the liquid into a mold. Then you can experiment with grain shape to adjust burn rate over the flight. Can you imagine doing that with black powder? Or rather, can you imagine doing it twice?
Caesars come, and Caesars go, but Newton lives forever
[ Parent ]

ok, you don't understand black powder (none / 1) (#63)
by GhostOfTiber on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 09:50:27 AM EST

Can you imagine doing that with black powder?

Nope, can't say I've ever said "LOL GOING TO MELT BLACKPOWDER".  Something about the warning I read on the side about "open flames" and "store below 125F".  Nor have I ever felt compelled to use blackpowder that way.

And the amount of powder required to reach any interesting altitude is a whole lot more than goes in an antique muzzle-loader.

No it's not, it's exactly the same ratio from the smallest caplock pistol to the largest field cannon.  If people are using the suggested measurement of 1 inch to 3 inches height and loosely packing the powder (notice how I even suggested letting the mixture dry overnight instead of putting it on your stove), they should end up with roughly a 1 inch by 2 inch column of powder.

Did I pull this number out of my ass?  

My flintlock is a 50 cal flintlock (half-inch).  100 grains of loosely packed powder is approximately two inches in height and propels a 230gr ball (half-ounce) 100 yards.  I am guessdimating that a standard piece of PVC pipe of decent thickness is going to weigh about two to four times that.  So what I suggested was to double the powder, but also double the area of powder exposed for burning in any given moment.  This should give us about four times as much force and send our homemade rocket about 100 to 200 yards into the air and then whatever distance it has the inertia to travel.

If that's not "interesting altitude", you're probably trying to do way more then you can pull off with PVC pipes and foil.  The formula I provided does work so long as you respect the materials you are working with.

Now, I know the next argument is "but your flintlock is made of metal!"  Yes, it's made of metal because it's trying to do something different.  Instead of creating a cloud of hot, expanded gas and funneling this out of the bottom, it's trying to put a half-ounce of lead down the barrel 100 yards and holding that pressure in for the entire length of the barrel.  It's possible someone will come up with a nozzle so restrictive that it does cause pressure problems in the PVC.  On the other hand, I expect people will use their brains and start with wide open nozzles and slowly constrict them until they get a hotspot and waste a tube.

It all comes down to respecting the material you are working with.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

nitroglycerine is more unstable?$ (none / 0) (#73)
by newb4b0 on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 03:03:08 PM EST

http://www.netmoneychat.com| NetMoneyChat Forums. No Registration necessary. Ya'll.
[ Parent ]

Blow up stuff (3.00 / 3) (#58)
by SaintPort on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:52:37 PM EST

and thank God for your USian Heritage !!!


Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

Very Interesting Story. (none / 1) (#59)
by UniverseCloud on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:54:09 PM EST

.. Albert Einstein: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, ...
Watch the adults too (3.00 / 2) (#62)
by adiffer on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 01:24:37 AM EST

I know this can all be done, but I won't be trying it.  The first parachute ejection charge I made used 2 grams of black powder.  I set it off in a test and blew parts of the straps and clips holding it all down in a number of directions and even hit one of the kids.  Not good.  The next one went off as I was loading the rocket and tried to rip my thumb off.  The chipped bone bothered me for months and I've never touched the stuff since.
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.
errr (none / 0) (#65)
by GhostOfTiber on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 09:58:50 AM EST

So you put blackpowder in with another, unknown explosive and had a reaction.  

My only question is:  Why?

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

I don't get it (none / 1) (#67)
by a boy and his bike on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 08:40:30 PM EST

What is wrong with buying Estes engines and using an electric launch system? You can always unwrap the cardboard motor tubes and toss the propellant into a fire if you must, but making your own is about as nutty as making your own ICs. (Hint: that process uses remarkably toxic substances.)

real men build their own (nt) (none / 1) (#78)
by GhostOfTiber on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 10:36:47 PM EST

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Yes, mother. $ (none / 0) (#80)
by daveybaby on Mon Jul 03, 2006 at 09:02:56 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Another design (none / 0) (#68)
by bjs555 on Sat Jul 01, 2006 at 10:39:46 PM EST

I remember making rockets similar to this when I was young but I just used straws filled with black powder and shot them through a 3 foot piece of hollow aluminum broomstick bracketed vertically to a tin can filled with rocks to keep it from falling over. It seemed safe because the paper just burned away as the powder ignited and there was no chance of an explosion. The paper straws were also very light and so the rockets had good performance. By attaching two or three straws together I got to heights of maybe five hundred feet or more. The black powder (I seem to rember XXX on the can) made lots of smoke as the rocket went up and so it was easy to follow its path. I also mixed saltpeter with powdered sugar and put about half inch lengths of it into the straws between longer lengths of black powder to make two and three stage rockets. Yup, smoke and noise and rapidly moving objects barely under control are just the thing for 4th of July.

XXX? How old are you? (none / 0) (#77)
by GhostOfTiber on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 10:36:32 PM EST

It used to be that explosive powders were labeled X, XX, XXX instead of FG, FFG, FFFG, FFFFG (etc) for a certain brand.  I remember that my <i>grandfather</i> owned such a tin back when it was perfectly legal to have 300lbs of the stuff sitting over in the farm house.  This was also when they packed it in big metal cans since the cans could easilly be sealed next to forever and you could press the lids back down after packing the rim with grease for a good seal.

The powder did foul eventually, but it was awful convenient to rub your flintlock patches on the grease used to seal the can of powder.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Almost dead (none / 0) (#82)
by bjs555 on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 05:39:29 AM EST

Ho ho ho. I'm not that old (pushing 60) but I feel that way. Here's another one:

powdered zinc + sulfur, about half and half

I used to just mix them in a pie pan and heat them on the stove until the mixture went off. Lots of flash and sparks. Easy way to set the kitchen on fire. I understand the mixture can be use for rocket fuel also.

[ Parent ]

In the future, (1.75 / 8) (#69)
by calculus on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 02:04:35 AM EST

please don't post stories that may aid terrorists.

Terrorists already know how to blow things up (none / 0) (#83)
by Feanturi on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 02:06:27 PM EST

So I guess you're proposing shutting down the Internet.

[ Parent ]
not all of them (none / 1) (#92)
by Delirium on Fri Jul 07, 2006 at 01:30:55 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Fireworks are illegal in my state :( (none / 0) (#70)
by Talez on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 02:07:02 AM EST

You need to have a permit for using fireworks and a display permit that also costs $153 :(

Injuries + Bushfires is a good way to quell fireworks by idiot n00bs.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est

What state is this? (nt) (none / 0) (#76)
by GhostOfTiber on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 10:32:31 PM EST

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Western Australia (n/t) (none / 1) (#79)
by Talez on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 11:47:57 PM EST

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
[ Parent ]
Make part II: homemade IEDs for freedom fighters $ (none / 0) (#72)
by newb4b0 on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 03:01:29 PM EST

http://www.netmoneychat.com| NetMoneyChat Forums. No Registration necessary. Ya'll.

Chemicals (3.00 / 1) (#75)
by chroma on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 05:24:37 PM EST

Your friendly local hardware store sells many interesting chemicals that may help you on an endavor like this, even when you can't find all the "proper" ingredients.

potassium nitrate = stump rot (garden section)
sulfur = dusting sulfur (garden section)
charcoal = charcoal (barbecue or water filter)
copper sulfate = root killer (plumbing section)

black powder (none / 0) (#84)
by CAIMLAS on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 02:37:00 PM EST

You can usually purchase, or at least order, black powder through a local firearm shop. Haven't done so in a while, but you used to be able to just go to the sporting store (selling everything from bikes to guns to skis, etc.) and plop down a crisp $10 bill and get your choice of several dozen black or cordite powders.

Though, if you're in a more Democrat-aligned state, or in somewhere like the UK where you've got massive beauocratic restrictions and licensing on everything from cars and guns to employment and kitchen utensils, chances are you'll have some difficulty acquiring such things (at least without extensive paperwork).

Don't confuse it with "smokeless powder" which is one variant of cordite powder. IE, what we today call "gunpowder" (even though thta was the original term for black powder).

IIRC, the propulsion rockets for model rocketry are some combination of cordite and a delay agent to control a more consistent burn (though I could be mistaken on that).

Personally, as far as explosive powders go, I prefer using gunpowder in a more traditional way, at least on Independence Day. Fireworks and toy rockets are, afterall, a crude analogy for the weaponry used to kill those who opposed our Independence.

Wikipedia has some interesting information, for those who are interested, on the progression of "gunpowder" from plain-jane blackpowder to modern explosive powders (start here: http://www.wikipedia.com/wiki/cordite/)

(Really, if you think about it, celebrating Independence Day is a fairly macabre afair, and fairly hideous to boot - if you're the kind of soft person who isn't able to consolidate the reality that death and killing has in our world.)

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

cordite is usually too fast (none / 0) (#88)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 10:33:18 AM EST

IIRC, the propulsion rockets for model rocketry are some combination of cordite and a delay agent to control a more consistent burn (though I could be mistaken on that).

Close...  Very close.  Cordite is usually too fast.  The people I know who actually make fireworks as a hobby make them by using FFFG (one faster then the recommended FFG I suggest using for beginners) or FFFFG (insanely fast) and they cut it with bits of foil, litter, sand, whatever.  The result is that they use less powder, and get more effect.  However, finding that happy medium is progressively harder to do with each powder.  Cordite burns quicker than FFG,  and it's also structurally similar to pyrodex.  Cordite also doesn't absorb water or mix well with other chemicals, so it's tough to get it working for a begining rocketeer.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

You think US Independence day is morbid... (none / 1) (#96)
by The Real Lord Kano on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 11:45:15 PM EST

Think about July 14th, French independence day. They beheaded members of the monarchy and aristocracy in public spectacles.

War...Mass beheadings...Which one is worse?


[ Parent ]

a word of (legal) caution (3.00 / 2) (#85)
by CAIMLAS on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 02:40:29 PM EST

In some parts of the country, building such a device is illegal, as it would be classified as not only a firearm but possibly an AOW (any other weapon) or destructive device (depending on exactly what you're doing).

There's a reason why you can only get specific types of fireworks, and many from our childhoods are now illegal. The industry, like the firearm industry, is heavily hounded by the ATF. You probably won't be caught by the ATF, but if you're in an area where police will ticket you for walking your dog without a bag to scoop poop, I'd say chances are high you'll run into problems.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

can't help but comment... SAFETY (3.00 / 2) (#86)
by CAIMLAS on Tue Jul 04, 2006 at 03:16:15 PM EST

Just a word of caution, as this is, in my mind, the most important safety note when dealing with explosive devices:

Explosive devices operate under the principle of pressure. If I were to take a soda bottle cap full of black powder and scatter it on the sidewalk, then light it, it would flash - and maybe singe some hair on my hand - and that would be it. If I were to be holding a similar amount in my closed hand (say, encapsulated in a pill bottle) and light it, it would blow my hand into thousands of pieces probably a good third of the way past my wrist.

In short, explosives become more devistating the more throughly you prevent their expansion. With a rocket, that devistation is focused; be sure to not trap the expansion with a clay plug of too great a size or you might be picking PVC out of your face for weeks.

To demonstrate how devistating it can be: my uncle, once, long ago, built a 6" long 2" pipe blackpowder pipebomb (steel pipe with screwed-on tailcaps) and "planted" it in his high school football field with a post digger and ice auger - roughly 5 feet into the field. He then packed the soil on top, and lit the fuse. About half an hour later, the thing blew up, destroying roughly a 20 yard diameter of surface field and leaving a sizeable crater. That's only a couple ounces, at best, of black powder, and the stuff comes in 1 pound containers. :) Be careful!

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

whoa (none / 1) (#87)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 10:27:47 AM EST

built a 6" long 2" pipe blackpowder pipebomb (steel pipe with screwed-on tailcaps)

you realize that's going to VASTLY outperform anything you could possibly want to build, right?  First, you're storing the pressure much longer then PVC or paper tubes can, secondly you're capping it off.  Third, that's huge by anyone's standards.

I wholly believe it made that crater, but I also think most people here should be using the metric I threw out there of having a 1 inch wide tube by 3 inches tall and only half of that should actually be powder.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Did your uncle get arrested? [n/t] (none / 0) (#89)
by nate s on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 12:08:45 PM EST

[ Parent ]
DO NOT TRY THIS AT ALL (none / 0) (#97)
by walwyn on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 11:37:41 AM EST

Pour 1lb jar of iodine crystals, into quart of 20% ammonia. Shake vigourously. Pour liquor down drain. Take crystals to next linux/java/oss group meeting.

Professor Moriarty - Bugs, Sculpture, Tombs, and Stained Glass

Cool stuff. (3.00 / 1) (#98)
by awgsilyari on Tue Jul 11, 2006 at 01:32:54 PM EST

Real men build their own, but not from black powder. They use ammonium perchlorate and powdered rubber, mixed under vacuum in precise quantities.

One of my friends builds the largest amateur rockets in the state of Oregon, including the rocket motors. I think he just launched a Q motor a few months ago. (Each letter size is double the size of the previous one, so compare that to an Estes D motor, for instance - 8192 times bigger. That's a BIG fucking motor.) The rocket plus motor weighed, I believe, over 300 pounds and getting it upright on the pad was tricky business.

Here's a picture of Alex McLaughlin and friends loading one of his SMALLER creations onto the launcher. Alex is the one who looks like he might weigh more than the rocket.

His garage is SCARY, by the way.

Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com

dear sweet baby jesus (none / 1) (#99)
by GhostOfTiber on Tue Jul 11, 2006 at 03:48:48 PM EST

You have gone well above and beyond what I would consider reasonable.  Congrats!  ;)

What is the purpose of the rockets he builds?  Just to see how high and fast things can go?

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

Just for fun (none / 1) (#100)
by awgsilyari on Tue Jul 11, 2006 at 04:48:33 PM EST

I don't want to incorrectly quote any numbers... I'm 95% sure that he's got rockets above 40,000 feet before. Sometimes they put cameras, telemetry instruments and other stuff on board. Basically, the guy's a pyro and this is a way for him to scratch his itch without being outright destructive.

I also happen to know a guy at Portland State University who worked on a project for artificially intelligent control of rocket flight control surfaces (basically, computerized steering and guidance but with brains). I've kept fantasizing about introducing these two people to see what sort of horrors they can come up with.

Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Blackpowder Rockets | 100 comments (77 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
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