Mixing proportions by weight are 75% potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal, and 10% sulfur. Potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon react together to form nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases, these expanding gases provide the propelling action for projectiles.
Did you know that brown charcoal makes the best black powder and that you can buy books on how to make your own high quality black powder propellant with easy to do step by step instructions.
The Do-It-Yourself Gunpowder Cookbook.
Charcoal is the fuel used in the making of black powder, it's portion of the mix is 15% by weight. To make a good black powder you have to use a good charcoal. There are differences in wood types and charring temperatures to produce good charcoal.
Charcoal / Wood Selection:
Below you will see a list of wood types, these are listed numerically as to the quality of black powder they will produce when charred properly.
Note: All the above wood types listed, when charred properly and then used as a fuel for black powder will produce an excellent quality black powder.
Charcoal / Charring Time:
The charring time has little influence on the carbon concentration of charcoal.
Charcoal / Charring Temperature:
The charring temperature is very important to the carbon concentration of charcoal. For black powder purposes wood should not be charred at more than 800°F. Charred at higher temperatures it looses flammability. Charcoals like those used for barbecuing are not suitable for making black powder.
Most of the charcoals that are used for the making of black powder are charred at 750 °F. Brown charcoal, looks brownish in color is charred between 500°F and 700°F, it's very flammable and excellent for making black powder.
How To Make Charcoal:
Charcoal is made by charring wood in the absence of air. To make a high quality charcoal you need to do the following;
(1) use only well dried young branches,
(2) approximately 2 inches in diameter,
(3) remove all of the bark.
Just about any pot with a tight fitting lid can be used.
There are more scientific ways of doing this but this will work quite well. Build a moderate fire outside.
Fill your pot with pieces of wood, close the pot with the lid and put it on your fire. Soon afterward you will see smoke and wood gases escaping from under the lid which catch fire and burn with a yellow flame. Keep your fire going and turn your pot occasionally so the wood pieces are equally heated. As soon as the flame of the wood gases escaping your pot quit burning, take the pot from the fire and let it cool without opening the lid. Once cool enough to handle easily, you should now have charcoal.
Links For The Do-It-Yourselfer:
(Charcoal and other fireworks making components)