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The Household Cyclopedia


To make Gunpowder.

Take of refined nitre, 75 parts; sulphur, 10 parts; best refined willow charcoal, 15 parts. Powder each separately, and mix intimately with a little water in a mortar. The paste may be rolled out into thin rods, cut into grains and dried on a board in the sun. On the large scale the grains are made by forcing the paste through sieves, dried by steam-heat and polished by rolling against each other in a barrel. Meal-powder is ungrained powder.

To make Gun-cotton.

Immerse clean cotton wool in a mixture of equal parts of the strongest nitric and sulphuric acids, allowed to cool for one minute, wash in plenty of cold water, and dry in the sun or by a very gentle artificial heat. For soluble guncotton used in making collodion, see PHOTOGRAPHY.

Lunk's Gun-cotton.

This process gives a gun-cotton which is constant in composition, not liable to change, and of a moderate rapidity of explosiveness. It has been favorably reported on by the Imperial Commision. The following directions are extracted from the specifications of his patent:

First. The cotton or other vegetable fiber is first taken and spun into loose threads of sufficient strength to be easily handled.

Second. The cotton must then be thoroughly boiled in a solution of potash or of soda, in order to remove all greasy substances which the cotton may contain, and after thus boiled it may be exposed to the sun, or wind, or in a heated room, to dry.

Third. The cotton must now be taken into a room heated to 100° Fahr. in order to make it perfectly dry.

Fourth. A mixture is now made containing 1 part weight of nitric acid of 1.48 to 1.50 specific gravity, and 3 parts weight of common sulphuric acid. This mixture must stand in closed earthen or glass jars for several days, or until the two acids become fully mixed and cooled.

Fifth. This mixture of acids is now put into an apparatus containing three apartments; one for the main bulk of the acids, one for the immersion of the cotton, and one for receiving the cotton after being immersed. This apparatus may be made of cast-iron

Sixth. The cotton is now taken and dipped in the acidbath, in said apparatus, in such a manner that every 3 oz. of the cotton must come in contact with 60 lbs. of the mixture of acids, or in other words, the bath must contain fully 60 lbs. of the mixture while parcels of 3 oz. of cotton are being dipped. The parcels thus dipped must be gently pressed, and the acids allowed to flow back into the acid-bath, and the parcels are then put into the third apartment of the apparatus, where for every 1 lb. of cotton there must be 10 1/2 lbs. of the said mixture of the acids. The cotton must remain in this state subject to the action of the acids for 48 hours, and the mixture must always have an equally strong concentration, and must be kept under a uniform temperature by a cooling process.

Seventh. The cotton is now taken out from the acids and pressed, and then put into a centrifugal machine to remove all surplus acids.

Eighth. The cotton is again put into another centrifugal machine, into which a constant stream of fresh water is admitted. This process is intended to remove the last particles of adherent acids.

Ninth. The cotton is now taken and put into a flume or trough, and scoured in such a manner that a running stream of fresh water may pass through and over it; and the same must remain in this situation for at least 14 days. To lessen the time for this operation the cotton may be immersed or saturated in alcohol for the space of 24 hours. This process is also intended to extract all and the last particles of acids that may possibly adhere to the cotton.

Tenth. The cotton is now taken from the stream of water, or if from the alcohol it must be washed, and then boiled in a solution of common soap and again dried. This process is intended to restore the cotton to its original softness and appearance.

Eleventh. The cotton is now taken and immersed in a solution of water-glass of 1 lb. to 2 lbs. of soft water which must be 1.09 specific gravity of concentration. To 1 lb. of cotton 198-1000ths of a lb. of this solution of 46° Beaume is required. The cotton is then taken out of this solution and exposed to the action of the atmosphere for at least 4 days. This process has the tendency to preserve the material, and also to make its explosive qualities less rapid.

Twelfth. The gun-cotton is again washed in soft water free from lime, dried, and then packed in wood or metal boxes for storage or exportation; and may be used for artillery, torpedoes, shells, mining, blasting, small arms, and for all purposes where explosive power is required.

Thirteenth. All other vegetable fibres may be treated and manufactured as herein stated, which process will make the same explosive, like the gun-cotton and adapted to the same purposes.

White Gunpowder (Augendre's).

Ferrocyanide of potassium, 28 parts; sugar, 23 parts; chlorate of potassa, 49 parts. This does not require granulating or glazing.

New Explosive Compound.

Invented by Reynaud de Net. It consists of nitrate of soda, 52.5; spent tan-bark, 27.5; pounded sulphur, 20. It is cheap, and applicable to working mines and quarries.



Sixty-one per cent. chlorate of potash, 16 sulphur, 23 carbonate of strontia.


Sixty-one per cent. chlorate of potash, 16 sulphur, 23 chalk.


Sixty-one per cent. chlorate of potash, 16 sulphur, 23 chloride of calcium.

Ninety-two per cent. chlorate of potash, 14 sulphur, 34 chalk.


Sixty-one per cent. chlorate of potash, 16 sulphur, 23 dry soda.

Or, 50 per cent. nitre, 16 sulphur, 20 soda, 14 gunpowder.

Or, 61 per cent. nitre, 17 1/2 sulphur, 20 soda, 1 1/2 charcoal.

Light Blue.

Sixty-one per cent. chlorate of potash, 16 sulphur, 23 strongly-calcined alum.

Dark Blue.

Sixty per cent. chlorate of potash, 16 sulphur, 22 carbonate of copper, 12 alum.

Dark Violet.

Sixty per cent. chlorate of potash, 16 sulphur, 12 carbonate of potash, 12 alum.

Pale Violet.

Fifty-four per cent. chlorate of potash, 14 sulphur, 16 carbonate of potash, 16 alum.


Seventy-three per cent. chlorate of potash, 17 sulphur, 10 boracic acid.

Light Green.

Sixty per cent. chlorate of potash, 16 sulphur, 24 carbonate of baryta.

For Theatrical Illumination. - White.

Sixty-four per cent. nitre, 21 sulphur, 15 gunpowder.

Or, 76 per cent. nitre, 22 sulphur, 2 charcoal.


Fifty-six per cent. nitrate of strontia, 24 sulphur, 20 chlorate of potash.


Sixty per cent. nitrate of baryta, 22 sulphur, 18 chlorate of potash.


Twenty per cent. sulphur, 32 nitre, 27 chlorate of potash, 20 chalk, 1 charcoal.


Twenty-seven per cent. nitre, 28 chlorate of potash, 15 sulphur, 15 sulphate of potash, 15 ammonio-sulphate of copper.

The dark blue is rendered still darker by the addition of some sulphate of potash and ammonio-sulphate of copper. It must be borne in mind that the red and purple fires are liable to ignite spontaneously, and serious accidents have happened from this cause.

Sulphide of Cadmium in Fireworks.

In the following composition it is said that sulphide of cadmium gives a white flame, which is surrounded by a magnificent blue margin: Salt-petre, 20 parts; sulphur, 5; sulphide of cadmium, 4; powdered charcoal, 1.

Iron Sand.

Used to give corruscations in fire-works, is far better than iron or steel-filings. It is made by beating cast steel or iron into small pieces on an anvil. These are sifted into 4 sizes, the smallest for the smallest pieces; and vice versa. The corruscations produced by these are exceedingly brilliant. The sand should be kept in a dry place in a wellclosed bottle as any rust damages it. Fireworks containing it should not be made very long before using.

Touch - Paper.

Soak unglazed paper in a solution of nitre in vinegar or water. The stronger the solution, the faster will it burn. A good plan is to dip it in a wet solution, dry it, try it, and if it burns too slowly, make the solution stronger and dip it again.


Is made by immersing lamp-wick in a solution of saltpetre with meal powder, winding it on a frame, and afterwards dusting with meal powder. To 1 lb. 12 oz. of cotton, take saltpetre, 1 lb.; alcohol, 2 qts.; water, 3 qts.; solution of isinglass (1 oz. to the pint), 3 galls.; mealed powder, 10 lbs.

Port Fires.

Take of sulphur, 2 parts; saltpetre, 6 parts; mealed powder, 1 part. This is rammed into cases of from 6 inches to 2 feet long, and 1/2 inch internal diameter. They should be lightly rammed. To give a brilliant flame, add 1 part of iron sand; for a dark flame, 1 part of powdered charcoal.


Common. - Saltpetre, 1 lb.; sulphur, 4 1/2 oz.; antimony, 4 oz.; isinglass, 1/2 oz.; camphor, 1/2 oz.; alcohol, 3/4 oz.

White. - Mealed powder, 4 oz.; saltpetre, 12 oz.; sulphur, 6 1/2 oz.; oil of spike, 2 oz.; camphor, 5 oz.

The above are to be made into balls, rolled in grained powder and dried in the sun. Used in Roman candles, rockets, etc.

Trailed Stars.

Saltpetre, 4 oz.; sulphur, 6 oz.; sulphate of antimony, 2 oz.; rosin, 4 oz.

With Sparks. - Mealed powder 1 oz.; saltpetre, 1 oz.; camphor, 2 oz.

Colored Stars

May be made by using any of the receipts for colored fires, with a solution of isinglass, 1/2 oz.; camphor, 1/2 oz.; and alcohol, 3/4 oz. Make into balls of the requisite size, roll in gunpowder, dry in the sun.

Roman Candles.

Meal-powder, 1/2 lb.; saltpetre, 2 1/2 lbs.; sulphur, glass dust, each, 1/2 lb. This is rammed in cases as follows: Put at the bottom of the case a small quantity of clay, then some gunpowder, then a wad of paper, then 1/6 of the height of the case of the composition, then a wad and powder and a star or ball, then more composition, and so on till the case is filled. The wads must be loose (only to prevent the mixing of the composition and gunpowder), and the ramming should not be begun until the case is 1/3 filled, and then should be gentle lest the stars be broken.

Chinese Fire.

Red. - Saltpetre, 1 lb.; sulphur, 3 oz.; charcoal, 4 oz.; iron sand. 7 oz.

White. - Saltpetre, 1 lb.; mealed powder, 12 oz.; charcoal, 7 1/2 oz.; iron sand, fine, 11 oz.

Golden Rain.

Mealed powder, 4 oz.; saltpetre, 1 lb.; sulphur, 4 oz.; brass-filings, 1 oz.; sawdust, 2 1/4 oz.; glass powder, 6 drs.

Silver Rain.

Mealed powder, 2 oz.; saltpetre, 4 oz.; sulphur, 1 oz.; steel-dust, 3/4 oz.

Wheel Cases.

Mealed powder, 2 lbs.; saltpetre, 4 oz.; steelfilings, 6 oz.

For Rockets.

Four-Ounce. - Mealed powder, 1 lb.; charcoal, 1 oz.; saltpetre, 4 oz.

Eight-Ounce. - Mealed powder, 1 lb. 1 oz.; saltpetre, 4 oz.; sulphur, 3 1/2 oz.; charcoal 1 oz.

One-Pound. - Mealed powder, 1 lb.; charcoal, 3 oz.; sulphur, 1 oz. Two-Pound. - Mealed powder, 1 lb. 4 oz.; saltpetre, 2 oz.; charcoal, 3 oz.; sulphur, 1 oz.; iron filings, 2 oz.

Four-Pound. - Mealed powder, 1/2 lb.; saltpetre, 15 lbs.; sulphur, 2 lbs.; charcoal, 6 lbs.

Matches for Instantaneous Light.

1. Chlorate matches, without sulphur. Chlorate of potash, separately powdered, 6 drs.; vermilion, 1 dr.; Iycopodium, 1 dr.; fine flour, 2 drs.; mix carefully the chlorate with the flour and lycopodium, avoiding much friction, then add the vermilion, and mix the whole with a mucilage made with 1 dr. powdered gum Arabic, 10 grs. of tragacanth, 2 drs. of flour, and 4 oz. of hot water; mix, add sufficient water to bring it to a proper consistence, and dip in it the wood, previously dipped in a solution of 1 oz. of gum copal, and 1/2 oz. of camphor, in 6 oz. of oil of turpentine.

2. With sulphur. Chlorate of potash, 9 grs.; sulphur, 2 grs.; sugar, 3 grs.; vermilion, 1 gr.; flour, 2 grs.; spirit of wine, q. s. The chlorate of potash, etc., must be separately reduced to powder and the whole mixed with as little friction as possible. The wood should be previously prepared as above, or with camphorated spirit. These are ignited by dipping them in sulphuric acid, and instantly withdrawing them. The acid should be absorbed by asbestos. They are now become obsolete having given place to

Lucifer Matches.

These contain phosphorus in a finely divided state, to which it is reduced by agitating it in some warm solution of gum or glue, then adding the other ingredients, so as to form a paste, into which the wood or card is dipped. It is said that urine and artificial urea have the property of readily dividing phosphorus when warmed and agitated together. The following are some of the published recipes:

1. Form 6 parts of glue into a smooth jelly, and rub with it 4 parts of phosphorus, at a temperature of 140° or 150° Fahr.; add 10 parts of nitre, 3 of red ochre, and 2 of fine smalts. The matches are dipped in melted wax to the depth of 1-10th of an inch, first rubbing their ends on a hot iron plate.

2. Noiseless Congreves. - Triturate 9 parts of phosphorus with a solution of 16 parts of gum, and add 14 parts of nitre and 16 of vermilion.

3. Glue, 6 parts; phosphorus, 4; nitre, 10; red lead, 5; smalts, 2; the glue is soaked in water for 24 hours, then liquefied in a warm mortar, and the phosphorus added, taking care that the temperature is not above 167° Fahr.

4. Glue, 21; phosphorus, 17; nitre, 38; red lead, 24; proceed as before.

Safety Matches.

Will only ignite upon the prepared surface. For the splints take of chlorate of potassa, 6 parts; sulphuret of antimony, 3 parts; glue, 1 part. For the friction surface, amorphous phosphorus, 10 parts; sulphuret of antimony, or black oxide of manganese, 8 parts; glue, 3 to 6 parts. Spread evenly upon the surface, previously made rough with glue and sand.

Matches without Phosphorous.

The dangers arising from the universal adoption of the common lucifer match have induced chemists to seek a substitute for it. M. Peitzer has recently proposed a compound which is obtained in the shape of a violet powder, by mixing together equal volumes of solutions of sulphate of copper, one of which is supersaturated with ammonia, and the other with hyposulphite of soda. A mixture of chlorate of potash and the above powder will catch fire by percussion or rubbing; it burns like gunpowder, leaving a black residue. M. Viederhold proposes a mixture of hyposulphite of lead or baryta, or chlorate of potash for matches without phosphorus. The only inconvenience of this compound is that it attracts moisture too easily.