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Old 31st August 2019, 06:28 PM   #91
yulzari
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Tumbling gun powder granules in graphite is a detrimental practice when longer incorporation and tumbling will polish the grains quite adequately if they were made dense in the first place, It gives a polished look and was popular in the undiscerning sporting/hunting powder world but a true high quality sporting powder is made dense and polished by long tumbling.

However we are looking for good musket powder which is less critical. I have concerns, from the reported performances of period Mexican military powder, that they even pressed and corned their powder. My suspicion (and no more than that) is that they were given firework quality meal. What they could make may not be what the army received if either they bought cheap or corruption received the money for good powder, bought cheap and kept the difference.

Again we speculate but do not know what powder was actually sold to the Mexican Army. Only that it was very weak.
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Old 31st August 2019, 06:48 PM   #92
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Fernando, I missed seeing your expertly explained entry on the production and properties of saltpeter, outstanding!!! I have never realized how much science is involved, and after Wayne's entry on explosive properties, I better understand my invitation to leave chemistry in my school days (uh a LONG time ago). I thought chemistry was simply pouring some stuff together, like in the mad scientist movies NOT! I had a 'kaboom'.

You are way too sharp Fernando, another historical 'spice' as you colorfully put it.....Cromwell's words were 'put in his mouth' almost exactly two centuries later by yet another 19th century writer.

So not only too damp, but too dry...…..yikes, this stuff is like......well, that would be chauvinist ...lets just say volatile!
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Old 1st September 2019, 10:28 AM   #93
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I found this to additionally explain Corning at https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-bes...rning-gunpowder
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Old 1st September 2019, 07:57 PM   #94
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Default Back to antiquity ...

Myself i gather Jim that, all the fun in these brainstorms is to explore what has happened back in the old days; surely the episodes occurred with the (mis) behavior of gunpowder or any other 'artifacts' in present modernity, with all the existing (un) charming technology, are no doubt rather interesting but ... refer to a distinct ambiance.
Going back to a question you posed the other day Jim, i wouldn't know how to approach the problematics of gunpowder in the Age of Sail being kept down the lower (est) deck of ships, passive of humidity deterioration. Certainly there were superior conveniences like keeping it distant from hazardous situations above water line, namely fire ... caused either by accidental fire aboard or by enemy's action, with the impact of cannonry or other firing attempts. Also surely measures were taken to keep it as much hermetic as possible, by means of proper containers, those well covered and inside purposely confined spaces, where light through from other compartments would dispense the use of life (burning) light; even when someone had to go down the lower deck, the light allowed was a candle enclosed in a tin with thin holes. I have read a passage in which wet blankets covered the gunpowder cauldrons, whatever that meant; although it is evident that, the risk of fire justified the involvement of all other potential liabilities. Also to consider that, only the gunpowder necessary for possible immediate action was carried in its whole condition; the remaining was carried with the three components not yet mixed, for opportune preparation. Also a part of gunpowder was kept not loose but in sacks and later in (paper ?) cannon dosed 'cartridges', an implement started by the Portuguese ... contrary to what some 'competition' authors pretend.
Concerning the use of alcohol as in Peter's link on corning powder, also Alpoim has a go at it, in one of the processes to recuperate bad gunpowder.
Sure there were guys well within the gunpowder secrets back in those days.
For your perusal and in order not to 'soak' again these pages with a mile long testament, this one will come in the form of a PDF.


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Old 1st September 2019, 09:09 PM   #95
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An excellent link Ibrahiim, once again lending to the 'recipe' for gunpowder in perspective. It does seem that there must have been a lot of trial and error involved in early days with the varying character and properties of the components as derived either naturally or through processing.
When one realizes that 'chemistry' in these opening years of the 19th century was barely out of the 'alchemy' stage, and many elements were not yet properly identified, nor compounding of them. …..it is amazing that simply mixing achieved required effects.

Fernando, thank you for the additional perusal toward the subject of humidity and the profoundly contextual case for powder used at sea in the age of sail.
One of the references I found noted that the hold for powder was enclosed with 'curtains' which were kept damp to prevent accidental spark, as well as men covering feet with cloth or material to also prevent same.

I would think that storing the components separately to avoid detonation would be prudent, especially as intermittent remixing seems to have been required. However none of the sources thus far has suggested that means of storage. Surely there had to be a modicum of powder 'at the ready' in case of attack or battle as you suggest, but it seems the powder was always noted as in barrels, suggesting it being wholly combined.

I have not read descriptions of the detail on the 'cartridge' sacks of powder but it does seem familiar, as I say this is not an area I often study.

Thank you for the link to this process as well. These surely are pertinent, but as noted very long, detailed and scientific, and do indeed 'soak' the pages.
A LOT to learn, and I admire those who have knowledge and command of it all.
'
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Old 2nd September 2019, 01:33 PM   #96
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Default Just before Elvis leaves the building ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... One of the references I found noted that the hold for powder was enclosed with 'curtains' which were kept damp to prevent accidental spark, as well as men covering feet with cloth or material to also prevent same.

"Just as i previously said and, and having now found the specific words:

Sob a coberta, junto ao paiol estava o capitão de fogo a distribuir a pólvora que tirava às gamelas ou ensacada dos caldeirões defendidos do lume por colchas e cobertores molhados".
"Under the deck, next to the (powder) magazine, was the fire captain distributing the gunpowder he took from the troughs or bagged from the cauldrons defended from the fire by wet bedspreads and blankets".
(Dieter Dellinger, Portuguese Ex-Journalist, advisor for the Navy Magazine, ex-Law maker, etc)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... as well as men covering feet with cloth or material to also prevent same...

So true. In the Barcarena mill workers were required to wear shoes of calf skin over their own shoes, once these could have nails.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
...I would think that storing the components separately to avoid detonation would be prudent, especially as intermittent remixing seems to have been required. However none of the sources thus far has suggested that means of storage. Surely there had to be a modicum of powder 'at the ready' in case of attack or battle as you suggest, but it seems the powder was always noted as in barrels, suggesting it being wholly combined...
.
Yet so it happened according to my sources, whatever they are worth . I don't recall where i have read my previously posted text, but i can locate the following one, from texts written about the early Barcarena Black powder factory. It is not the same thing, but will have to do .

"Nos territorios conquistados, criaram-se fundições de artilharia e fábricas de pólvora.Os componentes eram frequentemente adicionados nas proprias fortalezas à medida das necessidades locais da polvora"
"In the conquered territories, artillery foundries and gunpowder factories were created. Components were frequently added in the fortresses according to local powder needs".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... I have not read descriptions of the detail on the 'cartridge' sacks of powder but it does seem familiar, as I say this is not an area I often study...

Then let me fill you in:

" O cartucho de pólvora foi uma ideia de Vicente Sodré, tio de Afonso de Albuquerque, que para aumentar a cadência da artilharia resolveu ensacar previamente a pólvora para ser colocada logo que a alma do canhão tivesse sido arrefecida e limpa de restos de pólvora com escovilhões adequados, em vez de a lançar a granel como se fazia então. Claro está que os ingleses e holandeses têm a mania que inventaram isso tudo, revelando a mais inconcebível ignorância e refiro-me a alguns historiadores de prestígio que são um exemplo de incompetência total, mesmo perante simples amadores de boa fé sempre que se trata da historiografia portuguesa ".

"The gunpowder cartridge was the brainchild of Vicente Sodré, the uncle of Afonso de Albuquerque who, in order to increase the rate of artillery, decided to pre-bag the gunpowder to be placed as soon as the cannon core had been cooled and cleaned of gunpowder remnants with suitable brushes, instead of throwing it in bulk as it used to be done. Of course the English and Dutch have the craze that invented it all, revealing the most inconceivable ignorance, and i refer to some prestigious historians who are an example of utter incompetence, even in the face of simple bona fide amateurs when it comes to Portuguese historiography".
(Dieter Dellinger )

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
...Thank you for the link to this process as well. These surely are pertinent, but as noted very long, detailed and scientific, and do indeed 'soak' the pages.
A LOT to learn, and I admire those who have knowledge and command of it all...

Dear Jim, you wanted to cross opinions about Mexican gunpowder; but you know this is an universal subject, and things tend to slide to the rest of the globe... perhaps also with your eventual complicity. However, let me assure you; no more soaking will take place from my side .

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Old 3rd September 2019, 09:38 PM   #97
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Fernando, again, thank you for the responsive notes reaffirming the items we have brought up from various references on this topic, which as you have astutely noted, is quite universal. The ancillary notes, digressions, and other looks into related circumstances are relevant, necessary and helpful and not at all distracting as far as I am concerned.
Actually I encourage and welcome all such information, and the links to key subject matter for the perusal of readers and researchers who view these pages are wonderfully placed and appreciated.

Persons who read these threads are following the subject matter from many different angles and perspectives, so all material included finds varying degree of usefulness depending on who is reading it. The 'soaking' jest actually is just acknowledging that this is the case, and 'one size does not always fit all'.
It is therefore, up to the reader.
For me, valuable information I can use later if need be.

Therefore, I thank you for all the great entries, links and well researched detail (NOT soaking but profoundly bolstering thread content). For now it seems we have reached a plateau with a new understanding of this topic,
so until later, when new evidence is found, Elvis may now leave the building.
Uh uh huh.....oh yeah!!!
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Old 7th September 2019, 11:30 AM   #98
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It may be instructive to note John Braddock's 'A Memoir on Gunpowder' of 1832 (https://books.google.fr/books?id=6i...AEwBXoECAgQA Q) in which he reports upon the state of gun powder manuacturing in India for the Honourable East India Company. In this he is most rude about the quality of Bombay powder compared to that made in Allahabd. Reporting it as 'barbarous' and 'their best and highest ranges are only half the distance of the other Indian powders'.

This demonstrates the range of performance that can come from variations in the performance of gunpowder mills and in this case between those of a well funded Company with access to all the materials it could need and the capital to invest in machinery etc. and with the sole purpose of making military quality powders.

If Bombay powder was 'barbarous' in 1832 the Mexican powder was likely to be beyond Mr Braddock's vocabulary to describe it's weakness.
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Old 7th September 2019, 07:10 PM   #99
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This is an excellent reference Yulzari! Thank you.

I feared we had expended the viability of our powder here, so I am grateful to see entry continuing. It seems this reference describes the dynamic of 'exposure' being an element of powder losing its potency, in the case mentioned after about 12 days. That would bring the earlier suggestion of keeping the ingredients of the powder kept separate until required, not only for safety, but clearly to ensure freshly mixed powder.

I am puzzled by the term 'barbarous' as describing a 'weak' powder. Such a term would seem more toward a potent, threatening condition rather than 'weak'. I wonder if the connotation (as used here in 1832) would mean rough, rugged or uncivilized in the way 'gothic' meant rude or contrary to refined in architectural parlance. Thus meaning the Bombay powder was rudely mixed and ineffective.

If the Mexicans were indeed getting powder from British sources, just as they obtained their firearms in 1821, perhaps the British were selling them the apparently miserable Bombay powder as opposed to the other more refined powder. This was often the case, obviously, with trade arms and resources and the practice continued well through the 19th c. Mediocre quality locks and complete weapons often brought ill repute to the places that produced them.

As earlier noted, it sounds as if the Mexicans were attempting to secure better quality powder through New Orleans merchants who probably carried the highly regarded Dupont....as revealed in the cargo of the Pelican.
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Old 7th September 2019, 07:45 PM   #100
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By 'barbarous' he just meant crude and primitive Jim. Just his way, as a man of his times, of saying that it was of appallingly bad quality. John Company (to use the period vernacular) was not in the business of making powder for public sale but for their own use. Though doubtless some made their way to private use informally. Certainly not in sales to the Mexican government.

What happened was that the Bombay Gunpowder Manufactory was brought up to standard and is better know later as the Kirkee arsenal and a major ordnance depot and manufacturer.

There is no connection between them and Mexico in any way but the reference is a period detailed examination of the varied qualities of gun powder manufacture. Remember British ARW gun powder was so bad the government bought the factories and made them raise their standards until they were the best. There was also no connection between the British Ordnance selling surplus arms to dealers who sold them to Mexico and the Indian government and it's powder production. They were different governments on different continents.
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Old 7th September 2019, 08:18 PM   #101
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OK, understood. The term seems oddly used here, but obviously there is often dramatic change in words, terms etc. in 'archaic' context not to mention semantics. Just wanted to confirm.

I had not thought there was any intergovernmental connection in such sale between England and Mexico, but that private concerns were selling such products, much in the way private vendors were supplying arms to EIC.
Most of what I have seen on the sale of the EIC arms in 1821 was apparently due to excesses of weapons after close of Napoleonic campaigns. Most of these were also becoming obsolete. In these cases the ordnance dept. I think was involved. The powder of course would be a different story.
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Old 7th September 2019, 09:33 PM   #102
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Yulzari, in rereading again some of the text, while I must apologize for my dismal comprehension of scientific discourse, I am wondering....there seems to be a notable disparity between the black powder for guns, and that for artillery. It seems that 'good' or fine grade powder for guns is different (obviously ) than that for cannon.
Is it possible that with the shortages of powder in these campaign situations that stores of powder designed for one or the other might have become interpolated, leading to the poor resultant powder referred to in Mexican context?

With the case of the Mexican cannon at the Alamo siege, the note that the Mexican cannon (of smaller size already than adequate to bombard fortifications) had virtually no impact due to weak powder charges.
Would this have been from using firearms powder in place of the coarser artillery powder required?
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Old 8th September 2019, 11:16 AM   #103
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The risk in using small arms powder in artillery is that the smaller grains cause a more rapid burn which gives a higher pressure and the cannon barrel may fail. If it does hold together (for a while at least) then the cannon ball will be projected faster rather than slower so it does not match the reported behaviour of Mexican artillery.

BTW the powder cannot be transported in it's constituents for mixing when needed. That would give you, at best, very bad firework powder. The incorporation of them needs much time and pressure. To get past transport shaking the constituents parts apart corning was developed generations before this war. The powder being pressed under high pressure into solid cakes which are then broken up and sorted through sieves into solid grains which will not break up if well made. It burns better than the earlier powdery 'meal' as the flash can pass through the interstices between the grains. I will spare you issues about adiabatic heating etc. By this time meal is only made for fireworks, rockets and some blasting purposes. Never for firearms but it would match the observed performances of Mexican powder.

I conclude it was probably made as badly made powder, badly corned, badly packaged, roughly transported and badly stored. Based upon low quality firework powder and deteriorated since making. Soft corning and poor incorporation will result in friable grains which will crumble in transport and be more hygroscopic in storage. I do doubt that even the most venal buyer and military would expect to get away with buying actual meal firework powder.
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Old 10th September 2019, 04:28 AM   #104
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yulzari
The risk in using small arms powder in artillery is that the smaller grains cause a more rapid burn which gives a higher pressure and the cannon barrel may fail. If it does hold together (for a while at least) then the cannon ball will be projected faster rather than slower so it does not match the reported behaviour of Mexican artillery.

BTW the powder cannot be transported in it's constituents for mixing when needed. That would give you, at best, very bad firework powder. The incorporation of them needs much time and pressure. To get past transport shaking the constituents parts apart corning was developed generations before this war. The powder being pressed under high pressure into solid cakes which are then broken up and sorted through sieves into solid grains which will not break up if well made. It burns better than the earlier powdery 'meal' as the flash can pass through the interstices between the grains. I will spare you issues about adiabatic heating etc. By this time meal is only made for fireworks, rockets and some blasting purposes. Never for firearms but it would match the observed performances of Mexican powder.

I conclude it was probably made as badly made powder, badly corned, badly packaged, roughly transported and badly stored. Based upon low quality firework powder and deteriorated since making. Soft corning and poor incorporation will result in friable grains which will crumble in transport and be more hygroscopic in storage. I do doubt that even the most venal buyer and military would expect to get away with buying actual meal firework powder.


An absolutely brilliant synopsis Yulzari!! thank you so much.
I think your conclusion perfectly sums up the Mexican powder situation and well illustrates the circumstances that were faced with powder production in wider scope of these times.
Very much appreciated.
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Old 11th September 2019, 11:44 AM   #105
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My ignorance of experimental or even theoretical knowledge is overwhelmed by my curiosity ... and nonconformism (in lack of a better term). Furthermore my mediocre english impedes me to understand the following paragraph

Quote:
Originally Posted by yulzari
...BTW the powder cannot be transported in it's constituents for mixing when needed. That would give you, at best, very bad firework powder. The incorporation of them needs much time and pressure. To get past transport shaking the constituents parts apart corning was developed generations before this war.The powder being pressed under high pressure into solid cakes which are then broken up and sorted through sieves into solid grains which will not break up if well made. It burns better than the earlier powdery 'meal' as the flash can pass through the interstices between the grains...

Note that i was diverting from the specific problematic of Mexican gunpowder both because what i had to (or managed to) learn about it is exhausted and because i found ambiance grounds to bring the gunpowder per se to the table, a subject often mentioned in chronicles ... Portuguese for one . This to say that i am perplex at your technical rejection on the possibility (probability) of gunpowder components (constituents) being taken to spots to mixed in opportune occasions. Does the fact that i am quoting events occurred in early periods (XV-XVII) puts things in a different scenario than in the XIX centuries, a period where discussed Mexican powder problems took place ? The thing is that, i keep reading (or inferring) that such procedure was feasible.

" 1626, June 10, letter of the Governor of Sao Tome, to the king about the state of the island ... warning that in the next contract the contractor would have to bring gunpowder, refined saltpeter, sulfur, aguardente (brandy) and lead to the fortress ".

Now, if he had a need for ready gunpowder, why would he also ask for the three separated constituents ?

On the other hand and later in the XVIII century, Alpoim weaves considerations on how to preserve gunpowder using the 'pães' system. Pães translates as breads, as or bread rolls; is this the same you mention as cakes ?

" By spraying the powder with brandy and mixing well, you can mold it into breads that, after drying should be stored in glass vases. Although, according to him, there are those who use vinegar instead of brandy, he prefers brandy, and says, "I and some of my disciples know what it is for, with the Prince's use." The advantage of gunpowder in bread is “it never gets corrupted, even with moisture; It is very good when you grind it in the fires, and you need to be careful in grinding it ".

... And he follows:

" However, it is even better to store saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal ready in the barrels, not prepared gunpowder, “because time wastes it,” as well as being a risk factor. For this, however, it is necessary to have mills to prepare the gunpowder when it is needed ".

Earlier in the XVII centuries in Macao, an interesting passage involving the deteriorated gunpowder problematic may be read:

" In June of the same year (1639), an agreement is made with the Spanish gunpowder maker João de Mosqueira, to repair gunpowder 'danada' (condemned, damaged), so that it can be used again ".
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Old 11th September 2019, 12:40 PM   #106
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Oh dear. This could get very technical and involve wide digressions. So, in a short version.

Corning (making the gun powder into grains) used to be done by drying the gun powder into 'cakes' and then rubbing them through sieves or graters into irregular grains. It was only later with improving mechanical technology that the powder was pressed under high pressure in hydraulic presses into rock like cakes that had to be broken up into hard grains which were then sieved into size grades.

The older soft grains were liable to crumble in transport and storage. In 17th century Sao Tome they were probably getting soft grains so the governor was asking for either the cakes, un-sieved, in waterproof containers or for the ingredients to combine and corn in Sao Tome.

I think it quite possible that Mexican powder was of the soft corned variety in our period.

It was, and is, quite normal for the finer dust powder left in processing to be reintroduced into the next batch and damaged powder also. If too damaged, especially by damp, gun powder would be reused as a source of saltpetre for new production.

To me all of this points to Mexican production being of low quality meal powder for the civilian market which was soft corned for firearms use.
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