Saltpeter: A continuation

April 26, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Posted in Blackpowder, saltpeter | Leave a comment

Part 1a of our Photographic Essay

saltpeter-001As previously discussed, I had left my manure/ash/lime mixture filled with water, waiting for the water to slowly filter through the mixture. It took all week long, but finally most of the water was gone from the top bucket. The remaining sludge was still more of a slurry than solid (and putrid) glop, but I did not think much more was going to drip through.

Because the process took so long, I decided to add more holes to the bottom of the drip-bucket. The original source document I was using stated that one should use a hole about 22 cm across “or several small holes”. I decided to interpret this as “lots and lots of holes that are also 3/4 of an inch across.”

saltpeter-002I decided that in addition to all of the water in a five gallon bucket trying to drain out of one quarter-sized hole, another impediment to quick filtration was that the a) the original cloth I was using as filter was too dense and that b) that cloth had been shifted, allowing the hole to be block by sludge.

To help this out, I made a new filter out of cheesecloth. This still fulfills the original “thin cloth” requirement, but it’s open weave will let a lot more water through a lot quicker. Or at least that’s my hope.

So far the new configuration looks like it is working well. I could hear a steady series of dripping for most of the afternoon, which I choose to take as a good sign. I tried to take a picture of the dripping, but I couldn’t get the camera to angle properly without risking exposure to the sludge and dirty water. Let me tell you that the concoction sitting in those buckets is quite foul. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever smelled -that particular honor goes to a hawk-victim chicken that had only been dead for about 24 hours, but had quickly degenerated in an August heat wave- but it is not anything remotely pleasant either. Once again I am very glad that I live in the suburbs and not in an apartment building with very close neighbors who might object to the aroma.

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