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From: (Gerald L. Hurst)
Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics
Subject: KNO3 from urine (was RE: Sulfur)
Date: 21 Oct 1995 19:09:17 GMT
Organization: Consulting Chemist
Lines: 62

In article <>, Bill Bracewell
<> says:


>> Potassium Nitrate 

>Are you talking about urine soaked earth here? i.e. earth from somewhere 
>that has been habitually urinated on, so that the nitrates build up.  I 
>suppose that it would theoretically be possible to boil urine to 
>dryness. (but smelly!)  The solid content of urine is low, which is why 
>it is easier to get some earth which has ben subjected to repeated 
>soaking and evaporation.  
>I have also heard of pouring urine over sacking to concentrate it.     
>> 13. After 1/2 hour, add equal volume of the alcohol; when this mixture 
>>     is poured through paper, small white crystals appear. This is the 
>>     potassium nitrate.
>What does the the alcohol do? 

Urine contains urea, CO(NH2)2, which, among other nitrogen 
compounds, might be converted to nitrate by bacterial action
in soil, but it would be useless to evaporate fresh urine as a
source of nitrates. What you need is lots and lots of Barnyard 
(chickens, et al) soil and enough elbow grease to convince you 
it just isn't worth the trouble unless you really are stuck 
behind enemy lines with nothing better to do.

A more efficient method would be to covertly dig a chamber
under a public urinal and pipe the fluid into a drum filled
with earth and provided with holes in the bottom to let the 
bacterially processed nitrate solution drop into an evaporating 
pan. Late at night you could then use the hot-air hand dryer 
in the unoccupied men's or ladies room to quickly remove the 

The alcohol lowers the solubility of the nitrate salt, causing
it to crystallize.

Stay tuned and soon I will publish my recipe for extracting
nitrates from corned beef, sulfur from eggs and charcoal
from cigaret butts.


From: (Gerald L. Hurst)
Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics
Subject: Re: KNO3 from urine (was RE: Sulfur)
Date: 22 Oct 1995 06:29:17 GMT
Organization: Consulting Chemist
Lines: 59

In article <>, (Raphael Tymowski) says:

>In article <46bggt$> (Gerald L.
>Hurst) writes:
>>source of nitrates. What you need is lots and lots of Barnyard 
>>(chickens, et al) soil and enough elbow grease to convince you 
>>it just isn't worth the trouble unless you really are stuck 
>>behind enemy lines with nothing better to do.
>How is commercial KN obtained then? I always thought that it was extracted 
>from the soil of chicken farms, bat caves ("quick, Robin! To the bat-guano 
>processor!"), and such. Or is it simply that the process is not economical 
>on a small-scale basis?

Nitrates occur naturally in vast quantities in Chile. In fact
sodium nitrate is called "Chile Saltpeter,"  often without 
regard to it's actual origin.

Prior to the WW1 era, Europe depended on natural foreign sources
of nitrates for munitions production and poor little Germany
found itself in a weak position with regard to potential wars
because of the British domination of the Seas. This situation
became radically changed when they became self-sufficient
in nitrogen compounds as the result of the work of a man named 
Haber, who invented a process for fixing nitrogen or, more 
specifically, making ammonia from its constituent elements.

N2 + 3H2 <--> 2NH3

All it took was enough heat to accelerate the reaction to a useful
rate, enough pressure to shove the equilibrium reaction to the 
right and a catalyst to grease the chemical skids.

From ammonia it was was relatively easy to make nitric acid by
catalyzed air oxidation.

NH3 + 2O2 --> HNO3 + H2O

And, of course, from there it was no problem to make whatever
nitrate was desired by reacting the acid with the appropriate 
base such as ammonia, caustic soda or caustic potash to produce 
respectively ammonium nitrate, sodium nitrate or saltpeter.

HNO3 + NH3 --> NH4NO3

HNO3 + NaOH -- NaNO3 + H2O

HNO3 + KOH --> KNO3 + H2O


Today, every nation worth its saltpeter produces ammonia, 
nitric acid and a host of secondary products from air and 
water along with a carbonaceous fuel or electricity to 
provide the hydrogen. Naturally occuring nitrates continue
to account for a substantial part of the total market -
at least in times of peace.


From: (Gerald L. Hurst)
Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics
Subject: Re: Potasssium Nitrate
Date: 21 Nov 1996 04:24:57 GMT

In article <>, says:

>I finally found a sourse of Potassium Nitrate here in Souther Ca!
>"Schultz-Instant liquid plant food" contains PN... now im wondering if
>anyone knows how to extract it from the rest of the chemicals in there..

Gothic, some years ago I put on a home-made bomb demonstration for the 
California state fire marshal and assorted police at the Saugus Prison
for not-very-bad convicts.  I made and shot a dozen or more mixtures 
including some ANFO variations using only chemicals purchased in 
California.  I suppose that things were easier back then because I had 
no trouble buying a fifty-pound bag of AN from a garden shop. 

Perhaps you can't do that anymore, I dunno., but I'll bet that you can
lay your hands on a cheap bag of mixed fertilizer composed of, say AN,
ammonium phosphate and K phosphate or Am phosphate.  There is still a lot
of nitrate out there and it's gotta mostly go into fertilizers.  Now
Phosphates can be removed as insoluble metal salts or double salts, 
leaving AN or KN in solution and AN is easily converted to KN using 
potash to drive off the ammonia.  Otherwise, seek out some Ca nitrate 
and drop the Ca as a sulfate precipitate or what have you.

Fertilizer can fool you because nitrogen can also come from urea or
ammonium sulfate, but if you read your labels carefully for A-N-P content,
you can very often figure out mathematically what species must be present
if you are dealing with the high numbers stuff.

You gotta do your chemistry homework.  I'll bet what you are looking for
is out there but you'll have to maybe learn a bit before you can extract

Jerry (Ico)

Subject: Re: KNO3
From: (Tom Perigrin)
Date: Sep 30 1996
Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics

In article <>, (Jose
Batista) wrote:

> wrote:
> : From Jolly Roger cookbook:
> : How to make Potassium Nitrate                   by The Jolly Roger
> : Potassium Nitrate is an ingredient in making fuses, among other 
> : things. Here is how you make it:
> <KNO3 procedure snipped>
> Actually, this may be one of the few useful cookbook items in existence. 
> Never tried this, but it sounds like it would work.

It is close... back in 1978 +/- a couple of years, I did the original
procedure from Birringucchios "Pyrotechnica", 1540, at the Northern Calif
Renn Faire.  

1) "earth" is a polite term for manure...  feces...  horse shit in my case.
2) Birringucchio also used lime, which helps
3) I didn't use 3.5 gallons...  I used 25 gallons
4) I used a much higher ratio of ashes to "earth"
5) I added the urine of several good men...  (This was before AIDS was
6) The material was allowed to "cook" for several days
7) I didn't add alcohol

8) the yield from 25 gallons of earth was less than a pound of impure KNO3

Should I mention that this "stunk"?


Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics
From: (Tom Perigrin)
Subject: Re: KNO3
Date: Tue, 1 Oct 1996 16:06:17 GMT

In article <52r575$>, Jarl stensen
<> wrote:
> (Tom Perigrin) writes:
> > 
>  ...KNO3 procedure snipped...
> >
> > Should I mention that this "stunk"?
> > 
> > Tom
> I believe you! It is impressing indeed that someone 
> has the guts to go through that much to test 
> something out.

Well, it wasn't just to test it out... I also wanted to bring a little
"cinema verite'" to the Renn Faire.   Renn Faires are *fun* places.... they
vaguely reproduce the Rennaisence, mostly in a highly romanaticized form.  
The merchants are not allowed to empty their piss pots into the street,
pigs don't roam freely to eat the garbage and add pig poop.   The actors
don't have real supperating sores.   Etc., etc., etc..

So, in my own small way, I wanted to bring just a little taste of the REAL
Rennaisence to the Faire...   A nice fetid pot of urine soaked horse manure
was a good start.

You should have seen the time I sold sheep guts for sausage casings. 
Walked around with a basket of sheep guts (real, from a freindly butcher),
wearing a blood soaked apron which I had left out for a week to get hard
and stinky.  I was asked to stop that one...

Or the time I didn't wash my Renn Faire clothing for the entire run of the
Faire...  My wife made me change out before she would get into the car with
me.  Mind you, I jsut left the clothing the bag for the week.  That helped
add to the ambiance...

Or the time we slaughtered and gutted and plucked ducks at the Arizona
Rennaisence Festival.  A lot of people were sickened by the sight of me
sticking my hand in the carcass and hauling out a fresh, hot, steaming
handfull of duck guts.  Apparently people complained to the ASPCA, etc... 
That one ended up in a huge stink,  but it IS legal to chop off duck heads
in Arizona, and to clean the carcass, even in public.  As long as you don't
"torture" the duck.

And the time we made blood sausage...  

Oh, it's fun to bring a litle bit of the REAL Rennaisence to the people.

Subject: Re: distilling urine to make potassium nitrate
From: (Norman L. Reitzel)
Date: May 16 1996
Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics

In article <> (Jose
Batista) writes:

>Tom Perigrin ( wrote:
>: In article <4mtvck$>,
>: M GREEN ) wrote:
>: > 
>: > Is anyone familiar with the process of distilling urine to make
>: > potassium nitrate? 
>: Urine and feces contain organic materials which can decompose to give
>: nitrates.  Thus, the idea is to get old feces or to allow urine to ferment,
>: and then to treat it in such a way so as to liberate the KNO3.   I've done
>: this.  It was fun.  Then again, it was only fun becuase it was a Renf Faire
>: demonstration and I got to watch lots of squeamish people deal with the
>: fact that I was up to my elbows in horse dung and human urine.
>Hrm... so, could you just collect a whole lot of piss and then filter it 
>through some wood ash, boil off the liquid and get KNO3, or do you have 
>to process the urine in some way (pour in sugar and let it sit in the sun 
><grin>) in order to get the nitrates out of it... and can you use just 
>piss (and no feces)? Piss isn't that bad, especially if it's your own, but 
>anyone's/anything's shit is just plain repugnant...

You need manure.  Not just feces, either -- human shit (or any omnivoure) 
doesn't work very well at all.  You need ungulate or ruminant feces.  
Horse works well, cow works, not so well. 

Here's the chemistry:

Urine (mammal) contains a lot of nitrogen, depending on diet.  Most of 
the nitrogen is present as urea, though some is also present as several 
uric acid derivatives and some is present as amines and amino acids.  
None of this is good for making gunpowder.

What horse manure provides is a plethora of microorganisms that eat the 
reduced nitrogen in the urine, and oxidize it to nitrate.  This takes 
place in the soil and is one of the basic parts of the nitrogen cycle.  
By using manure and urine, and making sure it is sufficiently oxygenated, 
one can accelerate the process to produce usable nitrate amounts in a 
relatively short period of time.

One of the ways to provide enough oxygen is to stir a sludge of manure 
and urine essentially continuously.  This is great show at fairs, but a 
more efficient (from human labor) method is to construct an elevated bin 
to hold the feces (a ton or so) with a roof (or plastic) to keep the rain 
off, and only add enough urine to make the stuff damp.  Steel bins don't 
work well at all - the nitrates rust them nearly instantly.  Wooden bins 
using slats work great, the cracks between the wood provide for entry of 
oxygen.  You just keep the stuff damp with urine for a month, then leach 
out the nitrate with water.  The original recipe calls for leaching until 
the washings no longer taste salty or bitter.  I -presume- this works, 
I've not tried it personally.

Anyway, boil out the leachate with potassium (wood ash leachate) and let 
the nitrate crystalize.  You can get pretty sizable yields.  Of course, I 
don't recommend this for use on an apartment balcony.

"Pure" nitrate is not required for pyrotechnics.  98% saltpeter has a 
color anywhere from light tan to olive, and is perfectly satisfactory.

If you're determined to worry about purity, worry about the charcoal.

   Norman L. Reitzel, Jr.       |    "When you live beside the graveyard,   |     you can't cry for every funeral."
   Blue Water Ventures, dba.    |                     Russian Proverb

Subject: Re: distilling urine to make potassium nitrate
From: (Norman L. Reitzel   )
Date: May 17 1996
Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics


Bird (and reptile!) feces are low in aerobic microorganisms but very high 
in nitrogen, in the form of uric acid (hence the white stuff).  They make 
pretty good nitrogen feed for a fermenter, but don't provide the proper 
microorganisms to oxidize amine nitrogen.

There are lots of chemical ways to oxidize amines to nitrates.  
Permanganates will work, but there are lots of difficulties.  Chemical 
oxidizing agents tend to oxidize nitrogen compounds to nitrogen Gas, not 
very useful in pyrotechnics.  Soil microorganisms evolved over a few 
hundred million years to conserve the nitrogen -- a necessary nutrient.  
And yes, the oxidation going on in septic systems is precisely the same 
oxidation you want for saltpeter.  Take a look sometime, and notice how 
well stuff grows in the water that comes out of septic systems -- all 
that nice nitrogen and phosphorus, in usable form.

Horse manure works best -- especially if you can get stable cleanings, 
which contain lots of straw or sawdust to make them porous.  Keep them 
damp with urine -- and if the bin starts to smell of ammonia, you don't 
have enough air getting to it, and/or you've made it too wet.  If you do 
it properly, it doesn't even smell too bad.  <g>

In article <4ngkis$> Mike Brown <>

> (Norman L. Reitzel   ) wrote:
>>You need manure.  Not just feces, either -- human shit (or any omnivoure) 
>>doesn't work very well at all.  You need ungulate or ruminant feces.  
>>Horse works well, cow works, not so well. 
>>What horse manure provides is a plethora of microorganisms that eat the 
>>reduced nitrogen in the urine, and oxidize it to nitrate.
>Thanks Norman. Just a few questions on the subject: What about bird shit? 
>Will something like KMnO4 oxidize the urea to the nitrate? I was also 
>wondering about the aeration septic systems that take in sewage and 
>discharges potable water, is that similar to the aeration you described?

   Norman L. Reitzel, Jr.       |    "When you live beside the graveyard,   |     you can't cry for every funeral."
   Blue Water Ventures, dba.    |                     Russian Proverb

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